by Ian Marshall, ITTF Publications Editor
Now, on Tuesday 6th March in his opening match in the qualification tournament for places in the Seamaster 2018 ITTF World Tour Platinum Qatar Open, once again the young man from the east Midlands excelled.
In a contest where he saved some six match points, I would have to check a video recording to be absolutely sure, he beat China’s Xue Fei, crowned World Junior Champion just over three months ago in Riva del Garda. Liam Pitchford emerged successful in a quite monumental contest; one he will remember for evermore (7-11, 11-5, 7-11, 11-6, 7-11, 20-18, 12-10).
Furthermore, Xue Fei had Wang Hao sitting courtside as advisor; Liam Pitchford was all alone.
“Doing well against Fan Zhendong certainly has given me belief; I feel now I can compete against the rest. China is at a different level. Xue Fei, he’s World Junior champion and he had Wang Hao sitting in the corner, so they had some concerns about playing me. It’s been a busy time, the Team World Cup, the National Championships and now here in Qatar.” Liam Pitchford.
Crowned national champion for the fourth time in his career, there was no time to celebrate; as soon as play concluded and the presentations made, it was a taxi to Terminal 5 at London’s Heathrow airport for the 9.00pm British Airways overnight flight to Doha. Notably, as we approached Doha, an announcement was made congratulating English team on gaining the bronze medal at the World Team Cup.
I am biased, I’m English but does the heart good to see the sense of unity in current English team; all were clearly delighted their colleague’s win.
“I’m playing well, I’m enjoying playing; I feel I have chances at a very high level. My backhand is my strong point but now overall I am being more aggressive, blocking the ball faster, not so passive. I feel a good level of consistency, it is the same in the gym and mentally I feel I can come back. Today I was 6-9 down in the seventh, back to 9-all, then down 9-10 before I won.” Liam Pitchford.
Success for Liam Pitchford, the success against an adversary from China adding to the occasion; at the same time there was also success for colleague Sam Walker, he recovered from an opening game deficit to beat Frenchman, Joe Seyfried (5-11, 11-8, 12-10, 13-11, 11-9).
A good start for Liam Pitchford and Sam Walker, it was the same for their team mate, Paul Drinkhall. In an all English class he accounted for David McBeath (11-13, 11-5, 12-10, 6-11, 11-7, 11-4).