30 Dec 2019

Success in September in Nantes at the Liebherr 2019 European Team Championships, earlier in the year in June the same at the European Games in Minsk; one conclusion at the end of the year, the German men lead the field in the old continent.

Selecting from start to finish, in both competitions, the trio of Timo Boll, Patrick Franziska and Dimitrij Ovtcharov, both men’s team titles were secured without the loss of a single individual match.

by Ian Marshall, Editor

Team events provide the evidence; the 2019 ITTF World Tour supports the evidence.

All three qualified for the men’s singles event at the end of year Agricultural Bank of China 2019 Grand Finals; alongside Sweden’s Mattias Falck, they were Europe’s only representatives.

Alas, at the Grand Finals all three disappeared from view in the opening round. Timo Boll when facing China’s Fan Zhendong; Dimitrij Ovtcharov in opposition to the latter’s colleague, Lin Gaoyuan. Meanwhile, for Patrick Franziska his nemesis was Japan’s Tomokazu Harimoto.

Somewhat similarly at the Chengdu Airlines 2019 World Team Cup, the previous month, both Timo Boll and Dimitrij Ovtcharov departed at the quarter-final stage against most worthy host nation adversaries; Timo Boll again to Fan Zhendong, Dimitrij Ovtcharov when facing Ma Long.

Ruled in Europe

However, in European competitions the German men ruled, in February, after beating Timo Boll in the penultimate round, Dimitrij Ovtcharov overcame Vladimir Samsonov of Belarus to secure the CCB 2019 Europe Top 16 title; later in the year Timo Boll struck men’s singles gold at the European Games.

Win or lose, worthy performances; arguably the one occasion when the trio did not come to the party was the 3-1 quarter-final defeat in November at the Zen-Noh 2019 Team World Cup in Tokyo. No Jun Mizutani present for Japan, facing Tomokazu Harimoto, Koki Niwa and Maharu Yoshimura, the outcome was somewhat of a surprise.

Overall picture

However, looking at the overall picture, it was a more than satisfactory year. On the ITTF World, they had a record that surpassed all fellow Europeans. Timo Boll was a semi-finalist in the Czech Republic and Austria, Patrick Franziska the same in Australia; Dimitrij Ovtcharov, the runner up in the Czech Republic.

Most notably in Australia Patrick Franziska recorded a second win against China’s Fan Zhendong before at the semi-final stage losing to the latter’s compatriot by the very narrowest of margins (11-7, 5-11, 11-6, 6-11, 6-11, 11-9, 12-10.

The only other European players to reach a men’s singles ITTF World Tour semi-final in 2019 were Mattias Falck in Qatar; Portugal’s Marcos Freitas in the Czech Republic.

Vanguard of success

Timo Boll and Dimitrij Ovtcharov very much at the vanguard; it has been the same now for well over a decade.

Ever since 2007, winning the men’s team title at the European Championships in Belgrade for the first time ever, at the now biennial tournament, Germany has been the potent force; they have experienced defeats but only when either or both Timo Boll and Dimitrij Ovtcharov have been ill or unfit.

The question has been who will complete the team? Bastian Steger, ahead of Patrick Baum gained the nod more often than not. He was on duty at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games; however, since those days Patrick Franziska, the reserve in the Brazilian city, has come to the fore.

Immediately prior to the Rio 2016 Olympic Games, he stood at no.51 on the men’s world rankings; when the listings for this December were announced he had transposed the digits. He was named in the no.15 spot.

Extra ingredient

Arguably, more than any other player, who has completed the line-up, he adds an extra ingredient; results would suggest he is becoming a doubles expert. He is the latest partner for Timo Boll.

Joining forces with Zoltan Fejer-Konnerth and later Christian Süss, Timo Boll enoyed great success, with both he became European champion; it is a feat Patrick Franziska has also achieved but not with Timo Boll! In 2016 he partnered another left hander, Denmark’s Jonathan Groth to gold in Budapest.

Doubles success

Now in 2019, alongside Timo Boll, on the ITTF World Tour, the duo reached the semi-finals in Austria, they were the runners up in Qatar, the winners in China. Significantly in China in the final, they beat the host nation’s Ma Long and Wang Chuqin, crowned world champions in Budapest just over one month earlier; moreover they won in three straight games (11-8, 11-7, 11-5).

Equally, Patrick Franziska proved himself with another left hander; at the European Games, he partnered colleague Petrissa Solja to mixed doubles gold and thus booked a place in the Olympic Games.

Proved himself again

Always, ever since 2004 in Beijing when the men’s team event made its Olympic Games debut, Germany has secured a medal, silver followed by bronze in London and Rio de Janeiro; in Tokyo can they maintain the record?

Could Patrick Franziska be the player to make the difference?

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