Over the weekend German and Butterfly legend Timo Boll proved his recent move back into the world top 5 was no fluke, by single-handedly taking out the entirety of the Chinese National team at the 2017 ITTF World Cup in Liege.

The world number 5 started his World Cup run in the last 16 where he faced Brazil’s, Gustavo Tsuboi. Boll made light work of the Brazilian dispatching him with relative ease 4-0 (12-10, 11-8, 11-5, 13-11). The German’s next match was in the quarter finals against China’s Lin Gaoyuan and couldn’t have been any more nail biting. Goayaun, who some say is China’s biggest hope for the future, started quickly taking the first two sets 5-11, 11-13.

Boll replied by taking the 3rd, 11-9 but Goayuan quickly restored his two-set lead, winning the 5th 9-11. This left the score at 3-1 to the Chinese and Boll only 1 set away from crashing out at the quarter final stage. However, the German was not deterred by the ominous looking score deficit and once again rolled back the years claiming the next two sets. This set up a 7th and final set for the ages and one that will not be forgotten in a hurry.

Lin Gaoyuan started the 7th set at a rapid pace earning him a 4-10 lead, therefore giving him 6 match points. At this stage surely everyone in the arena thought it was a foregone conclusion but the German maestro had other ideas. Boll went on to win the next 6 points levelling the set up at 10-10 but then added to the drama by losing the next point handing Gaoyuan a 7th opportunity to seal the quarter final but he was denied again. Boll then went on to win the next 2 points winning 13-11, thus booking his place in the semi-final. 4-3 (5-11, 11-13, 11-9, 9-11, 11-9, 12-10, 13-11).

Here Boll would face arguably the greatest player of all time, current world number 1, Olympic and World Champion, Ma Long. Incredibly, the match score line went in the same order as Boll’s previous match with Gaoyuan, with Ma Long winning the first two sets, Boll winning the third and Ma Long then taking a 3-1 lead. Boll again deified the odds mounting another incredible comeback, taking the 5th and 6th games to set up yet another 7th set decider.

By this time the crowd were on the edge of their seats, as they were treated to some of the best table tennis you are ever likely to see. Both players played their hearts out but this time it was Boll’s turn to keep ahead in the deciding game. He either maintained parity or had a one/two-point advantage all the way up to 10-8, where he lost his first two match points. However, after this Boll was able to hold his nerve, and in the process, create history, beating the Chinese Dragon Ma Long 13-11 in the final set. 4-3 (6-11, 9-11, 11-9, 9-11, 11-7, 11-5, 12-10).

Timo had this to say after the match in an interview with the ITTF:

“I don’t know what to say because it was a crazy match. Being down by three-one against such a great player like Ma Long; when I was down, I was a bit more relaxed just trying to enjoy the game. I must also thank the fans for their support. I think I had a good feeling and having such feeling against such a great player was helpful. I cannot believe it that at 36 I could still do this as I am just enjoying myself with my game.”

This win put Timo Boll into his 5th World Cup final appearance. This time he was up against his German compatriot Dimitrij Ovtcharov in what would be the first all-German World Cup Final since 1980. Although he put up a great fight it was unfortunately not meant to be for Boll, with Ovtcharov and the final proving to be one step too far, as he lost in six sets. 4-2 (10-12, 11-8, 11-7, 9-11, 11-7, 11-2).

Even though in the end Timo Boll was not victorious, his 2017 world cup performance will live long in the memory and his victory over Ma Long is no doubt the biggest upset in a major for some years. It is also a reminder that Timo Boll’s long and illustrious career is far from over and may even see his world ranking rise up even further in November.

About The Author

Seb

Seb has succeeded in living his passion for table tennis. A long-time player, he connected to professional table tennis as commentator for the ITTF, travelling to top events such as World Championships and reporting live from the action. In 2014, Seb became part of the Butterfly Team, working in international Sales and Marketing at Butterfly Europe in Germany.

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