Patrick Franziska (1 FC Saarbrücken TT): "Being close to the fans is what makes the cup so special"


Patrick Franziska (1 FC Saarbrücken TT): "Being close to the fans is what makes the cup so special"

Patrick Franziska (1 FC Saarbrücken TT): "Being close to the fans is what makes the cup so special"

Patrick Franziska and Champions League winners 1. FC Saarbrücken TT are top favorites for the Liebherr Cup Final Four on January 7 in the ratiopharm arena Ulm/Neu-Ulm. In this interview, the national player talks about the cluster of dates around the turn of the year, cup rivals and the fascination of the cup.

Shortly after New Year's Eve, the Liebherr Cup Final Four will be the first highlight of the new table tennis year for your team, 1. FC Saarbrücken TT. Will you be in good form at this point?

It's not the often mentioned cold start, because we're actually playing through. Some of the players from most of the Final Four teams, including myself due to my qualification in the doubles with Dimitrij Ovtcharov, are also taking part in the WTT Finals tournament in Qatar a few days beforehand, where we will still be playing two days before the cup in the best-case scenario. In Saarbrücken, we also have the first round final of the TTBL against Borussia Düsseldorf in Hamburg on December 27. With all these dates, there's not much time for Christmas cookies. Despite the packed schedule, we are all particularly excited about the Final Four.

As the reigning Champions League winners, Saarbrücken will play TTF Liebherr Ochsenhausen for a place in the final. How do you rate your semi-final opponent?

Ochsenhausen is of course very strong, especially with the return of Hugo Calderano. With Hugo, Simon Gauzy and anyone they can field as a dangerous number three, Ochsenhausen is a very strong team and therefore also a candidate for the title. But when we set ourselves the goal of reaching the Final Four, we were of course aware that we would be up against such good teams. Nevertheless, we naturally want to reach the final.

Many fans are predicting a repeat of the long-running final between Borussia Düsseldorf and Saarbrücken. Which pairing are you predicting for the final - and why?

It almost goes without saying that I'm betting on our participation in the final, even if Ochsenhausen will certainly have something against it. And even though the final between Saarbrücken and Düsseldorf has been played quite often recently, we would like to play Borussia in the final again. Because we've seen in the Champions League that winning a final against Düsseldorf is also something very special for the club. Ultimately, however, it will remain a final in any composition and will be about a title, so in the end I would take any final.

The trophy has a very special fascination in many sports. What makes it so special in table tennis?

The cup is the second most important title at national level, but is made even better by the fact that the semi-finals and final are always played on the same day and there are always an incredible number of spectators. These events are simply a lot of fun because there is a really high level of table tennis on offer and we are cheered on in a way that is rarely seen in the course of a season. Because the cup final round is such a special highlight, every team always wants to get to the Final Four. For the teams that take part, the tournament can always be a sign that something is still possible in the rest of the season.

In soccer, the cup final has a mythical status, the fan chant "Berlin, Berlin - we're going to Berlin" is legendary. In table tennis, the cup winner will now be determined in Ulm/Neu-Ulm for the ninth time in a row. Can the tradition and atmosphere now be compared to soccer?

In soccer, the tradition with Berlin since 1985 is even longer. But in table tennis, I also like the fact that there is some consistency. I really like the familiar and familiar processes - you know the hall and the hotel or where to eat beforehand, for example. This also applies to the fans, who often make a note of the date in Ulm. This consistency in many areas also makes the Final Four a real highlight every year.

You yourself are a regular at cup finals and also experienced the two years in the Liebherr Cup Final Four without spectators during the pandemic. What makes the difference for a player in the box between such a ghostly backdrop as back then and games with spectators in front of full stands?

It really makes a huge difference whether there are spectators or not. Without spectators, it was really strange at first because you had to push yourself even harder. With a team, it's still possible because your own team is there and cheering you on. But the sport is only really fun when you can play for and in front of so many fans and give them a good time. That makes a big difference, and that's why we all find these events so appealing. Another particularly nice thing about our sport is that we're also very close to spectators and fans at the cup and therefore have a lot of time to talk to them. When, as is certainly not only the case with us, practically everyone knows everyone else, this is what makes our sport so appealing at big events like the cup.

You've already won the cup with Düsseldorf and Saarbrücken. What are your best cup memories?

My best cup memory is from 2022, when we last won the cup with Saarbrücken. Back then, I'd gotten married beforehand and hadn't trained that much until the Final Four. I hadn't even played that well in the semi-final against Mühlhausen, we were already back in Saarbrücken with one and a half legs before I was able to get us back into the match against Daniel Habesohn despite trailing 0:2 sets and in the deciding set, and in the final against Düsseldorf it just worked out, I played really well and scored two points, one of them against my newly married brother-in-law Kristian Karlsson. It was all very special, because I wasn't the only one who hadn't expected it - but that's exactly what makes such victories the best.

Thank you very much for the interview, Patrick Franziska.

Interview: Florian Manzke

TTBL Redaktion

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