by Ian Marshall
The 33 year old, was very much a player in form and warmed to the situation; at the semi-final stage earlier in the day, he had dominated matters against Belgium’s Florent Lambiet, the no.32 seed (11-9, 11-9, 11-4, 11-9).
Conversely, Liam Pitchford had been involved in a titanic duel against Panagiotis Gionis of Greece, the no.10 seed. Seven games required but never facing a match point; in the decider, after trailing 6-9, on his fourth attempt, he converted (12-10, 8-11, 11-9, 5-11, 11-7, 11-9, 14-12).
It was the third meeting on the international stage between Liam Pitchford and Panagiotis Gionis, the odds favoured the Greek. In 2010 Panagiotis Gionis had prevailed at the European Team Championships in Ostrava, more recently at the 2019 European Games in Minsk. Sandwiched in between, Liam Pitchford had succeeded at the 2016 European Team Qualification tournament.
Notably, it was the first meeting on the international stage between Liam Pitchford and Kirill Skachkov.
Earlier in the tournament, Kirill Skachkov had beaten Congo Brazzaville’s Saheed Idowu, the no.38 seed (9-11, 11-7, 11-7, 9-11, 12-10, 11-8), followed by success against Austria’s Robert Gardos, the no.3 seed (11-7, 11-7, 12-10, 11-8) to book a meeting with Panagiotis Gionis, where he experienced his only defeat of the tournament (5-11, 11-6, 11-9, 18-20, 11-7, 5-11, 11-8).
On the concluding day of play, there were no such hiccups, two matches completed, two impressive performances, a Tokyo place secured.
Men’s Singles Qualifiers – 2020 World Singles Olympic Games Tournament
Lubomir Jancarik (Czech Republic), Bence Majoros (Hungary), Wang Yang (Slovakia), Kirill Skachkov (Russia)