The European Championships are over – the discussion commences. We interviewed Richard Prause after the event.
Ladies first! How did you witness the Ladies’ team events?
Germany’s ladies have won a fourth title after Schwechat 2013, Portugal 2014 and the European Games in Baku. I was especially impressed the manner in which they approached the final’s match and almost overran Romania. In tense situations, Shan, Han and Petrissa played their best table tennis and did win the crown well-deserved. ”
Austria, Netherlands and Romania are surely the main competitors, but Russia and Ukraine have gained some attention during the tournament.
And the Men’s team?
Right after the End of the team’s competition, I am reflecting on the facts: Prior to the event, everyone was talking about the German and Portuguese team. While Germany more or less sailed towards the finals, Portugal stumbled over Austria. And Austria managed in the finals, what Portugal had done last year, beating Germany in an entertaining and spectacular match with 3:2.
Overall, these were some very interesting and impressive matches.
I still think Germany is the best team – if in full line-up. Useless to think about what may have happened, had Timo Boll played as well. Austria, led by Robert Gardos and supported by a stronger-than-ever Stefan Fegerl have used their chances. Congrats to the austrian team!
Europe is on the move. Next to Austria and Portugal, the young french team is gathering momentum. Also Sweden deserves to be nominated, with Källberg and Karlsson as growing players.
Germany will have to continue to work on their individual performances, to remain on the top of European Table tennis.
How did the Sports Director of the German Federation see the Men’s singles’ events ?
„I saw the event in Ekaterinburg from the first row and wondered for a long time about how the different nations and players would fare during the European Championships. It was interesting that all semi-finalists in the Men’s competition had already lost at least one match. ”
„Panagiotis Gionis, Ruwen Filus, Li Jie and Mikhailova all reached the quarterfinals – all defensive players. While these are not strictly surprises, it is very nice to see the defensive game lives on, although these players are considered more “allround” than pure defense.
Some heroes did fall: Vladimir Samsonov, Patrick Baum, Stefan Fegerl, Simon Gauzy and Emanuel Lebesson all exited the bracket pretty early on.
Surprise success was reached by Germany’s Ricardo Walther, defeating, among others, Lebesson.
Germany’s best female players Han Ying and Shan Xiaona did suffer early defeats as well.
What are the reasons?
„I do believe that some of these results can be attributed to the enormous density of table tennis events over the year. If we think back to the World Championships in Suzhou, where Xu Xin and Zhang Jike suffered fatigue-induced injuries, we may see the same phenomenon here in Yekaterinburg.
It is also entirely possible, that the switch to plastic balls demands more physical effort from the players, resulting in more strain for the bodies and therefore more injuries. We may have to focus our work even more on physical fitness.
How did you like the Men’s finals?
„There was no big surprise, but the match was a lot of fun to watch. With Apolonia, Ovtcharov and Freitas, 3 of the four top seeds had made it to the semi-finals. Adding to this, swedish player and master of serve Pär Gerell, who lost an incredibly close semi finals match to Marcos Freitas. He was up 3:1 in games!
Meanwhile, Ovtcharov overcame Tiago Apolonia, completing the finals match of the number 1 and number 2 seed.
I believe we have seen one of the best performances of both Ovtcharov and Freitas, where the first three games were closely fought. After Dimitrij’s 2-1 lead, he held the match more and more tightly gripped. There were lots of spectacular rallys and in the end, Ovtcharov secured his second title after winning in 2013. It was reason enough for him to celebrate Zhang Jike-style, jumping out of the box and placing his shirt on top of the winner’s podium.
What about the Ladies’ Finals?
„There was no german participation in the semi-finals, where Fu Yu, Li Jie, Mikhailova and Elizabeta Samara had made it to the top 4. I personally had hoped for one of the german girls to participate, after their domination in the team event. This just means that we have to work some more on individual weaknesses, and it also means that other players know how to beat Han Ying, Shan Xiaona and Petrissa Solja.
The finals match between Elizabeta Samara and Li Jie was pure joy to watch.
Samara only lost 3 games in total on her road to the finals. Her opponent from Netherlands has had a much more difficult time.
And up until 3:2 for Lie Jie, she looked like the sure winner. But it seems Samara had some energy saved up and was able to change into higher gear, winning 4:3 in the end.”
(ETTC 2015: Final SAMARA vs. LI Jie)
Let’s enjoy this exciting match once again:
A summary from the German perspective?
„The European championships have provided some interesting pointers that we will have to work on as we approach the World Championships in Kuala Lumpur and the Olympic Games in Rio. Titles will not be won easily, but Germany surely is the only country managing to win in both the Team’s and Single’s competition and we can be proud of that fact. We do still have thinks to work on, and other teams watch us closely. But surely we are well prepared for the future and will continue to work on our performance in upcoming events.”
And what about the cell-free balls? Has everyone fully adjusted?
“Honestly, no. After years and years of daily training with celluloid, players can not be expected to completely re-design their game to fit the new balls in only one year. This concerns mostly the serve and receive game and also the whole base of individual gameplay, setting up points for example. Players will have to develope a finer technique, especially when moving towards the ball and hitting it over the table. Long topspin to topspin rallys are less affected, I believe. Equal strength on forehand and backhand, as well as precision placement will become even more important in today’s game.