Runner-up in the team competition at the recent European Championships in Schwechat, Greek Superstar Kalinikos KREANGA has not finished beating opponents with his devastating backhand topspin. At the age of 41, he is not thinking about retirement yet. “The most important thing is to be physically ok (preserved from injuries). In fact, I also have to stay mentally strong during the time of injuries.” Playing for French club Hennebont for 9 years (previously competing for Montpellier for 3 years), Kreanga describes the relationship he now has with the Breton club: “I never had such a connection to a club. Although I am a professional player, it would be hard to leave. Hennebont is my family.”

 

My playing style is backhand-oriented

It is almost like a brand. Kalinikos Kreanga’s backhand is more effective than the one of his opponents’. “I cannot say there is a difference compared to other players who also have a good backhand. But they play with backhand and then try to score the point on the forehand. I have a different idea because I can win the point with my backhand. All my playing system is oriented towards my backhand and this is really different about my game which makes me unique, I think.” And if he could pick anything special from another player? “A better serve return is something that I continue to work on” , adding: ” I sometimes use a short pips-out rubber when playing against defenders. Otherwise I have the same racket since 16 years. And of course, a second racket.”

 

First gymnastics

Kreanga began in gymnastics at the age of 5 in Romania and then, aged 7, he took a test in the table tennis club located close to his home. “The first time I went alone and then asked my father to come with me. He wanted me to stay focused on one sport and not change every year. I cannot say I liked table tennis in the beginning, but after 2 years, I caught the virus.” He admits to not have a particular champion he looked up to: “I never had the poster of anyone in my room. I rather started to love all the great players and only tried to imitate them.”

This also explains why young Kreanga left Romania when Ceausescu was head of state. “I left Romania at 18 years because there was no future for a professional player and no possibility to train on a high level. This is a period that young people cannot remember but it was linked to the political system.” He emigrated to Greece and never left. “I first played for a club then I made friends. So naturally I now wear the jersey of Greece.”

Schwechat 2013: First medal with team

Kalinikos Kreanga has played numerous European and world championships in his career, including five Olympic games. And he needed over 20 years to finally win a medal for his new home country. Together with his friend Panagiotis GIONIS, he finally won the silver medal in Schwechat at the European Championships 2013. “This medal is the mirror for our federation. Better late than never! Of course I would have liked for it to happen sooner” he explains. “We had 2 or 3 good opportunities in the quarter finals of the European Championships and also once at the 1997 Manchester World Championships, where we ended up finishing 6th place.”

Proud to say he is the oldest player to win the European Top 12 tournament (age 37), he also won the bronze medal in Paris at the World Championships in 2003, where his Austrian Friend Werner SCHLAGER became Champion. “I was so happy for Werner. Bronze medal was a very good result for me and it is still my best performance.” Since 2003, only Michael MAZE (2005) and Timo BOLL (2011) managed to win a bronze medal at the World Championships for Europe.

Kalin now lives happily in Athens with his wife and two daughters (6 and 3 years). “Of course we speak Greek at home. And reports: “Our oldest daughter started playing table . ”

 

With the eyes of the expert: Christophe LEGOUT

Having been the teammate of Kalinikos KREANGA in Ochsenhausen during the season 2001-2002 , Christophe LEGOUT appreciates the Greek: ” He is an excellent partner who always fights 100%  for his club. In addition , he is super spectacular , including forehand . ”

  • KREANGA has a particular backhand that combines high amplitude and high frequency . Normally it takes a rather short gesture in order to rearm quickly . Although his arm is long on high, he descends also extremely fast. His forehand is also very specific with the same characteristics. When overwhelmed by setbacks, he has the unique ability to take the ball off him and he is still able to play a winning shot!
  • At the table , he is able to execute a slamming backhand . But he can also start slowly and emerge during spin against spin , always putting his opponent under pressure. In fact it is as if he had two forehands
  • Facing a left hander, it allows him to be relaxed with his forehand, knowing to have a strong winning shot available at his backhand
  • However, he has problems to return services with his forehand , especially since he tries to execute the returns with backhand … This is somehow the disadvantage of his qualities
  • From 2003, he developped the ” inverted ” service to force his opponent to play long returns . Even though this service is not perfectly academic and fluent . Returning , it is often more difficult for him but he is able to ” pass ” the ball to the opponent to let him start the game in a way that still lets him feel comfortable

 

The anecdote : in the mid- 90s, with Damien ELOI and Patrick CHILA we approached the High level and the first few times we played against Kalin and faced his strong spin shots , we said ” surely happened by chance . ” Afterwards, when you find yourself within 10 such shots per game , you will end up experiencing it is far from being ” chance .”

 

Kalinikos KREANGA in profile:

Born March 8, 1972 at Bristita (Romania)

  • No. 7 World in September 2002
  • Vice- European Champion Team 2013
  • Winner of the Europe Top 12 in 2011 : Images ( http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RRdnmQfT-tQ )
  • Bronze medalist of the World Championship in 2003 images ( http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fV76obR0r5E )
  • Silver medal of the World Cup in 2002 and 2003
  • Vice- champion of Europe in 2002
  • European Champion in doubles in 1994
  • Cadet European Champion in 1986

About The Author

Hubert

He recently joined the Butterfly France team. Hubert, in addition to following high level table tennis for many years (and playing himself), as a journalist, he creates a lot of content. He is now the chief editor for Butterfly Mag. He is also the communication manager for Butterfly in France.

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