Pitchford bows out in thriller

Author:
Paul Stimpson

Publish date:

Please note - this news article was published more than two years ago. Some of the information contained may no longer be correct.

Liam Pitchford exited the China Open in the last 16, but not before taking it all the way to 11-9 in the decider and saving EIGHT match points on the way.

Pitchford’s opponent was world No 9 Koki Niwa, and the diminutive left-hander took the first game 11-8 before the Englishman hit back by the same score.

It was 11-6 in the third to Niwa, the most one-sided of the games, and from that point on the players could barely be separated.

Pitchford led the fourth 8-5 and 9-8, but Niwa took a run of three points, culminating in a huge stroke of good fortune on the game point when his return looped off the net and caught the back edge of the table.

The fifth was nip-and-tuck to 9-9 before Niwa brought up a single match point, saved by Pitchford, who then added the next two points to keep himself in the match.

If that was a standalone drama, what followed in the sixth was the full mini-series as Pitchford saw a 6-5 lead turn into a 6-10 deficit, only to then go on a run of six points of his own – Niwa taking his timeout at 10-7 – to level it up.

And there was an insight into the Chesterfield man’s mental strength as he saved those match points with aggressive play, including two blistering backhand winners from 8-10 down.

More of the same in the seventh and again Pitchford had to face a 6-10 scoreline. Again, he showed unshakeable belief and brought it back to 9-10. But he drifted just long in the next rally and a visibly relived Niwa had won, to set up a quarter-final against world No 1 Fan Zhendong.

Result

Men’s Singles
Round of 16
Koki Niwa (JPN) bt Liam Pitchford 4-3 (11-8, 8-11, 11-6, 11-9, 11-13, 10-12, 11-9)

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