17 Aug 2018

A backhand to savour, on Thursday 16th August at the Seamaster 2018 ITTF World Tour Asarel Bulgaria Open in Panagyurishte, England’s Liam Pitchford caused arguably the biggest shock of the year and certainly recorded the biggest win of his life.

In the first round of the Men’s Singles event, the 25 year old, presently listed at no.48 on the Men’s World Rankings beat China’s Ma Long, the no.3 seed, the player who has won every major title the sport has to offer. Liam Pitchford prevailed in seven games (7-11, 9-11, 14-12, 13-11, 7-11, 13-11, 11-6).

by Ian Marshall, Editor

The opening two games gave no hint of what was to follow, Ma Long appeared in control but the fact Liam Pitchford won the third and fourth games by the minimal margin and then repeated the feat in the sixth, gave the young man from the East Midlands a massive injection of confidence.

However, would Ma Long not press the accelerator in the deciding game? The accelerator was pressed but by Liam Pitchford; he won the first five points; then led 7-3. We waited for a Ma Long recovery, he reduced the gap to 8-6 and with two services to follow, the contest appeared in the balance. Liam Pitchford, the great team player, remained focused, he did not panic, he did not try to do the ridiculous; most importantly, he won the next three points!

“I’m over the moon, just feeling very happy! I knew that this was his first match of the tournament, so I knew that he might have some difficulties to get his game on. He has also just recovered from some injuries, so I went in thinking that I could win; there is no point going in against the Chinese players thinking that you are going to lose, so I tried to be active and attack him straight from the beginning. I missed a couple of good chances in the opening games but even though I was trailing two-nil and 4-8 in the third game I just stayed in there and did my best. I tried to as much as possible play backhand to backhand and switch to forehand when I could. I’m just really, really happy! I think that in the beginning I was trying to win the points too early against him a lot of the time. Thus I tried to slow down the tempo and play my game and spin the ball on the table. He might have not been in his best shape this being his first tournament of the season but it was nonetheless a great win. I’m just happy that I’m through to the next round.” Liam Pitchford

A quite incredible performance from Liam Pitchford overshadowed other fine efforts as the first round of the Men’s Singles event came to a close.

Austria’s Daniel Habesohn beat Denmark’s Jonathan Groth, the no.8 seed (9-11, 11-8, 13-11, 11-13, 11-8, 5-11, 11-8), Masataka Morizono won the all Japanese battle accounting for Jin Ueda, the no.11 seed (9-11, 11-6, 11-9, 12-10, 7-11, 11-4).

Success for Masataka Morizono against seeded opposition; it was the same for colleague Yuya Oshima, as it for Ma Te who to some extent restored Chinese pride. Yuya Oshima accounted for the host nation’s Stanislav Golovanov (11-6, 11-4, 12-10, 11-6); Ma Te used his defensive skills to good effect to overcome Maharu Yoshimura, the no.12 seed and like Yuya Oshima from Japan (11-9, 11-3, 11-8, 7-11, 9-11, 11-7).

Meanwhile, in the remaining first round Men’s Singles matches in the lower half of the draw; China’s Xu Xin the no.2 seed, demonstrated his ability against defence by overcoming Slovakia’s Wang Yang (11-3, 11-4, 11-1, 8-11, 11-4); whilst Sweden’s Mattias Falck, the no.9 seed, ended the hopes of Romania’s Ovidiu Ionescu (11-4, 12-10, 11-6, 8-11, 11-3).

The second round of the Men’s Singles event will be played in entirety on Friday 17th August.

World Tour 2018 Seamaster Bulgaria Open ma long Liam Pitchford

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Day 4 - 2018 Seamaster ITTF World Tour Asarel Bulgaria Open

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