Germany ended the traditional Asian dominance of table tennis at the Olympics by advancing to the men's team championship final with a 3-2 victory over Japan on Saturday.
Germany's Timo Boll, right, Christian Suss, center, and Dimitrij Ovtcharov
Germany's rising table tennis star Dimitrij Ovtcharov edged past Yo Kan before veteran Timo Boll beat Japan's teen prodigy Jun Mizutani at the Beijing Olympics on Saturday, Aug 16.
The second-seeded Germans will face the winner of the China-South Korea contest to be played late Saturday. The top-ranked Chinese are favored to advance.
Ovtcharov, ranked number 14 in the world, bounced back after being handed a yellow card in the first game. He defeated Yo Kan, Japan's top player ranked 19th in the world, 11-7 11-13 13-11 9-11 and 12-10.
Ovtcharov's low, crisp shots felled Yo Kan of Japan
Timo Boll, Germany's top player, thrilled his Chinese fans with long-distance smashes in his match against Jun Mizutani. Boll won 11-5 8-11 11-4 and 11-7.
The crowd responded to the fast rallies with shouts of "Hao!" (Good!) on every slam.
"It is a great pity that we lost the match. We've tried our best, but the German team played even better," said Mizutani. "I played very bad today, I don't know why," he added.
Japan overcame Germany in the doubles match and Yo Kan beat Christian Suss in the fourth match to force a fifth and deciding match. Boll held his nerve against Seiya Kishikawa, world number 63, to win 11-7 10-12 11-6 8-11 and 11-5.
Boll a huge star in China
Boll, two-time European champion and former world number 1, was visibly moved by the decisive win.
"It was a hard-fought match in which all paddlers played to their utmost and were exhausted. I am glad that we won," Boll said after throwing himself to the ground after the game.
A star in table tennis-crazy China, Boll was given a pop star's welcome when he arrived at the Games earlier in the month.
Timo Boll is treated like a pop star in table tennis-crazy China
The unofficial welcoming committee at the airport was so enthusiastic that Boll is reported ot have required a police escort to get past a crush of fans, autograph-hunters and television crews.
As part of the pre-Games build-up, Boll had been visited in Germany by several Chinese journalists and has strived to keep his flock of fans happy and informed via several Internet blogs and the Chinese sports paper Titan.