(by Steve Hopkins)
Entering the final few weeks, the Butterfly-sponsored Borussia Dusseldorf squad is securely installed as the top seed. They need one more win to officially clinch the top position – they are 8 points ahead of second place in the standings, having lost only one match since December. Dusseldorf stumbled against Ochsenhausen in a tight 3-2 loss last week, but today they are back on track with a 3-1 win over Neu-Ulm. The biggest question for the very deep Dusseldorf team may be the health of Timo Boll. Boll sat out against Ochsenhausen due to back pain, and he lost his opening match against Neu-Ulm against Tiago Apolonia (leading early 2-0 before losing three consecutive games). Even without Boll, Dusseldorf’s Kristian Karlsson and Anton Kallberg match up very well against the top 2 players for any other German team, but in a format where teams must win three matches – depth is important. Dusseldorf is next set to play ASV Grunwettersbach on Tuesday – another matchup of playoff contenders.
Ochsenhausen is now very securely in the playoff as well. They are currently tied in points with Saarbrucken (a squad with Patrick Franziska, Shang Kun, and Darko Jorgic). Ochsenhausen and Saarbrucken have both been in the Top 4 for most of the season, and its likely that they’ll face each other (in some order) first in the playoffs. Ochsenhausen’s Top three are among the best by ranking in the Germany league, but a lot depends upon Hugo Calderano (the highest ranked player in the TTBL) winning his singles matches. If Calderano avoids an upset, he can log two wins, then Ochsenhausen only has to win one of the remaining three matches- which will likely be Simon Gauzy taking on the other team’s second best, Kanak Jha taking on the other team’s third best, and a doubles match-up as a potential tie breaker. That combination makes Ochsenhausen a dangerous playoff team – a team that can beat anyone on the right day (and where that other team must have great depth and a great doubles team as well). Ochsenhausen is on a roll, having beaten two playoff teams this weekend – upsetting Dusseldorf on Friday evening, and overcoming ASV Grunwettersbach today.
Barring a collapse, Saarbrucken will enter the playoff in second or third position. Kun Shang and Patrick Franziska are a tough top 2 – with both players capable of beating any player in the German Leagues. That said, the team seems to continually outperform their ranking – playing better than they look on paper. Some of their advantage over a full season may be that their top players have not left to play major tour events (both Ochsenhausen and Dusseldorf lost 3 players to the bubble in China for the World Cup and Tour Finals, for instance). The team is deep and they keep winning. Expect to see them fight hard in the playoff.
The fourth and final playoff spot is currently held by ASV Grunwettersbach – but it is held by a single point. Four teams are on their heels and ASV will face Dusseldorf on Tuesday. If the ASV squad led by Dang Qiu and Xi Wang fall to Dusseldorf, then there could be as many as five teams tied for that No. 4 spot (ASV, Muhlhausen, Neu-Ulm, Scwalbe, and Bad Konigshofen). That means, the final run could include great leaders like Muhlhausen’s Habesohn and Mengel, Neu-Ulm’s Lebesson and Apolonia, Schwalbe’s Duda and Fegerl, Bad Konigshofen’s Bastian Steger.
Check in at ButterflyOnline.com for updates as the TTBL heads towards their Finals.
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