Interview: Ball proud to fight against generations of Chinese champions

Interview: Ball proud to fight against generations of Chinese champions

By sports writers Liu Yang, Zhang Yuan and Oliver Trust

BERLIN, September 1 (Xinhua) – German table tennis’ evergreen Timo Boll says he’s proud to fight generations of Chinese table tennis champions, with Ma Lin and Fan Zhendong his toughest opponents.

In a new interview with Xinhua, Boll recalled his experiences of tackling world champions Kong Linghui, Ma Lin, Wang Liqin, Zhang Jike, Ma Long and now young players like Wang Chuqin.

“Ma Lin was a tough opponent. He played really smart and his style was very unusual for Europeans. He always found a good strategy against me. I only had two or three wins against him,” said the 40-year-old veteran.

Ball also sees Fan Zhendong as the hardest to hit. “He plays a bit the same style as me, but a little better. He’s more powerful and physical.”

After playing so many best Chinese players, Boll found that it never worked if he just played a strategy against different players. “They have perfect techniques and I have to surprise them with every shot to get them off balance, to make them a little insecure or insecure.”

With a large legion of fans in China, Boll tries to continue learning Chinese language and culture at the Confucius Institute in Düsseldorf. From the perspective of a European professional, the main reason for China’s dominance in the sport is its training system.

“Table tennis is a technical sport and you have to start early to have good technique from the beginning. China has good talents like scouts and top coaches for young players. They can train a lot when they are young,”

“When they grow to become top players, they train together. It really helps a lot. Young players especially benefit from it,” says Boll.

The eight-time European Championship single winner believes that European players start professional training a little later in their careers and do not train as much as the Chinese. This difference may be one reason why young talent grows up late in Europe, and why European players have longer careers.

“If you train a lot, your body and mind may be a little tired or even injured. The Chinese players may face physical or mental problems earlier, which may not support them to continue competing against the young,” says Boll, “I see table tennis as my hobby and passion. I still love the sport the same way I did when I was young. I always keep the motivation in my spirit. “

The six-time Olympic competitor gave himself seven out of ten in the singles event and nine for the team events, rating his performance at the Olympics in Tokyo.

“I won all the important matches before the final. In the team final, it took me a set and a half to get used to the Ma style. He had a good idea and played fantastically with a lot of confidence. Every shot was accurate.”

“The whole German team had a good performance, even though we lost 3-0 in the final. We have to admit that China is the best country. We show a lot of respect for how strong they are,” said Boll.

After winning many titles in addition to Olympic gold, Boll destroyed the fact that he sometimes did not take full advantage of the good opportunities on the Olympic stage.

– Maybe I felt a little more pressure, especially in tough matches when you lose control, Boll said. “Sometimes I had my chances, but I just did not use them. My opponents always played better than me. I can not say that I did not give everything.”

He took the Athens Olympics in 2004 as an example. He had a good draw but lost to Swedish legend Jan-Ove Waldner in the quarterfinals. “I beat him three weeks before, but three weeks after, in the Olympics, I lost to him.”

In collaboration with Dimitrij Ovtcharov, bronze medalist in singles for men in Tokyo, Boll was happy to see more strong players in the German team. Ovtcharov lost 4-3 to Ma Long in the semifinals in singles and Boll cheered on his teammate in the room.

“He is 32, but still many years younger than me and he will have a few more years at the highest level. He thinks he can go full force to Paris 2024. For me I try to keep my level, but it will be harder and harder , says Boll.

Boll discussed a possible seventh Olympic tour in three years and did not claim a clear goal but said that it is definitely not the right time to retire now. “I’m a type of guy who does not think too far away, especially when I’m 40”

“I enjoy competing and training every day. I did it all my life. It would be hard to quit immediately due to an injury,” he said.






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