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TTBL Midyear Final Four: Dusseldorf, Saarbrucken, Ochsenhausen, Neu-Ulm

(by Steve Hopkins, photo ITTFWorld)

With the first half of the German League season at a close, the league invited the top eight teams to compete for the midyear championship – the Liebherr Cup Final. Top seeded Borussia Dusseldorf dominated RhonSprudel Fulda-Maberzell in their Quarterfinal match – a 3-0 match score with Dusseldorf winning each set 3-0.  Second seed Saarbrucken was almost as dominant in their win over ASV Grunwettersback – logging a 3-0 win but dropping a few games along the way.  Ochsenhausen pulled out a 3-1 victory over Grenzau (Gauzy won twice and Kanak Jha’s win gave the team the third point needed for the victory).  And Neu-Ulm fielded their best team of Lin Yun-Ju, Truls Moregardh, and Dimitrij Ovtcharov as they won 3-1 over Muhlhausen.

The Semifinals are now set for 11a on January 8.  Dusseldorf will play Saarbrucken in the first Semifinal.  That will be followed immediately by Ochsenhausen against Neu-Ulm.  The winners will then face off.

Its been a strange season at the top of the German Leagues with the talented Dusseldorf squad dominating for their 10-1 record.  Second place goes to 8-3 Saarbrucken – the runner-up a year ago in both the German League and the European Champions League.  Ochsenhausen currently holds third place – a year ago, they finished fifth.  And there are four teams with the same 6-5 record – so perhaps one could argue that Neu Ulm managing to advance to the Final 4 despite being seeded sixth is an upset.  That said, the bigger issue for Neu Ulm through much of the year has been that their most talented players are not available for all of the matches – and, obviously, they are strongest when their top players are available.

So who is favored?  Top-seeded Borussia Dusseldorf will have Timo Boll (World No. 12), Dang Qiu (World No. 11), and Anton Kallberg (World No. 21) ready to go.  Qiu is one of Europe’s best, Boll is a former World Champion, and Kallberg is a strong third on any team.  But they are matched up against Saarbrucken where Jorgic (World No. 10) is ranked higher than any Dusseldorf player, and Franziska (World No. 14) is dangerous.  Saarbrucken’s team is not as deep, so they will likely need an upset in Singles or a big doubles win (with a team that includes their young third – Cedric Nuytinck).  On paper, this match is a coin flip – but going by recent history, Dusseldorf has won 4 or 5 of their last 5 or 6 meetings.

Ochsenhausen has been solid all year with a deep squad – with solid play from Simon Gauzy, Kanak Jha, Alvaro Robles, Can Akkuzu, Shunsuke Togami, and Samuel Kulczycki.  That said, Kanak Jha won’t be available and all three of the top players for Neu Ulm are ranked higher than Ochsenhausen’s best.  If Neu Ulm brings their “A Team”, the advantage here is to the lower seeded Neu Ulm squad.

This could feature 8 players in the World Top 25. What an exciting way to start off the New Year

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