Worksop’s England star Sam Walker says lack of confidence to blame for disappointing European Championships

Sam Walker (Pic: ITTF)
Sam Walker (Pic: ITTF)

Sam Walker says a lack of confidence contributed to a disappointing showing at the European Championships in Ekaterinburg, Russia last week.

Worksop table tennis professional Walker featured in two of the six team matches, as England finished in 20th position.

He was beaten 3-0 (9-11, 7-11, 7-11) by world number 263 Lauric Jean in a 3-1 defeat by Belgium, and later suffered a 3-0 reverse at the hands of Italy’s Marco Rech Daldosso (6-11, 9-11, 5-11) as England went down 3-0 overall.

A 17th-placed finish would have seen England win the second-tier Challenge Division, but 20th was good enough to put them in the pot of second seeds for the upcoming qualifying draw for the next championships.

“I think we did what we needed to do,” said Walker, 20, who featured alongside Paul Drinkhall, Liam Pitchford, Andrew Baggaley and Danny Reed.

“It would have been nice to win the division outright so that was a bit disappointing to lose in the semi-final against Belgium, particularly for me coming into that match.”

Walker, ranked number 199 in the world, saw his indifferent run continue against 307-ranked Israeli Shimon Rabinovich in the qualifying groups for the men’s singles, although there were positives as he battled back from 2-0 down before losing 3-2 (5-11, 10-12, 11-8, 14-12, 9-11).

Rank outsider Khayal Hashimli of Azerbaijan was brushed aside 3-0 (11-1, 11-6, 11-5) before Walker enjoyed his best result of the tournament, beating world number 104 Ovidiu Ionescu of Romania 3-1 (11-7, 5-11, 11-8, 11-5).

With Ionescu having beaten Rabinovich 3-2, Walker qualified for the last 64 on countback, where he was up against Russia’s Kirill Skachkov, world ranked 78 and seeded 31.

And although it was a 4-0 defeat, it was closer than the scoreline suggests as Walker went down 4-11, 10-12, 13-15, 9-11.

“I didn’t start at my best,” said Walker.

“My confidence was a bit low going from the start of the season I’ve had – I’ve not had the best start.

“But I managed to scrape through my group just about, on countback and I had a good win it that, so that was positive for me.

“My first round match against Skachkov was good, it was very close. I lost 4-0 but I had my chances and just a few things didn’t go my way and he was a bit better in a few areas on the day.

“I think I can take away some positive from the tournament and hopefully next time I can improve on my results.”

Walker had to pull out of the men’s doubles because his partner Reed was ill.