Before the clash for the title in the ratiopharm arena Ulm/Neu-Ulm on January 6, we will take a closer look at the participants of the Liebherr Pokal-Finale 2017/18. The serial winner of the last years starts it off: defending champion Borussia Düsseldorf.

Leader in the Tischtennis Bundesliga (TTBL), already qualified for the quarter-finals in the Champions League, participant in the Final Four 2018 on January 6 – it is running smoothly for Borussia Düsseldorf. However, the record champion does not owe it all to Timo Boll alone. In the league, for example, the world's number five has made only three appearances so far. Missing Boll, coach Danny Heister can alway rely on Boll's teammate, except for the match against Bad Königshofen.

Kristian Karlsson

On the spot when needed: Kristian Karlsson (Photo: MaJo-Foto)

Anton Källberg, for example, is playing an outstanding season. The only 20-year-old Swede lost only two matchescin the actual TTBL season and, with a record of 10-2, is currently second best player in the league behind Mühlhausen's Ovidiu Ionescu (11-3). Most recently, he led Borussia to a narrow 3-2 away against Bergneustadt win with two points. Especially in tactical terms, Heister was enthusiastic about his protégé. If Källberg stumbles, it is usually his Swedish compatriot Kristian Karlsson who is on the spot. He scored twice in Grenzau, for example, a week earlier. A big plus that Heister appreciates: "We have a very strong, homogeneous team with players who are constantly evolving."

Fegerl's engine sputters

In contrast, things were going rather mixed for Stefan Fegerl. Although the Austrian's record of 6-5 is just positive, it is worst record of all Borussians. After numerous and often narrow defeats, he made an important single success against Constantin Cioti in Grenzau, which also cheered up Heister. "I am very happy that he was able to help the team after some weaker matches lately," said the Dutchman after the match. The birth of his second son on December 7 is likely to further inspire Fegerl in the upcoming weeks.

And Boll? The 36-year-old can look back on a fantastic year, which he crowned last weekend with a win in die asian-pacific league T2 APAC. Together with national teammate Dimitrij Ovtcharov, the left-hander dominated the ITTF World Tour this year, became European team champion, beat numerous top Chinese players and is currently fighting for the title at the Grand Finals in Astana, Kazakhstan. With a Timo Boll in this form and a strong team behind him, Düsseldorf certainly is the big favorite for the title on January 6.

The line-up of the defending champion

1. Timo Boll GER (Age: 36, TTBL record: 5:0, World Ranking: 5.)
2. Kristian Karlsson SWE (26, 8:6, 27.)
3. Anton Källberg SWE (20, 10:2, 108.)
4. Stefan Fegerl AUT (29, 6:5, 41.)