Liam Pitchford’s Europe Top 16 dream was ended in an agonising deciding-game defeat by European champion Qiu Dang in the semi-finals in Montreux.

The Englishman had beaten his opponent in four previous meetings stretching back to the Junior ranks, most recently a 4-0 victory at the Hungarian Open in 2020.

Pitchford started in a barrage of clinical winners, opening up an 8-2 lead and converting that into an 11-6 win in the opening game.

Amazingly, that margin remained the closest for the opening five games as Dang hit back with the next two, Pitchford levelled, and Dang again moved in front, all by margins of 11-4 or 11-5.

The sixth, finally, was a close one as there were never more than two points in it until, having taken his timeout at 6-7, Pitchford found four points in a row.

Those three game points were all saved before Pitchford engineered another with the help of a back edge – probably an overdue slice of luck as Dang had enjoyed the lion’s share up to that point. This time, the chance was seized and we were heading to a decider.

It was another tight one and Pitchford led 5-4 at the change of ends. Dang took four points in a row, Pitchford hit back with three and it stood at 8-8 and anyone’s to take.

A couple of net cords helped Dang, messing up Pitchford’s timing on a forehand which would have made it 9-9 but instead brought up two match points.

Only one was needed as Pitchford netted his receive and Dang had booked a final against Slovenia’s Darko Jorgic – a repeat of the European Championships final won by Dang last year.

Despite the defeat, Pitchford can reflect on a best performance at this event, defeating the No 1 seed and narrowly missing out to the current European champion.

After a couple of months off the table, that is sure to put him in good heart as he heads to the WTT Star Contender Goa, followed by the Singapore Smash.


Qiu Dang (GER) bt Liam Pitchford 4-3 (6-11, 11-5, 11-5, 5-11, 11-5, 10-12, 11-8)