Liam Pitchford unafraid of hard graft after start of Commonwealth campaign

·3 min read
Liam Pitchford unafraid of hard graft after start of Commonwealth campaign

By Andy Baber in Birmingham

Liam Pitchford has no intention of taking a rest anytime soon after winning both of his matches as Team England’s men enjoyed a perfect opening day in the table tennis at Birmingham 2022.

The Chesterfield 29-year-old has built up a formidable Commonwealth Games record since his debut in Delhi 2010, winning eight medals in Team England colours since then.

And he showed his pedigree with a clinical 11-4 11-3 11-5 victory over Shemar Britton to help the hosts start the men’s team competition in style with a 3-0 win over Guyana.

Pitchford then returned for the evening session, winning his second singles rubber 11-2 11-0 11-1 against Jai Chauhan as Team England romped to another 3-0 triumph over Fiji.

“Good day results-wise,” said Pitchford, who is one of more than 1,100 elite athletes on UK Sport’s National Lottery-funded World Class Programme, allowing them to train full time, have access to the world’s best coaches and benefit from pioneering technology, science and medical support.

“The difference in level is quite high but we just have to go out there and play and do what we have to do and get the wins.

“We got the wins today and that’s the main thing. I’ll probably play tomorrow, we’ll see what Gav (Gavin Evans, coach) says but I don’t really want to have a day off of matches before playing the quarter-final.

“It’s going to get a lot harder so I’ll try and get as much recovery as I can now. I’m up for playing tomorrow but we’ll see what happens.”

The East Midlands ace has previously spoken about his mental health struggles, describing last year's delayed, post-lockdown Olympic Games as “the worst of my career”.

Pitchford suffered a first-round defeat in the men’s singles competition in Tokyo, and failed to qualify for the team event, but he now believes he can take to the table without fear.

And he is more than happy to embrace the favourites tag at Birmingham 2022.

“We went in knowing we were favourites but I think we did a professional job. We obviously knew they could play, they played some good stuff at times,” he added.

“I felt really good, I was on top of the ball, I wasn’t passive. When I got the opportunity, I won the point. I felt like I played well, that’s the aim of the first match.

“Every match we have to take seriously and obviously after the group stage it’s going to get a lot more difficult, but if we keep playing like that, we will be ready for it.”

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