In the third attempt, TTF Liebherr Ochsenhausen made it to the Liebherr Pokal-Finale 2017/18 this year in the ratiopharm arena Ulm/Neu-Ulm. We talked to top player Simon Gauzy about the Final Four on January 6, the difficult season of his club and his personal year.

Simon Gauzy

Relieved to be part of it: Simon Gauzy (Photo: Schaal)

Simon, on January 6 TTF Liebherr Ochsenhausen participate in the Final Four for the first time. Be honest: How big was the relief after you finally made it on the third attempt?

Simon Gauzy: I’ll be very honest: very big! It was tough to know the Final Four was 40 km away from home and not be part of it. Actually we were very unlucky with the draw. Two years ago it was Grenzau with Gacina and Yoshida, last year it was Bremen and we had three match balls to go to the next round. So yes, the relief is huge for us, our coaches, the club and the sponsors.

The Final Four takes place in the ratiopharm arena Ulm/Neu-Ulm right on the doorstep of Ochsenhausen. Do you expect some home advantage?

Gauzy: We have played several matches in this arena in the last 2 or 3 years in this arena. We didn’t win all the time but we have always played great matches. So probably we will have more supporters than the other teams there, but they are also used to play there now and Timo Boll will always have more supporters than us.

Your opponent in the semifinal will be Saarbrücken, who you and your team were able to beat 3-0 in the league. The single matches, however, have been really close. What do you think of Saarbrücken?

Gauzy: Saarbrücken is a great team. It could have been 2-0 for them when we played against them in the league. It’s always hard against them because they have three players with a similar level with a high potential of beating better players. That’s why they are dangerous.

In the final you might meet Borussia Düsseldorf – a team that has suited you quite well in the past even when they were playing with Timo Boll. Do you think you might win the title then?

Gauzy: I have won several times against Timo in the last two years and even if I improved lately he is playing in an awesome way right now. Outstanding to be honest, so it’s not going to be the same match for sure. But I definitely think we might have a chance against Düsseldorf, even if they are the obvious favorite team.

Your team started not so well into the season, but made a strong comeback right after. Lately, the results varied a little again. Why do you think are the reasons for that?

Gauzy: It was a very difficult start for us. I am not here to find ourselves some excuses, but I was sick for the first match against Fulda, Muramatsu had some troubles with his rubbers, Dyjas got injured quickly and I had some personal problems for a while. When we started to be better, Muramatsu and Geraldo got injured too and Hugo (Calderano) and I played many, many matches, so it was tough to keep the rhythm. The Champions League and the Bundesliga are very demanding mentally and physically, so when you are not ready, it can go very fast. We have to move on and clear our heads. When we will all be ready at the same time, I hope we can be more competitive.

Lately, your coach and other club officials have often stressed that the team is at its limits. Will the Christmas holidays be enough to charge the batteries?

Gauzy: To give an example, I have played 21 matches only for my club since September! We are all playing internationally as well and to be good all the time for our country or our club is almost impossible. So yes, we are at the limit, but we always try to push our limits a bit further. Christmas time will hopefully be refreshing.

The battle for the play-offs is very exciting this season. Who do you think makes it into the top four this time?

Gauzy: I am not going to say who I think will or won’t be in the semi-finals. But what is sure, is that the Bundesliga is much stronger this season. Every team is better. The last can beat the first anytime. When before, teams could rest their best players at some point, now it’s not possible. In my opinion Düsseldorf will be first and then there are five teams fighting for three spots. I hope Ochsenhausen will book one of these.

2017 has been a great year for you personally. In reward, you were ranked in the top 10 for the first time in your career. What are your goals for 2018?

Gauzy: It was certainly the best year of my career so far. I have reached one of my childhood’s dreams being in the Top 10, but it was also very tough for my body especially at the end of the year. Now I have a back injury, so I hope it will be fine to start 2018 at 100 percent. I would love to win a title with Ochsenhausen. It would be an awesome reward for the work done. And personally, maybe get my first title. Who knows!