Hugo Calderano staged an incredible turnaround to deny Liam Pitchford a maiden WTT singles title in a quite astonishing final at the Contender event in Muscat.

Click here to read the report from the semi-final.

The Brazilian came from 2-0 down to lead 3-2, but missed a match point in the sixth as it headed to a decider.

Pitchford had already won a game 11-1 and then lost one 11-0, but was still very much in with a shout of sinking the world No 5 and second seed, only to be denied by a man claiming a seventh WTT singles title.

Pitchford looks to be back to something like the form which saw him last reach a WTT singles final, in Qatar back in 2020, just before the pandemic – he lost that final to world No 1 Fan Zhendong 4-2.

After a cagey opening to his second attempt to win a title, Pitchford began to land some telling, accurate backhand flicks, forcing Calderano to stretch on both flanks. One such flick secured the first game 11-6 on the first game point.

Precision and variety were to the fore as Pitchford took an early lead in the second – Calderano already shaking his head at 0-3. It became 0-6 thanks to a brutal forehand and it was 0-9 before the Brazilian got on the board as even the net-cord helped Pitchford.

There was nothing lucky, however, about the swinging forehand winner on the run which clinched the game 11-1. The WTT commentator called it a flawless game and that’s exactly what it was.

Liam in action in the final

Calderano needed something – anything – to restore a bit of belief and the world No 5 found a couple of shots near the start of the third, and also had some help from the net as he opened a 6-2 lead.

It was clear he was starting to find his way as he got in first more often and looked to dominate the rallies more quickly. Pitchford found his chances more limited – he took them when he could, but Calderano took his second game point to win it 11-8.

Calderano had come from 2-0 down to win 3-2 in both the last 16 and the semi-finals so would not have panicked, especially with the final being a best-of-seven affair.

He showed he, too, could be flawless as he won game four to love, reading Pitchford’s serve, moving into position quickly and dispatching high-quality shot after high-quality shot.

So, after four games which were virtual mirror-images of each other, we had a three-game shootout for the title.

Calderano stayed on the front foot and it was now Pitchford’s turn to need something – anything – to re-establish a foothold. A 4-0 down, John Murphy called a timeout to see if the ship could not just be steadied but spun around.  

The immediate answer was no, but Pitchford finally won a point to make it 1-6, ending a run of 18 points for the Brazilian.

It was a crumb of comfort as Calderano demonstrated his all-round game, even bringing up eight game points with a counter-attacking forehand after a series of defensive lobs.

Pitchford saved a couple of them, but it only delayed the inevitable as Calderano took it 11-4.

You could argue Pitchford had not done a lot wrong – just as Calderano hadn’t done much to deserve a 1-11 score in the second.

So when Pitchford led the sixth 8-4, that still made a certain sense, despite what had gone before. When Calderano came back to lead 9-8, that was no more nonsensical.

Calderano earned a match point which Pitchford saved with two brave forehands and two points later it was 12-10 to the Englishman and we were heading to a decider.

It was Calderano who found the fast start, leading 4-0 before a dead net-cord got Pitchford on the board. But he was trailing 5-2 at the change of ends.

That became 7-2 and it looked as if Calderano was closing in on the title, but some brilliant rallies from Pitchford forced Calderano into taking the timeout at 7-5, a final pause for breath in an extraordinary match (and an umpteenth shirt-change for the Brazilian).

Pitchford kept attacking, playing the right way, but Calderano had all the experience he needed to close out the match and fashioned four more match points. Pitchford saved one, but netted a backhand attack and it was all over.


Men’s Singles

Hugo Calderano (BRA) bt Liam Pitchford 4-3 (6-11, 1-11, 11-8, 11-0, 11-4, 10-12, 11-7)