Despite table tennis being a popular sport, not a lot is known about its best players!
Table tennis may seem like an uncomplicated sport to the casual observer, but excelling at the professional level demands continuous training and absolute focus. While many players have entered and exited the scene, only a select few have earned the title of the greatest table tennis player of all time, consistently asserting their dominance over the sport. The champions of table tennis have truly displayed incredible skills and determination. Keep reading to discover their inspiring achievements!
Hailing from Sweden, Jan-Ove Waldner emerged as one of the most successful non-Chinese table tennis players. Commencing his career in 1998 at the age of 16, Waldner accumulated numerous Swedish and European championships along with Olympic medals. Notably, he secured his ninth Swedish title in 2010, defeating Pär Gerell, born in the same year he won his first Swedish Championship title. Known as "The Evergreen Tree" among the Chinese, Waldner's enduring career spanned several Championship years, marked by an Olympic Gold in 1992 and a Silver in 2000. His remarkable achievements include a career Grand Slam, making him a living legend in the sport.
Liu Guoliang, the current Chinese table tennis team coach, stands as the second player in history to achieve a career Grand Slam, winning the World Championships, World Cup, and an Olympic Gold during his playing career. Guoliang's dominance extended to major tournaments, clinching titles in the World Cup, Olympic Games, and World Championships. His accolades include two gold medals at the 1996 Olympics and victories in men's singles at the 1996 World Cup, singles World Championship in 1999, and world doubles championship in 1997 and 1999. Transitioning into coaching, Guoliang led the Chinese table tennis team to numerous victories.
Initially considered a tennis prodigy, Deng Yaping transitioned to table tennis due to her short height. Joining the Chinese national team in 1988, she quickly secured her first world championship title in women's doubles. Dominating the women's table tennis scene from 1990 to 2000, Deng Yaping held the world number one ranking for eight years. Her impressive tally includes six titles, including singles in 1991 and doubles in 1995 and 1997. Honored as the Chinese athlete of the century, Deng Yaping's legacy lives on in the ITTF hall of fame.
Ranked No. 3 for men's singles by the ITTF, Xu Xin boasts an illustrious career with 17 world singles titles, three men's doubles titles, and two mixed doubles titles. Achieving a World Championship five times in a team event, Xu Xin secured back-to-back wins at the World Tour Championship in 2012 and 2013 and triumphed in the Asia Cup in 2013 and 2016. A two-time World Championship semi-finalist and former world No. 1 for men's singles in 2013, Xu Xin continues to make a significant impact on the table tennis scene.
Revered as the greatest table tennis player of all time, Ma Long is the reigning Olympic singles champion. Commencing his career as the Asian and Junior champion in 2004, Long's trajectory has been absolutely outstanding. Holding the record for the longest reigning No. 1 in table tennis (64 months), he serves as the captain of the Chinese table tennis team. With five consecutive IITF World tournaments and 28 ITTF World Tour titles, Ma Long is the sole male player to achieve every title in the sport, completing a career Grand Slam.
These champions stand as the ultimate flag bearers of table tennis. Anyone willing to study the sport should start by observing the careers of these greats!