Timo Boll – Heading into the World Championships at home with plenty of ambition
Timo Boll, the Liebherr World Table Tennis Championships 2017 in Düsseldorf are just around the corner. Is there already a special feeling in the air in your adopted sporting home?
Timo Boll: I've noticed that there is a particularly large amount of interest. I'm looking forward to seeing more familiar faces and friends in the stands than ever before at a tournament. Naturally, it also gives me personally a special sense of wanting to play particularly well given the circumstances. But regardless, my ambition is still burning strong even after all of these years and all of my successes. I do also believe that I can play a good tournament.
What do these championship matches in Germany mean to you, given the fact that it could be your last World Championships at home?
Timo Boll: Of course, everything has come together perfectly this year. It's fantastic to be able to play in another World Championships in Germany, and especially in Düsseldorf. I'm sure it will be a great event because many of the days are already sold out. In the past, I have played at other World Championships with a lot of empty seats in the stands. That was partly catastrophic. So I'm certainly hoping that these World Championships in Germany will once again set the standard.
Liebherr is again sponsoring the World Championships in Düsseldorf, in what has virtually become a tradition. How important is this type of long-term commitment to the sport of table tennis?
Timo Boll: In the current sporting landscape, it has just become difficult for smaller sports like table tennis. There is plenty of competition and companies seem to have lower budgets for sponsoring sports. That is why many large companies only support the big sports like football and Formula One. This means that all of the other sports have to battle it out. As a result, we are certainly happy to see a few of the larger companies getting involved with us and having the courage to invest and support our particular sport.
Returning to the World Championships and your spectacular doubles team with China's top player Ma Long. In your first attempt two years ago, it didn't quite work out with the doubles World Championship medal that you were hoping for. What are your expectations in Düsseldorf for this "doubles team of legends", as the ITTF has called you?
Timo Boll: There are certainly some strong doubles teams again, which even we would have a lot of trouble with. But even if the expectations on us as a team might not be all that high again, we can go a long way in the tournament. In 2015, we unfortunately had a tough draw meaning that we met the future world champions as early as the second round. But as a left-handed and right-handed combination, we match up quite well and we also have a good game in general for the doubles because we are good with the forehand over the table. Of course, it would be nice to finish with a medal. I have already played in a doubles final at the World Championships in 2005 with Christian Süss. It felt awesome, especially because we weren't necessarily expecting it and given the fact that I had been sick before the final with a temperature of 39 degrees.
In the run-up to the tournament, people have been saying that table tennis is "coming home" for the World Championships. What makes Düsseldorf such a stronghold of the sport?
Timo Boll: The western part of Germany has a heap of clubs in a comparatively small area. In addition, my club Borussia Düsseldorf has been the leading club in Germany for a good 50 years. This gives the club a strong aura so that the name of Borussia Düsseldorf means something to everybody in table tennis and even beyond. The significance of table tennis in Düsseldorf is also obvious from the amount of preparation that has gone on in the city in the run-up to the World Championships.
Finally, let's look beyond the World Championships: Have you already got plans for after the end of your playing career?
Timo Boll: I do actually have a couple of ideas I'm toying with at the moment. But while I'm still fully in the game, I will be concentrating entirely on my career. At the end of my playing career, I will take some time to work out what I will do next to make sure that I choose something which is fun and enjoyable. But we are not quite at that stage yet.