Women’s table tennis took center stage yesterday evening as the European Champions League final took place between two JOOLA-sponsored teams – TTC Berlin Eastside and Linz AG Froschberg. It was a battle of borders as the German TTC Berlin went head to head with Austrian Champions Linz. The bubble event spanned from December 3rd – 8th, with the playoffs all taking place and leading to the big finals event.
The match would see some of the top female players in Europe and the world take to the table, and be decided by the slimmest of margins, an exciting spectacle which lasted three rollercoaster hours of intense matches.
The epic comeback of Shan Xiaona would get the match underway in the perfect fashion. Margarita Pesotska, freshly returned from competing in the Women’s World Cup, took a commanding lead against the former – a short pips penholder. Pestoska, representing Linz, imparted heavy topspin on all her strokes, maintaining an assertive hold on the rallies. Shan was pressed into passive mode. Pesotska held a 2-0 lead.
Shan burst back into the match, pressing the attack and utilizing more of the lightning fast forehand attacks which had, at one point, held her just outside the top 10 players in the world.
Shan was able to dig her heels in and turn the match around to land TTC Berlin Eastside the first point, against the odds and a very determined Linz opposition.
Keen to get on the board, and to hold back their opponent in the best of 5 match finale, the host side Linz AG Froschberg would seal a convincing win as Sofia Polcanova demonstrated an excellent performance against Nina Mittelham.
Polcanova was the player who took command of the table, frequently the initiator in points, and holding a close position to the table. Polcanova was able to balance speed with formidable table coverage due to her height, and finish points with powerful shots. A 3-0 win for Linz to even the match at 1-1.
The third match featured two players recently returned from the China Bubble, where they competed at the Women’s World Cup. Now the two faced off in the ECL bubble, with team victory at stake.
Britt Eerland would take on Bernadette Szőcs, two of Europe’s finest young stars, with many accolades between them. The two currently sit just one world ranking position apart at 26 and 27th – Szőcs the higher of the two.
Eerland was in superb form for TTC Berlin Eastside, executing powerful forehand counters and looking very technically fluid out on the table. She frequently stepped up the offense with long fast serves and blistering follow-up attacks. This was most prominently seen in the finishing sequence of the match where Eerland locked in a 3-0 victory and gave TTC Berlin Eastside the advantage in the finals tie.
With the home-side’s hopes in danger, the responsibility of keeping them alive lay with veteran Liu Jia. She would step in to take on Shan Xiaona.
What ensued was an absolute masterclass of table tennis. The left-handed Liu was impeccable in arguably the performance of the night. Liu was totally relaxed as she demonstrated no issue with the short pips of Shan, playing through each shot with ease, and threading together some brilliant attacking combinations.
Liu left no doubt in mind as she dismantled her opponent – 11-2, 11-4, 11-4, a decisive statement and a reassuring message to her teammates on the bench.
A final encounter had been setup, it was a 2-2 deadlock.
Nina Mittelham and Margarita Pesotska would be the last players to hold the line for their teams. Both players put it all on the line, each looking for redemption. Pesotska had made a great start for Linz, having held her 2-0 lead in the opening match, but narrowly losing out – while Mittelham had lost her first encounter 3-0 to Polcanova.
Both players had the opportunity here to redeem themselves, and they did, putting on a fantastic display of table tennis.
There could not have been a closer final, as Mittelham’s confidence surged and began to show in her game. She was much more assertive, with Pesotska matching her at every step.
Mittelham held a 2-1 lead, but Pesotska showed strong resolve to push her way through to win the fourth.
The match, of course, went to the 5th and deciding game. A decider within a decider. It all melted down to the 5 point final game.
Mittelham wasted no opportunity. She converted both the first 3 points. Pesotska charged back to take the next 3. Timeout, just to add to the nervous atmosphere.
Would TTC Berlin Eastside’s timeout pay dividends? A point won, and then a missed serve. 4-4.
Pesotska pressed the attack. Mittelham retaliated in kind, finishing with a powerful forehand. Match point.
A precise serve and attack combination landed the win for Mittelham.
TTC Berlin Eastside triumphed to clutch the European Champions League crown for the first time since 2017.
An exceptional performance by both teams and their players. It was a display of the best of women’s table tennis, decided by the finest of margins, with all players giving it their best.
Congratulations to both teams, and a big thanks to Linz for being excellent hosts. It was fantastic to see such a well presented event, and for us here at JOOLA, a thrill to see our brand be part of such a well-organized and professional event.
If you missed the livestream yesterday, you can still rewatch all of the matches on ETTU TV.
As the new year kicks off, so too does the excitement of the Liebherr Cup Final which approaches this weekend. Saturday will see the Final