by Ian Marshall, ITTF Publications Manager
Paul Drinkhall gave England the ideal start; in five games he beat Segun Toriola (14-12, 9-11, 7-11, 11-13, 11-7). Success for the Englishman but after the first six points of the second game the advantage was firmly with Nigeria. Segun Toriola had won a close first game, before in the second establishing a 5-1 lead. A response, Paul Drinkhall won four of the next five points to reduce the deficit to one point at 6-5; Segun Toriola called “Time Out”.
Focused, determined well aware of the value to his team of clinching the opening match, Paul Drinkhall recovered to secure the game before winning the third and establishing a 9-6 lead in the fourth. Segun Toriola won the next two points, Paul Drinkhall called “Time Out” but it was the Nigerian who benefitted from the break, a fifth game beckoned. A good start was needed, at the change of ends Paul Drinkhall led 5-2; the advantage was never relinquished.
Advantage England but then a major surprise; Liam Pitchford who earlier this year had excelled at the 2018 Team World Cup in London, experienced defeat at the hands of Bode Abiodun after holding a two games to nil lead (8-11, 9-11, 11-4, 13-11, 11-5). It was a result very much against expectations; credit to Bode Abiodun who fought tooth and nail for his country.
“Unbelievable but I could see that he was nervous; after I won the third game I began to believe in myself, I became confident. I just focused on keeping the ball on the table, more and more I believed I could win the rallies.” Bode Abiodun
Notably in the deciding fifth game Liam Pitchford won the first two points before Bode Abiodun secured the next four; the Englishman called “Time Out” but was never able to find a rhythm to his play. Bode Abiodun went ahead 8-2, Liam Pitchford secured the next two points, Bode Abiodun duly elected for “Time Out” before completing the task and falling to the floor in triumph.
Success for Nigeria against predictions, it was very much the same in the next encounter; after never being in contention in the open game, Omotajo Olajide in partnership with Segun Toriola secured the doubles (2-11, 11-7, 12-10, 11-6).
Tension, Liam Pitchford returned to the action, a contest that never reached the greatest heights, the Englishman emerged successful in five games (9-11, 11-4, 11-8, 9.11, 11-6).
A tense five games win; in the deciding fifth match of the fixture it was an other tense five games verdict with Bode Abiodun the hero. He beat Sam Walker (8-11, 11-9, 11-9, 6-11, 11-8) to send Nigerian supporters into unbridled joy. Pertinently in the vital fifth game, he won the first seven points.
“I’d beaten a top English player so I was confident before I played Sam. He was nervous, I think that’s why I was able to go ahead 7-0 in the fifth game. Again in the long points I felt I could win. Now the final, we are going to win!” Bode Abiodun
The bronze medal England versus Singapore will be played later in the day at 5.00 pm (local time) and will be followed immediately by the gold medal contest between Nigeria and India.