by Ian Marshall, ITTF Publications Editor
In addition to rising to the top of the World Rankings on Monday 1st January and mathematically certain of retaining that place when the February listings are announced, Dimitrij Ovtcharov, by virtue of being the old continent’s leading name, is the no.1 seed in Montreux.
Furthermore, he is the premier player in the Europe Top 16; every time the tournament has borne that name he has won! In 2015 in Baku, the title changed from being Europe Top 12 to Europe Top 16; Dimitrij Ovtcharov won. The following in Gondomar he prevailed before making it three in a row last year when succeeding in Antibes.
Thus, he is the only player to have won the men’s title at both the Europe Top 16 and Europe Top 12; in 2012 when the tournament was held in Lyon/Villeurbanne and the latter title was used, Dimitrij Ovtcharov won. Moreover, he is the only player to have been crowned champion, whatever the number of players, on three consecutive occasions; Sweden’s Jan-Ove Waldner succeeded seven times, colleague Timo Boll has five to his name but neither ever secured three in a row.
The win in Lyon/Villeurbanne was somewhat of a watershed, in 2008 he made his debut in the event when staged in Frankfurt; he departed proceedings at the quarter-final stage as he did in the next three editions. Notably since 2012, his one and only loss was in Lausanne in 2014 when losing the penultimate round to Denmark’s Michael Maze; no tournament was held in 2013.
Now in Montreux, a top three place is the first goal and therefore qualification to defend his Liebherr 2018 Men’s World Cup title. Yet another number one; in more ways than one Dimitrij Ovtcharov is number one.
He spoke to Jonny Cowan, the ITTF Europe Marketing Manager
Dima, it was a busy year that finished in Astana, how did you spend Christmas and New Year?
For Christmas, I was together with family in Sweden, all Jenny’s family, and my parents. It is always nice when we are all together. We played a lot of games, ate well, laughed a lot too. It was really very nice as usual.
For New Year, Jenny and I spent some quality time with good friends in the Maldives. It was a much needed vacation after a very busy year. It was very relaxing; I recharged the batteries, such a beautiful ocean, landscape and nature there. It was very nice but since then I’m back at work!
You have won the Europe Top 16 Cup three times in a row; this time you will be playing also as world number one, your first tournament since you reached the summit of world table tennis. Will any of this affect your approach to the event?
Yes, perhaps more attention than usual this time but yes three Europe Top 16 Cups, of course all of them were extremely tough. There are very strong competitors in Europe. Lately I feel the players are playing better against me than usual, they have nothing to lose; they risk a lot. I have to handle that and believe in my game and staying calm in any situation.
Of course, my goal is to win the event but first to qualify for the World Cup, then get to the final and then I will try to bring the trophy back home. As I say, it will be difficult, I expect a hard tournament; it’s the first one of the year, with more than a month since the last competition, it’s important to find a good rhythm.
What goals do you have for 2018?
Yes, another busy year ahead. European Championships’ Singles and the World Team Cup will let us see where we are as we prepare for the World Team Championships, the biggest event.
I think after the Olympics many have thought that Germany is on the way down but I think we have proved different. We are very determined and motivated for the Worlds, especially after a very very bad World Team Championships two years ago, when we weren’t able to make it to the podium; this time, we want to get back on the podium, to give China and Japan a good fight. We are up for it!
Personally for 2018, I want to stay one of the top players in the world and to play consistently at a high level, to work on my game to have less weaknesses and more strengths and become a better player in the future.
Any messages for table tennis fans around the world?
It’s very nice that most of the big events this year are in Europe, the World Team Cup and the World Team Championships; this could be an advantage for us. I hope that will allow all fans, especially in Europe and in Germany to come to the events and support the German team and myself.