A lot of people wonder how Waldner has developed his style of play and his ability to read the game. Some questions also touch on his tactical sense. I understand that China has meant a lot to you as a player. When did you first visit?
In 1980.How did this affect you as a player?
Hard work got a whole new meaning to me. I understood what it actually would take of me to become the best player in the world. How many times have you been to China?
About 100 times.How big are you in China today?
As big as I ever was. I go quite often so I am as popular as I was during my prime as a player. Let's talk about something a little more related to playing technique. What did you think when you served? What was the idea? How did you vary the serve despite using the same movement? How did you notice when an opponent had a hard time with a particular serve?
I try to get a feeling for the opponent before the match. I study him and try to come up with a set of tactics to try out. They are different depending on which player I am up against. I always have defined tactics to follow.And what do you do when you are up against an unknown or unfamiliar player?
I observe how the opponent moves and how he holds his bat. After that I try out some serves to see his reaction and to find suitable tactics. Which part of your game have you spent most time developing?
The serve and service return. I have drilled the serve so much and played a lot of matches. I learnt how to return by watching other players and then trying it out myself. How did you get your fantastic ability to read the game?
When I was a kid I always played games with balls and learnt how they behave and react. Watching a lot of table tennis and other sports also helped. If I have played or seen a player before, I always remember their strengths and weaknesses. I intentionally study opponents to be aware of their abilities before I play them. I leave nothing to chance and it enables me to employ the right tactics.What was your greatest strength as a player?
My serve and serve variations, my ability to read the game and my tactical skills.And your greatest weakness?
The flick and my offensive backhand play. Sometimes my return game was a weakness, on other days it was a strength. It was an uneven part of my game.Which tactics worked best against you?
Let sleeping dogs lie. Calm players playing a strong backhand game. Were you encouraged to play with “feeling” when you were young, or did that come naturally to you?
No, I taught myself that. The coaches did not influence that part of my game. I played an incredible number of matches which enabled me to try out just about anything and everything. I used to play with the wrong hand, all out offensive, all out defensive and much more.Some say you practised too little and that you only relied on talent when you were young. What is your view on that?
I played 6-7 hours per day from the age of 14 and practised with the Swedish national team (Ulf Thorsell, Roger Lagerfeldt, Mikael Appelgren) every morning and evening. In between practise sessions I sometimes practised some more on my own. On top of this we can add all tournaments and matches. Whether that is too little or not, I’ll let others decide.Some have good serves, others less good ones. It is not all down to practise so what is the difference?
The wrist and timing. If you don’t have it naturally, it is hard to develop it. For example, Jörgen Persson has much better backhand serves than I do. He was forced to develop them as his forehand serve was not that good. In the end, different people have different talents.You often speed up the game in between points when you have the upper hand. Do you do this consciously? If so, why?
It is down to tactics. Players need time to prepare, especially if my serve causes them problems. In a situation like that you want to put more pressure on them by limiting the time they have to think and adjust. In short, the nicest guy doesn’t win. Table tennis is so much about tactics.
After this we spent some time discussing Swedish and European table tennis compared to Chinese table tennis – always an interesting and current subject. How can Europe take the fight to China?
It will be very hard, but focus intensely on talented and promising youths, customise training specifically for them and collaborate between European associations to organise training camps in Europe from the age of 12-14 and upwards.Is it possible for the European style to gain ground on the Chinese? If so, how?
Yes, by doing what I just proposed. But it is also very important to retain the creativity while pushing development as far as possible.What could Sweden do to produce better players?
The same things I proposed for Europe, but adjusted to fit Swedish circumstances.Do any such programs exist today?
No, not today. The situation is better in some European countries, but no one is close to China.Do you think Sweden will ever become a top nation again?
It is possible. You have to establish good collaborations between Sweden and other European countries and make sure you pick up and develop the talented juniors. The talent is there and table tennis is a classic sport in Sweden.How would you like to make table tennis bigger outside China?
By organising good tournaments on all levels, getting rid of the remaining basement image and by taking care of the players. ETTU (European Table Tennis Union) must promote the players better, create media profiles and secure much better television deals in Europe.
ETTU must also put the players before the officials. ETTU is simply too poor compared to ITTF. Just look at Europe Top 12. Thanks to ETTU that tournament is completely ruined today.Have you ever thought of going to USA to help table tennis forward there?
I have been in contact with SPIN in New York. Susan Sarandon visited Sweden and wants me to come over. It might turn into something, but only if I have time to spare.What are your thoughts on the standing of table tennis in Sweden and the world right now?
It is good in Asia. It is OK in Germany, but they do not have enough television coverage. The status of the sport has decreased in both France and Belgium since they lack star players these days. Overall, the status of the sport is not so strong in Europe.
The status is alright in Sweden. These days we have matches on TV every weekend during the season, but that is not enough. We need more clubs and players. We need to expand the foundations of the sport.
Fourth and last part is about Waldners career some personal questions and also some advice.. coming up.. in a while. Or in a day or two.
---------------------------------------------------------------Part 1, Opponents: viewtopic.php?f=6&t=11881Part 2, Equipment: viewtopic.php?f=6&t=11897Part 3, His style, state of TTPart 4, Career and some advice: viewtopic.php?f=6&t=11958