New chapter in TT history
Germany's men and women are expected to be strong in the Table Tennis competitions at the inaugural European Games.
OVTCHAROV, who is ranked no.1 in Europe, and BOLL, currently placed second, are the hot favourites to take the gold medal in the men's event. The Germans will most likely receive competition from Portugal, whose team members include European no. 4 Marcos FREITAS and no. 7 Tiago APOLONIA. Among other candidates vying for podium spots are Austria, Belarus, France and Sweden.
"It’s Germany in the medals, but then after that it’s very tight," said Sweden's Par GERELL, who won a bronze medal at the 2014 European Championships.
Despite acknowledging their role as favourites, BOLL is also well aware of the fact that his team were beaten by Portugal in the final of the 2014 European Championships. "We are looking for redemption," BOLL said, adding that the Germans are used to the pressure. "We should be able to beat everyone, except China."
Following the doubles, the singles will most likely pit Ovtcharov and Boll against each other in the final, with a place at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games at stake.
In the women's competition, Germany's HAN Ying is a fixture at the top of the European rankings, but she will enter Baku 2015 with her usual mindset of never taking opponents lightly. "It's not easy to be number one," said HAN. "You know you can beat everyone, but you have to fight for every match."
In the team competition, Han will play alongside either Petrissa SOLJA, no. 1 at European U21 level, or senior no. 9 SHAN Xiaona. "We are the most professional team in Europe, everybody knows that," continued Han, who is ranked 10th in the world. "Personally though, I can't be arrogant. I can't go into matches thinking, 'I am the number one in Europe'."
The Netherlands could be the strongest challenger, with Europe's no. 5 LI Jie playing alongside no. 11 LI Jiao. In the singles, Han is wary of Austria's world No. 17 Liu Jia and No. 18 Elizabeta SAMARA of Romania, but is confident she can fend off the challengers.
There is a strong women's field in Baku, with the top 11 players in Europe present when the team competition begins at 09:30 on Saturday 13 June.