PAUL DRINKHALL believes a top-level table tennis medal could be just around the corner after he and Liam Pitchford came within a match of the World Championships men's doubles semi-finals.

England's top pair, who are the Commonwealth Games champions after claiming the gold medal in 2018, lost 3-1 (12-10, 10-12, 12-10, 11-5) to the second seeds Shunsuke Togami and Yukiya Uda of Japan in the quarter-finals.

That meant they just missed out on a bronze medal, which would have been England's first at the World Championships since 1973.

Drinkhall, who is from Loftus in East Cleveland, said: "I think we’re good enough to medal or even win the event, but on the other hand we don’t play together a lot and we don’t practise together a lot.

"Looking back on those later stages, I think we could feel that a little bit.

"It’s just little things that were missing or weren’t quite right and probably could be put right with practice and playing together.

"It’s a positive going forward that we’re pushing these players, the number two seeds, with limited time together – though it didn’t help us at this event."

Drinkhall added: "Moving forward, we’re going to spend more time training on the doubles.

"We’ve got the Commonwealth Games next year (in Birmingham) and we want to retain our doubles title, and we’re going for the team gold as well.

"Although it won’t be me and Liam playing doubles in the team event, if we can all improve then that will help."

In the World Championships singles tournament, World number 57 Drinkhall was handed a difficult first-round draw against Marcos Freitas of Portugal.

Freitas is currently ranked a significant level above Drinkhall at number 24 in the World standings.

Despite a solid display that saw him briefly take the lead, the North-Easterner fell to a 4-1 (10-12, 11-5, 12-10, 11-3, 11-9) defeat.

He said: "On my day, I can beat Freitas. It was close and I had a chance to make it 2-1 to me and turn the match in my favour.

"The result is disappointing but the performance was okay.

"I’m not going to say it was good, but it certainly wasn’t bad, and losing to someone like him is not a terrible result.

"That’s sometimes just the way it is."