by Simon Daish
Sweden’s downfall came at the hands of a brilliant young Russian team. In an exciting clash of youth, Lev Katsman, 20, stunned Truls Moregard, 19, in a dramatic full distance opener (12-10, 7-11, 11-7, 7-11, 11-7) to put Russia 1-0 up. 19-year-old Maksim Grebnev produced another remarkable showing for the team as he stormed past Anton Kallberg (11-8, 11-9, 11-8), before Vladimir Sidorenko, 19, propelled Russia into its first final with victory over Jon Persson (9-11, 11-1, 12-10, 6-11, 13-11). Russia’s qualification for the final comes 53 years afters USSR’s runner-up finish to none other than Sweden.
“My heart almost stopped at the end! My mind was blocked. I could barely make a sound when it was all over. It was a very close match. I won the first game, Truls came back, then I won the third game, but he recovered again. In the last game, I was 7-9 down, then it was 9-10, and he was only one point away from winning the match. Emotions ran high, but miraculously, I saved the match point and closed the game 13-11. I just played my game and stuck to my tactics until the end.” Lev Katsman
The team standing between Russia and a dream title win in Cluj-Napoca is eight-time champion Germany following its 3-0 win over Denmark. Making a flying start thanks to Benedikt Duda’s stunning display against Jonathan Groth (11-8, 11-4, 11-9), Germany applied even more pressure on Denmark soon after as Patrick Franziska outclassed Anders Lind (11-7, 13-11, 11-5). Qiu Dang brought the tie to close in the third match, holding off a spirited fight from Tobias Rasmussen (11-2, 11-5, 6-11, 12-10).
“The match I played against Jonathan is by far the best match I have played during these Championships. I played very well and was constantly focused on each point. This is my first win against him, and I am so happy with my performance. We have played against each other before in the German Bundesliga, and I always lost to him, so beating him here has given me a lot of confidence.” Benedikt Duda
Germany also secured its place in the Women’s Team final, overcoming Portugal 3-1 despite a slow start. Fu Yu’s victory over Sabine Winter (11-4, 11-7, 8-11, 11-5) handed the Portuguese team the perfect opening to the semi-final, but Nina Mittelham bested Shao Jieni (11-7, 11-9, 10-12, 11-7) to form an immediate response. Chantal Mantz then put Germany ahead for the first time in the match as she cruised past Ines Matos (11-7, 11-5, 16-14), while a second win for Mittelham against Fu (9-11, 11-8, 13-11, 11-6) completed the comeback.
“I feel amazing, and I’m also very proud of my team. We all played very well, and we fought for the win. It feels like a dream that we are now in the final. Against Matos, I fought to the best of my abilities as I wanted to give us the lead. I just played my best and didn’t think that I could lose.” Chantal Mantz
Just as it was in 2015 and 2017, Germany will take on Romania for the Women’s Team crown after the host nation won its ticket to the final with a 3-0 victory over France. Elizabeta Samara put Romania on the front foot with a strong outing against teenage ace Prithika Pavade (11-9, 11-8, 4-11, 11-7), before Bernadette Szocs fought back from 1-2 down to beat Yuan Jia Nan 3-2 (11-6, 8-11, 5-11, 13-11, 11-9) to double the advantage. With the final just one win away, Daniela Monteiro Dodean stepped up to the occasion, dispatching Pauline Chasselin in straight games (13-11, 11-9, 11-4) to see Romania progress.
“I’m glad that I could secure the first point for the team. The match against Prithika was really difficult. I knew it would be tough having played her at the European Championship in Warsaw. The first match against her was always going to be a very difficult battle, but if you know how to read her game, then it’s possible to claim the win. Of course, Prithika is a revelation; she is the new table tennis star. She already causes plenty of problems for every player she meets, and she beats almost all of them, but I’m very happy that I managed to win in the key moments. In the end, my experience and mental strength prevailed.” Elizabeta Samara