Paul Drinkhall admits mixed emotions after dramatic day

·3-min read
Paul Drinkhall admits mixed emotions after dramatic day

Paul Drinkhall admitted he felt mixed emotions after the high of winning men’s doubles gold with Liam Pitchford was tainted by defeat in his men’s singles semi-final in Birmingham.

The 32-year-old from Middlesbrough and Chesterfield ace Pitchford started a packed Sunday schedule by defending their doubles Commonwealth Games title in a thrilling final.

After losing the opening game 11-8 to India’s Sharath Kamal Achanta and Sathiyan Gnanasekaran, the English pair bounced back to win three of the final four games to prevail 3-2.

But Drinkhall did not have long to celebrate his eighth Commonwealth Games medal, returning to the table shortly afterwards for a 4-2 defeat to Achanta in his singles semi-final.

“A great feeling (to win doubles gold) but a bit of a shame because straight away we knew we had an hour and a half before the next match. I'm not going to get that feeling back,” he said.

“I let him control the game. He's a very good, very experienced player. I'm not taking anything away from him. He played well and got the tactics right. I didn’t.”

Chesterfield ace Pitchford had no such problems in his semi-final contest though, overcoming the pair’s other doubles opponent Gnanasekaran to 4-1 to set up a shot at another gold.

The 29-year-old will come up against Drinkhall’s conqueror for the Commonwealth singles title but before turning his focus to that he stressed the importance of the duo's doubles triumph.

“We had great game there and the crowd really helped us through it. It’s just relief. It was a tough match, but I think we played an unbelievable last set,” said Pitchford.

“Honestly, probably the best doubles we played when we needed it. That's what great doubles players do, and we did it. To do it again it's not easy.

“It's never easy to win a gold medal and I think we're the first men's doubles pair to retain the title.

“We don't play together that much but when we do, we know each other's games well.

“We play well, we gel well, we've always got each other's backs. For me, that's ten times better than my Gold Coast gold medal. Gold Coast was special because it was my first one.

“But this beats anything else. Doing it in front of a home crowd, in front of family with Paul just standing on that top step was something I'll never forget.”

This summer, Team England, supported by funding raised by National Lottery players, comprises of over 400 athletes, all vying for medal success.

Pitchford defeated Gnanasekaran 4-1 (11-5, 11-4, 8-11, 11-9, 11-9) to give himself a chance of adding to the doubles gold and team bronze he has already won in Birmingham.

“I'm ecstatic. I'm relieved to get over the line, a bit nervy at the end,” he added.

“I'm enjoying being out there again. Even there from being 9-3 to 9-9, I played two really world class points at 9-9 and two weeks ago that's something I'd never have done.

“Just that makes me happy. I've played a lot of matches and that helps me get confidence and I'm gaining confidence by the day. Tomorrow's one more big push.

“It'll be a difficult game. He's playing well at a top level because Paul [Drinkhall] has been unbelievable all tournament and he's gone and beat him.

“I'll just go out there and be positive and if I do that, I've got a chance.”

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