(by Steve Hopkins)
The twenty-two match season has ended for the TTBL, the German professional table tennis league called the Tischtennis Bundesliga. Borussia Dusseldorf finished first with a 20-2 record, dominating from start to finish. Saarbrucken started slow, in fourth for much of the first half of the season, but were dominant in the second half of the season. Those two teams also finished first and second in the European Champions League.
Third place went to Muhlhausen with a 15-7 record. Fourth place went to Fulda at 13-9. Ochsenhausen also finished at 13-9, but did not make the Final Four playoffs due to tie breakers. Schwalbe Bergneustadt and Neu Ulm each finished with 11-11 records, just two wins out of the playoffs – so there was some drama right to the final week or two with a number of teams in contention until the last weekend.
For those teams looking ahead to next year already, Ochsenhausen (who finished fifth) have re-signed Kanak Jha and Simon Gauzy, and they have added Alvaro Robles – a move that should add consistency and perhaps makes them a little better overall. Sixth place Bergneustadt lost three players (including Robles), but will be looking to add new talent to build around Benedict Duda and Alberto Mino. Neu Ulm may be the most interesting story over the off-season as while no announcement has been made about changes to their TTBL roster, Neu Ulm’s Euro Champions League Team has announced a roster that includes Dimitrij Ovtcharov, Lin Yun-Ju, Tomokazu Harimoto, and Truls Moregard. Could some of those players be planning to participate in the German Schedule as well? If so, the balance of power could drastically change.
For the four teams that made the playoffs, Dusseldorf is the deepest squad. With Timo Boll as the anchor, and with Anton Kallberg (the overall individual points leader in the whole TTBL), and Kristian Karlsson (Worlds Doubles Champion), and Dang Qiu (the fifth in overall individual points in the TTBL) they are stacked. Second seeded Sarbrucken has Patrick Franziska and Darko Jorgic so on the right day, they can beat any team’s best two (potentially pushing the match to a deciding doubles match). Third seeded Muhlhausen may have been the biggest surprise of the year – but they are consistent with Mengel, Ionescu, and Habesohn. Fulda’s squad has strong veterans Ruwen Filus and Quadri Aruna and strong young players Alexandre Cassin and Fan Bo Meng. Every team is dangerous – so tune in for the results.
Fulda will face Dusseldorf and Saarbrucken will face Muhlhausen – both matches will be on May 8. A week later, the second half of the home-home series match-up will be played. And the third match will be held the following week (if necessary). The winners will most likely face off in the first few days of June.
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