Liam Pitchford shocked Ma Long in Bulgaria ©Getty Images

England's Liam Pitchford stunned reigning Olympic champion Ma Long in round one of the International Table Tennis Federation Bulgarian Open in Panagyurishte.

The clash at Arena Asarel went the distance and it was Pitchford who came from behind to oust the Chinese third seed and Rio 2016 winner.

He came through 7-11, 9-11, 14-12, 13-11, 7-11, 13-11, 11-6 to collect one of the biggest wins of his career at the World Tour event.

"I'm over the moon, just feeling very happy," said Pitchford. 

"I knew that this was his first match of the tournament, so I knew that he might have some difficulties to get his game on. 

"He has also just recovered from some injuries, so I went in thinking that I could win."

Top seed and defending champion Dimitrij Ovtcharov also met an Englishman as he clashed with Paul Drinkhall.

The German, a quadruple Olympic medallist, came through 11-9, 8-11, 11-6, 11-7, 11-8 to begin the tournament on a positive note.

Second-seeded Chinese player Xu Xin met Yang Wang of Slovakia and came through in four, 11-3, 11-4, 11-1, 8-11, 11-4.

Kasumi Ishikawa was another reigning champion to make it through ©Getty Images
Kasumi Ishikawa was another reigning champion to make it through ©Getty Images

Japan's 15-year-old sensation Tomokazu Harimoto, the fourth seed, breezed into round two.

The Japan Open champion beat Hogyun Baek of South Korea in straight games, 11-9, 11-6, 11-7, 11-7.

In the women's event, top seed and last year's winner Kasumi Ishikawa eased into the next round after an 11-8, 11-4, 11-4, 11-6 win over Dutch player Britt Eerland.

China's sixth seed and reigning Olympic champion Ding Ning was an 11-6, 11-4, 15-13, 11-6 victor against compatriot Rui Zhang.

Japanese second seed Mima Ito was the big casualty, losing 11-2, 7-11, 11-3, 13-15, 11-6, 11-3 to Yidi Wang of China.

The tournament continues tomorrow.