by Simon Daish
It has been yet another most exceptional campaign, the no.15 seed, Liam Pitchford has most certainly outperformed expectations.
Arguably a surprise feature in the quarter-finals, Chuang Chih-Yuan, required to qualify, beat Japanese teenager Tokomazu Harimoto and Yukiya Uda on his way to the last eight. Most notably, Tomokazu Harimoto had won in Budapest!
In their previous encounter at the 2019 Bulgaria Open it was Chuang who struck victory in a seven-game thriller, but this time the scores were much more decisive and in Pitchford’s favour.
An edgy first game which saw both players presented with chances to claim the early momentum, Pitchford secured success and never looked back. Finding the angles and showing a great level of consistency Pitchford capitalised on his early confidence boost to deliver a crushing win.
The result means Pitchford becomes the first English player to reach the men’s singles semi-finals at an ITTF World Tour Platinum event. It’s also his third semi-final on the World Tour having reached the last four at the 2018 Czech Open and 2018 Austrian Open.
Pitchford’s straight games victory over Chuang comes off the back of two excellent performances from the Englishman in his opening two fixtures, taking down Spain’s Alvaro Robles (11-6, 11-7, 8-11, 11-9, 10-12, 11-9) and Belarusian legend Vladimir Samsonov (11-7, 11-7, 6-11, 12-10, 8-11, 18-16).
A fine display in Doha so far, Pitchford is now looking to make a career-first ITTF World Tour men’s singles final but first must overcome a mighty challenge. Placed in the lower half of the draw, Pitchford’s next opponent is none other than World no.1, Xu Xin!
Having met in singles action on only two previous occasions, the head-to-head favours Xu with the penhold grip master yet to drop a game to the Englishman. But this is a very much a different Pitchford we are seeing in Doha and is more than capable of causing an upset.
Not just impressing on the singles front, Pitchford has also enjoyed a fantastic men’s doubles campaign alongside fellow countryman Paul Drinkhall with the two set to compete for the title against Ma Long and Xu Xin on Saturday afternoon.
Glancing at his outings in Budapest and Doha it’s fair to say Pitchford has enjoyed a successful start to 2020 and is starting to show his true potential on the international stage.