by Ian Marshall, ITTF Publications Editor
Competing against a higher rated team, a good start is a massive boost. Against Chinese Taipei, Paul Drinkhall had given England the perfect start by beating Chuang Chih-Yuan (11-7, 7-11, 11-6, 7-11, 12-10); against Japan, despite a spirited effort, in the opening encounter he was beaten by Jun Mizutani (11-7, 5-11, 3-11, 11-5, 11-4).
“A good match, I had some chances but it didn’t happen, Jun Mizutani is a high quality player; this morning I was down 5-10 in the fifth against Chuang Chih-Yuan and won. Great wins for the team today but there is still a lot of table tennis left in this tournament.” Paul Drinkhall
England in arrears, enter Liam Pitchford versus Tomokazu Harimoto, the 14 year old earlier in the day had belied his years. He had saved one match point against Vladimir Samsonov in the fourth game, before recovering from 3-8 down in the fifth to win eight points a row and secure victory for Japan in the opening contest against Belarus.
Liam Pitchford gave the teenager no time to draw breath; he allowed his adversary a grand total of 13 points (11-5, 11-5, 11-3).
“This morning Paul had given us a great start against Chinese Taipei and today against Jun Mizutani he played really well; his performances today really gave me confidence before I played Tomokazu Harimoto. I beat him at the World Team Cup in February and today I just tried to impose my game on him.” Liam Pitchford
It was from Liam Pitchford a stunning performance; another followed immediately from Sam Walker. Contrary to all expectations he beat Koki Niwa in three straight games (11-9, 12-10, 11-8).
“Koki Niwa is a tremendous player but not today! No seriously he is a tremendous player but you must enter a match with the belief that you can win; we have such a good team spirit, we are all good friends and we all pull for each other. Now we must get ready for tomorrow.” Sam Walker
England now in the ascendancy, a group of some 20 English supporters in the tiered seating urged their heroes forward; a step away from a sensation, Liam Pitchford delivered the sensation. The contest went the full distance, at the change of ends in the decider, Liam Pitchford led 5-4, it was an advantage he never relinquished. At 10-8 he held two match points; he converted at the first attempt (11-4, 9-11, 11-9, 6-11, 11-8).
“A good start, great support but I must admit that in the fifth game as it approached the end I was nervous, it’s just a great performance, great team spirit.” Liam Pitchford.
The team spirit was perhaps underlined by all three players who when a team photograph was requested, they insisted that David McBeath and Tom Jarvis the other two members of the squad alongside Marcus Sjöberg, the coach, be included; that’s team spirit.
England now having beaten the top two teams in their group are now in top spot.
Liam Pitchford beats Jun Mizutani secure an unlikely victory for England