PAUL DRINKHALL has become the first Briton to win an ITTF World Tour Open singles event in 18 years by winning the GAC Group Spanish Open on Sunday.
The 24-year-old from Loftus, East Cleveland, was seeded 22 for the competition and had to beat a string of higher ranked players to win the gold.
The English number two beat Japan’s Matasaka Morizono in the final with a 4-2 victory (11-7, 11-9, 6-11, 11-5, 6-11, 11-8).
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Drinkhall said: “I’m feeling tired but feeling amazing, it’s a great achievement especially after the first match being a bit shaky. I could have gone out, but fought through it and got stronger as the tournament went on.
Olympian Drinkhall's biggest test came in the first match when he recovered from 3-2 down to beat world number 241, Can Akkuzu of France, 4-3 (11-9, 3-11, 11-5, 6-11, 9-11, 11-9, 11-6).
Drinkhall, ranked number 144 in the world, then had to beat Mattias Karlsson (SWE, 183) 4-1 and Niagol Stoyanov 4-2 to reach the quarter-finals.
Continuing his impressive form, he swept aside Dimitrij Prokopcov 4-0 in the quarter-finals and Yuto Muramatsu 4-1 in the last four.
He joins Carl Prean as the only other Briton to have won a tour event having triumphed in Rio de Janeiro in 1996.
The result is a major boost for English table tennis ahead of the World Team Championships in Tokyo later this month, followed in the summer by the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow.
Drinkhall added: “It’s definitely up there with anything I’ve achieved in my career – my first senior title. Hopefully there will be more to come. It’s a big year, with going for promotion to the top level in the World Team Championships and then the Commonwealth Games.
“This can give me a confidence boost towards the other tournaments and hopefully if we’re in the medal matches or promotion matches I can use this experience to help.”
Coach Nicky Jarvis said the achievement was made even greater by Paul having come back from an operation on his hip last summer.
He added: “He came back from the operation with a very strong mind. His preparation before every match was what it should be for a champion. He said when he beat the Czech player in the quarter-final it was the best table tennis he’d played in his life.
“He was focused and very professional, the epitome of a top sportsman.”