Interview with Ricardo Walther (ASV Grünwettersbach): "One game in one day - and we can pull off the miracle"


Interview with Ricardo Walther (ASV Grünwettersbach): "One game in one day - and we can pull off the miracle"

Interview with Ricardo Walther (ASV Grünwettersbach): "One game in one day - and we can pull off the miracle"

ASV Grünwettersbach is considered an outsider for the Liebherr Cup Final Four - and accepts this role four after its sensational cup win as uncomplainingly as confidently. In this interview, ASV national player Ricardo Walther talks about the different pressures on the final round participants, table tennis miracles and his fondest memories of previous cup tournaments.

Ricardo Walther, ASV Grünwettersbach and you will be the only participants in the Liebherr Cup Final Four 2024 after the turn of the year before the final round highlight in the ratiopharm arena Ulm/Neu-Ulm. Do you see the Bundesliga match against TTC Zugbrücke Grenzau three days before the cup tournament as a disadvantage compared to the other three participants, who were free of matches for at least a week and a half before the Final Four, because of the pressure or even an advantage because of the match practice?

That's generally difficult to say. Personally, I think it's good that we have a Bundesliga game before the Final Four so that we can get back into it after the Christmas period and the relaxed training afterwards. In my opinion, a three-day game is also better for the necessary top form for the Final Four. You can certainly argue that you're more tired than the others, but I think it's very good that I'm already training more intensively at the beginning of January, that I'm getting into a rhythm, that I know where I stand. For me, the match practice is also a bigger advantage compared to the additional risk of injury.

Grünwettersbach caused one of the biggest surprises in recent cup history by winning the title four years ago and last took part in the Final Four three years ago. How important is the comeback for your club?

The Final Four is very important and is therefore a declared goal before the start of the season, also because it is a big event and we can bring a lot of spectators with us. It's also a club outing for all of us with a great atmosphere and lots of partying in the hall, although we are always the underdogs and can still pull off a miracle for our club, as we did four years ago when we won the cup. We are also capable of pulling off a surprise this year. What's more, the cup is the easiest way for a team to win a title, at least the shortest way with usually only four games, so it's easier to upset big teams than in the Bundesliga over 20 match days and play-offs. That's why we're going to prepare really well so that we can upset Borussia Düsseldorf.

You've already mentioned your team's semi-final against your former club Borussia Düsseldorf. As champions and record cup winners, Düsseldorf are generally regarded as the favorites for this clash, although in the Bundesliga it was the double that tipped the scales in Borussia's favor. How do you rate your team's chances?

In the Bundesliga, we played without Wang Xi and Tiago Apolonia and Düsseldorf without Timo Boll and Dang Qiu. But it was foreseeable that both teams didn't want to show their cards for the Final Four, where it will be a completely different match and hopefully both will be able to play with their three best players. Even if this results in completely different encounters, we naturally hope that we can make it close again and get into the doubles, because then anything is possible.

The cup has a special meaning for many. Does the competition also have a special fascination for you?

The short path to winning the title is actually an important part of the cup's significance. You don't have to play in play-offs with a best-of-three mode, but there is one game on one day, anything can happen and it depends on who is in top form, there is no possibility of postponing a game or turning things around in a second leg in the event of illness or injury. The mode is also special, as you can see what is happening at the next table and who might make it to the final. Everything together makes the Final Four in this fantastic arena an incredible event.

You have won the cup three times in a Düsseldorf jersey - in 2013, 2014 and 2021. Do you have a special memory of this or do you think of another experience when you think of the cup?

All titles have special memories. You can associate something with every title - whether it's the teammates, the course of the game, the moments, how you celebrated. Some titles were perhaps more emotional because they were closer or unexpected. Of course, when I think of the Final Four, I think in particular of all the moments when I played myself or when you get to hold up the trophy shortly after the match ball. It's always an incredible and extremely beautiful moment that you really want to experience as an athlete - you never get tired of it, no matter how many times you've won the title. You absolutely want to experience this title and this moment again. The downside, of course, is that it hurts a lot when you have to watch your opponent celebrate with the trophy. The third and last cup win mi Düsseldorf was special and a bit different due to the circumstances caused by the coronavirus pandemic, with no spectators and the obligation to wear masks. But of course I can still remember my first cup win with Düsseldorf, back then in Stuttgart and I was just 19 or 20 years old: that was the generation of Timo Boll, Christian Süß and Patrick Baum, a completely different team with three very good and experienced national players, which was also reflected in the good atmosphere. The fact that I was part of the team as a young player and was able to play with these stars was of course a highlight for me, despite my clear reserve role. Of course, I always think of these three successes first when I think of the cup.

Thank you very much for the interview, Ricardo Walther.

Interview: Florian Manzke

TTBL Redaktion

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