(by Steve Hopkins)
The race for first is probably over, as Dusseldorf is now up three games on second-place Saarbrucken. Saarbrucken remains one game ahead of third-place Muhlhausen. Each of those top three squads will play each other in the final weeks, so second place could be decided in head-to-head competition. However, since No.2 and No.3 will play each other at in the playoffs, the real question is who will be the home team first.
In today’s match, Dusseldorf’s squad was Boll, Kallberg, and Karlsson – their best squad by World Ranking. In reserve for Dusseldof’s deep team is Sharath Kamal (World No. 34) and Dang Qiu (who is 11-1 in the TTBL and by points scored is the fourth best player in the whole league). The faced a very young Ban Homburg squad and won 3-0. The most interesting story line may be how close those matches were, because Homburg often features a squad of “kids” who are all around 21 years old – and including what may be the next generation of German Players, Benno Oehme and Cedric Meissner. In today’s match 21 year old Romanian Rares Sipos won the second and fourth games against Timo Boll and was tied in the fifth and final game at 10 all before losing 13-11. Kallberg (who leads the whole TTBL with his 21-1 individual record) then won the second match for Dusseldorf easily over Meissner. However, the third match between Kristian Karlsson and 20 year old Benno Oehme was another battle. Karlsson eventually won, but the games were tightly contested – a promising sign for Germany’s next generation. Karlsson over Oehme 3-2 (6, -12, 9, -11, 8).
Ochsenhausen’s result today was a disappointment. USA’s Kanak Jha played both singles for Ochsenhausen and he was 1-1, topping Alvaro Robles 3-0, but losing to Benedikt Duda 1-3. Duda won both of his matches for Bergneustadt, topping Kanak and also Sam Kulczycki. Ochsenhausen played without Gauzy today, so their top player sat out – but Akkuzu who filled in for him won his match over Alberto Mino 3-2. The score was tied 2-2, so it went to doubles. Mino and Robles dominated the doubles match, giving the win to Bergneustadt. The loss moves Ochsenhausen from 4th to 5th (10-8 record) – and it puts 9-8 Bergneustadt in a position to tie Ochsenhausen later this week when they play their 18th match.
The battle for fourth place potentially has five contenders. Ochsenhausen held that position (the final playoff spot) until today, when they fell to Bergneustadt and dropped to 10-8. 10-7 Fulda moved up a spot (with a win over Grenzau). The other squads nipping at their heels are Bergneustadt (9-8), Neu Ulm (9-9), and Konighofen (9-9).
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