How many hours a week did you train in your Junior days, and did you always enjoy it?
I was already living in Germany from 16 so I was training full time when I was still a junior so between 30-36 hours a week depending on matches.
Of all the players you have trained with, who is the hardest worker?
Masataka Morizono. I played in a team with him for 2 years in the Bundesliga and he was always so focused in training and never gave anything away for free. Of course that then transferred to his matches and I think he only lost around 3 matches in the league over those 2 seasons. But also just because you’re training a lot of hours it doesn’t guarantee you’re going to improve, you have to train smart.
What do you consider are your 2 greatest strengths as a player and competitor?
I think as a player I always keep trying. No matter what happens I’ll try to find a way to keep going or to win. My favourite quote is ‘it’s not whether you get knocked down, it’s whether you get back up.’ I think as a competitor it’s similar, I feel like I’m fair but a fierce fighter who won’t give in.
What has been your happiest experience in Table Tennis and why?
I have 2. The first is when we won the bronze medal in the World Team Championships in 2016. It was a dream of mine since I was young to win a medal at a Word Championships and the way we did it as a team and in those circumstances only made it even better. It was incredible. The second is when I represented GB at the Rio Olympic Games, again another dream of mine and to be able to say I’ve done it makes me incredibly proud.
Do you have any methods you use to cope with pressure?
I have to try not to focus on outcomes. I know that if I can play with a clear mind and just focus on the present rather than the last ball or the outcome of the match etc then I’ve done the work and I believe in my ability as a player, I can beat anybody.
Image from Sam’s Instagram
If you could choose one player to watch, who would it be and why?
At the moment, Fan Zhendong. I think the way he is playing right now is the future of table tennis and I can see the things that he is doing are the same things I’m trying to improve in my game.
What are your favourite 2 drills?
I like to play free to backhand and shared exercises where I’m changing between the passive game and attacking game! I like to incorporate a lot of point scoring systems in the exercises so I really need to think about how to win points rather than just playing.
What does Sam Walker need to work on to be a top 10 World Ranked player?
I have to work on my mentality still as a player. I believe I have a well rounded game in terms of playing ability but nowadays there’s 200 players in the world who can play most shots particularly with the new plastic ball. For me the best players in the world are the ones with the best mental strength and so to get to that level I have to think like the players at that level too.