European Championships: Lucky Number Seven for Boll
(by Steve Hopkins/Photo courtesy of ITTF)
It had been six years since Boll last won the European Championship, so while being a six-time winner makes him one of the favorites each year, he had been stuck on six for some time. Unlike some other years where injuries or scheduling have been a negative factor, 2018 has been a year where much has gone Boll’s way. He has been ranked as high as No.1 in the world, and he entered this event as the top seed -expected to make a deep run.
The Liebherr 2018 ITTF European Table Tennis Championships was hosted in Alicante, Spain. The tournament ran from September 18-23. The tables and barriers were Butterfly (Butterfly Europa 25 tables). The main draw consisted of 64 players, with the top seeds (in order) being Timo Boll (GER), Dimitrij Ovtcharov (GER), Simon Gauzy (FRA), Marcos Freitas (POR), and Patrick Franziska (GER).
Boll swept through his side of the draw, but not without difficulties. France’s Can Akkuzu won the first game of the match and after splitting the first six games found himself tied at 11-11 in the deciding seventh game. But Boll was able to hang on to win (Boll over Akkuzu 4-3). Boll also fell behind England’s Liam Pitchford early, but righted the ship quickly and won 4-2. Boll then defeated Habesohn in the quarterfinals and Franziska in the semifinals. The Boll/Franziska semifinal match was one of the most exciting of the tournament with the German teammates battling into the seventh game. Franziska won the first game. Boll then won a very long second game with a 14-12 score. Franziska then won the next two games to take a commanding lead, only to see Boll run off three wins in a row for the come-from-behind victory.
Joining Germans Boll and Franziska in the quarterfinals was a lesser-known German player, Benedict Duda. Duda upset the third seeded Simon Gauzy before falling to Franziska. The bottom half of the draw saw second seeded Dimitrij Ovtcharov fall to Vladimir Samsonov. Samsonov then fell to Ovidiu Ionescu of Romania, the 25th seed with Ionescu advancing to the semifinal. The tournament’s fourth seed, Marcos Freitas of Spain, advanced to the quarterfinals easily but was then upset by Sweden’s Kristian Karlsson. The two underdogs (Karlsson the 8th seed and Ionescu the 25th seed) to face each other in the other semifinal. A match that Ionescu controlled from the beginning, by winning the first two games on his way to a 4-1 victory. Ionescu’s run to the finals included upsets over Emmanuel Lebesson, Jonathan Groth, Vladimir Samsonov, and Kristian Karlsson. A win over any of those four would have been a solid result for Ionescu.
The final matched Timo Boll against Ovidiu Ionescu. Ionescu was an Olympian in 2016 and a Romanian National Team member, but at World No. 59 he does not have nearly the resume of Boll who entered having won the European championship six previous times. Ionescu came out in the final on fire – winning the first game easily at 11-6. But unlike his three previous upset wins, he was unable to keep that intensity and his best showing in a major event fell just short. Boll pulled away towards the end of the second game and then never looked back. Boll over Ionescu (4-1: -6, 7, 9, 6, 5).
For Boll, this is a seventh Euro title after a five-year drought. It’s another great result during this resurgence that has brought him higher in the World rankings, and should vault him back into the top three in the world standings. 2018 has been a great year for Boll, and while it has not been injury free this does show that the talk of retirement that has followed Boll for parts of the last few years is premature. This year in Alicante Spain, SEVEN was Boll’s lucky number.
Timo Boll vs Ovidiu Ioenscu | ETTC 2018 | FINAL
(Courtesy of ttlondon2012)