Table Tennis Media looks at the historical perspective of Europe’s most talented players throughout the years.
The talented French brothers – Alexis and Felix Lebrun have regularly made headlines in the table tennis news during the past few years. They have been successful not only on the national level, winning medals at the French Championships but also earning recognition and accolades in the international arena.
For our Premium Members, we present you with a visualised historical perspective on the development of the Lebrun brothers, compared to some of the other European all-time greats.
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The biggest local tournament in China this year did not bring many surprises. The current World Ranking leader Fan Zhendong proved his quality, adding another singles title to his resume.
The Chinese National Championships in Huangshi brought the majority of the leading Chinese players. However, Ma Long, Wang Chuqin, and Liang Jingkun did not take part in this tournament. Still, it featured the Chinese internationals – Fan Zhendong and Lin Gaoyuan, who both made it to the final.
The final matchup was a chance for Fan Zhendong to take revenge for his loss in the team event. Before the singles event, Lin Gaoyuan won against Fan Zhendong 3-2. However, the final slowly, but surely turned in favor of the eventual champion. Fan Zhendong won the first two sets, and the second one was a long fight. The final score of this set was 20-18. Lin Gaoyuan deserves credit for not giving up after such a tough start. He won the next set, then again lost one, and managed to come out as a winner of the fifth set. 3-2, and Fan Zhendong made the final push to make it 4-2 and win the title.
Despite losing the final, Lin Gaoyuan still enjoyed a successful tournament, winning gold medals in doubles and mixed doubles events. Together with Zhou Qihao, he won the doubles final against the talented Chinese youngsters Xiang Peng and Yuan Licen, who played together for the first time in major tournaments.
The audience at Huangshi also had a chance to see the favorite of many table tennis fans – Xu Xin back in action. The experienced Chinese star helped his Shanghai team to win the gold medals in the team event after winning the final 3-2 against Guangdong team.
Wang Chuqin had a great run, beating his renowned teammates from the China team, but WTT once again disappoints with its attitude toward the audience.
The major table tennis tournaments rarely disappoint the fans due to the high level of the players and their ability to bring us a variety of exciting rallies. When you have names, such as Ma Long, Fan Zhendong, Truls Möregårdh, and others in the bracket, the display of creativity is guaranteed. But that’s not the point of this article.
World Table Tennis seems to have zero concerns about the increase in popularity of table tennis. It’s enough to have a little rebranding, changing the courts and colors of tables to clap themselves on the shoulder and say: “Well done!” Because surely, if you will ask 100 random people on the street, they all will name Ma Long, Fan Zhendong, or any other table tennis player as their favorite sports celebrity, right? Outside of China, how much you would bet on this to be true? Without turning too sarcastic, it looks like WTT lives in an isolated bubble where table tennis is the sport everyone loves by default.
WTT Champions Macao once again proved that table tennis as a sport is going nowhere with WTT unless the major tournaments become more accessible. Where was the live-action on YouTube or for the least, on the WTT website? Highlights or full-match uploads are a nice thing to see, but having a chance to watch all the decisive games live is a completely different vibe. And even when there were those live streams available during other tournaments, those were often unwatchable due to the slow and laggy website the WTT has (which is also a disgrace, we’re living in 2022, come on).
WTT is trying to give the impression that just because there was a rebranding, now table tennis suddenly should be interesting for the masses. But where are the actual effort and results? We live in an internet era, young people consume it 24/7, and the best way to promote the sport is to share all the exciting action with the masses. Having a few extra TV deals can give a short-term impact, but the popularity of table tennis will remain at the same level. It will retain a local phenom status in countries like China, no doubt. But WTT translates as World Table Tennis, not China Table Tennis. Their market can live on its own terms without the leadership of any outside organizations.
There has been plenty of criticism from internet users during the live streams on YouTube and the WTT website about the quality, mistakes in scoreboards, and bad camera angles. Players, like Ibrahima Diaw, have also publicly shared some criticism about the conditions WTT provides to its players. There is more to tell about this topic, but that is worthy of another article or research video.
If you think that criticism toward WTT is unfair or exaggerated, here’s a quick and telling (in a bad way) fact. If the WTT website gets less than 1 million visits a month, and a local, German website mytischtennis.de can get up to 2-5 times more traffic monthly, there is something completely wrong with the way WTT and its team do their work. The global website should be getting millions of views every month with ease.
Unfortunately, it is unlikely to see any changes in the WTT approach. Unless the star players are going to have their discontent and criticism toward this organization. Theoretically, European players might voice their opinions at some point, but the Chinese players will definitely have no say. It’s no secret that China has a strict hierarchy, and politics have a lot to do with the sports there. Unless WTT goes against Chinese interests and makes them angry, the buzz and criticism will only appear in social media posts, comments, and occasional posts, like this one.
No surprises in Chengdu. Team China wins the title at the 2022 World Team Table Tennis Championships
32 countries took part in this tournament in Chengdu with China being the host and the reigning champion. While some of the teams did not bring all their best players to this tournament, China was at full strength and unwilling to give even the slightest chance for the opponents to dream about the gold medals. Ma Long, Fan Zhendong, and Wang Chuqin became the core of the Chinese team at this tournament.
The hosts comfortably cruised past all the opponents up until the semi-finals stage, where they faced the Japanese team, led by Tomokazu Harimoto. It is fair to say that the semi-final was actually the final since Japan was the only team that could be a real threat to the Chinese squad. Harimoto did maximum to give his team a chance to dream about reaching the final, winning his both games – 3-1 against Wang Chuqin and 3-2 against the reigning world champion Fan Zhendong. However, Shunsuke Togami could not step up in the decisive game and Wang Chuqin made it 3-2, giving his team a ticket to the finals.
It was pleasant to see the German team reaching the finals, even without Dimitrij Ovtcharov, Patrick Franziska, or Timo Boll on their roster. The reigning European champion Dang Qiu and Benedikt Duda did their best to get past France and South Korea on their way to the final. South Koreans had all the cards to beat the Germans, but a disappointing performance by their leader Jang Woo-jin in the decisive games left them out of the chance to compete against China.
For the Swedish team, this tournament could have been a more positive experience, but they simply were unlucky to find themselves on the same side of the bracket as the Chinese team. Of course, they still would be no match for the hosts in case they would have reached the final, but the Swedes would likely have enough quality to get a place on the podium.
This tournament brought many exciting games and rallies, also highlighting some of the young teams with solid potential for future tournaments. Alexis Lebrun and Felix Lebrun had a solid run and were just a step away from winning the medals. If the talented brothers can continue to progress, they will be a force to be aware of in the near future. Poland also had a very young team – a trio of solid talents who could grow into medal contenders, if not at the world stage, then for the European stage – most definitely.
The favorite status, however, remains on the Chinese side. Unless Japan can provide someone who is able to help Tomokazu Harimoto in crucial moments, there are no other teams who could be a threat to Fan Zhendong and the company. Ma Long is likely to retire in the foreseeable future, but there are young Chinese talents on the way who will keep the internal competition high.
China is by far the most dominant nation in table tennis. We present a closer look at its production of the finest table tennis players.
It’s no secret that China is one of the biggest countries in the world, both – in terms of area and population. However, is the distribution of the Chinese table tennis talents proportional around the country?
In our video, we looked at 32 Chinese table tennis stars and legends who won medals on the biggest stage – the Olympics and World Championships. Ma Long, Fan Zhendong, Liu Guoliang, and many other well-known names of the table tennis history. You can see accolades of each player and a map that displays where every one of those players was brought up.
Is Qiu’s title run a sign for bigger things to come or just a one-time success?
2022 European Table Tennis Championships brought us some quality intrigue and surprising results, especially when it came to the knockout stage.
The former Top 15 player Jonathan Groth failed to make it past the Round of 64 and lost to a 21-year-old Serbian Dimitrije Levajac. It took seven sets for Levajac to make an upset. The Hungarian Csaba Andras managed to turn a 0-3 game around against the experienced Frenchman Emmanuel Lebesson, winning four sets in a row. However, he was knocked out in the next round against Dimitrij Ovtcharov 0-4. The 19-year-old Belgian talent Adrien Rassenfosse also was among the surprises of the tournament. In the Round of 64, he got a 4-3 win against Simon Gauzy. He was just one set short of making it to the Round of 16, losing 3-4 to Tomislav Pucar.
The decisive stages of the singles event brought some drama. Sweden’s Kristian Karlsson was on a good run up until the semi-finals, winning both, Felix and Alexis Lebrun, as well as Dimitrij Ovtcharov. Unfortunately, he had to withdraw from the match against Darko Jorgic, after hitting his wrist against the table. Karlsson took a medical timeout but wasn’t able to continue the game. The Swede admitted after the game that he was in great shape during the tournament, and it was painful to not have a chance to finish the game. Indeed, Karlsson looked strong all the way to the semi-finals, and it would have been an interesting matchup against his former Borussia Düsseldorf teammate Dang Qiu.
For Dang Qiu, this will be a tournament to remember. He has been a late bloomer, who finally seems to have reached his peak. Until 2022, Qiu did not have much success in the international arena, winning his only European Championships medal a year earlier at the team event in Cluj-Napoca. 2022 has been a great year for the 26-year-old German. He won several medals on the professional circuit, won his first national title in a singles event, and also added German Bundesliga and Champions League titles after joining Borussia Düsseldorf. Adding a gold medal at the European Championships seems like a cherry on top.
Qiu had a relatively smooth path to his gold medal, and surprisingly, his toughest match was in the Round of 64 against the Turkish Ibrahim Gündüz. He had a 3-2 lead at one point, but Qiu managed to make a comeback and advance to the next round. He confidently got past his German teammates – Timo Boll, and Benedikt Duda, as well as Swede Mattias Falck in the semi-finals.
The final turned out to be less entertaining than expected. Jorgic managed to win the opening set, but that was it. Qiu cruised past Slovenian in the next four sets, and the home crowd had a chance to celebrate the success of their compatriot.
Qiu and his teammate Benedikt Duda were just a step away from getting a medal in the doubles event. In the quarterfinals match-up, they lost 2-3 to the finalists – the experienced Austrian duo Robert Gardos and Daniel Habesohn. The talented Lebrun brothers won their first European Championships medals, reaching the semi-finals stage. In the final, Falck and Karlsson got a confident victory over the Austrians, and Karlsson got at least some compensation for his painful exit in the singles event.
This tournament showed that the landscape of European table tennis has plenty of intrigues when it comes to the continent’s major events. Qiu’s victory shows that there is no clear leader in Europe, and plenty of players can have an impressive run. For the fans, it’s great. You can’t guess your favorite, and surprises are possible. However, when it comes to the competition against the Chinese and Asian players, it seems that there is no one to fill Timo Boll’s shoes. Truls Möregårdh had a great run at the World Championships but hasn’t been as impressive since that. Lebrun brothers look promising, but their ceiling might not be high enough to compete with Chinese stars.
The next World Championships might be not that successful for the European players, but all the continental competitions will be promising and exciting for sure. Some of the older players might step down and retire soon and open up the stage for the young bucks. Who knows, maybe there is a hidden gem in the making somewhere in the mix.
The 2021/22 Bundesliga season is over in Germany. While the champions made no surprise, the German league still had plenty of interesting action this season.
Borussia Düsseldorf did it again in a dramatic fashion! Once again, they were challenged by the 1. FC Saarbrücken. The final was indeed an exciting spectacle for the fans. The Swedish international Anton Källberg was the hero of the Bundesliga final, winning both of his singles games. Of course, you also have to give credit to Kristian Karlsson, and Dang Qiu, who won the decisive doubles match 3-0. Throughout the season, the addition of Qiu proved to be really valuable. The newcomer of Borussia won 14 out of 16 games.
2021/22 season turned out to be a history for the Post SV Mühlhausen team – they won their first Bundesliga medals. The team from Mühlhausen advanced to the Bundesliga in 2013, but they never managed to make it to the Final Four, finishing 5th in the 2019/20 season, and it was the best achievement of the club up until this season. One of the key players, who helped Mühlhausen finally win the medals was the 22-year-old Frenchman Irvin Bertrand. He replaced the more experienced Lubomir Jančarik and managed to win 8 games this season (Jančarik won just three in the previous one). The pillars of the Mühlhausen team – Daniel Habesohn and Ovidiu Ionescu also displayed stellar table tennis. While the start of the season was slow, towards the mid-season, Mühlhausen found itself in the Top 4 position and earned a ticket to the playoffs. They eventually lacked the quality to show any resistance to Saarbrücken, but the 2021/22 season will remain one to remember.
Another team that enjoyed great progress this season was TTC Fulda-Maberzell. Last season, they finished 10th, but this season they managed to climb up into Final Four and won the bronze medals eventually. The key man in this success was the 23-year-old Frenchman Alexandre Cassin. He became a true leader of the Fulda team, winning 20 out of 25 games. The experienced Nigerian Quadri Aruna also provided 18 wins in 28 games, and this duo proved to be one to be aware of in the 2022/23 season. It is also clear that other teams will keep Cassin under their radar as well. Who knows, maybe he might join some other Bundesliga top side in the near future.
If we look at the performance of other teams, it’s worth mentioning that TTF Liebherr Ochsenhausen could not really cope with the departure of Hugo Calderano. The addition of Can Akkuzu was not that bad (9 Wins and 2 Losses), but Simon Gauzy and Kanak Jha were short in their abilities to get enough wins to make it to the playoffs. Maybe this summer will lead to some changes in their roster.
The same can be said about Werder Bremen. Mattias Falck and Kirill Gerassimenko brought plenty of wins, but their teammates could not step up when Bremen needed it the most. In particular, the Romanian international Hunor Szőcs, who lost all his 13 games this season. In the past two seasons, he has not won a single match for the Werder team. The team’s management definitely should consider some changes if they want to be a playoff contender in the upcoming season. Falck and Gerassimenko need help.
Overall, this Bundesliga season was more of an ordinary one in terms of intrigue. We did not see any surprises in the final. It was relatively easy to predict that Borussia and Saarbrücken might once again decide the champion. Unless we see some big transfers this summer from other teams, the 2022/23 season might present a similar scenario.1. FC Saarbrücken TT, 2021/22 Bundesliga Germany, Alexandre Cassin, Anton Källberg, Borussia Düsseldorf, Bundesliga Germany, Dang Qiu, Daniel Habesohn, Darko Jorgic, Kirill Gerassimenko, Mattias Falck, Ovidiu Ionescu, Patrick Franziska, Post SV Mühlhausen, Quadri Aruna, SV Werder Bremen, Timo Boll, TTC RhönSprudel Fulda-Maberzell
2022 Swedish National Table Tennis Championships took place in Karlskrona, and the 20-year-old Swedish star Truls Moregardh enjoyed the glory in the singles event.
Moregardh’s way to his third singles title was relatively smooth up until the semi-finals stage, where he faced German Bundesliga star Anton Källberg. The game was very close, and Källberg twice had the lead. Moregardh was able to turn the game around in the last two sets, winning the last one 11-8 and the game 4-3.
His opponent in the final was the 31-year-old Viktor Brodd. It was kind of a breakthrough for Brodd. In previous years, he managed to win three titles in the doubles event, as well as several silver and bronze medals. However, he never won any medal in the singles event. 2022 changed that. On his way to the final, Brodd got a win against Malte Moregardh, then Elias Ranefur, and in the semi-finals – against one of Europe’s finest, Mattias Falck.
Similar to the Moregardh-Källberg match-up, Brodd and Falck provided a great spectacle to the local fans. Falck led the course of the match several times, but every time, Brodd managed to climb back and eventually advance to the final after a 4-3 win.
The final, however, turned out to be pretty much one-sided. Brodd managed to take one set, but Moregardh strongly overpowered his opponent in all the other sets, winning his third Swedish singles title confidently 4-1.
In the doubles event, the gold medals were earned by the experienced veterans of the Swedish table tennis – the 42-year-old Jens Lundqvist and 38-year-old Pär Gerell. In the final, they got a 3-1 win against Anton Källberg and Elias Ranefur. Källberg managed to taste the victory in the mixed doubles event. Together with his sister, Christina, Källberg won the finals match-up 3-1 against Jonathan McDonald and Jennifer Jonsson.
2020 SWEDISH NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIPS MEDALISTS
Anton Källberg & Christina Källberg
Jonathan McDonald & Jennifer Jonsson
Alve Sjövold & Linda Bergström
Fabian Åkerström & Erika Front
The club from German Bundesliga takes a serious approach to match its Champions League ambitions.
TTC Neu-Ulm was founded recently, in 2019. In its first season, the Bavarian club reached the 8th position in the German Bundesliga but currently, Neu-Ulm has a young core of talented players, such as Vladimir Sidorenko, Lev Katsman, Ioannis Sgouropoulos. They play alongside Portuguese veteran Tiago Apolonia.
However, for the 2022/23 Champions League season, the German club has taken a very serious approach to winning it all. Neu-Ulm will bring together a new roster of players, and the concept looks similar to their Bundesliga team. It features three young talents – Tomokazu Harimoto, Lin Yun-ju, and Truls Moregardh. The veteran of this Champions League roster will be the 33-year-old German veteran Dimitrij Ovtcharov, who played in Russia for the last 12 years and won seven Russian Premier League titles, as well as five Champions League titles as a member of Gazprom Fakel Orenburg.
Such a move by Neu-Ulm reminds the philosophy that the rich football clubs, such as Paris Saint-Germain and Manchester City are following. To get the continental prize, you must invest a lot. Previously, the top Russian clubs were the best-paid options for the world’s leading players to not only win the local and continental titles but also secure a lucrative contract. Now the situation has changed, and the landscape of European club table tennis might have a new destination for the top players in Neu-Ulm. At the moment, seems like it might, not will.
Of course, globally there is still China out there with their Super League and all the best players in the world. The Chinese system and philosophy are completely different, and foreign players don’t play any significant role there. In terms of the German table tennis landscape, it is hard to predict a long-lasting future for clubs with serious star power. Table tennis is a popular sport there, but not to that of a large extent to allow Bundesliga clubs to invest serious funds and attract the biggest names in our sport on a regular basis. The German economy is likely to also take a hit due to War in Ukraine, and it will definitely impact the number of sponsorship funds the sports clubs get.
If we will see the same type of Neu-Ulm roster competing in the 2023/24 Bundesliga, it will be a good sign. If this will become just a way to win the Champions League or simply a one-season wonder, there is nothing more to add here. The time will show how it all plays out, but it will be interesting to follow the development of Neu-Ulm. Ambitions are definitely there, but will the management of the German club have the proper amount of talent and knowledge to match those – it is still a question.
The 35-year old Croatian international had an inspiring run in Doha, winning the first singles title in his career on the professional circuit.
The tournament in Qatar brought a lot of interesting results and dramatic losses, including the painful semi-finals withdrawal of Kristian Karlsson due to an injury he suffered during the match against Andrej Gacina. Many underdogs proved to be more consistent against higher-ranked players. For example, the Chinese international Xue Fei (World Ranked 139th) knocked out Darko Jorgic (WR 11), then also the American Kanak Jha (WR 39). Another Chinese, Zhou Qihao (WR 99) won the matches against Tiago Apolonia (WR 59), Marcos Freitas (WR 28), and the German star Patrick Franziska (WR 13).
Both of the finalists also had a memorable journey to the final. 25-year old Korean Lim Jong-hoon was once ranked 16th in the World Rankings, but currently, he holds the 47th position. The Korean managed to get wins against Simon Gauzy (WR 20), Liam Pitchford (WR 20), Lin Yun-ju (WR 6), and Quadri Aruna (WR 14) on the way to the final. Still, he could not cope with the Croatian Andrej Gacina. Jong-hoon had a great start, winning the first two sets, but the experienced Croatian made an impressive comeback, winning four sets in a row and securing the trophy of WTT Star Contender Doha.
The 35-year old Gacina was ranked 18th in the world during his peak. The Croatian also won the European Championships title in doubles event back in 2011. He had some success on the club level, winning the league titles in Belgium, Russia, and Poland, but on the professional circuit, Gacina had only one doubles title on his resume. His successful run in Qatar is a great inspiration for the late-bloomers – players who did not earn that many accolades early in their careers. Gacina proved that even after the age of 30, there can be reached some new heights.
The doubles event of this tournament proved to be a success for the German duo – Benedikt Duda and Dang Qiu. 2022 has been solid for the Germans, and they already won the bronze medals in the previous two tournaments. In Dona, they managed to add a title to their resume after overcoming the Taiwanese duo Lin Yun-ju and Liao Chen-Ting in an exciting five-set thriller.
WTT STAR CONTENDER DOHA