Table tennis, more known as ping pong, is one of the more popular indoor sports in the world today. It is played between two players or between two pairs who hit a lightweight ball back and forth a table separated by a net using a small bat.
The sport is governed by the International Table Tennis Federation which was established in 1926. The ITTF currently has 220 member countries but most of the players who stand out are those that come out of the Far East, most notably China. Since 1988, table tennis has been included as an official Olympic sport and with that, the growth of the sport all over the world has spread.
Here are the 10 greatest male table tennis players:
10. Xu Xin
Following in the footsteps of pen hold champions like Wang Hao and Ma Lin, this former world number #1 has one of the few pen grips in China today with most of the players using the shake hand.
Xu Xin owns the distinction of beating current world #1 Ma Long three times since 2014, including twice in 2016. Xu Xin beat Ma Long 4-3 to win the the 2016 Korea Open title, his third title in the tournament. One week before that, he also Beat Ma Long 4-2 in the semi-finals of the 2016 Japan Open. Xu, however, did not qualify for the Rio Olympics.
Xu Xin is a ten time World Tour winner, a two-time semi finalist at the World Championship and was back to back winner of the World Tour Grand Finals in 2012 and 2013. Xu also won the Asian Cup twice in 2013 and 2016.
9. Zoran Primorac
One of the most accomplished European players of the last 25 years, Zoran Primorac is Croatia’s best player.
Primorac, Jean-Michel Saive and Jorgen Persson are the only table tennis players to play in seven Olympic games. The trio had been competing since 1988 when table tennis was officially included as an Olympic sport. In 1987, he won the silver medal in the World Championships double competition along with partner Ilija Lupulesku. The pair then went on to win another silver medal in the 1988 Summer Olympic games. Individually, Primorac won bronze in the 1993 World Championships singles competition.
Zoran Primorac reached #2 in the ITTF rankings in 1998 and although he never won a major competition, his medal haul proved that he belonged with the best of the best.
8. Wang Liqin
At 6-1, his height gives him more leverage for acceleration, thus his more powerful shots. Many call his forehand as one of the most powerful in the sport.
This shakehand grip player started table tennis at age 6 and was part of the Chinese Men’s National team at the age of 15. Wang Liqin was the world’s #1 player for most of 2004-2006. He held the International Table Tennis Federation ( ITTF ) ranking for 25 consecutive months, the 2nd longest consecutive months as #1 ever. He is also a three time World Champion.
Wang Liqin was a gold medalist in doubles at the 2000 Sydney Olympics and a bronze medalist in singles competition in the 2004 Athens Olympics. In 2008, he also won the gold medal in team competition along with Ma Lin and Wang Hao.
7. Fan Zhendong
This 20 year old shakehand grip player is currently ranked #2 by the ITTF.
Fan uses excellent footwork and explosive forehand loops to finish off the opposition. His attacking style has often been compared to Top ranked table tennis player Ma Long. Fan began his career as a 16 year old wonder kid who was brilliant in the Junior Competitions. At the 2012 World Junior Table Tennis Championships, he won gold medals in singles, mixed double and men’s team competition. He also bagged a silver medal in the doubles competition. In the seniors,
In 2015, Fan won gold medal in both the singles and doubles event at the ITTF Asian Championships. He has won four golds in the ITTF World Tour, two in 2015 and two in 2016. Most recently, Fan placed second at the 2017 World Table Tennis Championships.
6. Ichiro Ogimura
Ichiro Ogimura won the All-Japan National championship and represented Japan in the World Championships. He has a total of 12 titles in the World Championships including two Singles’ title in 1954 and 1956.
Following his retirement, Ogimura coached overseas in the United States, Sweden and China. He was actively involved in the Japanese Olympic Committee and the Japanese Table Tennis Association. Ogimura became an Executive member of the International Table Tennis Federation in 1973 and its president in 1987. He died of lung cancer in 1994 and was inducted to the ITTF Hall of Fame in 1997.
5. Kong LingHui
Regarded by most as the most complete table tennis player of all-time, Kong Linghui’s style of play seemed patterned from the 90’s European greats like Jan-Ove Waldner and Jorgen Persson.
Kong competed in three Olympic games from 1996-2004. He won gold medal in the doubles competition during the 1996 Olympics, partnering with Liu Guoliang. Four years later, he would win the gold in singles play and the silver with Liu in doubles. Kong had a new partner in the 2004 Olympics and was eliminated in the third round of the Doubles competition.
Like his former partner Liu Guoliang, Kong Hui is now a head coach. He is the coach for the Chinese Women’s Table Tennis National team.
4. Liu Guoliang
The current coach of the Chinese Table Tennis team was one of the greatest of all-time.
Liu Guoliang is the second player in table tennis history to accomplish a career grand slam. He also holds the distinction of having won at least one title in every major international tournament, including the World Championships, World Cup and the Olympic Games. Liu retired after the 2001 season and was appointed as head coach of the Chinese Men’s National Table Tennis team at the age of 27.
Liu’s brother Liu Guodong was formerly a head coach for Singapore’s Women’s Table Tennis Team. He recently resigned from that position and is now the coach for the Indonesian Table Tennis Team.
3. Zhang Jike
The fastest player to achieve the Grand Slam at a record 445 days and the player who was closest to winning a second Grand Slam.
Zhang Jike won the WTTC and World Cup in 2011 and then the gold medal in the 2012 London Olympics. He continued with a win at the WTTC in 2013 and at the World Cup in 2014. As of 2016, Zhang Jike and Ma Lin are the only two table tennis players to win five major titles. Known for his mental toughness and grace under pressure, Zhang has wowed audiences with his ability to win the most crucial of points.
Zhang was the Olympic gold medalist in 2012 and runner-up to Ma Long in 2016. He is a two time winner at both the World Championships and the World Cup. Zhang has won six times in the Pro Tour.
2. Jan-Ove Waldner
In the 1990’s he was considered more popular in China than U.S. President Bill Clinton.
Jan-Ove Waldner is the most successful non-Chinese table tennis player of all-time. Some even consider him the greatest of all-time because of his longevity in a sport that needs hand-eye coordination. In 2010, Waldner won his 9th Swedish title against an opponent who was born on the same year he won his first Swedish championship. Waldner played at an elite level until 2016 and was playing against players whom his former opponents had trained. This longevity earned him the nickname ‘Evergreen Tree’ in China.
Waldner is one of seven players to play in the first five Olympics since Table Tennis was made an Olympic sport. He won Olympic gold in 1992 and silver in 2000. He is the owner of 11 World Championships medals which include two golds from Singles competition. He was a triple gold medalist in the 1996 European championships, winning first place in the Singles, Doubles and Team competition.
1. Ma Long
The current world number one has a name he truly deserves: Long.
Ma Long is the longest reigning male world number 1 table tennis player of all-time. As of June 2017, he has held the International Table Tennis Federation ( ITTF ) number one ranking for a record total of 58 months. He is the first male player to win every singles title in table tennis and the fifth to accomplish the grand slam ( Olympics, World Championships and World Cup ) . He has won five ITTF World Tour Tournaments in a row, including an unbeaten streak of 35 sets. Ma has been world number one since March 2015 and his current streak of 27 months is tied for the longest single reign.
Ma was the Asian and World Junior Champion in 2004. He won the Olympic gold medal in the Rio Olympics and the World Championships in 2015 and 2017. He is also a two time World Cup winner, 24 time ITTF World Tour winner and 5 time ITTF World Tour Grand Finals winner. Ma Long was also the 2010 Asian Games gold medalist.
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