By Oliver Trust
BERLIN, Nov. 17 (Xinhua) -- Despite latest defeats against Timo Boll and Dimitri Ovtcharov, China remain the world's number one in table tennis, German national coach Joerg Rosskopf is convinced.
"We managed to close the gap a little bit, but I don't expect China to waver and fall," the 48-year-old former German international commented.
Rosskopf expects China to be the big favorites for the team World Cup in Sweden in May 2018. "They will intensify their training effort from January on. Ma Long, Fan Zhendong, and Xu Xin are still hard to beat when in the best shape," Rosskopf added.
Rosskopf is aware of the changes in Chinese table tennis. Due to the changes regarding the coaching staff, "China were sort of without a clear system. Players had a longer break and missed competition on a high level," Rosskopf emphasized.
Chinese top performers "do get older and sometimes suffer from injury," the German coach said. But Ma Long and Xu Xin are still on a very high-quality level.
Despite the Chinese world class level, German performers such as 36-year-old Boll and 29-year-old Ovtcharov are comfortable with the latest series of success.
Boll beat the Olympic Champion and World Champion Ma Long and twice Asian Champion Lin Gaoyuan. When winning the German Open in Magdeburg, Ovtcharov beat Yan An and, for the first time in his career World Championship runner-up Fan Zhendong.
Boll and Ovtcharov ride the wave and gain more and more confidence, Rosskopf commented.
Ovtcharov has the chance to become the world's number one when the Grand Finals are taking place in Astana mid-December 2017.
"We would be extremely proud when the second German after Timo Boll could become the world's number one, but I always tell him that other things count more," Rosskopf commented.
"For us, it is important to know we have two players able to beat the Chinese when things go well," Rosskopf said.
China's top players currently have some injury problems, the German coach said. Man Long missed the German Open due to wrist problems; Xu Xin is not yet back at a top level after an injury, while he is not sure if Lin Gaoyuan addresses highest standards.
To make a point, only Fan Zhendong is in the best shape at present, the German said. It would prove Ovtcharov's quality that he managed to beat Fan Zhendong, Rosskopf stressed.
He called Boll an exceptional gifted. "He is sovereign and calm when in action and maybe the world's best when it comes to returns after service," Rosskopf commented.
He would be amazed by Boll playing at such a high level for such a long time. "He does not have to think about retirement. I have him on my list until 2020 and beyond," Rosskopf said. "German table tennis is at its best at present and can be a threat to the Chinese."