English table tennis player going from strength to strength

By Toby Oliver

2018 has been an incredible year for Table Tennis with England number one Liam Pitchford hitting new heights. He’s been part of England teams that have surpassed expectations on a number of occasions and had some unbelievable personal results on the ITTF World Tour. Having started the year ranked 79, his results have propelled him up to 23.

The ITTF Team World Cup took place in London this year at the Copper Box Arena. There was little expectation for the England team consisting of Pitchford, Paul Drinkhall and Sam Walker to get much success. However, they made it out of the group by beating Egypt despite losing to Japan. The surprise result came in the quarter-final when they beat Brazil who boast world number nine Hugo Calderano. Pitchford thrashed him 3-0 to help England get to the semi-final and secure a bronze medal.

Pitchford announced himself on the world stage with several excellent results at the World Team Championships in Sweden. The 25-year-old won eight matches in a row including wins over Belarusian legend Vladimir Samsonov and Japanese wonder-kid Tomokazu Harimoto. These wins left England unbeaten in the group stage, finishing above Asian giants Japan. However, the run came to an end in the quarter-final where they suffered an easy loss to Sweden who had the home advantage.

As well as these team successes, Pitchford has also had several phenomenal results on the singles tour. None more so than his landmark win over the greatest player of all time, Ma Long. The Englishman won 4-3 (7-11, 9-11, 14-12, 13-11, 7-11, 13-11, 11-6) in what has been described as the greatest win in the history of English Table Tennis. After the match, he told Table Tennis England “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.” Despite losing his next match at the Bulgarian Open, it was still a fantastic result.

The week after, Pitchford had another excellent tournament at the Czech Open. This was his first ITTF World Tour semi-final appearance. In the quarter-final he beat former world number one Dimitrij Ovtcharov. This was another brilliant win which took Pitchford up to a career high ranking of 23. On his new ranking he told Table Tennis England, “I’m really happy and proud of all the work I’ve done but there’s still a lot more to go and more to keep working on. I’m not satisfied – I can go higher and that’s still the aim.”

Pitchford is at the Austrian Open this week, so he will be looking to replicate his good form to try and get deep into the tournament.

Edited by Harry Trend

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