Liam Pitchford & Paul Drinkhall are into the World Championships Men’s Doubles quarter-finals for the second time in succession as they continued their stranglehold over India’s top pair.
Having beaten Sharath Kamal Achanta & Sathiyan Gnanasekaran in the gold medal matches at the last two Commonwealth Games, the English pair will have headed into today’s clash with confidence.
And if that confidence was dented when the Indians won three points in a row to take the first game 11-9, then it did not show as Pitchford & Drinkhall took the next three games.
The second saw them recover from 4-2 down to lead 8-5 and, although the Indian pair pulled back two points, there was enough in hand for the English duo to take it 11-8.
In the third, Achanta & Gnanasekaran led 6-3 and took a possibly surprise timeout at 6-4. It did not work as Pitchford & Drinkhall fought level at 8-8 and then brought up two game points.
Two unreturnable Gnanasekaran serves saved those game points, and each pair missed a subsequent chance to take the lead. At 12-12, Achanta missed a backhand put-away to give England another game point, and Drinkhall made no such error on a forehand put-away on the next rally. And so, England led.
It continued to be tight, as it always is between these pairs, and England had the edge most of the way through the fourth. They led 9-7 and 10-9, but the match point was spurned as Pitchford, who had set up the match point with a super forehand retrieve, pushed just long.
But England fashioned another chance as Drinkhall sent a swinging backhand into Achanta’s body – and Gnanasekaran top-edged as this time the match point was grasped.
Pitchford & Drinkhall having once again justified their status inside the world’s top 10 pairs, they now face Dimitrij Ovtcharov & Patrick Franziska of Germany, who this afternoon defeated third seeds Yukiya Uda & Shunsuke Togami of Japan 3-2 (11-7, 6-11, 10-12, 11-6, 11-8).
Round of 16
Liam Pitchford & Paul Drinkhall bt Sharath Kamal Achanta & Sathiyan Gnanasekaran (IND) 3-1 (9-11, 11-8, 14-12, 12-10)