Among the title winners, the World Team Championships 2016 in Malaysia have produced a lot of surprises, as we previously reported. Among them – if not the biggest success – was the bronze medal for Team England. Their star, 22 year-old Butterfly player Liam Pitchford had recently gained some great results on the ITTF World Tour, but was really shining throughout the team matches in Kuala Lumpur. His track record: 8 victories, 5 defeats. But even in defeat against top level players such as Germany’s Ruwen Filus or Japan’s Jun Mizutani, he came more than just close to victory. In the wake of his recent success, we asked Liam some questions:
Q:First of all: Congratulations to your great success in Kuala Lumpur. In fact, it was the best result of an english Team at the World Championships since 1993! As a team, did you do something special to prepare for the competition?
A: We tried to be together as a team as much as possible, Paul (Drinkhall) and Alan (Cooke) joined me and Sam Walker in Ochsenhausen, Germany for 2 weeks in January and then we went to Singapore for practice before heading to Malaysia, I think that helped us really gel as a team. But practice-wise there was not much so different, as the competition got closer it was little less table time and just getting ready for the matches.
A: Our realistic goal was to stay in the division, we knew we had a chance if we played at a really high level to pass the group but we never dreamed we could take a medal!
Q: Which match was the most crucial in your opinion?
A: I would say the match against Germany. If we lost we knew we were out and everybody just played to a great level and we had ourselves the chance to pass the group, we still needed a little help from Sweden but: You make your own luck!
Q: And which match was the best performance-wise?
Q: You lost to France in the group stage – you yourself losing to Emmanuel Lebesson. At your second encounter you won – what did you do differently?
A: As a team we knew that we just needed to play better in the second match, I knew if I could beat Lebesson it would put pressure on them. I tried to play more balls down the line with my forehand and not let him get his forehand in from the backhand side – that’s where I was beaten in the first match against them.. Also I think my short game was dominant and that’s where I won a lot of cheap points.
Here are some highlights from this important match:
Q: And which match was the worst from your point of view?
A: I wouldn’t say I really played a worst match but I guess you could say it was against Ruwen Filus in the group match against Germany. I put a little bit too much pressure on myself to win and he played a really amazing game so anyway it would have been difficult to beat him.
Q: What kind of equipment do you use?
A: I am using the Butterfly Viscaria blade with Tenergy 05 both sides.
Q: Have you felt the need to change it recently?
A: No I have been using it for a while now, I’m happy with all aspects of what the blade and rubbers give me, I have enough speed and control to play the game I like. When I was changing before I wanted something that had a little more speed but with the control that I liked, I enquired with the butterfly advistory team and they recommended to try the Viscaria blade for my game – I haven’t looked back since.
A: The immediate goal is to qualify for the Olympic Games 2016 in Rio, the qualification tournament is coming soon and my mind has turned to that now so it is time to prepare and be in the best shape possible there.
Q: England qualified for the Champions Division only 2 years ago. Now you won a medal at your first attempt. How do you see the future for Team England?
A: There is a long way to go still but we have a young team and we are all hungry for more success now, I hope we can be challenging for medals all the time now and we definitely have the confidence and I think a lot of the bigger teams will have taken notice of us now.
Q: Did you enjoy the Tournament in Malaysia?
A: I think it was good, we had everything we needed to have to a reasonably high level and that was the main thing. Things could have been better here and there but we can’t complain after this great tournament!
Q: If you look at the other matches and other teams at this World Championships, what do you think is happening in Table Tennis right now?
A: Obviously China are still a step ahead of everyone else but other than that I think we saw now that the other nations are catching up and are able to challenge the bigger nations. Personally I think we saw some amazing matches and a high level of table tennis, the spectators we great too, especially since they were getting behind us! I think this was maybe the tournament for big surprises, we showed that and a lot of other countries too, Poland beating Portugal, Germany going out in the group, I think it made it exciting and a better spectacle for table tennis.
Q: Is there anything you wish to tell your fans out there?
A: I Hope you enjoyed my/our matches in Malaysia. Thank you for all the support I received and I hope you will continue to follow my progress!