TTF Liebherr Ochsenhausen and TTC Ostrava 2016 open 20th edition of Table Tennis Champions League MenPhoto: Courtesy Borussia Dusseldorf
First out of eight Round 1 games will be held this Wednesday in Germany (Sep 27 19:00 CET). Defending champion Orenburg again No.1 seed and clear favorite, having three Top 10 players at the ITTF World Ranking list
The 20th edition of the Table Tennis Champions League Men will be opened this Wednesday, by the Group C match between TTF Liebherr Ochsenhausen and TTC Ostrava 2016. Seven more Round 1 games are scheduled for this Thursday and Friday (September 28th and 29th). Bearing in mind all facts - one out of it is that five Top 10 players from the ITTF Ranking list will participate: No. 4 Dimitrij OVTCHAROV, No. 6 Timo BOLL, No. 7 WONG Chun Ting, No.8 Jun MIZUTANI, No. 10 Vladimir SAMSONOV - we can expect one of the best TTCLM seasons so far.
Winners of the last six seasons are favorites of Group A, four times champion and actual title holder TTC Fakel Gazprom and double winner AS Pontoise Cergy. Russian club plays against K.S. Dartom Bogoria Grodzisk Mazowiecki from Poland, while French team hosts newcomer from Portugal, Sporting Clube de Portugal.
No. 1 seed Orenburg continues with its strong line-up: Dimitrij OVTCHAROV (actual World No. 4), Jun MIZUTANI (No. 8), Vladimir SAMSONOV (No. 10). Club signed World No. 132 Alexey LIVENTSOV, having also promising 18-year-old player Denis IVONIN.
No. 8 seed Pontoise still has Marcos FREITAS (No. 17) as their leading player, followed with two more familiar names: Tristan FLORE (No. 44) and Niagol STOYANOV (No. 154). One of most talented French players Can AKKUZU (No. 123) are ready for his TTCLM debut.
No. 12 seed Bogoria targets quarter-finals with two strong international names: actual World No. 19 Japanese Masaki YOSHIDA (reached his best place No. 18 last month) and non-ranked Chinese HAN Chuanxi who was one of the best players of the 2016/17 Swedish Super League, playing for Halmstad BTK. HAN had 10-1 individual score (he beat among others Eslovs` XU Hui, who has one the beset individual scores in last couple of TTCLM seasons). Coach Tomasz REDZIMSKI believes that HAN could be a good replacement for Greek Panagiotis GIONIS. Other Bogoria`s members are No. 99 Daniel GORAK and No. 162 Pavel SIRUCEK.
No. 13 seed Sporting starts its very first TTCLM season with two Top 50 players: No. 33 Aruna QUADRI (after Omar ASSAR from Egypt, No. 31, best ranked African player) and No. 48 Joao MONTEIRO. Two options for the team`s no. 3 in the line-up will be No. 185, QUADRI`s compatriot Bode ABIODUN (Nigeria) and No. 278 Diogo CARVALHO.
Three TTCLM runner-ups will play in the Group B, UMMC, Chartres and Eslovs, and one forms semi-finalist Saarbrucken. In the opening round, Russian club hosts Chartres, whilst Swedish side travels to Saarbrucken.
No. 4 UMMC again has well balanced squad. This time their best ranked player will be Japanese Maharu YOSHIMURA (No. 25) while last season`s trio is still on disposal for the coach Tatiana KUTERGINA: No. 36 Alexander SHIBAEV, No. 51 Andrej GACINA, No. 98 Grigory VLASOV.
No. 5 Saarbrucken didn’t have significant changes. Two promising players, 19-year-old Czech Republic Tomas POLANSKY (No. 180) and 20-year-old Slovenian Deni KOZUL (No. 226) have been added to No. 39 Tiago APOLONIA, No. 53 Patrick FRANZISKA, No. 62 Bojan TOKIC, No. 91 Patrick BAUM.
No. 10 Chartres is not strong as it was in GAO Ning `s era, but still has good players. They are No. 39 Par GERELL, No. 57 Robert GARDOS, No. 134 Alexandre ROBINOT, No. 169 Romain LORENTZ.
No. 14 Eslovs created one of biggest upsets in the TTCLM history two seasons ago. XU Hui and Robert SVENSSON experienced TTCLM final, playing many exciting games in this prestigious competition. Two more names will be Hungary`s No. 192 Daniel KOSIBA and No. 332, 15-year-old domestic player Truls MOREGARD.
The 2009 TTCLM runner-up TTF Liebherr Ochsenhausen (no. 3 seed) and actual ETTU Cup Men winner Stella Sport La Romagne (no. 7) are the best ranked Group C teams. German side hosts TTC Ostrava 2016 in the Round 1, while French club welcomes Austrian SPG Walter Wels
No. 3 seed Ochsenhausen secured its promising team for the upcoming seasons. They showed against Borussia, last year in the quarter-final stage, how they could be dangerous. Same quintet will represent German club in the 2017/18 season, all five born from 1994 to 1996: World No. 16 Simon GAUZY, No. 26 Hugo CALDERANO, No. 32 Yuto MURAMATSU, No. 59 Jakub DYJAS, No. 77 Joao GERALDO. The 2016 silver medalist in the Singles Event of the LIEBHERR ITTF European Championships, GAUZY is the oldest one, being 22 year old.
No. 7 seed Stella Sport La Romagne has the same trio who won 2016/17 ETTU Cup Men: Chinese WEI Shihao, No. 84 Adrian CRISAN. They beat Angers twice in the final, as WEI overcame twice in straight games 2016 individual ECH gold medalist Emmanuel LEBESSON. Ollivier BRICE is fourth player of this French side.
No. 11 seed Ostrava hopes that two experienced players, two former individual bronze medalists from European Championships, can provide them good results in the upcoming season. They are current World No. 27 Panagiotis GIONIS and No. 119 Aleksandar KARAKASEVIC. Other Ostrava`s players are No. 135 Tomas TREGLER, No. 301 Ondrej BAJGER and legend of Czech table tennis, Petr KORBEL.
No. 15 seed SPG Walter Wels` leading player will be World No. 61 Korean CHO Seungmin. He joined two players from the 2016/17 line-up, World No. 163 Zsolt PETO and Chinese WANG Jianjun, as well as Dominique PLATTNER and newcomer, World No. 151 Robin DEVOS who replaced Mihai BOBOCICA.
TTCLM record holder, ten times champion Borussia Dusseldorf faces a real challenge in the Group D in the battle for the top spot. Timo BOLL & Co. comence against French Hennebont, while the strong newcomer from Poland K.S. Dekorglass Dzialdowo expects Roskilde Bordtennis BTK 61
No. 2 seed Borussia has the same players like year before: World No. 6 Timo BOLL, No. 24 Kristian KARLSSON, No. 34 Stefan FEGERL, No. 82 Anton KALLBERG. They are actual TTCLM runner-up.
No 6. Dekorglass Dzialdowo has two top class international players, current World No. 7 WONG Chun Ting and No. 12 Kenta MATSUDAIRA. Plus three Europeans, No. 68 WANG Yang, No. 152 Jiri VRABLIK, No. 199 Pawel FERTIKOWSKI.
No. 9 Hennebont kept last season`s trio: No. 45 CHEN Chein-An, No. 60 Liam PITCHFORD, No. 85 Quentin ROBINOT. After many years, Hennebont will play without Kalinikos KREANGA, while No. 72 Cedric NUYTINCK is new face in the squad.
No. 16 Roskilde is the lowest ranked TTCLM participant, but with two Danish legends in the team, Michael MAZE and Allan BENTSEN. ZHAI Yujia is still there and two more players are World No. 216 Laurens TROMER and No. 341 Claus NIELSEN.
2017/18 Table Tennis Champions League Men, Round 1
TTC Fakel Gazprom - K.S. Dartom Bogoria Grodzisk Mazowiecki (Sep 28 15:00 CET)
AS Pontoise Cergy - Sporting Clube De Portugal (Sep 28 19:30 CET)
TTSC UMMC - Chartres ASTT (Sep 28 16:00 CET)
FC Saarbrücken Tischtennis - Eslovs Ai Bordtennis (Sep 29 19:00 CET)
TTF Liebherr Ochsenhausen - TTC Ostrava 2016 (Sep 27 19:00 CET)
Stella Sport La Romagne - SPG Walter Wels (Sep 29 19:30 CET)
K.S. Dekorglass Dzialdowo - Roskilde Bordtennis BTK61 (Sep 29 17:00 CET)
Borussia Düsseldorf - G.V. Hennebont T.T. (Sep 29 18:30 CET)