Chesterfield table tennis ace Liam Pitchford retained his English Senior National Championships tite in style.
The 21-year-old came from 3-0 down to beat Paul Drinkhall 4-3 in a spellbinding final at Redbridge and win the crown for the third successive year.
The final was a true classic as Drinkhall opened up a lead with some scintillating play but Pitchford gradually worked his way back into it with a determined display.
He had to save two championships points in the fifth before taking the final 4-3 (8-11, 6-11, 7-11, 11-9, 15-13, 11-6, 11-8) - and with it the national crown.
Pitchford, world ranked No 47, said: “It feels amazing. It was a great final, Paul will be disappointed.
“I just told myself to stick in there. I was playing well enough to win in the first three sets, I didn’t do a lot wrong but he was on his game. But I gradually got better and better and my tactics got better.
“I think it was just a great match, there were some fantastic rallies.
“I don’t think you can say anybody lost it. I did enough to win but on another day Paul could have won.”
It was a double celebration for Pitchford as he teamed up with Drinkhall to successfully defend their men’s doubles title. Again, it was achieved the hard way as they were 2-0 down in the final to Sam Walker and Danny Reed before coming back to win 3-2 (6-11, 7-11, 11-9, 11-6, 11-5).
Pitchford said: “We were just a little bit off the game at the start and they were attacking everything and playing with confidence.
“The third set was the turning point but they’re a good pairing. It’s good that we have two good doubles pairs for England.”
Pitchford also singled out Walker for praise – the 19-year-old, world ranked No 175, took two sets off him in the semi-finals.
“If he continues to work hard, I think we’ll see him in the top 100 and that’s great for English table tennis,” he added.
Pitchford returns to Bundesliga action now with club side Ochsenhausen, with World Championship and European Games chances on the horizon.