Paul Drinkhall blasted into the last 32 of the World Championships Men’s Singles today, setting up a clash with the world No 5 from China.
He and Liam Pitchford then survived a tough match in the doubles to move into the last 16, where they face a rematch of their Birmingham 2022 gold medal match.
In the singles, Drinkhall was up against Filip Zeljko of Croatia, ranked below him at No 146 in the world but buoyed by having defeated 27th seed Benedikt Duda of Germany in the first round.
Drinkhall took first blood as he fought back from 10-6 down in the first to take it 12-10, but Zeljko levelled 11-9. Drinkhall moved in front again (11-6) and again the Croatian came back to level, again 11-9.
The match turned on the fifth game, and it was Drinkhall who held firm. He initially came back from 10-7 down, and moved through Zeljko to have a game point of his own.
The Croatian saved that one, and two subsequent game points, but Drinkhall took the next opportunity to complete the 15-13 victory.
The decider saw Paul move in front from 3-3 and largely stay there, though his opponent did peg him back to 6-6. Four of the next five points went to Drinkhall, and that broke the back of the game as he sealed it 11-8.
Drinkhall’s next opponent is Jiang Lingkun, the fifth seed and world No 5.
Liang met Liam Pitchford at the last World Championships in Houston in 2021, emerging on the right side of a narrow 4-3 victory after what was arguably the match of the tournament.
In the doubles, 14th seeds Pitchford & Drinkhall were up against Chilean pair Nicolas Burgos & Gustavo Gomez in the last 32 and were taken to a decider as their opponents twice came back to level after losing the first and third games.
In the decider, Gavin Evans took the timeout at 6-7. The Chileans won the next point, but England won two in a row to level at 8-8.
As the tension mounted, Pitchford & Drinkhall went 9-8 down – but three points in a row, culminating in Burgos netting a third ball attack, saw them into the last 16, prompting Evans to leap to his feet in the corner.
They are now one more win away from matching their quarter-final appearance from 2021 and their opponents in the last 16 will be familiar – India’s Sharath Kamal Achanta & Sathiyan Gnanasekaran, whom they have beaten in the gold medal matches of the last two editions of the Commonwealth Games, at Gold Coast 2018 and at Birmingham 2022.
Tin-Tin Ho and her partner Karoline Mischek from Austria went out of the Women’s Doubles at the last-32 stage, defeated in four by the 12th seeds Linda Bergstrom & Christina Kallberg of Sweden.
Round of 64
Paul Drinkhall bt Filip Zeljko (CRO) 4-2 (12-10, 9-11, 11-6, 9-11, 15-13, 11-8)
Round of 32
Linda Bergstrom & Christina Kallberg (SWE) bt Tin-Tin Ho & Karoline Mischek 3-1 (12-10, 11-4, 8-11, 11-7)
Round of 32
Liam Pitchford & Paul Drinkhall bt Nicolas Burgos & Gustavo Gomez (CHI) 3-2 (11-8, 9-11, 11-9, 8-11, 11-9)