German veteran Timo Boll celebrates seventh European title
Timo Boll is a phenomenon.
He is easily the most successful table tennis player in German history, but he's more widely recognised in China than at home.
The oldest man to have been ranked world number one in table tennis is still at the top of his game and hopes to lead his country for many more years to come.
And at 37, he's now a seven-time European champion, after beating Romania's Ovidiu Ionescu in the final in Alicante.
Boll, who has played in the Chinese league and teamed up with Olympic champion Ma Long in the men's doubles at the 2017 World Championships, prefers the "relatively normal" life he lives in Germany compared to the Far East.
Speaking to General-Anzeiger Bonn, he said: "In China and generally in Asia, I have this star persona and everything that comes with it.
"To live a normal life in China would be exhausting. I notice that with my Chinese colleagues — there are 200 to 300 girls waiting in front of their hotels."
In fact, he shared an amusing encounter he had with an immigration officer when entering the country:
“When the official at the border control read my name in my passport, he basically lost it and screamed. ‘Oh my god, Timo Boll!’ But I am not the kind of guy that needs that attention every day.”
Four more years
The current world number three has extended his club contract with Borussia Düsseldorf for four more years.
"I feel I can still be world-class at 40 or 41 if my body holds up," he said to Sport Bild. "Tokyo 2020 is my big goal."
But what keeps him going? A love for the sport, according to General-Anzeiger.
"I have to admit, I really fear the moment I have to say 'This is it, I have to stop'. I haven't done anything else my whole life, I mean I became a professional when I was 16."
“I am very happy with my situation. I was able to turn my hobby into my profession and can live off it quite well."
Boll became world number one again in March, 15 years after he first reached those heights and nearly seven years since he last topped the pack.
"I have more experience and more solutions for every situation," he explained.
And he doesn't consider the result of a hypothetical match against his younger self a forgone conclusion.
“I think it would be a very tight match. The physical advantages I had back then I compensate now with technique and strategy.
"Thankfully, both have led to success."
Boll may want to play for another four years, but he's also already looking ahead to the future.
"I have launched an online coaching portal, which I may want to develop more intensively later. But I have not yet decided when exactly I will end my career."