Ten Tips For
by Jan-Ove Waldner
1989 & 1997
World Men’s Singles Champion, 4-time World Men's
Team Champion, 1992 Olympic Men's Singles Gold
Medalist, 7-time European Top Twelve Men's Singles
Champion, and many other titles. He is considered by
many to be the greatest table tennis champion ever.
Excerpt from his book J-O Waldner: When the
Feeling Decides, by Jens Fellke.
1. Become A
order to win big titles, you must master play
against all playing styles. Therefore, you must
regularly practice and compete against players of
The most important styles to
embrace are loopers (maximum topspin), attackers
(maximum speed) and choppers (max backspin).
important aspect is play against left-handed
players. I would like to remind you that both right-
and left-handed players
spend 85% of their playing
time playing against right-handed players. To be
successful against both right- and left-handed
players requires well-developed technique and very
have had the advantage of practicing a lot with
left-handed players, e.g. Mikael Appelgren and Ulf
Thorsell in my 1st club Spårvägen. Later on, in
the Swedish national team, left-handed players were
Appelgren again, Stellan Bengtsson,
Erik Lindh, Ulf Bengtsson, Thomas von Scheele and
2. Acquire Point-Winning Weapons
tennis is a tough sport, exercised under a high
level of stress. Often you have to play many matches
Therefore, it is important to be able to
win simple and quick points.
I have always
been able to rely upon my serves, frequently
directly point-winning. I have furthermore worked
hard to follow up
my serves with a varying forehand
Spend some time
analyzing which point-winning weapons you already
And remember that new weapons can be
3. Develop A
tennis requires a tremendous amount of practice.
Always try to play as relaxed as possible. This will
increase your chances
to play relaxed even in tight
situations and at the same time decrease your
susceptibility for injuries.
I have managed to avoid lengthy injuries,
one of the reasons why I have been able to remain at
the top for so many years.
4. Play a lot
tennis requires advanced motor coordination and
dexterity. It is therefore important that you learn
technically as much
as possible before the age of
about 13. As long as you still have fun, practice
and compete as often as possible.
your imagination by continuously trying out new
strokes, even during matches. Try a new strategy in
the middle of a game.
Consider a deuce in the
deciding game as a challenge to test your most
effective serve, or a new type of serve return.
that your career in table tennis is quite long. When
feeling bad about a loss,
try to think instead about
the next tournament and how you can improve.
5. Master Three Distances
players master play from only one or two distances.
My recommendation is that you consciously practice
play from all three distances after the bounce as
1 - ball on its
way up: You must hit the ball before it
reaches its highest point after the bounce.
You should learn to use short and quick
strokes with little backswing.
2 - ball at its
highest point: You should learn to use a
relaxed technique when hitting the ball
its highest point after the bounce. A large
variety of strokes can be successfully
applied at this distance.
3 – ball on its
way down: You hit the ball after it has
reached its highest point after bounce, on
its way down.
This distance requires a
technique where you use a large forearm
movement before ball impact.
6. Study good
as much table tennis as possible. Study video
recordings, both of yourself and world class
players. In particular,
I used to study the
Hungarian player Tibor Klampar. His wrist movements
and ball hits were of extraordinary quality.
studying a number of Chinese players, I learned to
appreciate the importance of developing effective
to imitate certain players in order to get a better
understanding of advantages and disadvantages of
different playing styles,
racket grips, movement
In the Swedish national team, we have
throughout the years very much enjoyed mimicking
Erik Lindh is a master at
imitating many of our opponents.
7. Analyze Your
when you are up against a player the first time can
you get an appreciation of, for instance,
quality of his or her forehand loop.
enlist the help of those of your pals who have
played the person in question.
Bring forward to
discussion all relevant details.
Remember that there
are many ways to win matches in table tennis. The
better prepared you are, the greater are your
The margins in this game sometimes appear
minuscule, but it is always the best and most
professional player who profits from them.
8. Use Your Head
strength is a vast and important subject and perhaps
the most difficult characteristic to develop through
training. Personally, I have developed a way to
think and act that I believe suits my personality.
The starting point must be yourself, in my opinion.
strength is based on experience and acquired
knowledge about your sport. Listen to the advice of
others who you trust but remember that, in the final
analysis, you must rely upon your own judgment.
I was younger, I studied in detail many successful
Swedish athletes, including Björn Borg (tennis) and
Ingemar Stenmark (alpine skiing). I was impressed by
their calmness when competing. Over the years, I
have learned to analyze my losses and then forget
them as quickly as possible. To the contrary, I do
carry around memories of my victories in order to
boost my self-confidence.
9. Be Respectful
table tennis match is decided in a short time, and
it does not take much to lose by underestimating
your opponent. It is important to graciously accept
losses and to show respect for your opponent.
Whether I win or not, my strategy has always been to
keep a low profile.
10. Think Long-Term
conclude, I would like to emphasize that it takes a
long time to become a good table tennis player.
There are always new things to learn. Try to think
long-term and avoid focusing too much on results
when you are young.
you aspire to compete with the best, you must walk a
narrow road. You must realize that only a large
amount of training, and tough training, will lead to
the goal. The principle applies both to training at
the table and to physical conditioning.
don’t forget to now and then have some fun and
experiment a bit.
Occasionally, you will discover
something that will be useful in match play.
clips from the Multimedia
section, of Jan-Ove Waldner in action. (Right-click,
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