|Xu Xin proving penhold still has the skill|
So are the days of this style numbered? I think there will always be a place for penhold in table tennis as long as players have idols like Ma Lin, Wang Hao, Liu Guoliang and others like Ryu Seung Min and Yoshida Kai. In terms of competition worldwide the decrease is evident already. Most of the focus lays on the men's game, but if you observe women's table tennis you find that the number of penhold players have diminished rapidly and shakehand is by far the predominant grip.
Much like shakehand, the penhold game has developed over the decades to cover weaknesses, the reverse pengrip backhand was introduced to reduce the need for a forehand dominant game and intense footwork and also to reduce the limitations of a weak crossover. But perhaps this was the strength of penhold, perhaps the ability to play forehand everywhere is what made Ma Lin and Ryu Seung Min such formidable opponents in their prime, Ma Lin's forehand was renowned and the control they both had on their backhand was unparalleled almost. Who knows. It certainly fits a more traditional game of backhand control, forehand attack.
I'd love some more thoughts, please do comment and include your ideas. Do you like shakehand more or penhold? Do you think penhold is in decline?
A clip from the 2013 Shakehand vs. Penhold Challenge