Liam Pitchford came from 3-1 down to earn a dramatic win over top seed Truls Moregard and book a place in the semi-finals of the Europe Top 16 in Montreux tonight.
The roar of delight the Englishman let out after taking his fifth match point showed what it meant to him to have achieved a momentous win which had not looked likely when he lost the third and fourth games by 11-3 margins.
Watch the semi-finals live and free on TTE.TV – Liam faces Qiu Dang of Germany at noon, UK time, on Sunday. The other semi sees Dimitrij Ovtcharov, also of Germany, meet Slovenia’s Darko Jorgic. The women’s semi-finals are Nina Mittelham (GER) v Sofia Polcanova (AUT) and Ying Han (GER) v Jieni Shao (POR).
The opening two games had been shared – the Swede taking the first and Pitchford hitting back by taking seven successive points from 4-4 in the second. But Moregard raced through the next two games to stand on the verge of going through.
If Pitchford had looked good in parts up to that point, he found greater consistency to his game for the rest of the match, while Moregard seemed to lose his.
The Englishman took early leads in the next two – 4-0 in the third being converted into an 11-7 win and then 6-3 into 11-4 in the next.
He continued to dictate the pace in the decider, forcing Moregard to take a timeout at 4-1 down – a lead which quickly became 7-1.
When that was reduced to 7-4, Pitchford took his own timeout and it appeared to do the trick as he took three of the next four points to bring up five match points.
Having not played much this year, he perhaps could be forgiven for stuttering over the line against as redoubtable an opponent – one who had beaten him twice in big matches as recently as October.
A few unforced errors and some positive play by the Swede saw four match points come and go. But then Moregard went long and Pitchford let out his celebratory bellow.
Pitchford will face Germany’s Qiu Dang in Saunday’s semi-finals, while the other semi sees Dimitrij Ovtcharov, also of Germany, take on Slovenia’s Darko Jorgic.
Earlier, Pitchford started quickly against Tomislav Pucar of Croatia in the first round, opening up a 2-0 lead with matching 11-7 games, before Pucar pulled one back by the same margin.
The fourth saw Pitchford save three game points and take his own second opportunity, to clinch it 15-13, and he had a match point at 10-9 in the fifth, only for Pucar to win the next three points.
But it was only a delay as Pitchford raced into a 7-0 lead in the sixth, setting up an 11-3 game and with it a place in the quarter-finals.
Round of 16
Liam Pitchford bt Tomislav Pucar (CRO) 4-2 (11-7, 11-7, 7-11, 15-13, 10-12, 11-3)
Pitchford bt Truls Moregard (SWE) 4-3 (8-11, 11-4, 3-11, 3-11, 11-7, 11-4, 11-9)