Liam Pitchford is drawing confidence from one of his best results of the season, as he prepares for the table tennis World Championships.
The Chesterfield ace, who plays professionally for Ochsenhausen in Germany, came from 2-1 down to beat world No 26 Bastian Steger 3-2 and help his team win their final Bundesliga match against Werder Bremen.
While not quite enough to secure a play-off place – rivals Saarbrucken won their last fixture to deny Ochsenhausen – it puts Pitchford in good heart for the Worlds, which start on April 26 in Suzhou, China.
“I feel like I’m in good shape and playing well,” said the 21-year-old, who is currently ranked No 62 in the world. “Beating Steger gives me a lot of confidence, he’s been up in the top 20 or 30 for a long time.
“I’m practising well. We’ve got a few days in England now with Cookie (coach Alan Cooke) and it’s about fine-tuning everything now and getting into the best shape possible.”
Pitchford and England’s other representative Paul Drinkhall fly to China today (April 23) and both will avoid the need to go through the qualifying groups - Pitchford is seeded 49th and Drinkhall 35th.
“It’s going to be difficult, but I’m not really scared of anybody,” said Pitchford. “If I play to my level I can put up a fight against anybody.
“It would be nice to avoid the Chinese for the first few rounds, but I’d take whoever I get. I’ve been beating a few of the guys in the league this year, so it would be nice to get a crack at one of the top Europeans.”
A confident Pitchford, who completed a hat-trick of national singles titles in March, and Drinkhall will team up for the doubles - in an event in which they retained their status as national champions last month.