Liam Pitchford has some of the world’s top players in his sights as he prepares to end the year with an ITTF World Tour double-header.
The England No 1 is heading to Ekaterinburg in Russia from November 5 to 9, followed by the event in Stockholm, Sweden, which starts three days later – and a host of top names await him.
In Russia, Pitchford is seeded 14 in a list headed by World No 5 Dimitrij Ovtcharov of Germany. World No 7 Jun Mizutani of Japan is also in the field, as are Portuguese top-20 pair Marcos Freitas and Tiago Apolonia, part of the Portugal squad which won the European Team Championships last month.
The field in Sweden is even stronger, with no fewer than six top-10 players slated to appear – five from the Chinese powerhouse, plus Ovtcharov. Pitchford is 28th seed.
The 21-year-old Chesterfield player is confident he can achieve some head-turning results.
He goes into Russia on the back of having played Germany’s world No 9 Timo Boll and No 21 Panagiotis Gionis of Greece in a recent Bundesliga match.
And although he lost to both in four sets as his Ochsenhausen team were beaten 3-2 by Borussia Dusseldorf, Pitchford cannot wait for another chance to test himself in lofty company.
“I always knew I would be more highly seeded in Russia than Sweden, but there’s still a lot of good players there,” he said.
“I’m not playing my best (in the Bundesliga) and I’m aiming to make up for that in Russia and have a good run. My best run in a Tour event is the quarter-finals, and I’m aiming to go further than that.”
Liam has singled out No 3 seed Freitas as a dangerman, adding: “Freitas has had a great season and he’s probably one of the main ones to watch.
“I’d like to have a shot against one of the top guys like him. Being seeded to get to the last 16 is always nice to know, but there’s two rounds before I get there and I’ve got to take those matches as they come and hopefully get through and have a shot at one of the top ones.”
Attention then turns to Stockholm and Pitchford said: “It’s going to be a tough tournament. I’m happy to be in the main draw and not have to play in the groups.
“I’m seeded 28 and ranked world No 46, so it shows it’s one of the strongest Pro Tours for a while. I’m going to give it my best shot.”
Pitchford will not have played enough World Tour events to qualify for the Grand Finals, but he said: “I’m just happy to get some matches under my belt. I’m not thinking about qualifying for anything. I’m only 21, so I’ll have other chances for that.”
Pitchford and Drinkhall will play together in the doubles tournaments in both Russia and Sweden.