Drinkhall savours 'best win'

29 July 2012 / 16:38

Paul Drinkhall basked in the greatest victory of his table tennis career after moving to round three in the men's singles event at the London 2012 Olympics.

Despite being Team GB's brightest table tennis hope, the 22-year-old was an underdog in his second-round clash with Yang Zi, who is ranked 53 places higher in the ITTF world standings.

Yet Drinkhall had other ideas and, backed by an impassioned ExCel Arena crowd, delivered the goods in a quite brilliant 4-1 triumph.

"Given the circumstances, the fact that it was in London and the entire crowd were on my side, it was definitely the best," he said. "I have beaten players ranked higher in the past, but winning that was just an amazing feeling."

A hallmark of Drinkhall's two performances - this win followed up his first-round thumping of Ibrahem Al-Hasan - has been his ice-cool demeanour. The same could not be said of Yang, who looked nervous from the off - something Drinkhall felt he capitalised on.

"He was definitely nervous and I used that to my advantage," he said. "I knew the first game was going to be really important because he could have relaxed had he won it.

"After I won that, I felt pretty confident and knew that I was on top pretty much throughout; the crowd played a massive part in that too."

Drinkhall's temperament came to the fore once again when Yang, who he had never beaten, threatened a comeback by winning the fourth game to reduce the deficit to 3-1. Yet the Middlesbrough-born right-hander did not waver and progressed.

"In the past, I have been 3-0 up and lost quite a few opportunities," he admitted. "It was obviously on the back of my mind. But I have prepared the best I ever have for a tournament and am in the best shape I've ever been too.

"I just thought to myself, 'I am a different Paul Drinkhall in this tournament and I am just going to go on and do it'."