Chesterfield star Liam Pitchford admitted he was not at his best when falling in the semi-finals of the national championships for the second year running.
Just as he did in 2016, Pitchford was beaten by fellow Rio Olympian Sam Walker in the last four, going down 4-1 (13-11, 7-11, 11-7, 11-8, 11-6).
“I’m not playing my best table tennis at the moment, and sometimes results like that happen,” said the 23-year-old. “I’ve won the title three times before and went into it not quite as prepared as before, whereas Sam was hungry for his first title.”
As it happened, Walker went on to lose 4-2 in the final of the PG Mutual-sponsored event to top seed and defending champion, Paul Drinkhall.
But Pitchford did not leave the event, held at Nottingham University, empty-handed as he and Drinkhall teamed up to land their fifth successive men’s doubles crown, beating Chris Doran and Mike O’Driscoll 3-0 (11-6, 14-12, 12-10) in the final.
“We’ve been playing together for so long, and were obviously good players, but I think now we are real doubles partners and play really well together,” said the Chesterfield man.
“At the Commonwealth Games next year, we’ll be aiming to go at least one better than the fourth place we achieved last time.”