Liam Pitchford & Paul Drinkhall powered through to the semi-finals as their campaign to defend their Commonwealth Games Men’s Doubles title gathered pace.
Pitchford, Drinkhall and Sam Walker are all safely through to the quarter-finals of the Men’s Singles and two English pairs remain in the Women’s Doubles after a busy day of competition in Birmingham.
But there will be no third successive Games Mixed Doubles medal for Pitchford & Tin-Tin Ho, who were edged out 11-9 in a deciding game.
Photos by Michael Loveder
Top seeds Pitchford & Drinkhall were in great form as they dispatched their Nigerian opponents Amadi Omeh & Olajide Omotayo in three straight in the doubles quarter-finals to march into a last-four clash against Zhe Yu Clarence Chew & Shao Feng Ethan Poh of Singapore tomorrow lunchtime.
However, Sam Walker & Tom Jarvis went out in three in the quarter-finals at the hands of the second seeds, Sharath Kamal Achanta & Sathiyan Gnanasekaran of India, who were beaten by Pitchford & Drinkhall in the final last time out at Gold Coast 2018.
In the Men’s Singles, Pitchford, Drinkhall and Walker were all on court in the final round of matches today and all racked up confident 4-0 victories.
Pitchford found Yew En Koen Pang of Singapore a tough nut to crack in the first game, which extended out to 17-15, but once he had won that he relaxed and hit the highest levels he has shown this tournament.
The next three games were 6, 5, 2, and Pitchford next plays Sanil Shetty of India tomorrow morning.
He said: “It feels great, it’s probably the best feeling I have had in table tennis for a long time. I can’t really describe it, I played one of the best matches I have played in a long time.
“I know that if I play like that, then there are not many players that can live with me and it’s just about doing that tomorrow and the day after that if I need to.”
Pitchford also praised the crowd, adding: “It is massive, it gives me a few extra points a set for sure. Especially when I was down set point in the first set, there were a few big rallies, I was trying to stay in the points.
“Knowing the crowd was behind me, I just tried to win the points somehow. It was really good and to have all of my team-mates behind me as well, I’m growing in confidence.”
Walker was the first of the three to finish, brushing aside Canada’s Jeremy Hazin 6, 6, 4, 6 and he will face Indian opposition as well, in the shape of Sathiyan Gnanasekaran. There is the possibility of an all-England semi-final in that half of the draw.
“I’m really happy to get the job done,” said Walker. “I was quite dominant in that match. It was just about me keeping my concentration and playing my game.
“I felt quite confident in that game so hopefully I can bring that forward for tomorrow and improve on that.”
On the quarter-final, he added: “I can’t go out there with any expectations. I’ve just got to work for everything.
“I’ve played Sathiyan twice before and I’ve beaten him both times but he’s a world class player. I can’t take anything for granted.”
In the top half, Drinkhall’s reward for his 4-0 (5, 5, 3, 9) victory over Zhe Yu Clarence Chew of Singapore is a meeting with top seed Quadri Aruna of Nigeria.
Drinkhall said: “In any sport, things can change with one point or one slight doubt in your mind, so I had to keep going. The last set was closer and if he’d taken that, it could have been a different story.
“I feel I’ve been playing a good level for the last couple of months and I’m managing to keep that up. Happy to do that at the end of today when the legs were a bit tired.
“I’m in a good place but everyone who’s got to the quarter-finals is probably thinking the same thing. One point at a time and hopefully that will be enough.”
“I’ve been thinking about medals for the past few years but you can’t take your mind off the next point.”
While Pitchford’s Men’s Doubles campaign is on track, there will be no third successive Mixed Doubles medal for him & Tin-Tin Ho after they were edged out 11-9 in a deciding game in the quarter-finals.
The third seeds were up against fifth seeds Sharath Kamal Achanta & Sreeja Akula of India in one of those matches which was probably destined to go the difference.
The English pair can reflect on the fact that they didn’t do a lot wrong. As Ho ruefully put it afterwards: “Me and Pitch have won a few by two points, I guess it wasn’t our day”.
She added: “We did everything we could and fought for every point. But we did pretty well on the whole.”
There wasn’t a lot in the first three games, but India twice went in front. The fourth was the closest, highlight by a brilliant forehand down the line by Ho, reflecting and magnifying Achanta’s powerful forehand, and also by England saving a match point at 9-10 before levelling up the match.
Pitchford ended up flat on his back next to the umpire’s desk, but still celebrating, on the first point of the decider as he lost his balance after twisting his way though an inside-out forehand winner across court.
The turn-round was at 4-5 and neither side could pull away as the third towel break was taken at 9-9. But, two points later, it was Achanta celebrating by launching his bat in the air and catching it again as Ho’s push fell narrowly wide.
A few minutes earlier, the great run of Ton Jarvis & Charlotte Bardsley had also ended as they were defeated in three by Nicholas Lum & Jee Minhyung of Australia in a match they were never really out of, but, equally, never really threatened to turn around.
In the Women’s Doubles, Ho & Maria Tsaptsinos were handed a walkover into the last 16 when their Bangladeshi opponents failed to appear at the appointed time.
They join Charlotte Bardsley & Emily Bolton, who won earlier in the day, at that stage. The opponents for Ho & Tsaptsinos are Australian pair Minhyung Jee & Jian Fang Lay.
Round of 16
Drinkhall bt Zhe Yu Clarence Chew (SGP) 4-0 (11-5, 11-5, 11-3, 11-9)
Liam Pitchford bt Yew En Koen Page (SGP) 4-0 (17-15, 11-6, 11-5, 11-2)
Sam Walker bt Jeremy Hazin (CAN) 4-0 (11-6, 11-6, 11-4, 11-6)
Sharath Kamal Achanta & Sreeja Akula (IND) bt Liam Pitchford & Tin-Tin Ho 3-2 (11-7, 8-11, 11-8, 11-13, 11-9)
Nicholas Lum & Jee Minhyung (AUS) bt Tom Jarvis & Charlotte Bardsley 3-0 (11-6, 11-7, 11-9)
Pitchford & Drinkhall bt Amadi Omeh & Olajide Omotayo (NGR) 3-0 (11-9, 11-3, 11-5)
Sharath Kamal Achanta & Sathiyan Gnanasekaran (IND) bt Sam Walker & Tom Jarvis 3-0 (11-6, 11-8, 11-4)
Round of 32
Tin-Tin Ho & Maria Tsaptsinos bt Sadia Rahman Mou & Sonam Sultana (BAN) w/o