Participation in Ekaterinburg in Doubt, Decision Awaits on Fitness of Timo Boll
2015 European Table Tennis Championships
Courtesy of ITTF
Six times the Men’s Singles champion, an all-time record, there are doubts as to the participation of Germany’s Timo Boll in the forthcoming Liebherr 2015 European Championship. Play begins in the Russian city of Ekaterinburg on Friday September 27th.
He has been withdrawn from both the Men’s Team and Men’s Doubles events as a precautionary measure, owing to the fact that he is suffering from severe irritation in the left knee; as to whether he will compete in the Men’s Singles event has yet to be decided.
It is yet another blow to German aspirations; at the recent 2015 European Games, Timo Boll was ill and was unable to compete; while at the TMS 2014 European Team Championships in Lisbon it was one problem after another.
Sadly Patrick Baum had to withdraw at the last moment owing to untimely death of his father, Dimitrij Ovtcharov was not fully fit, recovering from dental surgery, while Patrick Franziska damaged his ankle in the early stages and was unable to continue.
“Timo’s withdrawal does not change our objective to become European Champions in the team event”, said Richard Prause the Sports Director for the German Table Tennis Association. “His absence is of course weakening us but even without him the team is strong enough; we’ll see whether we can get around to a revenge match against Portugal, we are very much looking forward to it.”
Ruwen Filus, runner up in the Men’s Singles event earlier this year at the GAC Group 2015 ITTF World Tour German Open, replaces Timo Boll.
A positive approach from Richard Prause; Jörg Rosskopf, the Men’s Team Head Coach, was of a similar mind.
“That does not change our objective, we want to win the tournament”, said Jörg Rosskopf. “We have to accept the new situation and give 100 per cent in every match; the players are in an okay shape and there is also a little more time until the tournament starts.”
Doubts about Timo Boll but any doubts about Dimitrij Ovtcharov, the defending Men’s Singles champion who experienced back pains at the European Games and in the recent Chinese Super League, would appear to be minimal.
“The back is currently much, much better than compared to the European Games in Baku or to China during the Super League”, explained Dimitrij Ovtcharov. “I am working very hard on it, doing a lot of strengthening exercises, I’m on the right track; sometimes it pinches a bit but overall I’m quite alright.”
On the right track and without Timo Boll is the line-up Dimitrij Ovtcharov is very much the pivotal player.
“The fact that Timo won’t be present is of course a disadvantage for our team; when Timo is with us and none of us suffers from injuries, we cannot be beaten in Europe”, added Dimitrij Ovtcharov. “We had the situation before; when Timo wasn’t with us in 2013 we won the title anyway; we are not the clear favorites in Ekaterinburg but winning the title is still possible for our team.”
In 2013, the trio of Dimitrij Ovtcharov, Patrick Baum and Patrick Franziska overcame the Greek outfit of Kalinikos Kreanga, Panagiotis Gionis and Konstantinos Papageorgiou by three matches to one at the final hurdle of the Men’s Team event.
“I myself have won all the top events in Europe, I am the hunted one, everyone wants to beat me”, continued Dimitrij Ovtcharov. “I’m not in the same shape as in 2013 when I played tremendously well but already at the European Games in Baku I won the Men’s Singles competition without being in top shape.”
Ambitions of gold for the Men’s Team who will select from Dimitrij Ovtcharov, Patrick Baum, Patrick Franziska, Ricardo Walther and Ruwen Filus; it is the same for the Women’s Team for whom Han Ying, Shan Xiaona, Petrissa Solja, Irene Ivancan and Sabine Winter form the quintet.
“We have a great generation of players who won the European title twice in a row and additionally the European Games”, said Richard Prause. “All other teams are chasing us in Ekaterinburg.”
Advising courtside in Ekaterinburg will be Jie Schöpp, the Women’s Team Head Coach.
“We go there to win the title; when I look at the world rankings, it is even a kind our duty to win”, said Jie Schöpp. “Anyway, it’s clear that giving 80 per cent will not be enough; if we act like a team and give everything, then we are the best.”
It is a formidable outfit and clearly prepared for the ensuing challenge.
“Technically, they are all in very good shape, my task now is to let them gain the necessary freshness, as we played so many tournaments this year we had to adapt our preparations”, added Jie Schöpp. “Currently the second training session of a day is a voluntary one for the ladies; I want them all to be mentally and physically fit for the start of the European Championships.”
Leading the line will be Han Ying, the winner of the Women’s Singles event at the recent GAC Group 2015 ITTF World Tour Austrian Open.
“The European Games were a necessary experience for me, since then I have improved significantly, especially mentally”, said Han Ying. “In Baku I was under huge pressure as the no 1 seed; now I’m also placed at no.1; I’ll fight until the end in every match and not worry whether I’m no. 1 or no 40.”
In Baku, Han Ying led Germany to victory in the Women’s Team event but in the Women’s Singles competition was beaten at the quarterfinal stage by Li Jie of the Netherlands.
“I hope that my shape remains stable”, concluded Han Ying. “I was very pleased with my performance at the Austrian Open of course and I can possibly even play a little better.”
Notably, in Han Ying, in addition to the Women’s Team and Women’s Singles events, is very much a Women’s Doubles title contender; she partners Irene Ivancan.
Meanwhile, Shan Xiaona joins forces with Petrissa Solja; Sabine Winter links with Britt Eerland of the Netherlands.
In the Men’s Doubles Ruwen Filus partners Ricardo Walther, the remaining pairs have yet to decided, the outcome depending as to whether it will be necessary to replace Timo Boll in the Men’s Singles competition.