As Timo Boll hit a ball for first time at the age of 4, he never thought that he would be one of the best table tennis players in the world.
By Romina Concha S. | Europe and Americas Editor | tabletennista.com | Adapted by Sebastian Hallen
29 years have passed after his beginnings in the sport and Boll has reached another milestone in his career. In September 2014 the German player completed 10 years at the top-10. Timo Boll entered the top-10 for the first time in January 2002. But in 2003 he started to struggle with his back injury which led him to leave the elite group in January 2004. He went back two months later but he didn’t stay there for so long. However, the former European champion didn’t give up and got back to the top-10 in September 2004. Since then he has been ranked among the best ten players in the world.
Doubtless, the last ten years have been the most successful in Timo Boll’s career. During this period, he won most of his Pro-Tour, European, World and Olympic titles.
..in the past
After a troublesome 2003, Boll had a successful 2004. He collected three Pro-Tour titles: 2004 Austrian Open, 2004 German Open and 2004 Polish Open. He also led Germany to the finals of the 2004 World Team Championships held in Qatar. But he couldn’t repeat that success at the Olympic Games held in Athens. He lost to Jan-Ove Waldner in quarterfinals.
2005 was an uneven year for the German star. He collected two Pro-Tour titles, at the Swedish Open and Japan Open. He suffered early defeats at the European and World Championships. But Boll redeemed himself at the end of the year. He was crowned champion at the World Cup and ITTF Pro-Tour Grand Finals.
2006 was also a successful year at the Pro-Tour circuit. He won the Polish Open, German Open and China Open. He also got the third place in the World Team Championships held in Bremen and the third title at the Europe Top-12.
In 2007 Timo Boll wasn’t lucky in Pro-Tour tournaments. He couldn’t defend the Europe Top-12’s title but he redeemed himself with his performance at the European Championships held in Belgrade, Serbia. The German player clinched the title in singles, men’s doubles and team events.
Fortunately, the drought at Pro-Tour tournaments was over in 2008. Boll conquered the titles at the Austrian Open and Polish Open. This success was also repeated at the Olympic Games held in Beijing and the European Championships held in Saint-Petersburg, Russia.
In Beijing 2008 Timo Boll clinched his first Olympic medal. He, along with Christian Süss and Dimitrij Ovtcharov, won silver in the team event. But the German player failed in the singles event again. He faced defeat against South Korea’s Oh Sangeun in the round of 16. But he had his redemption in the European Championships. He defended the titles in singles, men’s doubles and team events.
In 2009 Boll added three more Pro-Tour titles: Polish Open, Qatar Open and German Open. He recovered the title of the Europe Top-12, but he lost the crown of the European Championships. He emerged successfully in men’s doubles and team events, but he fell against Michael Maze, eventual winner, in semifinals.
.. recent years
2010 was marked by the beginning of the rivalry between Germany and China at World Team Championships. In Moscow the German team led by Timo Boll fell against China, despite his victory over Ma Long. Since this year he reduced his participation in the Pro-Tour circuit. As a result, he only managed to win the 2010 Japan Open. In the European scene, the German player was unbeaten. He clinched his 5th title at the Europe Top-12 and regained the crown at the European Championships. He also defended the titles in doubles and team.
In 2011 his absence in the Pro Tour circuit was more evident. Boll only competed at the Qatar and German Open, where he reached the finals. The German player sacrificed Pro-Tour tournaments to be focused on the biggest events. He seemed to make a good decision, because months later he clinched the bronze medal at the World Championships held in Rotterdam, his first medal in this event. This success was extended to the European Championships. He defended the title in singles and team events. But he didn’t have the same fate in the World Cup, where he was eliminated in semifinals.
2012 wasn’t a successful year in the World Tour Circuit. Timo Boll competed in Japan, China and Germany and only suffered early defeats. In the World Team Championships held in Dortmund, Boll and Co. were defeated by China in the final again. At the London Olympic Games, things weren’t better for the German player, He suffered an unexpected defeat against Romania’s Adrian Crisan in the round of 16. But Boll redeemed himself in the team event. He was the only player who could defeat Zhang Jike, recently crowned Olympic champion, during the tournament. Later he went back to England to participate at the World Cup, where he got the second place. He closed the year at the European Championships where he clinched his sixth title in singles.
Timo Boll didn’t see much action in 2013. At the World Championships held in Paris, Bercy, Boll was beaten by Ma Long in a fantastic quarterfinals. He attended to the China Open and German Open, where he reached quarterfinals and semifinals, respectively. But the German star got better results in the doubles event. He claimed the title with Ma Long in China and with Patrick Franziska at home soil. At the World Cup he lost to his teammate Dimitrij Ovtcharov in the third-place match. But he lost more than that in that match. Ovtcharov became the best ranked European player. Unfortunately, Boll couldn’t attend to the European Championships due to illness, so he couldn’t defend the title that eventually was won by Ovtcharov.
2014 wasn’t an active year for the German player in international tournaments either. Timo Boll didn’t compete in any World Tour event but he did appear at the Europe Top-12. Unfortunately, he lost to Dimitrij Ovtcharov in quarterfinals. Months later, the German team reached the finals of the World Team Championships held in Tokyo. But Boll and Co. suffered the same fate being beaten by China once again. In September Germany didn’t have a successful participation at the European Team Championships: They failed to claim the 7th title in a row after surprisingly losing to Portugal in the final. Boll was defeated by Marcos Freitas in the fourth match which gave victory to the host nation. The last international tournament for Timo Boll was the World Cup held in Düsseldorf. He showed a great performance, but fell against the eventual winner, Zhang Jike, in semifinals. He finally won the bronze medal.
..And the future
Ten years of success but also of missing titles. Timo Boll has been the main threat to Chinese players in the last decade but he hasn’t been able to conquer the World Championships’ title or an Olympic medal in the singles event. He is 34 years old and players such as Jan-Ove Waldner or Werner Schlager, whom Boll is often compared to, have already reached these achievements at this age. However, the German player doesn’t give up and he is eager to capture these titles in the next years. In 2015 Timo Boll will have the chance to fight for the title at the World Championships to be held in China. But it will be a hard task, because Chinese players have become stronger and stronger. In 2016 the Olympic Games will be held in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Boll will be 35 years old and it will probably be his last chance to win an Olympic medal in the singles event.
But age has never been an obstacle for Timo Boll. According to Liu Guoliang, the German player is starting a new peak in his career. Maybe in this new phase he will be able to win these longing titles.