by Simon Daish
Chasing its first Women’s Team crown in six years, the German contingent caused somewhat of an upset by dethroning the defending champion and host nation Romania at the final hurdle.
Nina Mittelham was undoubtedly the star of the show, winning both of her matches against two of Europe’s finest. Opening her account with a superb full-distance victory over Bernadette Szocs (8-11, 11-7, 9-11, 11-9, 12-10), Mittelham also recovered from 1-2 down during her second spell at the table as she overcame Elizabeta Samara 3-2 (10-12, 11-8, 9-11, 11-9, 11-7).
“I did not expect to play against Szocs at the start. She is a very dangerous player, and I personally find it difficult to play against her style of play. She won the opening game, but I recovered, and generally, I think that my mental strength was key to success. I remember being 5-9 down in the decisive game, but I cannot tell you how I managed to win it. I just kept on playing one point at a time.” Nina Mittelham
Boasting one of the strongest line-ups on the global stage, Romania managed to give the local crowd something to cheer about, with Daniela Monteiro Dodean prevailing against Chantal Mantz (11-7, 7-11, 8-11, 11-5, 11-7). However, Sabine Winter’s sensational 3-0 success against Samara (11-6, 11-9, 12-10), when added to Mittelham’s brace, meant Germany had done enough to celebrate a sixth title.
The Men’s Team trophy ended up in German hands for the third consecutive occasion following the team’s 3-1 win against Russia.
Placing trust in its youth system, Russia produced another exciting performance in the final and took the lead through Maksim Grebnev, who reversed a two-game deficit to beat Benedikt Duda (3-11, 4-11, 11-7, 11-8, 12-10). Lev Katsman then had an opportunity to build on the early Russian momentum, only losing out to Germany’s ever-reliable Patrick Franziska in five games (7-11, 11-4, 11-13, 11-6, 11-6).
From that moment on, the match turned in Germany’s favour. Qiu Dang stepped up to the task in the third fixture of the title match, defeating Vladimir Sidorenko 3-1 (9-11, 11-6, 12-10, 11-8) before another cool-headed display from Franziska in a tense meeting with Grebnev (13-11, 11-5, 9-11, 4-11, 15-13) completed the job. Germany has now lifted the trophy nine times with Sweden, 14, the only nation to have done it more.
“The Russian team played an amazing tournament. Their players are so young, and they have so much potential. We knew that we would have to play at our best today. Congratulations to Russia! They have a bright future. We are very happy that we won. Understandably we were the favourite to win, and I think it was a great final with a better hand for us. Against Grebnev, I was leading 2-0 in games and 3-0 in points, but I started to play too safe. At a certain moment in the game, he came at me like a tornado. He became extremely aggressive, and I was taken by surprise. In the end, I don’t think anyone deserved to lose this match. Maybe there was a little bit more experience on my side, but it could have definitely gone the other way. He played his best and is an absolutely fantastic player.” Patrick Franziska