Liam Pitchford felt he saved his best for last as he beat England colleague Sam Walker in the final to win his fourth men’s singles title at the PG Mutual National Championships.
Pitchford had not won the title since 2015 but continued his outstanding form from the Team World Cup and looked every inch the best player at the tournament.
He advanced through the last 16 and quarter-finals in straight sets and was then pushed by 18-year-old Tom Jarvis – a fellow member of the England bronze medal-winning squad at the world cup – in the semi-finals. Pitchford played the big points well against his young opponent, winning 4-1 (5-11, 11-5, 13-11, 12-10, 11-6).
Walker, who beat Pitchford in the semi-finals in the last two seasons, awaited in the final and the Chesterfield man lost the first game. But he then found top form and roared to a 4-1 (8-11, 11-4, 11-4, 11-9, 11-6) victory, despite seeing a 6-0 lead turn into a 9-7 deficit in the fourth game.
Pitchford said: “I came off the back of last week and I came here to win. I think I did a professional job and brought probably my best table tennis of the tournament to the final.
“I had a bit of a wobble at 6-0 up in the fourth but I trusted my game and played the right way and it paid off – which I always knew it would.”
For good measure, Pitchford also claimed his first national Mixed Doubles title alongside Tin-Tin Ho, with whom he won silver at the last Commonwealth Games.
It was a dramatic victory against David McBeath & Kelly Sibley as they saved one match point in the fourth game and three more from 10-7 down in the fifth. The final scoreline was 3-2 (11-9, 6-11, 8-11, 14-12, 12-10), auguring well for next month’s Commonwealths in Gold Coast, Australia.
Pitchford said: “At 10-7 down, we played four or five points which we hadn’t really shown during that match. They didn’t miss a lot, we just played some really good points.
“I thought Kelly and David played really well, we just had to find a way. I’m happy to win my first mixed doubles title. We’re gearing up for Gold Coast and this is a good start.”
Pitchford could not make it a title hat-trick as he and Walker were beaten 3-1 (11-8, 11-6, 6-11, 11-1) in the men’s doubles final by Paul Drinkhall & McBeath.
Pitchford’s Commonwealth preparations continue this week at the Qatar Open.