by Simon Daish
Former champion eyeing return to podium summit
Germany’s sole men’s singles champion in World Tour Grand Finals’ history, Timo Boll struck gold in 2005 when the season ending event was also hosted on Chinese soil in Fuzhou. Now, 14 years later the 38 year old legend has his eyes set on a return to the top step of the medal podium in Zhengzhou.
Boll’s 2019 story has been a tale of consistency: a quarter-finalist on three occasions and a semi-finalist twice on the 2019 ITTF World Tour, Boll was in action in China only recently as he secured a top eight finish at the 2019 ITTF Men’s World Cup in Chengdu. However, it is his performance at continental level that has really shone through this year, backing up his bronze at the 2019 Europe Top 16 Cup with gold at the 2019 European Games.
Seven times men’s singles champion of Europe, six times a winner of the Europe Top 16 Cup, Men’s World Cup gold medallist on two occasions and World no.1 as recently as March 2018, Timo Boll’s list of accolades is most impressive’ moreover, he still poses a great threat to the very best the sport has to offer.
Twice a runner-up, third time lucky?
Another player to hail from Germany who has experienced podium finishes at the World Tour Grand Finals is Dimitrij Ovtcharov. Runner up in 2014 and 2017, Ovtcharov, 31 years old, is hoping to top those outings with a strong showing in Zhengzhou as he searches for another confidence boosting result.
Ovtcharov is still on somewhat of a comeback journey but has enjoyed a standout moments on this year’s calendar: at the start of the campaign Dima lifted the Europe Top 16 Cup for a fifth time and in August fought his way to a runner up finish at the ITTF World Tour event in Olomouc. Most recently the former World no.1 topped a difficult group before besting World Championships silver medallist Mattias Falck at the Chengdu Airlines 2019 ITTF Men’s World Cup. He achieved a quarter-final finish in Chengdu.
Returning to Chinese shores again, fresh from his World Cup exploits – can Dima steal the spotlight in Zhengzhou and further his steady progress on his journey back to the very top?
Giant slayer ready to go at it again
The third German who will be desperate to end his year on a high is Patrick Franziska, a player who has proven on multiple occasions throughout 2019 that he can cause the big names plenty of headaches on his day.
Koki Niwa, Fan Zhendong, Jun Mizutani and Lin Gaoyuan are just some of the high calibre athletes to have suffered defeat at the hands of the 27 year old star this year and who knows just what he’s capable of achieving when he takes to the table in Henan Province.
However, the immediate goal for Franziska is surely to come through round one in Zhengzhou having fallen at the first hurdle last year in Incheon to eventual champion Tomokazu Harimoto. Tick that box and, all of a sudden, fans back home in Germany will start to believe.
Working in tandem
Germany’s presence won’t be limited to just men’s singles action in Zhengzhou with two partnerships representing the country in the men’s doubles draw.
Timo Boll, who took home gold in 2005 and 2009 alongside Christian Süss, will attempt to add a third World Tour Grand Finals men’s double trophy to his collection. Silver medallists at the ITTF World Tour Platinum events in Sapporo and Bremen, the pair of Benedikt Duda and Qiu Dang know how to mix it with the best and will offer up a stern challenge to anyone standing in their way in Zhengzhou.
Five German players set to take to the World Tour Grand Finals stage – five reasons for German fans to be excited for the end of year spectacle. Will the European nation be celebrating title success at the Zhengzhou Olympic Sports Center come Sunday 15th December?