(by Steve Hopkins)
Ochsenhausen took on a tough Werder Bremen squad today, and did so without Simon Gauzy. Kanak Jha anchored the Ochsenhausen team with Kulczycki and Kubik playing the 2 and 3 positions and they lined up against Mattias Falck (World Top 10), Gerassimenko (World Top 50), and Szocs (World 122).
In the opening match, Kanak Jha topped Gerassimenko to provide Ochsenhausen a 1-0 lead. Falck then dominated Kubik to even the match score. Kulczycki was down 0-2 to Szocs but fought back for the 3-2 win to give Ochsenhausen the lead. This set the last singles match as Kanak Jha versus Mattias Falck – a replay of the Olympic matchup where Jha won in the Team competition. Today, Jha led early – winning the first and third game. In the end, however, Falck out paced Jha to win both of the last two games – gaining a slight advantage in the middle of each and maintaining the lead to the end. Still a strong performance overall, for USA’s top player.
Tied 2-2, the winner will be decided by doubles – and in the German League, anyone who played twice in singles cannot play in doubles, so the doubles teams will be Kulczycki and Kubic (the two Polish teammates on Ochsenhausen) versus Gerassimenko and Marcelo Aguirre.
Aguirre didn’t play in the singles matches, but as a player in the top 75 in the world, adding the powerful left-hander for doubles gives the Bremen squad the advantage on paper. However, the two Polish players have played doubles together before – so there could be an advantage in familiarity. In the first game, it was Ochsenhausen on top throughout. But the second game was a reversal of momentum, with Bremen building a 3 point lead and staying up through an 5-8 lead. But the young Poles then put together a run, winning five points in a row to go up 10-8. Bremen then win the next point, and Ochsenhausen called timeout to strategize ahead of a very important point. A cross-court attack required Aguirre to duck so his partner could attack over his head, Kulczycki then pounded the next ball to the same vacant spot as Aguirre bounced up to return the ball, and Kubic finished off the point – a brilliant exchange to end the second game and give Ochsenhausen a 2-0 lead. A sloppy start to the third game as points end with unforced errors in the first three shots. The first real winner comes in the 7th point, a Kubic forehand winner – and the 8th point was a Kubic backhand winner, as the lowest ranked player on the floor is feeling confident. Bremen maintained control from that point forward – taking the game 11-5. 2-1 Ochsenhausen. The teams split points early with angled flips off of serves followed by strong topspins to the middle (a strategy mirrored by both sides). Ochsenhausen up early 4-2, and then 5-3, and then 6-4 as the teams trade point. Kulczycki went for a huge backhand winner off of a Aguirre serve – it ended up missing, but by millimeters. He returned the second serve with a slow forehand crosscourt ball with a shot that started almost at the floor – this was a winner. After that, the momentum shifted with Ochsenhausen on the attack – and they build a 4 point lead, up 9-5. The next two rallies were long, and Ochsenhausen lost both with misses off the end of the table. Aguirre won the next point for Bremen with a blistering backhand. Kulczycki won the next two point with huge backhands – getting Ochsenhausen to 10 with a backhand beyond his backhand corner down the line that landed for a clear winner, and winning the game with a blistering backhand service return that landed, causing a pop-up that Kulczycki put away for the Ochsenhausen win.
Ochsenhausen remains undefeated and moves up to No.2 in the standings. Kanak Jha logs another win (and a close loss to a World Top 10) and is now second in the TTBL in total team points scored in singles.
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