By Steve Slater
LONDON (Reuters) - Few Olympians can claim to have a technique that has been heralded as one of Time magazine's inventions of the year.
But German table tennis player Dimitrij Ovtcharov's unique serve won that acclaim four years ago and he is hoping it can drive him to a shock win at the London 2012 Games.
Ovtcharov, ranked 12 in the world, beat Denmark's Michael Maze 4-3 in a tight and sometimes feisty match on Tuesday to move into the men's singles semi-final, where he is likely to face world number one China's Zhang Jike.
It leaves Ovtcharov, 23, as Europe's last hope in the singles competition.
"That was the most crucial game I've ever played, there were so many ups and downs," he said. "I lost control at one point, but something changed in the sixth set and I turned it round."
Kiev-born Ovtcharov won Olympic silver with German teammates in Beijing four years ago, bringing his serve to the attention of Time, which dubbed it "The New Ping-Pong Serve" in its list of the Best Inventions of 2008.
The German tries to befuddle his opponent by crouching low, springing back up and then slashing a backhand over. For variety, he tosses the ball high and plays a low forehand.
"The backhand serve is a big advantage against right hand players ... it was taught to me by my father, who was a great player," Ovtcharov said.
In Tuesday's first quarter-final Taiwan's Chuang Chih-Yuan thrashed his best friend, Romanian Adrian Crisan, 4-0.
"It makes it very difficult to play mentally," Chuang said of playing his mate. "I was sorry when I played him. It's like you are in a war and you have to kill your brother."
Chuang has gone further in his two previous Olympics and said he is confident of upsetting the Chinese favourites.
"I'm going in to win this match, I'm not afraid," he said.
Ovtcharov will face the winner of Wednesday's match between Zhang Jike and Hong Kong's Jiang Tianyi. Chuang will play the winner of the other quarter-final between China's Wang Hao and Japan's Seiya Kishikawa.