(2/16/16) Sweden's legend Jan-Ove Waldner retired from international competition some years ago, but recently in a video on his fan page he announced that he would be retiring from the Swedish League. Waldner is a legend of our time, the only European player to achieve the Grand Slam in table tennis to date. Even after retiring he competed in the German league, his last season with Fulda Maberzell before retiring back to Sweden.
In the recent ITTF Legends Tour he wasn't much of a spectacle. The legend is not as quick as he once was and, while he was able to beat the previously retired Jean Michel Saive, even teammate and Tour champion Jorgen Persson commented on how much easier it was to beat J.O this time around, particularly mentioning the high number of errors. There were some great rallies scattered in amongst though and overall the match was somewhat entertaining.
The 50 year old has had an incredible career, winning a gold and silver in the Olympic Table Tennis Singles, 16 medals at the World Championships including 6 gold (2 for singles), he was European Champion, World Cup Champion and won a host of other titles like Swedish National Championships which he won 9 times.
His career really kicked off at a very young age when at just 16 years of age he reached the final of the European Championships and lost a battle against Sweden's prodigy player Mikael Appelgren. Waldner progressed to become the best touch player of the generation and played shots that no other table tennis player could match. Finesse was Waldner's finest asset, many described him as the perfect player. Immaculate touch, lightning reflexes and anticipation and an arsenal of attacking strokes and serves to match any of the top players in the world.
He has often been a player of style, one which many developing players try their best to mimic, especially with certain deflecting shots and dropshot blocks. While players have come and set results to match his, the likes of Zhang Jike and Ma Long, so far no player has achieved what the Swede has. Waldner cemented himself as a legend, a player like no other, a unique champion. He still has many records too.
One of the standout moments in Waldner's career came in 1997 where he completed a feat which to has never in history been matched. He won the 1997 World Championships without dropping a single game. That's right, he won every match in straight games, including the final. In the team event he had lost to his final opponent, Vladimir Samsonov, but in the final of the singles it was a different story. The legend sealed yet another incomprehensible record.
So what next for Waldner? J.O is often referred to as Lao Wa, the Evergreen Tree and now conducts a lot of business in China where he has an everlasting reputation among the national of table tennis fans. Waldner's success will not soon be forgotten. Waldner states he will continue to compete in the ITTF Legends Tour and in organised exhibitions but this coming match will be his last in League competition. So it will not be the last we see of him and the tree will remain evergreen!
Written by: Matt Hetherington