(by Steve Hopkins)
With the German Budesliga (TTBL) season underway, many Americans have been following USA’s top player, Kanak Jha, who has joined one of that league’s top teams, TTF Liebherr Ochsenhausen. Ochsenhausen has finished near the top in Germany for several years – a strong team where Kanak by ranking is third behind Hugo Calderano and Simon Gauzy.
Ochsenhausen had been in the middle of the pack in points until recently, largely because of scheduling issues, COVID, and the fact that three of their players were a part of the ITTF Bubble in China during the World Cup and Grand Finals events. But in recent days, Team Ox has made a push. After their win over TT Schwalbe Bergneustadt last weekend, they moved up to position No. 4 – an important spot as only the Top 4 teams will make the playoff at the end of the year. Today, they defeated TTC RhonSprudel Fulda-Maberzell and jumped all the way up to 2nd place. They are now just 4 points behind the first place Borussia Dusseldorf team – each with one loss, but with Ochsenhausen having played 2 fewer matches (if they win both, the teams would be tied in points).
At the match today between Ochsenhausen and RhonSprudel, it was Gauzy, Jha, and Kulczycki matched up against Filas, Aruna, and Fan Bo. When Calderano is available, he provides a real advantage as he is the highest ranked player in the Budesliga – but Ochsenhausen played today without their top player. That put Gauzy in the first position, and RhonSprudel arranged their order so that Gauzy played their lowest ranked player, Fan Bo, first. Ruwen Filas would then play Kanak Jha, and Quadri Aruna would then play Samuel Kulczycki.
The first match went easily to Ochsenhausen with World No. 20 Simon Gauzy logging a 3-0 dominating win over Fan Bo Meng (a German player ranked No. 241). The next match was between USA’s Kanak Jha and Germany’s Ruwen Filus, one of the top defensive players in the world with a World Ranking of No. 42. The match went back and forth, but Filas won the second, fourth, and fifth games to claim the 3-2 victory.
The third match of the day was Samuel Kulczycki, a backup player for Ochsenhausen ranked outside of the top 350 in the World Rankings but who is the top junior for Poland, versus World No. 20 (tied with Gauzy) Quadri Aruna. The advantage should have been clearly on the Nigerian’s side – both in regard to experience and skill, but that was not the case. The young Polish player jumped out to an early lead in the first game and never looked back. Long, powerful forehands and a devastating flat backhand combined to keep Aruna at bay. Kulczycki won the first, lost the second, and then closed out the match by winning the final two games (3-1).
The fourth match of the day was between Gauzy and Filas. Filas won the first game, but then saw Gauzy run off three wins in a row. Gauzy wins 3-1, and Ochsenhausen wins 3-1. Go OxNation!
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