Day 5 conclusion of Liebherr ITTF European Championships winners confirmedPhoto: Rémy Gros ITTF
After four consecutive years of reaching Women's Team finals, Romania finally made it to the very top of the podium as European Champions. In a gripping final, they overcame the reigning champions from Germany, halting their quest for four team titles in a row.
The final started with the match between Elizabeta SAMARA of Romania and HAN Ying of Germany. The top player in the German team, and ranked number 3 in Europe, HAN Ying took the opening game against the Romanian player ranked at number 7 in Europe 11-9. SAMARA kept her patience against the defence and took the second game 12-10. HAN Ying's attacks proved equally as dangerous as her defensive shots, and despite Elizabeta's great efforts, the German took a 2-1 lead winning the third game 11-9.
After SAMARA won the fourth 11-8, she was in the ascendency and in a nerve wrecking decider sealed the game 11-7 to take an important 1-0 match lead.
"It was fantastic match; very difficult. We expected that, there were no surprises in that department. I was prepared for the long rallies against HAN Ying," said SAMARA.
Romania's Daniela MONTEIRO DODEAN, Europe's number 14 player, then faced SHAN Xiaona, the number 6 European Representing Germany. It was SHAN Xiaona who was in solid form, taking the match in straight games 3-0 (11-6, 11-6, 11-7) to level the overall match at 1-1.
Nina MITTELHAM started aggressively for Germany in the third match, but Europe's number 20, Bernadette SZOCS, put on a focussed and determined performance. It dodn't take long for Bernie's victorious screams to be heard as she won a string of points and finally came through 3-1 (11:5, 11:5, 6:11, 11:6).
On her second return to the table SHAN Xiaona was as determined as she had been in her previous match against MONTEIRO DODEAN. She won the two opening games 11-5, 11-5, but then lost a thrilling third 17-15, before re-taking a grip on the match and winning the fourth game 11-3 to level the overall match at 2-2.
And so the fist Team final of the day was going to a fifth and final match decider. Who would have the nerve, focus, desire and ability to pull it off for their team and nation?
In an incredible demonstration of power, feeling, and concentration, Daniela MONTEIRO DODEAN took a real control by winning the first two games 11-4 and 11-8. Then the pendulum swung in third game. It seemed that MONTEIRO DODEAN had lost her patience. HAN Ying put in a concerted shift to close further but it was the Romanian who prevailed to win the fourth 12-10 and seal the gold medal for her team.
Collapsing on the floor in sheer delight, her team mates joined her on court and hugs and delight followed. "I had never beated HAN Ying and I just felt that my time had to come. I am so happy that she did not make a fully recovery after I was 2:0 up. In the case of 2:2, it will be different scenario. I will be under greater pressure and who knows how my body will respond to such a long match," said MONTEIRO DODEAN.
Romania's coach Viorel FILIMON who was clearly over the moon with the result, explained why there was so much emotion, ""I waited 12 years for this gold. Finally we reached it. We did not have any special preparation our main weapon was great quality of each player. The team told me at the beginning that each of them must win one match. They stuck to it until the end and they did it," said FILIMON.
WOMEN'S TEAM FINAL: ROMANIA v GERMANY (2-3)
Elizabeta SAMARA - HAN Ying 3:2 (9:11, 12:10, 9:11, 11:8, 11:7)
Daniela MONTEIRO DODEAN - SHAN Xiaona 0:3 (6:11, 6:11, 7:11)
Bernadette SZOCS - Nina MITTELHAM 3:1 (11:5, 11:5, 6:11, 11:6)
Elizabeta SAMARA - SHAN Xiaona 1:3 (8:11, 9:11, 17:15, 3:11)
Daniela MONTEIRO DODEAN - HAN Ying 3:1 (11:4, 11:8, 4:11, 12:10)
Germany regain the title at the LIEBHERR ITTF European Championships
For a seventh time in their history Germany is at the top of table tennis in Europe. They were crowned Champions in the Men's Teams Event at the LIBEHERR ITTF Championships in Luxembourg.
It was the second time Portugal and Germany met in the final of the Men's Team's Event at the European Championships; the outcome being very different to their last encounter in the final in Lisbon 2015 when Germany suffered defeat against the home team.
Europe's number 2 Timo BOLL had a shaky start against the player currently ranked at the position number 4 in Europe, Marcos FREITAS. By the narrowest of margins, Portugal's player took the opening game 11-9, before BOLL levelled with an 11-7 win. This tense contest continued with FREITAS clinching in an entertaining 15-13 battle. Then BOLL found an extra gear to take the fourth game 11-5 and once again the crowd was treated to a deciding game match in d'Coque. FREITAS was smooth in his execution throughout the decisive game and had three match points at 10-7 only to be pinned back by a fighting BOLL who went on to take five points in a row to win 12-10 for a 3-2 victory. A crucial and cruel first match for Portugal, but such is sport, something BOLL suffered recently in China on the ITTF World Tour in the final against his compatriot OVTCHAROV.
"Marcus and I know each other very well. At the World Championships we also played a very close game, so I spend a lot of time preparing for this match. He is also very intelligent; it is very challenging to play against him. He forces you to play at the highest level all time," said Timo BOLL.
Marcus reflected on his chances, "I had match ball and everything could be different," explained FREITAS.
Europe's leading player Dimitrij OVTCHAROV showed no mercy against Europe's number 7 Tiago APOLONIA and powered through to a comfortable 3-0 win (11:6, 11:7, 11:9).
"We were determent to regain the title that we lost in Lisbon," said OVTCHAROV.
Then came the turn of German Patrick FRANZISKA, number 11 in Europe against the number 20 Portugal player Joao MONTEIRO. It was MONTEIRO who took the opening game 12-10 so a come back for Team Portugal looked to be on the cards. But FRANZISKA had other ideas and like OVTCHAROV put in the watts on the power guage to come through 3-1 with game wins 11-6, 11-9, 11-5.
"My team mates helped me with 2:0. I was not under pressure. Even in the first game I had 10:7, so I could have sealed the match earlier," said FRANZISKA.
A disappointed MONTEIRO added, "we won five matches in a row. It is hard when you lose the final, but generally we had a good tournament here."
MEN'S TEAM FINAL: GERMANY v PORTUGAL (3-0)
Timo BOLL – Marcos FREITAS 3:2 (9:11, 11:7, 13:15, 11:5, 12:10)
Dimitrij OVTCHAROV - Tiago APOLONIA 3:0 (11:6, 11:7, 11:9)
Patrick FRANZISKA - Joao MONTEIRO 3:0 (10:12, 11:6, 11:9, 11:5)
Congratulations Team Germany on regaining the crown of European Champions.
So, two new European Champions, a positive outcome you might say for the sport across the Continent.
It has been a fantastic tournament here in Luxembourg. The beautiful d'Coque venue created a super atmosphere, the crowd were engaged, and the volunteers and organisers did a great job. A thank-you too to the sponsors including the title sponsor LIEBHERR.
For more information on European Table Tennis, follow the European Table Tennis Union (ETTU) at www.ettu.org and on social media, Facebook (European Table Tennis Union), Twitter (@ETTU_Ttennis), and Instagram (ettu_official).