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Neu-Ulm Dream Team Wins Midyear Title

(by Steve Hopkins)

Neu-Ulm has won the Pokal-Finale – the midyear Final Four championship of the German Table Tennis League.

A year ago, it was all that TTC Neu Ulm could do just to stay in the middle of the pack in the German Table Tennis League.  The squad had solid players – in fact, they primarily featured the best players from Russia (Lev Katsman, Maksim Grebnev and Vladimir Sidorenko).  As hostilities erupted in Ukraine with Russia, Neu Ulm faced uncertainty.  Initially Russian teams were blocked from competing, and there was some discussion of blocking Russian athletes from competition as well – so not only was travel difficult among many on their roster, but they did not know who would be available for their roster in the new season.  As it turns out, Neu Ulm found itself the beneficiary of a great windfall as three of the biggest headliners in the (now defunct) Russian League left their Russian teams and joined the Neu Ulm squad.  Those players, Dimitrij Ovtcharov, Truls Moregard, and Lin Yun-Ju (and also Tomokazu Harimoto, though he has not played), have raised Neu-Ulm from a middle-of-the-pack team to being the favorite.

On Sunday, 5000 German fans crowded the arena in Neu Ulm to cheer on their newly bolstered squad – and the dream team did not disappoint their hometown crowd.  The final four teams were Borussia Dusseldorf, Ochsenhausen, Saarbrucken, and Neu Ulm.  In the opening round, Borussia Dusseldorf topped Saarbrucken 3-0 and Neu Ulm dominated Ochsenhausen in the same 3-0 fashion.  This set up a Final between Borussia Dusseldorf team of Timo Boll, Dang Qiu, and Anton Kallberg and the Neu Ulm squad of Dimitrij Ovtcharov, Truls Moregard, and Lin Yun Ju.

Neu Ulm dominated the final, winning 3-0.  Lin Yun-Ju started things off with an easy 3-0 win over Anton Kallberg.  Timo Boll and Truls Moregard traded blows in a close match, but Moregard won the second, fourth, and fifth games to win 3-2.  Ovtcharov then closed out the match with a dominant 3-0 performance over Dang Qiu.

When they are able to field all of their allstars, Neu Ulm is dominant.  That said, they have not been able to field their best players in many of the regular league matches and right now, their 6-5 record has them in seventh place.  They’ll have to push hard to make sure they are in the top four if they want to qualify for the end of the year final.  Perhaps Harimoto will have his debut this winter.

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