Is Truls Moregard Sweden's Phoenix Flame?

By Ray Huang | April 10, 2018, 11:47 a.m. (ET)

Just four months ago, Truls Möregårdh of Sweden burst out of the blue to take the silver medal at the 2017 ITTF World Junior Championship, defeating Chinese players Niu Guankai and Xu Haidong in the quarterfinal and semifinal stages. At only 15 years of age, he is also the youngest player to ever compete in the Champions League. Many have eagerly predicted that Truls Möregårdh can become the next Waldner. But where exactly did this youngster come from?

Born in Sweden on February 16, 2002, Möregårdh began training with his dad, quickly joining the club Hovmantorp GolF. Showing promise as a cadet, Möregårdh was given the opportunity to represent Sweden in the 2013 ITTF Hopes. The young Swede showed great promise as he fought his way through the competition at the Werner Schlager Academy in Austria to reach the final, earning his place on the world hopes team. As a part of the program, he traveled to the USA to train at the Lily Yip Table Tennis Club (LYTTC) for a few weeks and was noted by many throughout the Hopes experience to be an early talent for Europe.

In 2015 he pushed the envelope by reaching the final of the World Cadet Challenge, before losing out to China's Yang Shuo. At that tournament he was voted the Most Valuable Player after a stunning team and singles campaign.

Besides his obvious talent, Möregårdh caught the attention of coaches and spectators for another reason: his racket grip. He grips his racket in a lower position, with his thumb on the handle of the racket, not the rubber. This grip is certainly unorthodox and allows him enhanced flexibility in the wrist, which aids his backhand punches. On the flip side, he may sacrifice some control and power; however, it is certainly not noticeable in his matches, where his powerful forehand and subtle touch can bamboozle even the most seasoned of players.

Another unorthodox feature of Möregårdh’s play style is his backhand. Instead of following the recent trend of playing a combination of spin and power close to the table—like Harimoto and Ma Long— Möregårdh sticks to fast and flat backhand punches, similar to Waldner’s backhand. However, many have questioned if this technique will be effective in the long run, as at the current moment, no one in the top twenty uses such a technique. But for now, the backhand punches are working perfectly. Equally impressive is Möregårdh’s touch, with which he lands perfectly placed blocks and sky lob after sky lob. He also uses his touch to execute devastating off the bounce counter-loops.

At the 2017 ITTF World Junior Championships, Möregårdh was victorious over USA’s own Kanak Jha, defeating him in a hard fought 7 games. Möregårdh’s stunning match over Niu Guankai also lasted for a thrilling 7 sets. But his match against Xu Haidong was even more impressive, which he won in 4 straight games. In addition, Möregårdh has displayed his talent in the Champions League, where he has lost to Bojan Tokic and Marcos Freitas in nail-biting 2-3s.

Previously, Sweden was a dominant power-house with greats such as Waldner, Perrson, and Karlsson; however, Sweden is now in dire need of a new hero. A peak Sweden had captured every title from World Cups to Olympic golds. But, nowadays Sweden can only imagine challenging countries such as Korea and Germany,   let alone China. But Möregårdh has a very real chance at reestablishing Sweden’s presence on the global table tennis scene. With numerous impressive accomplishments at the young age of 15, Truls Möregårdh certainly has a bright future ahead of him. Many child stars have faded into oblivion, but with an unshakeable work ethic and the right coaches, Möregårdh may rise to the top of the next generation alongside players such as Harimoto.