KIT Table Tennis Team Asserts Its Position in Europe
With the runner-up title at the DHM last year, the KIT team secured a starting place at the title matches for the most important table tennis student tournament in Europe. The five players who started for our team in the competition were Fabian Rieger, Jan Müller, Julian Beisecker, Julian Bühler and Patrick Urbanek, all of whom had already gained experience in numerous qualification and final round matches of the German University Championships.
After a one-day stay in the cultural stronghold of Istanbul, the group traveled by bus to the coastal city of Zonguldak together with the head of discipline of the General German University Sports Association (adh) and former chairman in Karlsruhe Oliver Jetter, as well as 20 other German athletes from Darmstadt, Landau/Koblenz, Mainz, Münster and Ulm. All participants of the tournament enjoyed the stay in a 5-star hotel directly at the sea to prepare themselves optimally for the competitions.
At the opening ceremony on the campus of the university adjacent to the hotel, the participants were welcomed by the officials of EUSA, the organizing university and the mayor of Zonguldak. This ceremony gave the athletes the opportunity to present the Germany outfits provided by the adh.
The tournament started in the team competition with a group stage, where the individual matches were played in Champions League mode, i.e. in a maximum of 5 singles. The opponents of our team were the top-seeded Russians, led by the world number 40, Kirill Skachkov, as well as the strong Turkish team, which was also filled with national players. After this somewhat unfortunate draw, expectations were correspondingly low, which was reflected in two 3:0 defeats. Nevertheless, our team sold itself dearly, for example Fabian Rieger was able to win two sets from the number 3 of the Turkish senior national team. Thus the team ended up in the round of the 3rd and 4th placed teams, which played out the places 9 - 16 on the following day.
The second day of the tournament was much more successful for the Karlsruhe team, although the draw with the 2nd Polish team was again a big challenge. At first, our team was trailing 0:1 and 0:2, but Jan Müller was able to turn the match around and Fabian Rieger and Julian Beisecker contributed the last two points. With this hard-fought 3:2 victory, our players had finally found their way into the tournament and now faced the Swiss team from Geneva. However, the Swiss team did not have much to offer to the Karlsruhe team and so the KIT athletes entered the match for 9th place with 3:0 and 9:0 sets. There, they met the team of TU Darmstadt, which, despite its nominal strength, surprisingly did not take one of the first two places in the group. In this German-German duel, Darmstadt initially took a 2:0 lead before Jan Müller again initiated the turnaround and kept the team in the match with a safe 3:1 victory. This was followed by the great moment of Julian Beisecker, who outclassed his opponent, who was successful in the 2nd Bundesliga last season, 3:0. In the decisive 5th game, Julian Bühler had to admit defeat to the number 1 of Darmstadt after a good match with 1:3, so that at the end of the team competition a 10th place was achieved. With this, the team around captain Jan Müller could be quite satisfied after a somewhat unfortunate first day of the tournament and a clear improvement on the 2nd day.
The next morning, the doubles competition was on the agenda, where one of the Karlsruhe doubles caused quite a stir. While Urbanek/Beisecker had to drop out in the first round against the French top doubles, Rieger/Müller had a walk-through and could watch the matches of the first round in a relaxed manner. In the round of 16, they met the favored doubles from Darmstadt, who had two top-class players in Oehlmann and Mostowys. However, Müller and Rieger delivered a great performance and left the German opponents no chance with a concentrated and tactically clever way of playing. After this surprisingly dominant 3:0 victory, the Karlsruhe duo sensationally entered the quarterfinals and was the last German team to join the best 8 doubles teams in Europe. In the subsequent quarter-finals, the pair then faced two players from the University of Orenburg, who play in the first Russian league. This made the task much more difficult than in the previous round and with a 2:0 set lead, the Russian pros initially lived up to their role as favorites. Afterwards, however, Rieger/Müller were in top form and were able to stand up to the Russians in a high-class match. They won the next two sets and were frenetically celebrated by the entire German delegation. The 5th set ultimately had to decide the match and here, too, the Karlsruhe team was on a par with the Russians. With the spectators' support behind them, our players were able to keep up until the score of 10:10, before the two professionals were able to secure the medal with 2 points in a row. Although Rieger and Müller were defeated by a very narrow margin and thus the big dream of a medal at European title matches was shattered, the top doubles team from Karlsruhe received a lot of recognition for an outstanding match that the two players will probably not forget in a hurry.
The singles competition concluded the sporting part of the event and once again Fabian Rieger excelled. While Patrick Urbanek and Julian Bühler were defeated 0:3 by their Russian and Slovenian opponents respectively, Julian Beisecker (1:3) and Jan Müller (2:3) were able to deliver great matches to their Turkish opponents with good performances. Only Fabian Rieger, with a walk-through in the first round and a strong performance (3:1) in the second round, made it to the round of 16. There he met a Polish player from the team that won the team competition. The brilliant Karlsruhe player was at least on the same level in a thrilling duel, but in the end, as in the doubles, the favorite won, so that the Karlsruhe player had to congratulate his opponent after the 1:3.
An afternoon at the beach in bright sunshine, recovery from the tournament stress in the wellness area of the hotel, the final player party and the dazzling mood of all athletes never let mope about missed chances arise. On the contrary, the cohesion among the German teams but also the entertaining evenings with players from all nations made the week an unforgettable experience for all participants.