Andreas Levenko UPSETS Injured Liam Pitchford 3-1
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In the biggest upset of the men’s singles event so far, world ranked 144 Andreas Levenko upset sixth seed and world ranked 15 Liam Pitchford 11-4, 11-8, 5-11, 11-7 in the round of 32 in the WTT Contender event at WTT Doha.
Pitchford hurt his hand hitting a half-long ball last week in practice, and as a result he felt pain whenever he used his backhand. He hopes to recover by the start of WTT Star Contender next week. Nevertheless, it is still a great win by Andreas Levenko, who has had a sensational run so far in this tournament.
This match started out extremely sloppy as both players missed their own opening. The first point in which something of note happened was when Pitchford pushed a little long to Levenko’s backhand, and Levenko stepped around for a kill to put himself up 7-2. Pitchford then called a “COVID timeout”, which is when a player asks the umpire to wipe the table, giving both players a short break. Both players continued to miss what looked like standard openings until Pitchford won a rally at 3-9. It was too little, too late as Levenko landed two nice points of his own to win 11-4.
Levenko won the first three points off hard counterloops against weak openings from Pitchford before missing his own opening. The sloppy play from game 1 continue as the next six points was a series of missed openings and bad decisions that resulted in a 7-3 lead for Levenko. Pitchford won a quick rally to cut the lead to 7-4, but then after exchanging a few more errors the lead was back up to 9-5. Pitchford was able to land in two nice quick backhand rolls that cut the lead to 10-8, but he missed what looked like a standard backhand loop, giving the game to Levenko 11-8.
After missing so many chiquitas in the first two games and getting killed on the ones that he did land, in both a tactical and likely injury-conerned move, Pitchford almost completely stopped using chiquitas and mainly pushed in the last two games.
Pitchford hence opened the game looking in better rhythm as he started winning several longer rallies and not giving Levenko any soft shots to the forehand or elbow to kill. However, he continued to make sloppy errors including two missed pushes, keeping the score tight up until 5-4. The next few points ended up with several quick mid-length rallies that saw Pitchford lead 7-5.
Levenko then tried a funky sidespin strawberry service return to Pitchford’s elbow, but Pitchford was able to win the point on the next shot anyway to go up 8-5. Levenko would continue to try out weirder stuff to close the game, including two tomahawk serves when down 9-5. Perhaps Levenko’s goal was to disrupt Pitchford’s rhythm, but if his goal was to win points, his plan failed as he missed the third ball on both his tomahawk serves to lose the game 11-5.
Levenko himself also stopped trying out chiquitas and also started pushing short. Without the threat of Pitchford’s fast chiquita, Levenko was able to step around almost every point in the fourth game to land his strong forehand opening. After several sequences of varying success stepping around the corner for a forehand opening and then crossing over for Pitchford’s wide block to the forehand, Levenko found himself up 4-3.
Levenko then caught a net, but lost the point anyway. Then Pitchford caught a net ball, but lost the point anyway, bringing the score to 5-4. Pitchford leveled the score to 5-5 with a nice backhand roll, but lost the next two points off a weak short game, prompting him to call time out.
However, the timeout brought no change in momentum as both players continued to exchange points until 9-7. Levenko served a short shovel serve to Pitchford’s center and took advantage of the weak chiquita return from Pitchford to take a 10-7 lead for three match points. Levenko then served a half-long serve to Pitchford’s forehand and then took advantage again of Pitchford’s weak loop against the half-long. This gave the game to 11-7 and the match 3-1 to Levenko.
Levenko will be playing Cho Daesong in the round of 16, and both players have to be excited that they are playing someone outside the top 100. Cho is only 18, and he had a high profile win over An Jaehyun (WR 39) and pushed Jeoung Youngsik (WR 13) to seven games at the recent Korean Olympic Trials. This is a golden opportunity for both of them to advance to the quarterfinals and face the winner between Harimoto and Lee Sangsu.