(by Steve Hopkins)
As week 16 of the German Tischtennis Budesliga comes to a close, the top two teams remain secure. Those teams, Dusseldorf and Saarbrucken each won this week. Dusseldorf secured a quick 3-0 win over Neu Ulm, while Saarbrucken needed a comeback to top Fulda. But the end result is that first place Dusseldorf is now 15-1 and well on their way to a top seed in the Final Four tournament at the end of the year. Similarly, Saarbrucken is safely in the second spot at 13-3.
In their match today, Saarbrucken was pushed to the limit by Fulda. Fulda’s Alexandre Cassin struck fist when he upset Darko Jorgic 3-0. Each of the games was close, but the athletic Cassin closed out every game, winning at 9, 8, and 8. Quadri Aruna won the first and third games in the next match, but Saarbrucken’s Franziska came back both times – and eventually closed out the match with a 12-10 win in the fifth game. Fulda’s Ruwen Filus then dominated the third match (over Tomas Polansky) to put Fulda up 2-1. Franziska evened the match score with a win over Cassin, but it was another come-from-behind win as Cassin won the first and third game before Saarbrucken closed out the match by winning the final two games. With the match score tied 2-2, the result was left to the final doubles and a match between Fulda’s Aruna and Filas and Saarbrucken’s Jorgic and Polansky. Saarbrucken won the doubles 3-0, securing the win.
Ochsenhausen won their match yesterday over ASV, temporarily moving them into fourth place – and ever-important position that sets them up to be in the Final Four tournament at the end of the season. Had either of the Sunday matches noted above ended with an upset, Ochsenhausen would have fallen out of the top four. But, with Dusseldorf and Saarbrucken winning, Ochsenhausen is now securely in the fourth position.
There are six weeks remaining. Dusseldorf and Saarbrucken will both be favored in every match – until the final match of the season when they play each other. Because Dusseldorf holds a 2 game lead, that match will only have playoff seeding significance if there are upsets.
Fourth place Ochsenhausen has already played all of the top teams, so by today’s rankings, they will also be favored in all of their final six matches – putting them in great position to make a run to close out the season.
Perhaps the most interesting team to watch in the final weeks will be Muhlhausen. While they currently hold the third place position one win ahead of Ochsenhausen, they have to play both Dusseldorf and Saarbrucken, as well as No. 5 Fulda. If all of the squads play by ranking, then there could be a virtual tie between Fulda, Muhlhausen, and Ochsenhausen by the end of the year – with only two playoff positions available. Of the three, Ochsenhausen has the easiest schedule – but Muhlhausen is a game ahead in the standings (and Fulda is perhaps playing the best table tennis right now, with Cassin, Filus, and Aruna a dangerous and deep top three).
Stay tuned in to follow the final six weeks.
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