Perfect Paul Drinkhall delivered a table tennis clinic by winning both of his singles and doubles matches against Cyprus to help England through to the men’s team semi-finals at the Commonwealth Games.
The Middlesbrough star got this side’s quarter-final off to the perfect start alongside doubles partner Tom Jarvis, winning 12-10, 11-3, 11-2 against Christos Sava and Sharpel Elia before sweeping aside the latter 11-6, 11-8, 11-4 in the singles as the hosts ran out 3-0 winners.
The dominant performance now puts the 32-year-old within touching distance of a seventh Commonwealth medal, but he knows there’s more to come from the team after a lacklustre opening.
“It went well,” said Drinkhall, who claimed bronze in the team event at 2018 Gold Coast.
“We started a bit slowly in the doubles, which you half expect as we came out the group very comfortably and these guys were a level up.
“They put us under a bit of pressure initially and we didn’t deal with it too well but we relaxed into the game, showed what we were capable of.
“We’ll have to start at that point tomorrow in the semi-final.”
Drinkhall and Jarvis, alongside Liam Pitchford, were roared on by a vocal crowd at the NEC, with every England point met with huge cheers.
The Teessider was full of praise for the watching faithful and was particularly pleased to see a few spectators in particular, as his children watched as he put on a show in Birmingham.
“They have seen the nationals a few times but they haven’t seen too much of me playing,” added Drinkhall. “It’s great to have them and all the family and friends here.
“It’s good to have the home support and we’ll need that moving forward.”
Drinkhall sealed the victory after teammate Pitchford had coasted past Marios Yiangou 11-5, 11-3, 11-6 in the second match of the day.
Pitchford is ranked no.20 in the world and will now look to add a ninth Commonwealth medal to his collection.
Standing in their way of a guaranteed medal is a semi-final with Singapore on Monday, and Pitchford knows they are in for a tough test.
“Tomorrow is probably another step up so we need to be ready again,” said the 29-year-old.
“They are all good players and have a strong doubles pair. We need to get the first point on the board and put them under pressure.
“They are a bit more inexperienced than us so if we can capitalise on that and put them under pressure from the start, we stand a good chance.”
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