Qualified for the quarter-finals of the WTT champions Incheons after his victory against the German Dimitrij Ovtcharov (11-6, 11-7, 11-5), Félix Lebrun continues his road to the top of the world table. If he is quickly spotted for his youth, he is also spotted for his racket outfit. Chinese grip for some, penholder for others, or penhold grip for English speakers, this technique consists of gripping the racket between your thumb and index finger, leaving the other three fingers on the other side.

What advantage does French gain from this particular handling? Mainly greater maneuverability of your racket. Like a pen, the movement of the wrist is fluid, faster than a so-called orthodox grip. A saving of precious time in a particularly intense discipline.

The movement also allows for greater amplitude. “Chinese” players have a wider range of techniques with extremely varied effects given to the ball, particularly when serving, the strong point of the youngest of the Lebrun brothers.

Generally speaking, the pen holder is far from being the majority on the world circuit and even in China. During the World Championships final between France and China (0-3), none of the three Chinese players (Wang Chuqin, Fan Zhendong, Ma Long) used this racket grip.

A major turning point took place in 2000. The ITTF, the international table tennis federation, decided to expand the size of its balls, from 38 to 40mm in diameter, with the aim of making the discipline more spectacular and attractive. . The increase in ball size has slowed down the game to allow spectators to follow the matches more easily. The pen-holder players, already in the minority, then lost the gain in speed and technique to the benefit of powerful players.

In addition, the pen grip remains to be technically developed. For a long time, its practitioners used almost only the forehand, neglecting the backhand. Some players, like Olympic medalist Ma Lin, have found individual solutions to become efficient. Felix Lebrun follows the same reasoning. Even today, the French 5th in the world and his coach Nathanaël Molin draw inspiration from what they can observe in the play of other players. “We want to try to find new things,” Félix tells Olympics.com.

Son of Stéphane Lebrun, former French number 7 and French doubles champion, Félix Lebrun was bottle-fed with ping. It was during a training session with the Montpellier club that he observed a certain Chen Jian, a Chinese player who was training in the Hérault capital. “I was four years old, I saw him play and it made me want to be like him. I told myself that if he can do it, there’s no reason why I can’t do it with this take too. He plays differently, but he is as strong as those who play with the orthodox grip so I wanted to be like him,” the youngest of the Lebrun brothers told the Olympics.com website.

The choice to copy its model will prove wise. Now 5th in the world at just 17 years old, Félix Lebrun still has time to perfect his technical palette and find the assets that will one day allow him to become the best player in the world.