Pitchford excels to reach last 16 of China Open

Liam Pitchford beat two top-20 players and almost added a top ten scalp as he reached the last 16 of a high-class China Open.

Friday, 1st June 2018, 5:08 pm
Updated Friday, 1st June 2018, 5:12 pm
Pitchford in action in China. Photo/ITTF.

With 47 of the world’s top 50 players in action in Shenzhen, world No 58 Pitchford had to start in the first preliminary round, where he beat America’s Ma Jinbao, ranked at a lowly 717, 4-1 (12-10, 11-3, 11-6, 3-11, 11-4).

Next up was the world No 20 Mattias Karlsson of Sweden, to whom Pitchford had lost in the World Team Championships in May. He avenged that defeat with a 4-2 (3-11, 11-7, 11-8, 11-7, 7-11, 11-4) scoreline and them saw off world No 48 Stefan Fegerl of Austria 4-1 (11-9, 11-7, 11-6, 3-11, 11-4) in the third preliminary round.

That put him into the last 32, where he met world No 11 Hugo Calderano of Brazil, who he had beaten at the Team World Cup in London in February. The outcome was the same, with the score 4-1 (11-8, 11-7, 13-11, 10-12, 11-6) in Pitchford’s favour.

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He faced world No 9 Koki Niwa of Japan in the last 16 and it went to the wire, with Pitchford saving one match point in the fifth game, four in the sixth and three in the decider before Niwa finally won it 4-3 (11-8, 8-11, 11-6, 11-9, 11-13, 10-12, 11-9).

Pitchford also reached the last 16 of the doubles, alongside Lubomir Pistej of Slovakia, beating Mattias Karlsson and his namesake Kristian 3-1 in the preliminary round but then going out 3-0 to Masataka Morizono & Yuya Oshima of Japan.