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 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
The 84th Estonian Table Tennis Championships in Tallinn brought together all the country’s leading players, who displayed some quality results.
Among the favorites of this tournament, traditionally was one of the most accomplished Estonian players – the 43-year old Vallot Vainula, who prior to this year’s edition, won the gold medals 34 times. At the peak of his career, Vainula played professionally in the Spanish Superdivision, winning the bronze medal in 2009. Before the tournament, he was ranked first in the Estonian ranking.
However, Vainula managed to add two gold medals to his collection in doubles and mixed doubles events. In the singles event, the Estonian veteran reached the semi-finals stage, where he was knocked out by another experienced player – the 37-year old Aleksandr Smirnov (4-3). In the final, Smirnov faced Toomas Libene, who also had a thrilling 7-set victory against the 2021 Estonian singles champion Maksim Vuhka.
While both semi-finals brought a lot of uncertainty and it was had to predict the winner, the final match-up turned out to be pretty much one-sided. The more experienced Smirnov have away only one set to Libene and won 4-1. It was his 35th gold medal at the Estonian Championships, and he is now only two medals away from being the most accomplished Estonian player. The former Soviet and Estonian international Rein Lindmae has 37 titles on his resume, while Vainula has 36. It looks that the next year might be an opportunity for both – Smirnov and Vainula to get past Lindmae.
In the doubles event, Smirnov and Vainula won the final game, overcoming the duo of Stanislav Strogov and Aleksandr Lušin 3-2. In the mixed doubles event, Vainula and Airi Avameri relatively easily cruised to the gold medals, winning the final against Maksim Vuhka and Liidia Andreeva 3-0.
2022 ESTONIAN TABLE TENNIS CHAMPIONSHIPS MEDALISTS
WTT Singapore Smash got wide coverage on the social media accounts of World Table Tennis, and deservedly so. This tournament brought some exciting matchups and surprising results.
Some of the underdogs managed to pull out surprising victories over higher-ranked opponents. The 20-year old Japanese talent Yukiya Uda was able to overcome the experienced German legend Timo Boll (World Ranked 9th) in the Round of 32. He eventually reached the semifinals stage, where he lost to the World Ranking leader Fan Zhendong.
One of the favorites of this tournament, the Brazilian star Hugo Calderano (WR 3) was knocked out in the Round of 64 by the Portuguese player Joao Geraldo (WR 62) 3-2. However, the successful run by Geraldo was cut short in the next round against the Swedish international Kristian Karlsson.
Other surprises in the singles event included the loss of Tomokazu Harimoto (WR 4) to the American table tennis star Kanak Jha (WR 30), Benedikt Duda’s (WR 42) win against the vice-champion of the latest WTTC Truls Moregardh (WR 14), and Korea’s Lim Jonghoon’s (WR 59) confident performance against the Chinese star Lin Gaoyuan (WR 8) 3-0.
The battle for the trophy, traditionally, was fought between the two of the best players in the world right now – the current and the former World champions Fan Zhendong and Ma Long. Both of them had some ups and downs on their way to the final. Ma Long had close wins against Wang Chuqin and Lin Yun-Ju, while Fan Zhendong had a tough time against the Korean An Jaehyun in the Round of 16.
The final itself was everything the fans in Singapore could have asked for. A seven-set thriller with several lead changes. At some points of the game, it seemed like Fan Zhendong can take this one smoothly, while Ma Long later showed his ability and mental resilience to make a comeback. Still, the final word was said by Fan Zhendong, who won the decisive set 11-7 and earned his 15th singles title in his career. Earlier, he also got some extra joy after winning the doubles event together with Wang Chuqin. They won the final against the Japanese duo Yukiya Uda and Shunsuke Togami 3-1.
The German duo Benedikt Duda and Dang Qiu also enjoyed a successful run, winning the bronze medals in the doubles event. They showed some solid resistance against the eventual champions in the semifinals.
Fan Zhendong once again proved that he is deservedly considered the best player in the world right now, but he displayed plenty of respect to his Chinese teammate: “I hope that the audience enjoyed this game and Ma Long also deserves the applause for his performance. Every time I play against him, it becomes a learning experience for me. Today’s match was very challenging for me, and there were moments when I fell behind. I am very happy to win this title in Singapore”.
WTT SINGAPORE SMASH
The Chinese national team once again displayed its quality and depth in the WTT Contender that was held in Oman’s capital Muscat.
While many international stars did not take part in this tournament, China national team brought a solid set of players, led by Liang Jingkun, Lin Gaoyuan, and Wang Chuqin. Chinese also brought some of their brightest talents to give them a chance to earn some extra points in the World Rankings.
Among the players who reached the quarterfinals in the singles event, six of them were Chinese players, and only Nigerian star Quadri Aruna and Swedish international Jon Persson managed to reach this stage.
The singles event was once again a success for the 25-year old Liang Jingkun, who comfortably cruised towards the title up until the semifinals stage, where he faced the young Chinese talent, Xiang Peng. It took seven sets to find out the winner. Xiang Peng had a 3-2 lead, and he was ahead in the sixth set as well. However, Liang Jingkun managed to pull out this set, and the advantage was on his side in the decider.
The 19-year old talent impressed on his way to the semifinals, winning the experienced Chuang Chih-Yuan and his Chinese teammate Wang Chuqin, who is currently ranked 13th in the World Ranking. However, this was not the first successful run for Xiang Peng. Back in 2019, he won the Canada Open.
The final match-up between Liang Jingkun and Lin Gaoyuan turned out to be a bit of a disappointment. Lin Gaoyuan took the first set, but then he was crushed by his teammate in the next four. 4-1, and Liang Jingkun added another WTT tournament title to his resume after winning two tournaments in Slovenia in 2021.
The doubles event was less successful for Liang Jingkun. Together with Wang Chuqin, they faced a 2-3 loss in the quarterfinals against the eventual winners – Xiang Peng and Lin Shidong. In the final, the young Chinese players confidently overcame the Taiwanese duo Peng Wang-Wei and Chuang Chih-Yuan 3-0. It was the first doubles title on the professional circuit for both Chinese players. It is also worth mentioning the success of the young Romanian players – Darius Movileanu and Eduard Ionescu. They reached the semifinals stage and won the bronze medals in the doubles event.
WTT CONTENDER MUSCAT
The Swiss city Montreux welcomed the best European players, who fought for the title of the continent’s best player. This edition of Europe Top 16 featured almost all the highest-ranked European players. The main exceptions were the experienced German player Dimitrij Ovtcharov, Sweden’s Mattias Falck, and the English table tennis star Liam Pitchford.
The new leader of the Slovenian table tennis Darko Jorgic enjoyed a great time in Switzerland, winning the Europe Top 16 title in a very dramatic fashion. His path to the final was not that complex, since he got comfortable wins against Jonathan Groth (4-0), Daniel Habesohn (4-2), and the German Patrick Franziska (4-1). In the final, he had to face the rising Swedish star Truls Moregardh.
The biggest challenge for Moregardh on his way to the final was his compatriot Kristian Karlsson in the 1/4 finals. Moregardh had the lead for most of the game, but Karlsson managed to make a comeback every time up until the seventh set. Eventually, the youngest of two Swedes took the win, winning the decider 11-8.
The final match-up turned out to be very intense, emotional, and dramatic. For both players, it was a chance to win their first title in this tournament. Jorgic was the finalist in 2020, but he lost to the German legend Timo Boll back then. This time, the Slovenian had to make a comeback, since Moregardh had a comfortable 3-1 lead at one point. Still, the comeback was a hard-fought, and Jorgic won the decisive two sets 12-10.
After reaching the final of this tournament, both – Jorgic and Moregardh reached their career highs in the World Ranking, being placed 12th and 14th in the March rankings.
2022 All Japan Table Tennis Championships in Tokyo brought plenty of surprising results, including the disappointing performance by Tomokazu Harimoto in the singles event.
Harimoto, who is currently ranked number four in the World, won the gold medal in the mixed doubles event and the silver medal in the doubles event. However, his performance in the singles event was rather disappointing, since he lost 2-4 to Maharu Yoshimura in the 6th round of this tournament. The 28-year old Yoshimura is currently ranked 89th in the World Ranking. Harimoto has still to find his luck in the local arena to once again enjoy success in the singles event as he did back in 2018.
While Harimoto had his struggles getting into the semi-finals and securing himself at least a bronze medal, it was a successful run for the eventual champion Shunsuke Togami, as well as for Kenta Matsuidaira, Koki Niwa, and Maharu Yoshimura.
In the semi-finals, Togami faced Niwa and gave him no chance, winning 4-0 and securing his place in the final. The other semi-final that was played between Matsuidaira and Yoshimura was one to enjoy for the fans. It took seven sets to find out the second finalist. Matsudaira started the game well, winning the first two sets, but Yoshimura pulled out the next two. Then both won a set each, and everything went into the decisive seventh set. There Matsudaira took an early lead and held it up until the final point, winning the decider 11-3. He reached the final for the first time since 2009.
The final did not come out as a one-sided spectacle, but Togami still played more aggressively, especially, on the serve receive. Up until the fifth set, the game looked even, but then Togami stepped up his game and did everything right to win the game 4-2. It was his first All Japan Championships final appearance, and it turned out brilliantly. Togami also won the gold medal in the doubles event together with Yukiya Uda.
After the final match, Togami expressed his great desire and motivation to earn his place in the Japan squad when there will come time for the 2024 Olympic Games in Paris. If Togami adds to this local success solid results on the professional circuit, he might achieve his goal.
2022 ALL JAPAN CHAMPIONSHIPS MEDALISTS
Tomokazu Harimoto/Hina Hayata
Maharu Yoshimura/Rika Suzuki
Yukiya Uda/Miyuu Kihara
Kenta Tazoe/Miwa Harimoto