(by Steve Hopkins)
Ochsenhausen’s playoff hopes took a real hit today, as they were upset by 11th place Grenzau.
Because Ochsenhausen was highly favored, they chose to proceed today without two of their normal three singles players – neither Simon Gauzy nor Samuel Kulczycki played. The Ochsenhausen squad proceeded with Kanak Jha in the anchor position (playing two singles matches), and Can Akkuzu and Maciej Kubik in the singles/doubles hybrid positions. The results were not good. Kanak lost his opening match against Cristian Pletea 1-3 (Pletea is a Romanian 19 year old who is currently No. 85 in the World Rankings). Kubik then lost to Patrick Baum 0-3, giving Grenzau a 2-0 lead. Akkuzu got Ochsenhausen on the board with a 3-1 win over Yi-Hsim Feng. Unfortunately for Ochsenhausen, Baum was the hero of the day, played great in the final win over Kanak – and sealing a Grenzau win with a 3-1 upset.
The loss drops Ochsenhausen to 6th place. They still have a chance to make the Top 4 Playoff, but now they will need some help from other teams. Ochsenhausen played the first half of the season in the No.2 and No.3 positions – but has not performed well in the second half. Next up for Ox Nation is Neu Ulm (the 7th place squad with deep talent in Sidorenko and Stumper, and Katsman, and Apolonia). Ochsenhausen needs to win all of their remaining matches to have a chance, and they now need Bergneustadt and Muhlhausen to faulter along the way.
On the other end of the spectrum is Fulda – who dominated No. 6 Konigshofen today 3-0. In recent weeks, Fulda has been surging. Fulda played today with Fan Bo Meng, Alexandre Cassin, and Quadri Aruna. Each won their match, Meng topped Killian Ort 3-2, Cassin topped Filip Zeljko 3-2, and Aruna topped Bastian Steger 3-1. The Fulda squad wears their opponents down – especially Cassin and Aruna are two of the most athletic players on the ITTF tour, getting to every ball and fighting through every point (with prolonged rallies).
Three or four matches remain for most squads. Muhlhausen has a tough remaining schedule – favored in only 1 of their final 4 matches. But Muhlhausen holds the 4th position, and may just need to win one of the three teams above them to seal their spot in the playoffs. If they faulter, Bergeustadt and Ochsenhausen are nipping at their heels.
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