Paul Drinkhall: Table tennis champion eyes world ranking rise

By David McDaidBBC Olympic sports reporter
Paul Drinkhall

Commonwealth table tennis champion Paul Drinkhall is eyeing a big world rankings boost at the end of what he calls "the year of my life".

Ranked 45th and rising, he is the first English player to qualify for the season-closing World Tour Grand Finals,external-link held in Bangkok from 11-14 December.

"It's a massive achievement, but I want to capitalise on it," Drinkhall said.

"If I can get the results - and I know I can in Thailand - I could be inside the top 30 in the world."

The event in the Thai capital brings together the top 16 players on the table tennis professional World Tour.

Drinkhall, 24, qualified by winning the Spanish Open - becoming the first British player to win a top-level singles title in 18 years in the process - and then coming second in the Russian Open, which saw him surge from 80th to 45th in the world.

"It's been the year of my life," said Drinkhall. "I believed I was capable of these results for quite a few years, but now my game's coming together."

The Teesside man's successful season, which has included mixed doubles Commonwealth gold alongside wife Joanna in Glasgow, follows hip surgery late last year.

"Coming back from the operation, I had five months to think and realise what I had to do to improve," he said.

"Mentally, I'm in a better place than I've ever been. I feel confident and have had a more balanced lifestyle away from table tennis."

Drinkhall, whose wife is expecting their first childexternal-link next year, says he is "happy to keep breaking records" within English table tennis, but adds he is not simply "happy to be" at the Grand Finals.

"I want to make a good go of it," he said. "I think I can do some damage."