(by Steve Hopkins)
Through much of the young German League (Tischtennis Bundesliga or “TTBL) season, second place Ochsenhausen has hung tight in tough 3-2 wins. Before this weekend, Ochsenhausen had clinched each of those tight matches with a Doubles win, their secret weapon using the two young Polish players who play so well as a doubles team. Until Friday, Ochsenhausen was tied for first place in the TTBL, undefeated just like league favorite and defending champion Dusseldorf.
This weekend, Ochsenhausen had a pair of tough matches. The first match against Fulda went by typical Ochsenhausen script with the Singles matches splitting, setting up a Doubles showdown. Simon Gauzy defeated Ruwen Filus and Kanak Jha defeated Alexandre Cassin for the two Ochsenhausen points, and Quadri Aruna won both of his matches (over Kubik and Gauzy) to secure two points for Fulda. Doubles set up just as it normally does with Samuel Kulczycki and Maciej Kubik ready to win the match for their team, but the Fulda team of Alexandres Cassin and Fan Bo Meng won 3-1. The result was Ochsenhausen’s first loss of the year.
Two days later, Ochsenhausen was at it again. This time they faced Saarbrucken — a team with two hot players, Patrick Franziska and Darko Jorgic who have traded off wins in Europe since the Olympics – both playing the best table tennis of their careers. When facing off with Ochsenhausen, Jorgic rolled over Gauzy 3-0 (all tight games), Patrick Franziska topped Kanak Jha 3-1, Sam Kulczycki scored Ochsenhausen’s only point by defeating Tomas Polansky 3-1, and then Jha fell to Jorgic 3-2. Jha lost two of those in marathon games (15-13 and 12-10), and was down 0-6 in the final game before fighting back to tie the score 10-10, but it was Jorgic that held on for the win.
The result of the two losses for Ochsenhausen is a 3-way tie for second place. That is, they have not fallen far, but two teams have now caught up. The Saarbrucken squad was not ranked ahead of Ochsenhausen at the beginning of the season, but rises in ranking of their two top players now makes them the favorite to finish second. Its a long season, Dusseldorf is still entrenched as the best team, but the three teams in that next tier (Ochsenhausen, Saarbrucken, and Fulda) each have a strong pair of players and the chance to push Dusseldorf as the season progresses.
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