World No 1 Dimitrij Ovtcharov is confident that titleholder China can be upset at the upcoming World Table Tennis Championships in Halmstadt, Sweden.
"Maybe we have a much better chance to beat the Chinese team this year than we had in the last five or six years," the 29-year-old German said in a recent interview with Kicker magazine.
"To beat the exceptional quality of the Chinese, usually three top players are needed. But when Timo Boll and I can give 120 percent in such a tournament, we might be able to achieve a surprising success," Ovtcharov said of the competition, which runs April 20 to May 6.
Ovtcharov said he is relying on Chinese support in preparing for the championships, as he has invited Chinese players ranked narrowly below the national-team level to his training camp.
"Sometimes I get assistance from the German association to get Chinese training partners, but I know many of them since I played in the Chinese Super League. Therefore I am happy to invite them to train with me," Ovtcharov said.
"You can adjust your own game to their catchy racket coverings. You get to know their training system better and their training frequency. They know all about table tennis and training. It's not by chance that China is the leading nation in table tennis."
Ovtcharov said he is extremely proud to be the world No 1, becoming the second German to achieve the top ranking after Timo Boll, who did it in 2013.
On beating China's legendary Fan Zhendong at last year's German Open, Ovtcharov said: "He is one of the best and is regarded as nearly unbeatable. To defeat such an institution gave me the confidence to be near that outstanding level ... and proved I can make it."
As for the sport's relatively low profile in his home country, the German predicts some changes.
"Unlike the Chinese stars, we can more or less walk on the street and live a normal life. Chinese stars can't just walk out on the street because the fans know them so well.
"Some slight innovations might raise the game's profile and make it more interesting to Germans. To have a sudden-death situation at 10-10, for example, could really increase the excitement.
"Also, we should have more table tennis on German television. We have to address the needs of modern times and provide more entertainment."