For the first time since 2011, the doubles is played again in the new season of the Tischtennis Bundesliga (TTBL). It replaces the possible fifth singles – and thus becomes the game-crucial factor. We have summarized the most important aspects of the new playing system.

Walther, Filus

Two doubles specialists in the TTBL: Ricardo Walther and Ruwen Filus (Photo: ITTF)

The reintroduction of the doubles had already been decided by the members' meeting of the TTBL Trägerverein in December 2016, now it's finally there: In the 2018/19 season, which officially began on July 1, for the first time since the 2010/11 season four players will play at the same time. The old system consisting of a maximum of five individual matches, the so-called Champions League system, which was introduced for the 2011/12 season, is history. And the doubles returns.

The approach to the clubs of the 2. Bundesliga, where the doubles is important, the increase in attractiveness for the spectators, where the doubles is also very popular, as well as the increasing importance on an international level – there were a lot of reasons for the reintroduction. A lot of possible playing systems, however, too. Ultimately, the choice fell on a model in which the previous "best-of-five" principle remains untouched: The possible fifth singles is replaced by a doubles, in which player A1 and B1 may not appear a third time.

The playing system at a glance

In its basic form, the new playing system looks like this:

1st match: A1 vs. B2
2nd match: A2 vs. B1
3rd match: A3 vs. B3
4th match: A1 vs. B1
5th match: Doubles

However, changes to this line-up may result from substitutions. After the second singles, the team capitains of both teams can replace their first player (A1 or B1) with a fourth player (A4, A5, A6 or B4, B5, B6). At the same time, after the second singles, the doubles must be set up. All players – except for players A1 and B1 – who are listed on the official match form are eligible to play. The tactical possibilities of the coaches are thus manifold. In the fifth match for example, pure doubles specialists can be used, players which were not used in the singles. At the same time it is possible to play the entire team match with only three players.

Teams well equipped

Gustavo Tsuboi

Experienced doubles player: Gustavo Tsuboi (photo: ITTF)

The Bundesliga coaches are hardly to lack adequate players. For doubles specialists – such as the reigning European Champion in this discipline Patrick Franziska (1. FC Saarbrücken TT) or the German Doubles Champions Benedikt Duda (TTC Schwalbe Bergneustadt) and Dang Qiu (ASV Grünwettersbach) – can be found in the TTBL clubs abound. Other teams have even reinforced themselves in this regard. For example, SV Werder Bremen signed the excellent doubles player Gustavo Tsuboi from Brazil, TTC RhönSprudel Fulda-Maberzell the Croat Tomislav Pucar. In 2017, the only 22-year-old became runner-up in the U21 European Championships in doubles. The title went to the young Dane Anders Lind, who is to play for TTC Zugbrücke Grenzau this season.

Premiere in August?

The probability that the players like the ones listed above can prove their skills on a regular basis is not all that low. Last season, 27 matches went into the decisive fifth match, which is more than a quarter of all matches played. Unforgettable of course: matchday 10 on December 10, 2017, when all five matches ended with a 3-2 away win.

The new season begins on August 17, when defending champion Borussia Düsseldorf hosts TTC RhönSprudel Fulda-Maberzell in the opening match of the first matchday – and the doubles may already be celebrating its season premiere.

Header photo: ITTF