Liam Pitchford’s Magnificent Doha Outing Bodes Well For English Table Tennis

Is his silver medal in Doha a sign of things to come for England’s Liam Pitchford? (Photo: ITTF)

Sending table tennis fans wild across the world with his inspirational display at the 2020 ITTF World Tour Platinum Qatar Open in early March, Liam Pitchford deserves great praise for his achievements in Doha. The chances are that some fans of the sport weren’t fully aware of the Englishman’s talents before his incredible run at the event, but the writing has actually been on the wall for some time now!

Six-time English National Champion Liam Pitchford’s quality is well known domestically but much of his international success has come as a key member of Team England, helping his country to noteworthy heights.

Achieving a fantastic bronze medal finish against the odds at the 2016 World Team Championships in Kuala Lumper, Team England have since gone on to enjoy top eight finishes at the 2018 World Team Championships and the 2018 and 2019 Team World Cups, not to mention England’s bronze at the 2018 Commonwealth Games – Liam Pitchford was present on all these occasions.

Glimpsing back over his singles career to date on the international scene, 2018 was perhaps Pitchford’s standout year as he claimed victory over the likes of Timo Boll, Dimitrij Ovtcharov, Hugo Calderano and Ma Long!

Just a few months into 2020 and it already looks like Pitchford might have another success story on the horizon. 2018 may have been about the calibre of opponent he struck down, but so far in 2020 Pitchford has been showing great consistency and it’s starting to pay off.

Pitchford’s first appearance of the year came at the 2020 Europe Top 16 Cup competition in Montreux, Switzerland where he won his opening match against Lionel Weber in straight games. Beaten by Timo Boll one round later but Pitchford overall performed within seeded expectations with his top eight finish.

A top eight finish at one of Europe’s most prestigious competitions is nothing to be sniffed at! (Photo: ITTF)

Just over a week later Pitchford was on duty in Budapest where he was seeded ninth for the Men’s Singles event at the 2020 ITTF World Tour Hungarian Open. Negotiating a tricky round one meeting with Russia’s Alexander Shibaev, Pitchford then went on to account for up-and-coming German star Qiu Dang and one of the leading names in Swedish table tennis, Kristian Karlsson. At the semi-final hurdle the Englishman was bested by 2020 Japan National Champion Yukiya Uda, but a fine campaign nonetheless.

Impressive stuff from Pitchford but nothing compared to what was about to unfold at the 2020 ITTF World Tour Platinum Qatar Open in Doha!

Pitchford’s first piece of action came in the Men’s Doubles category as he and fellow countryman Paul Drinkhall entered the competition as unseeded qualifiers. Defying the odds, Pitchford and Drinkhall went on an unbelievable run which saw them beat second seeds Ho Kwan Kit and Wong Chun Ting on their way to the silver medal.

Liam Pitchford pictured with Men’s Doubles partner Paul Drinkhall (Photo: ITTF)

A mighty effort on the doubles scene but Pitchford wasn’t done there, going on to stun spectators around the world with his outing in the Men’s Singles tournament.

Relatively untroubled against World Men’s Doubles Champion Alvaro Robles at the first hurdle, Pitchford came through a much more challenging affair in round two as he saw off Belarusian legend Vladimir Samsonov in an exciting six-game affair.

Avenging his defeat from the 2019 Bulgarian Open, Pitchford powered past in-form Chinese Taipei player Chuang Chih-Yuan in straight games to reach the last four. Already an outstanding display from Pitchford, but things were about to get even sweeter for the English star who produced an out of this world performance to beat World No.1 Xu Xin in a six-game thriller (3-11, 11-7, 11-9, 6-11, 15-13, 11-9)!

With his dramatic victory over Xu Xin, Pitchford became the first Englishman to reach a Platinum event Men’s Singles final but could he go one further and lift the trophy in Doha? Giving it his all in the final Pitchford produced another admirable effort, but it was not to be as Fan Zhendong took home his second Qatar Open title (11-9, 11-7, 8-11, 11-4, 6-11, 11-7).

A campaign ending in defeat but Liam Pitchford won’t let that take anything away from his thrilling experience in Doha – is this the beginning of something very special for Pitchford and English table tennis?

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