Pitchford in devastating form at last year's German Open

Reigning National Champion, Liam Pitchford, returns to the scene of one of his greatest successes when he takes on the world’s elite once more at the GAC Group ITTF World Tour German Open (Mar 26-30th) in Magdeburg.

The 20-year-old stunned the world last season at the same event in Berlin where he beat Yang Zi (wr 81), Oh Sangeun (29), Gao Ning (16) and Kenta Matsuidaira (18) before finally being stopped at the quarter-final stage by home favourite Timo Boll during a dramatic Men’s Singles run.

The Ochsenhausen player, who recently helped his side into an ETTU Cup Final, will lead a five-man assault on Magdeburg from a quintet of German-based Englishman; Paul Drinkhall, Darius Knight, Sam Walker and David McBeath.

As one of only two World Tour competitions remaining before the Commonwealth Games squad is picked (the Spanish Open, April 2-6th being the last), the German Open provides the English competitors with a massive opportunity to impress the selection committee with a fine performance in mainland Europe.

It is big news therefore for the ‘chasing pack’ that Daniel Reed has pulled out of the German Open with an elbow injury, thus providing the likes of Knight, Walker and McBeath with an opportunity to stake a claim for the trip to Glasgow.

While Pitchford, who recently hit a career-high world ranking of 52, will be seeded into the main draw, his fellow team mates all face tough challenges in their qualification groups if they are to make the most of their chance to shine.

Knight (facing Stefan Fegerl, wr 64), Walker (Emmanuel Lebesson, 57) and McBeath (Mikhail Paikov 105) will all have to upset the seedings to progress while four-time National Champion Drinkhall will face Lubomir Jancarik (140) and the unknown calibre of Chinese youngster Wei Shihao – a dangerous proposition.

2013/14 English Women’s Singles Champion, Joanna Drinkhall, will be joined by Tressa Armitage in the Women’s Singles in Germany as the pair look for a positive start to the summer.

However, neither are seeded top of their groups and will have to cause a shock to reach the main draw. A confident Drinkhall may fancy her chances against French opponent Carole Grundisch (wr 107) when the duo meet at 12:30 GMT on Thursday.

The ETTA will be providing full coverage of the event on Twitter where you can find the latest English draws, updates and results. There will also be a live stream at the event provided by itTV with three matches already set to show Englishmen in action (listed below).

Live stream:
Sam Walker vs Emmanuel Lebesson Weds 26th @ 13:15
Paul Drinkhall vs Aly Walaa El-Din Weds 26th @ 16:15
Paul Drinkhall vs Lubomir Jancarik Thurs 27th @ 11:00

GAC Group 2014 ITTF World Tour, German Open, Magdeburg (Mar 26-30th)
(Times in GMT)
Men’s Singles:
Qualification Groups:

Group 4:
Stefan Fegerl (AUT, 64) Weds 26th 13:15
Cedric Nuytinck (BEL, 213) Weds 26th 08:00
Darius Knight (wr 234)
Group 11:
Emmanuel Lebesson (FRA, 57) Weds 26th 13:15
Frane Kojic (CRO, 203) Weds 26th 08:00
Sam Walker (245)
Group 30:
Mikhail Paikov (RUS, 105) Weds 26th 14:45
Jiri Vrablik (CZE, 164) Weds 26th 09:30
David McBeath (348)
Group 46:
Paul Drinkhall (135)
Lubomir Jancarik (CZE, 140) Thurs 27th 11:00
Aly Walaa El-Din (EGY, u/r) Weds 26th 16:15
Wei Shihao (CHN, u/r) Weds 26th 11:00

*Liam Pitchford seeded 27th

Women’s Singles:
Qualification Groups:
Group 24:
Szandra Pergel (HUN, 100) Weds 26th 17:45
Nadine Bollmeier (GER, 128) Weds 26th 12:30
Tressa Armitage (495)
Group 25:
Carole Grundisch (FRA, 107) Thurs 27th 12:30
Joanna Drinkhall (124)
Danielle Konsbruck (LUX, u/r) Weds 26th 12:30

Men’s Doubles
David McBeath/Sam Walker v Jesus Cantero/He Zhiwen (ESP) Weds 26th 18:30
Paul Drinkhall/Liam Pitchford v Lubomir Jancarik/David Reitspies (CZE) Weds 26th 19:00

by Russell Moore (March 25, 2014)