Liam Pitchford & Paul Drinkhall are Commonwealth Games gold medallists again!

The No 1 seeds retained their title in Birmingham today to set the NEC venue rocking.

Pictures by Michael Loveder

As it was four years ago in Gold Coast, Pitchford & Drinkhall defeated Sharath Kamal Achanta & Sathiyan Gnanasekaran of India in five games.

It was the Indians who struck first in a bitty opening game in which very few rallies developed – the longest was only seven shots.

The margin was 11-8, and that scoreline was reversed in the second in the English duo’s favour. It had looked to be going swimmingly at 6-1 up, but England took an early timeout when the Indians pulled it back to 6-5.

It did the trick as England kept in front, moving from 7-6 to 8-6 up thanks to a wonderfully skilful piece of improvisation by Drinkhall, returning a ball that was all but past him. Pitchford’s swinging forehand to bring up game points was equally impressive.

India took their timeout at 3-0 down in the third – a point after Drinkhall had hammered a forehand down the line for one of the cleanest winners of the day.

The rally at 4-1 was probably the best of the match, a prolonged exchange which India won. All that served to do was light a fire under England, and they had a run of five points to lead 9-2, mixing power and precision. Shortly afterwards, Gnanasekaran netted a Pitchford serve and it was 11-3 to England.

The first point of the fourth saw Pitchford hit a forehand winner from so low he was practically sitting down. There were never more than two points in the game until India opened a 7-4 lead. That became 9-6 and then four game points – they took the second to level matters up.

What followed was what Pitchford called probably the best set of doubles he and Drinkhall had ever played. It was 5-4 to England at the change of ends, with the lead having already changed hands three times.

It did not change hands again.

To pick a highlight, it was probably Pitchford’s authoritative punch into an open half of the table to make it 8-4. That one seemed to knock the stuffing out of Achanta & Gnanasekaran and it was all over three points later.

The moment of victory

Both English men will be back on court later this afternoon – against the same opponents but on an individual basis in the Men’s Singles semi-finals – Drinkhall at 5.20pm against Achanta and Pitchford at 6.10pm against Gnanasekaran.

Pitchford said afterwards: “To do it again it’s not easy. It’s never easy to win a gold medal and I think we’re the first men’s doubles pair to retain the title.

“We don’t play together that much but when we do, we know each other’s games well, we play well, we gel well, we’ve always got each other’s backs.

“For me, that’s ten times better than my Gold Coast gold medal.

“Gold Coast was special because it was my first one, but this beats anything else. Doing it in front of a home crowd, in front of family with Paul just standing on that top step was something I’ll never forget.”

The bronze medal was won by Zhe Yu Clarence Chew & Shao Feng Ethan Poh of Singapore, who beat Nicholas Lum & Finn Luu of Australia 3-0 (11-4, 11-8, 8-11, 11-5).


Men’s Doubles
Gold medal match
Liam Pitchford & Paul Drinkhall bt Sharath Kamal Achanta & Sathiyan Gnanasekaran (IND) 3-2 (8-11, 11-8, 11-3, 7-11, 11-4)