Liam Pitchford once again traded blows with a Chinese star on the world stage, but came up just short as he was beaten by world No 2 Wang Chuqin at the WTT Champions Frankfurt.

England’s No 1 has enjoyed memorable victories over Ma Long and Xu Xin, and has pushed the likes of Fan Zhendong and Liang Jingkun all the way in high-profile matches.

And if he was looking for inspiration, he could draw on a sensational set of results in the first session of the day, when three Chinese players were defeated – world No 1 Fan and No 5 Liang beaten by South Korean opponents and women’s world No 2 Chen Meng sunk by Bernadette Szocs of Romania.

Pitchford had never taken a game off Wang in their three previous meetings, but he buried that statistic in the opening game of this last-16 clash.

He was never behind, imposing himself on the Wang serve early on with two impressive backhand receives to open a 3-1 lead which he soon pulled out to 5-1 and 7-2.

There was a little shake of the head by Wang after that point but it seemed to spur him as he won the next five to level, via a Pitchford serve into the net.

The next few points were alternated, Pitchford always moving ahead, and Wang then served off the end at 9-9 to present Pitchford with his first game point, which he took with a heavy crosscourt forehand.

Pitchford led the second 4-2 but left-handed Wang engineered a run of seven points as he kept the ball away from Pitchford’s lethal backhand. Although the Englishman stopped the rot when he was finally allowed to unleash a backhand, Wang was not to be denied and took the game 11-5.

It was 3-3 at the first towel break pf the third but by the time they went back to their bins it was 9-3 to the Chinese, Pitchford having missed a few by tiny margins and Wang having proved clinical with his own chances.

Pitchford took the chance to reset his radar, winning the next three points with controlled agression, but a super inside-out forehand topspin opened up four game points for Wang, Pitchford serving long on the first of them.

Pitchford continued to show plenty of world-class quality, but Wang had an answer much of the time – he is the world No 2, after all. Pitchford took his timeout at 1-4 in the fourth and managed to just about hang on to his opponent’s coat-tails, a brilliant forehand winner forcing Wang’s timeout at 9-6 to the Chinese.

Another laser-guided forehand into the corner made it 9-7 and in the blink of an eye it was 9-9 and Pitchford was on a run of five points.

That was where it ended, Wang sending a backhand push into Pitchford’s body and then sealing the win as Pitchford clipped the net and went long.


Men’s Singles
Round of 16

Wang Chuqin (CHN) bt Liam Pitchford 3-1 (9-11, 11-5, 11-6, 11-9)