21 Mar 2017

Together for well over a decade; in the second round of the Men’s Singles event at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games on Sunday 7th August, Paul Drinkhall and Liu Jiayi found themselves at the opposite ends of the table.

Paul Drinkhall was on duty for Great Britain, Liu Jiayi, the former English National Team Coach, now the Men’s Team coach for Singapore was sitting courtside advising Gao Ning, the no.26 seed.

by Ian Marshall, ITTF Publications Editor

The verdict went in favour of Paul Drinkhall but there were some nervous moments for the current England coach, Alan Cooke who competed in the Seoul 1988 Olympic Games.

Ahead three games to one and leading 9-6 in the fourth game, he lost the next five points before in the seventh game trailing 6-8 before winning five points in a row to secure victory (11-7, 11-6, 3-11, 11-3, 9-11, 9-11, 11-8).

Similar Situation

“I think actually it was maybe more difficult for Liu Jiayi than for me; I’ve played against club colleagues many times in the past, so it was a similar situation”, reflected Paul Drinkhall, a young man who has the greatest respect for his mentor of teenage years.

Liu Jiayi guided Paul Drinkhall to both the Cadet Boys’ Singles and Junior Boys’ Singles title at the European Youth Championships.

Fast Backhand Effective

“Playing Gao Ning, I know him well but I’ve never previously beaten him”, added Paul Drinkhall. “Certainly his forehand top spin is very good, he puts a lot of spin on the ball but today his fast backhand caused me more problems.”

It was in the fourth game that Paul Drinkhall experienced some of the greatest problems in the match.

“I was serving, I used sidespin serves, maybe he was more relaxed, he played really great flick returns”, added Paul Drinkhall. “In the seventh game I just found myself in the right zone, I felt confident in myself.”

More Surprises

Success against expectations for Paul Drinkhall; as matters concluded in the second round of the Men’s Singles event, there were two more surprises of note.

Romania’s Adrian Crisan beat Frenchman Emmanuel Lebesson, the no.23 seed, in a contest decided by the narrowest of margins (11-4, 4-11, 11-8, 9-11, 7-11, 11-9, 12-10); slightly more comfortably, Slovenia’s Bojan Tokic ended the hopes of Poland’s Wang Zengyi, the no.30 seed (9-11, 11-9, 11-6, 9-11, 11-5, 11-3).

Won in Qatar

“I’ve always had problems playing Wang Zengyi but earlier this year in Qatar I beat him; he is very quick, he gives you little time to react”, explained Bojan Tokic. “I know what to expect; I felt today that my top spin play from both backhand and forehand was strong.”

Three upsets as the matches in the lower half of the draw in the second round of the Men’s Singles concluded; in the one remaining contest there was no surprise.

Impressively, Sweden’s Kristian Karlsson, the no.20 seed, ended the progress of Congo Brazzaville’s Wang Jianan in five games (11-6, 8-11, 11-3, 11-5, 11-6).


Rio 2016 Rio Men's News Paul Drinkhall

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