By Ian Marshal
They clinched four of the five titles on offer, a record unequalled by any nation since the tournament was first staged in 1958 in Budapest.
The only crown to elude their grasp was the men’s doubles secured by Russia’s Maksim Grebnev and Lev Katsman.
Successful for the first time in Zagreb in 2002, Timo Boll, the no.3 seed, beat colleague Dimitrij Ovtcharov, the no.2 seed, in five games to don the men’s singles crown (9-11, 11-6, 11-9, 11-8, 11-8). Thus at 40 years and 111 days old, he becomes the oldest player to win the coveted title.
Safe and secure, familiar with the wide range of innovative services executed by Dimitrij Ovtcharov, Timo Boll controlled matters.
After losing the opening game he secured the next two, before in the fourth establishing a 5-4 lead; Dimitrij Ovtcharov elected for “time out” but to no avail.
A three games to one advantage, quick to execute his favoured forehand topspin stroke; in the fifth game, Timo Boll raced into a 6-1 lead. Dimitrij Ovtcharov took a deep breath, to his great credit, he pressed the accelerator, fought for every point.
He levelled at 7-all but never held the advantage; Timo Boll claimed four of the next five points, once again he was the champion, a most worthy champion.
Undoubtedly consistency was a hallmark displayed by Timo Boll; it was the same for Petrissa Solja. In the first instance partnering Shan Xiaona to women’s doubles success against colleagues Nina Mittelham and Sabine Winter, in the second overcoming her doubles partner in the women’s singles final.
The no.2 seeds, Petrissa Solja accounted for Shan Xiaona, the no.9 seed, in five games (11-7, 11-3, 11-9, 4-11, 11-2), the third game pivotal. Shan Xiaona established a 7-4 and 8-5 lead but at 9-8 the advantage was just one point; she elected for “time out”. The break worked but it worked for Petrissa Solja. She won the next three points.
Shan Xiaona recovered to secure the fourth game but when Petrissa Solja secured the first eight points of the fifth game, the writing was on the wall.
A first for Petrissa Solja, to add to the Europe Top 16 titles won in 2018 and 2019 in Montreux, for Shan Xiaona a second. In 2013 in Schwechat she was beaten the final by Sweden’s Li Fen.
Notably, it is the only occasion in the history of the tournament when the women’s doubles winners have contested the women’s singles final.
The first-ever all-German women’s singles final at a European Championships; in the women’s doubles it was a third, all involving Sabine Winter and Shan Xiaona.
Somewhat ironically in 2013 in Schwechat, Sabine Winter partnered Petrissa Solja to success against Shan Xiaona and Petrissa Solja, three years later she joined forces with Kristin Silbereisen (Kristin Lang) to secure the title at the expense of Shan Xiaona and Zhenqi Barthel.
Seeking a third title with a different partner, it was not to happen; for Shan Xiaona, once again in harness with Petrissa Solja, it was a success at the third attempt.
The no.16 seeds, a status belying their quality, they overcame Nina Mittelham and Sabine Winter, the no.15 seeds (7-11, 11-7, 10-12, 11-8, 11-8), in a contest that appeared to be slipping from their grasp.
In the decisive fifth game, Nina Mittelham and Sabine Winter established a 6-3 lead, they were not able to capitalise, they secured just two further points. Shan Xiaona and Petrissa Solja played error-free, the title was secured.
European Youth champions climb next step
Delight for Shan Xiaona and Petrissa Solja, for 19 year old Maksim Grebnev and one year the senior, Lev Katsman, it was sheer delirium. They underlined the fact that in the foreseeable future they are a force with which to be reckoned on the global stage.
At the 2018 European Youth Championships in Cluj Napoca, they won the junior boys’ doubles event, the following year in Ostrava they retained the title; in Warsaw, they climbed one step higher.
The crucial stage in the contest came in fourth game with gold in sight. They won the opening three points, Jakub Dyjas and Cédric Nuytinck called “time out”; however, the break had no major effect. At 6-4 the Russian duo held the advantage but clearly anticipating a recovery from their opponents, they decided a one-minute break would be prudent.
It proved a wise decision, they surrendered just three more points, before jumping for joy in ecstasy.
A landmark outcome, somewhat surprisingly, it is the first occasion when a Russian pair or a pair from what was once known as the Soviet Union has won the men’s doubles title at a European Championships.
Success for Russia but no men’s doubles medals for Germany; the only event in which they started as the top seeds!