Table tennis has become one of the most popular indoor competitive sports. While some will argue that table tennis and ping-pong are the same, the differences are larger than you may realize. Table tennis has given us some of the world’s most fierce athletes, with skills that continue to impress.
So, who are the top table tennis players of all time? While there is likely a little room for some disagreement with some of the positions, there is an undeniable GOAT (greatest of all time) when it comes to the sport. The number one spot is owned by Ma Long, with Zhang Jike having the biggest following. Determining who are the best players of all time involves not only popularity but overall achievement.
Digging a little deeper, there are several criteria that should be considered when deciding on the best players of any sport:
- Competitive Status – More than just a look at the number of wins and losses, a player’s competitive status considers the type of matches a player has succeeded in on the world stage.
- Win/Loss Percentage – A simple look at the number of wins per games played.
- Length of Time in the Sport – This aspect of a player can be looked at by longevity or short term world-level success. Both, Jan-Ove Waldner and Zhang Jike are perfect examples of how time in a sport can be vastly different, with amazing results.
- Talent – Like most sports, there is a talent necessary to succeed in the sport of table tennis. Players will show a talent for speed, agility, or unique grip use.
While there are perhaps a few other things that could be added to this list and there are some who will argue that popularity should be a factor. Popular athletes are not always the best in the game.
Here is a look at the best table tennis players in the game:
#1 Ma Long
Ma Long has amazed the world over and over. June 2019 solidified Ma Long in this position as he won his record 28th World Title at the China Open. This came on the heels of his third consecutive world singles title just a month earlier.
Ma Long shows that endurance and perseverance pay off, he was injured last year and had to step out of the limelight for over seven months as he recovered. Long, nicknamed the China Dragon, is one of the only players to return to the same level of competition and succeed after such a time away.
#2 Wang Liqin
Wang Liqin has a record that rivals Long in many ways. Liqin was ranked the number one player in the world according to the International Table Tennis Federation from 2004 to 2006. Liqin held the title for 25 months. The three-time World Champion was also a bronze medalist at the 2004 Olympic games and part of the 2000 Olympic double gold-winning team.
#3 Xu Xin
Xu Xin is another player, that were it not for Long, would probably have been a more prominent force on the world stage. Xin was able to beat Long at the 2016 Japan open. Xin was the winner of the World Tour Grand Finals in both 2012 and 2013.
Just some of the other wins that Xin has accumulated include The Asian Cup Champion and World Champion finalist twice.
#4 Deng Yaping
Deng Yaping is the first female on our list. Yaping is a two-time World Championship gold-medalist and was part of the gold medal team at the 1995 world cup. Yaping repeatedly broke through pessimistic opponent views of women in this predominantly male sport.
#5 Jan-Ove Waldner
Sweden-born Jan-Ove Waldner is one of the few non-Chinese players to ever break through the field. Waldner has been around the sport longer than just about any other player and continued to dominant after the sport hit the Olympic stage.
Waldner won both a Gold (1992) and a Silver (2000) Olympic medal. He was also the first player to record a Table Tennis Grand Slam. In his 50s now, Waldner has continued to compete against players more than half his age.
#6 Zhang Jike
Zhang Jike is the player that has amazing the world of table tennis, showing a high level of talent. Jike is one of the fastest players in the game and has repeatedly shown a high sense of sportsmanship and endurance. Unlike many other players, Jike seems to come in stronger during the end of his game.
Jike was the youngest player to win a grand slam just over a year after his first major title. This rise to the top and his electric presence is just part of what makes Jike one of the most well-known table tennis players around the world. Time will tell how far he can go.
#7 Liu Guoliang
For years, Liu Guoliang was the reigning best player in the game. Guoliang won 4 Olympic medals, 2-gold, a silver, and a bronze. Guoliang, along with his brother became coaches, Guoliang of the Chinese team at only 27 years old.
Guoliang’s signature is his reverse backhand, his penholder grip meant a mean topspin. Guoliang earned national attention with a number of players, including Long and Xin, until he was forced to step down as head coach.
#8 Guo Yu
Another dynamic female player, Guo Yu has repeatedly proven to be a force to be reckoned with. Winning a total of 4 Olympic medals, including the 2008 Beijing Olympics. Yu was a member of a mixed doubles tennis championship team before going on to be a singles champion.
Table tennis has come a long way in a short time on the world stage. The future of the sport will be interesting to watch as players from all over the worlds are influenced by these amazing members of the sport. With the influence of social media and the ability to watch matches from anywhere, players from all countries are learning some of the techniques used by the best.