Paul Drinkhall and Liam Pitchford believe they have taken a massive step forward despite their historic run at the Qatar Open ending in defeat.
The duo made history by becoming the first English pairing to reach a men’s doubles final on either the ITTF World Tour or ITTF Challenge Series since their inception in 1996.
However, they could not deliver a perfect ending to their tale this week as they were beaten 3-1 by Chinese superstar duo Ma Long and Xu Xin.
“Obviously a very tough match against two of the best players in the world – one of the best, if not the best, pairs. They make everything difficult for you,” Drinkhall said.
“We held our own at times and played some really good stuff. We both felt we had more, but it’s difficult to access everything you have against players like that.
“It is a step forward – we haven’t played together for quite a long time and it’s great to start again with some good results. Hopefully we can keep that up.”
The opening exchanges were frenetic and back-and-forth with the Chinese pair taking the opening game 11-8 courtesy of a brilliant Ma Long forehand before the English duo fought back to take the second game by the same scoreline.
The third game proved pivotal however with the Chinese duo taking a 1-0 lead before claiming it 11-1.
But Drinkhall and Pitchford fought hard in the fourth game and, at 6-6, it appeared the match would be going all the way.
However, Long and Xin showed their class as they won the final five points on the spin to take the title.
Pitchford, though, has the chance to make amends in the men’s singles where he is through to the semi-finals which take place on Sunday with Xin standing between him and a place in the final.