27 Jun 2021

Four German players entered the arena at the Liebherr 2020 European Individual Championships in Warsaw on the morning of Sunday 27th June, the quest a place in the final of the respective men’s singles and women’s singles events.

By Ian Marshall

All four emerged successful; for Timo Boll and Dimitrij Ovtcharov alongside their female counterparts, Shan Xiaona and Petrissa Solja it was the perfect morning.

Doha repeat

A style from a bygone era, pen-hold grip, short pimpled rubber, using one side of the racket only, Shan Xiaona, the no.9 seed, set the standard.

Just as earlier in the year in March at the WTT Contender Doha tournament, she proved too much for Ukraine’s Margartya Pesotska, the no.7 seed.

In Doha, Shan Xiaona had prevailed in straight games (11-7, 11-8, 11-9), in Poland’s capital city she did exactly the same (11-6, 11-9, 11-7, 11-4).

A high thrown service, a quick fast forehand attack to follow, and then, when needed, changing the spin on the ball by using a chop blocking technique, she caused problem after problem for the Ukrainian.

Maintaining the upper hand from start to finish, focused, Shan Xiaona was not to be denied.

Further success

Success for one German player was followed by success for another as with Shan Xiaona a repeat.

In the most recent meetings on the international stage, both at the CCB Europe Top 16 Cup in Montreux, in 2019 Petrissa Solja had beaten Elizabeta Samara at the quarter-final stage (11-7, 11-9, 9-11, 11-8, 11-6), the following year in the very same round she had repeated the performance (11-9, 11-6, 13-11, 9-11, 9-11, 11-9).

Again, a hard-fought contest, in Warsaw Petrissa Solja, the no.2 seed, overcame Elizabeta Samara, the no.6 seed, in six games (11-4, 14-12, 9-11, 7-11, 11-8, 11-6).

Staying close to the table proved a key factor, Petrissa Solja rarely ventured into the area which may be referred to as half-distance; too often Elizabeta Samara strayed. Equally, the Romanian missed her chances, in each of the second, third and fourth games she led 10-7, converting in the latter two, in the fifth she went ahead 6-3 but was unable to make good the advantage.

The only previous women’s singles winner on duty, successful in 2015 in St Petersburg, defeat for Elizabeta Samara, a new name will appear on the European Championships women’s singles roll of honour.

The master

Places in the final of the women’s singles event for Germany, Timo Boll set proceedings in motion for the same in the men’s singles.

The no.3 seed, eventually he doused a most spirited recovery from Sweden’s Mattias Falck, competing in his first-ever such European Championships semi-final. Timo Boll emerged successful in six games (13-11, 12-10, 11-6, 9-11, 9-11, 11-7).

It was the renowned forehand topspin play extolled by Timo Boll that proved crucial; when he quickened the pace, he prevailed. However, the expansive backhand purported by the Swede did ask questions, equally the quickfire attacking strokes from his forehand, the side on which he uses short pimpled rubber posed problems.

Experience and perhaps a sense of having won seven times, it is my event, secured the day; that fact was most evident in the sixth game. A “time out” call at 9-6, settled the nerves, the yelp when winning the last point underlined that it will take a special performance to deny him the podium’s top step.

Theme of the day

A fourth win in four international appearances for Timo Boll against Mattias Falck; in the contest that brought the morning session of play to a close, Dimitrij Ovtcharov emulated his colleague to also maintain the perfect score.

In a repeat of the Liebherr 2015 European Championships final in Ekaterinburg, when winning in five games (14-12, 9-11, 11-9, 11-4, 11-6); Dimitrij Ovtcharov succeeded in one game more (11-9, 9-11, 8-11, 14-12, 11-8, 11-9). Eleven international meetings, eleven wins for Dimitrij Ovtcharov.

Very much Marcos Freitas through caution to the wind; executing his quickfire forehand topspin, especially when directed wide to his adversary’s forehand gaining notable success.

It was a high-risk strategy, Ovtcharov, strong from the backhand weathered the storm, the crucial stage of the contest being in the fifth game when Marcos Freitas led 7-3, only in to win one of the next nine points.

First time

A memorable morning for Germany; it is the first time in the history of the European Championships, first held in 1958 in Budapest, that both the men’s singles and women’s singles final will be contested by players from the same national association.

General News Timo Boll Dimitrij Ovtcharov Petrissa Solja Shan Xiaona

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