05 Mar 2019

The title retained and crowned English national champion for fifth time on Sunday 3rd March, thus equalling the record of Chester Barnes but one behind Denis Neale, Alan Cooke and Paul Drinkhall, the player he beat in this year’s final, the ultimate quest for Liam Pitchford is still somewhat distant. Desmond Douglas won on no less than 11 occasions!

Now there is another distant quest for Liam Pitchford; this time in terms of miles; he has signed to play in the 2019-2020 Japanese "T" League, the second season of the competition.

by Ian Marshall, Editor

He follows the likes of Hong Kong’s Wong Chun Ting and Portugal’s Tiago Apolonia who all played in the inaugural season, as did Korea Republic’s Jeoung Youngsik, Lee Sangsu and Lim Jonghoon. Likewise, the Chinese Taipei trio comprising Chuang Chih-Yuan, Chen Chien-An and Chiang Hung-Chieh, all appeared on the team sheets, alongside the leading lights from the Land of the Rising Sun.

Liam Pitchford will represent Saitama, the Executive Manager of the club being Ryusuke Sakamoto, in his day a player of notable status.

Now 34 years old, when 17 years of age he won the junior boys’ singles title at the Japanese National Championships, later in 2004 and 2006, partnering Ai Fukuhara, he secured the mixed doubles title.
Meanwhile, he played in the 2001 World Championships in Osaka, as well as in 2003 in Paris and 2005 in Shanghai; most notably in 2002 at the first ever ITTF World Junior Circuit Finals, he was the runner up, he was beaten in the final by China’s Qiu Yike.

Later, he became a television commentator and now is very much the businessman.

“We feel a big responsibility, last season our dream did not come true, we make the offer to Liam at an early stage; we are determined and want to match the company’s basketball team that was once the number one club in Japan. We want to make every effort possible.” Ryusuke Sakamoto.

Meanwhile, for Liam Pitchford, who one year ago stood at no.53 on the men’s world rankings and is now listed at no.17, it is the opening of a door.

“It’s a very good opportunity for me to make another step forward in my career. I followed the “T” League last year, the atmosphere and the level of the players excited me. It was so high; I know that by playing in the league it will help me to improve. So I got the offer it was an easy decision for me to make. I have only been to Japan once but it’s a wonderful place, from what I saw it’s very nice and the people are all friendly. I’m looking forward to going a meeting everyone.” Liam Pitchford

Furthermore, for Saitama, it could prove a most prudent signing, one potential opponent is Tomokazu Harimoto, for the inaugural season he represented Kinoshita Meister Tokyo alongside Jun Mizutani.

In 2018 Liam Pitchford played Tomokazu Harimato on two occasions, at the Team World Cup in London and at the Liebherr World Championships in Halmstad; on both occasions the Englishman prevailed.

The 2018-2019 season concludes on Sunday 17th March; the new season for 2019-2020 commences in October.

2018-2019 T League: Men’s & Women’s Teams

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General News Liam Pitchford Ryusuke Sakamoto