A Tale of Three Tournaments

Most avid table tennis players have already seen these videos. Most avid players won’t mind taking a second look at them with an eye for some new insights. To look at the top players in the world from 1949, 1997, and 2017, it appears that they are playing completely different sports. The 1949 match is a hard bat match. They didn’t call it hard bat because nobody had thought to put sponge on their bat in 1949. Fast forward to 1997 to see Waldner at his best. Players are now using speed glue. Disguising and hiding serves has become an artform. Twenty years later, we see what the modern game has evolved to. The best players of our era are more athletic, faster, and more aggressive than ever before. There is something to be learned from all the ages of table tennis. Let’s first go back to 1949.

The top players from the forties would certainly be competitive with current hard bat players. They would be at a huge disadvantage against modern table tennis players, but don’t underestimate the skill involved in playing hard bat. It’s still table tennis. The best players from the forties were not as athletic as the best modern players, but a good hard bat match can be a draining aerobic workout. Apparently the players from the early years of table tennis put very little emphasis on serves. Had they known the direction that their sport was going, they might have been more creative in this area.  

If you could play well in 1997, chances are that you can still hold your own in 2019. There is also a good chance that you have had to make some adjustments over the years. Players whose primary weapon was a slow loop, with extreme spin, discovered that this style was not nearly as effective without speed glue and 38 mm balls. But even if spin is less of a weapon, controlling spin is still the most important skill in table tennis. 

Now we come to the best players of 2019. The best in table tennis train as much, and often more hours, than any other athletes. Players need just as much skill, and far more athleticism. While serves were an afterthought in 1949, no modern player can succeed without quality serves that compliment their style of play. Serve return skills require players to not just return the serve, but attack it, or at least keep it short enough that it won’t be attacked. Rallies are typically shorter than in years past, but they are more intense. See –  The Real Rallies of Table Tennis.  

There is something to be learned from all the eras of table tennis. It’s tough to be successful in 2019 if you are playing like they did in 1949. The game has changed a lot in the last seventy years. Take a good look at the best from the present, as well as the past. You just might learn something.

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