by Simon Daish
Sharing the spoils from their two previous head-to-head encounters, Pitchford and Gionis were both prepared for a close contest heading into the session and their expectations were met with all seven games needed to find a winner.
Saving a game point to strike first in the tie, Pitchford was tasked with breaking down one of the sturdiest defensive walls on the planet and appeared to hold the answer early on with the top seed leading by the close of game three.
As the match progressed, however, Gionis began to enjoy some luck on the offensive and before long it was he who looked destined for victory, claiming back-to-back games to establish a firm grip on the match. Staring in the face of defeat Pitchford showed great courage to fight back from 2-3 down on his way to victory, keeping his Olympic qualification dream alive in the process.
Russia’s Kirill Skachkov is the other name through to the men’s singles final, storming to a straight games win in his meeting with Belgian player Florent Lambiet (11-9, 11-9, 11-4, 11-9).
The final score-line would suggest one-way traffic throughout the course of the match but no.32 seed Lambiet didn’t make life easy for Skachkov, seeded 13th, with three of the four games decided by no more than a two point difference. However, for all of Lambiet’s effort he simply couldn’t live with his Russian opponent’s powerful output, leaving Skachkov just one win away from Tokyo!
Liam Pitchford and Kirill Skachkov’s meeting in the men’s singles decider is scheduled to take place from 16.20 (local time) with a ticket to the Olympic Games on the line.