Champions League Men | 31 Mar 2024

FC Saarbrücken TT and Borussia Düsseldorf booked their place in the final of the Final 4

Photo: C. JOST

In the final of the first Final 4 in the Champions League Men, Borussia Düsseldorf will meet 1. FC Saarbrücken TT. On the opening day, the fantastic event gathered around 2,200 spectators in the Saarlandhalle in Saarbrücken. In the first semifinal played today, Borussia Düsseldorf beat SolexConsult TT Wiener Neustadt 3-0, while in the second, 1. FC Saarbrücken TT overcame TTC Neu Ulm 3-2.

Photo: C. JOST

TTC Neu-Ulm - 1. FC Saarbrücken TT e.V. 2-3

The clash between the world's No. 20, Truls MOREGARD, and No. 15, Darko JORGIC, ignited fireworks at the very beginning of the duel between TTC Neu-Ulm and the reigning champions 1. FC Saarbrücken TT e.V. JORGIC took the lead from the start and had a game point at 10-9, but MOREGARD nullified Darko's lead and won the opening game 12-10. In the second game, both players struggled to find their rhythm, but the Swede was always a step ahead, forcing Darko to play catch-up. The pressure took its toll. In the third game, JORGIC had a 4-1 lead, but MOREGARD regained control for a 5-4 lead. Saarbrücken called for a timeout, and JORGIC returned, but not for long. Darko struggled with his service return, but in a great recovery from 6-9 down, the Slovenian won the game 13-11. MOREGARD didn't lose steam and won the fourth game to give TT Neu Ulm the lead.

"Every point is crucial when I play against Darko Jorgic. We were both nervous in the beginning, and in the close games, I managed to steal the opening game, while Darko did the same in the third game. The best table tennis was seen in the fourth one," explained MOREGARD. "We have played against each other so many times, and the loss in the Top 16 inflicted a lot of pain on me. I wanted revenge. In addition, this is the last dance for TTC Neu-Ulm, and we want the trophy with all our hearts."

Photo: C. JOST

In the second duel Patrick FRANZISKA took control from the beginning and won the opening game against Dimitrij OVTCHAROV in superb style. OVTCHAROV put more pressure in the second game, and FRANZISKA responded. In the third game, OVTCHAROV had an early lead of 4-2 before Patrick turned the course of the game to 5-4. He maintained the winning mode and won the match in straight games.

“Dimitrij and I know each other very well. He is the player who plays very safe, and he has incredible experience. I had to take a great risk with my backhand, and to be honest, luck was on my side today. I put a few incredible balls on the table. We were sensational last year by winning the title. This year is easier, and we have great supporters here in the venue that help us,” said Franziska.

Photo: C. JOST

In the third duel, the pendulum swung once again. At the begining, Quadri ARUNA was in the driving seat against Eduard IONESCU. Romania's player faced the world's No. 19 for the first time in his career and failed to find an answer to his game. In the next game, IONESCU was more aggressive, turning the tables to nullify ARUNA'S lead. With stronger confidence, he won the second and third games, taking complete control of the match. In fast exchanges of the rallies, ARUNA pushed for the equalizer, holding a 7-2 lead in the fourth game. IONESCU came close at 9-8; Quadri called for a timeout and finished the game at 11-8, pushing the match into an agonizing fifth game. In the nerve-wracking fifth game, Eduard won by a sudden-death point.

“I do not yet know what happened,” said IONESCU, overwhelmed with emotions. “ ARUNA is such a strong player. I started very badly, and I managed to improve my play from game to game. In the fifth game, I was shaking, especially when he came from behind at 3-5 and leveled.”

Photo: C. JOST

On his second exit to the table, Truls MOREGARD did not lose his edge. Patrick FRANZISKA took the lead at 8-6, but the Swede regained his composure and scored a 5-0 series to win 11-8. Franziska responded by taking the lead again but failed to widen the gap. Truls kept close. He leveled at 9-9, and although Truls had a game point, Patrick tightened his grip and won the second game. Moregard made another lead with a strong performance in the third game, creating a safe gap from the beginning. Next two closely contested games concluded with Truls' better finish.

"I'm delighted; there is nothing harder in the club's competition than beating JORGIC and FRANZISKA in the same match," said MOREGARD.

Photo: C. JOST

Darko JORGIC won the opening game without any due alarm, and in the next, he underlined his dominance. In the third game, he had a match ball at 10-2, but erred, and OVTCHAROV reduced the gap to 10-5 before Saarbrücken called for a timeout. Dimitrij won three more points after the break, but JORGIC sealed the match.

"This is so important for us. Our supporters pushed us to the win. I gave 120 percent of me. I twisted my ankle twice against MOREGARD, but I had to come back to play; I could not miss this," said JORGIC.

Truls MOREGARD – Darko JORGIC 3-1 (12-10, 11-8, 11-13, 11-7)

Dimitrij OVTCHAROV-Patrick FRANZISKA 0-3 (4-11, 8-11, 5-11)

Quadri ARUNA – Eduard IONESCU 2-3 (11-4, 9-11, 7-11, 11-8, 5-6)

Truls MOREGARD – Patrick FRANZISKA 3-1 (11-8, 10-12, 11-8, 12-10)

Dimitrij OVTCHAROV - Darko JORGIC 0-3 (7-11, 4-11, 8-11)

Photo: C. JOST

Solex Consult TTC Wiener Neustadt - Borussia Düsseldorf 1-3

The seven-time Champions League winners commenced the opening semi-final with Timo BOLL'S victory over Frane KOJIC. The 250-gap at the World Rankings speaks volumes, and the record European Champions sealed the deal in three straight games. Kojic managed to put pressure on BOLL only in the third game, where he created a lead at 9-5, but Boll recovered to level and seal the match.

"I am satisfied with my win. At one point, it was a close call between losing and winning the game. For sure, KOJIC made me play my best table tennis, and I am happy with my win. I had two weeks to prepare for the Final 4; I am confident, fit, and healthy. I am looking forward to the next game and hopefully the final tomorrow," said BOLL.

Photo: C. JOST

Tension mounted as the importance of the match created nervous moments. Ivor BAN had a better start against the World's No. 14, Anton KALLBERG. He won the opening game by a narrow margin and maintained control fpr a lead in the second game. It seemed that after being tied at 3-3, 6-6, and 8-8, KALLBERG found his rhythm, but BAN pushed him into making mistakes, forcing Borussia Düsseldorf coach Dany HEISTER to call for a timeout at match point for Croatia's player. BAN was not to be distracted. He sealed the match immediately upon returning to the table.

"I am speechless. I did not expect this. I came here to play my best table tennis. It helped that we are here without stress. We are underdogs and we have nothing to lose. Also, we have great supporters who have come a long way to be with us; they make us strong," said BAN.

Photo: C. JOST

Ranked world No. 10 and positioned at number three in Borussia Düsseldorf's lineup today, Dang QIU was in the fast lane for the opening game in the match against Aleksandr KHANIN, but the second game was much closer. KHANIN had a 7-4 lead, and QIU recovered to level and win the second game. The third game was a one-way street with QIU on his way to bringing a 2-1 lead to Borussia Düsseldorf.

"Everyone knows how important it is to win this match after being tied at 1-1, and I am happy that I helped the team. Solex Consult TTC Wiener Neustadt came in as underdogs, but nothing is guaranteed. They fought hard, and we have to play at a high level against them," said QIU.

Photo: C. JOST

On his second appearance at the table, Anton KALLBERG faced Frane KOJIC. After a closely contested win in the opening game, KALLBERG shifted gears and surged to a 10-5 lead. Although KOJIC saved three game balls, KALLBERG eventually closed out the game. The third game was tight, but KALLBERG kept his composure and emerged victorious.

"I can't say I'm entirely happy with my performance in the opening match, but it's good that I had the opportunity to win the second match. I went outside and did a few sprints to speed up myself. The fresh air helped. I hope I can carry this feeling into tomorrow's final. QIU played superbly today," said KALLBERG. "I can't say whom I prefer in the final because it usually works against you in the end, you end up losing against your 'favorite'."

Frane KOJIC – Timo BOLL 0-3 (5-11, 5-11, 9-11)

Ivor BAN - Anton KALLBERG 3-0 (13-11, 11-9, 11-9)

Aleksandr KHANIN – Dang QIU 0-3 (7-11, 8-11, 5-11)

Frane KOJIC – Anton KALLBERG 0-3 (9-11, 8-11, 11-13)