15 Best Table Tennis Players of All Time

Studies show that around 300 million people play table tennis in schools, clubs, and sports centers.

Despite being a widely known game, competitive table tennis is popular in only a few countries worldwide.

The world of table tennis is ruled mainly by Chinese men and women who have been leading the world rankings and medal charts for a long time.

15 Best Table Tennis Players of All Time

The world has seen many excellent table tennis players over these years. However, some exceptional ones have left fans in awe of their skills.

Still, ranking the best players is a difficult feat, as it is a highly subjective topic.

Therefore, we have curated a list of table tennis players worldwide based on their performance, achievements, and rankings. 

Best table tennis players of all time
Legends like Jan Ove-Waldner have taken table tennis to great heights

So stick through the end and tell us if you agree with the list!

15. Guo Yue

Born in 1998, Guo Yue was in her prime during 2007 and 2008. During that time, she won the world championship in women’s singles, mixed doubles, teams, and the Asian cup. As a result, ITTF ranked her number one in 2008.  

However, her career has been entire of controversies. In 2010, Yue was cited for “poor behavior” and lack of interest in table tennis. It is also assumed she has friction with China’s top player Wang Nan

She was kicked off from the national team in 2015. Currently, she is studying finance at Tsinghua University.

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14. Ichiro Ogimura

Japanese Table tennis player Ichiro Ogimura also served as a coach and the president of ITFF during his career. He reached world no one position in September 1954 and won a whopping 12 world championship titles during his career. He also won three English open titles.

After retirement, he coached the players in Sweden, China, and the USA.

Alongside that, he started to get involved in the Japanese Olympic Committee and Japanese table tennis association. 

He served as an executive member of ITTF (international table tennis federation) in 1973 and became the president in 1987.

Ogimura is remembered to be a key figure in the “ping-pong diplomacy” of the early 1970s, gaining the nickname “the ping-pong diplomat.” Ogimura passed away in 1994 because of lung cancer.

12. Timo Boll

One of the few non-Chinese players who have dazzled the tennis fans is Timo Bell from Germany. Despite being left-handing, he has mastered his forehand topspin drive and has a rapid backhand flip. 

He has won several major competitions such as the world cup, the European championship world championship singles, and many more.

Bell is well noted for his hard work and spends a lot of time polishing his skills. He has reached the world no one ranking thrice in 2003, 2011, and 2018.

The best tennis players - Timo Boll
German player Timo Boll has reached the world no.1 position thrice

On March 8, 1981, he was born in Erbach im Odenwald, talking about his personal life. He started playing at the age of 4 under the guidance of his father.

He has been married to his long-time lover Rodelia Jacobi since 2002. The couple lives in Germany with their daughter, Zoey.

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11. Zhang Yining

Four times world cup winner Zhang dominated women’s table tennis during the first decade of the 21st century.

A summary of her achievements shows that she has won 10 major world titles, including two singles, three doubles, and five team wins. In addition, she continued her dominance in Olympics, winning both singles and doubles gold medals in 20014 2004.

ITTF ranked her the world’s no. one female player from 2003 and 2009. However, she ended her career abruptly after she got hitched and had kids.

She has since moved to the U.S and has expressed her desire to introduce the sport to Americans.

10. Xu Xing

Xu Xin, a professional Chinese player, was born on January 8, 1990. In 2013, he first topped the No. 1 position in the World Ranking after becoming the ITTF World Tour Grand Finals winner in December of 2012.

Since then, Xu has achieved many medals in many international competitions, making himself one of the best ping pong players of all time.

He uses a  traditional penhold backhand to lob and push the ball with the side of the racket forehand. In addition, he has a long arm that adds to his ability to execute a unique forehand loop.

Xu Xin is one of the best table tennis players of this decade and ever. He beat the world champion, Ma Long, thrice in 2014 and twice in 2016 to reach the world champion position.

Talking about his career achievements, he has won the world tour ten times, world tour grand finales twice in 2013 and 2013, and Asian cup in 2013 and 2016.

9. Wang Nan

Wang Nan is an excellent player whose skills lie in the ball placement and her overall hitting structure. Unfortunately, she strayed on world no. 1 ranking from January 1999 to November 2002.

Her first major success was winning the competitive Swedish open in 1994. Following that, she won the women’s world table tennis cup and American and china open from 1997 to 1998. 

Similarly, in the 2002 Olympics, she earned two gold medals. In the 2008 Olympics, her team won a gold medal.

Wang is one of the best players and most notable women in table tennis. Regardless of her gender, she is considered to be one of the best ones we have seen in table tennis!

She has been leading the Chinese TT team after Deng Yaping retired from the role.

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8. Wang Hao

38 years old Wang Hao is an offensive penholder. His playing style led him to win the world championship in men’s single in 2009.

Some of his notable achievements include three world cup championships (2007, 2008,2 010) and silver medals in Olympics (2004, 2008, 2012).

ITTF ranked him in world no. 1 for 27 consecutive months between 2007 and 2009 before Ma Long replaced him. 

The best tennis players - Wang Hao
Wang Hao teaches his son table tennis for the first time

Hao has a record of appearing twelve times in the finals of major world competitions. Notably, he has also won Chinese national games, Asian championships, Asian cup, and Asian games.

The talented player retired in 2014.

7. Zhang Jike

Zhang Jike is among those rare few players who have completed the table tennis grand slam. Also, he is the fastest player to do so, winning all three major titles within 445 days.

Zhang was born on February 16, 1988, in Qingdao, Shandong Province of China. His father, Zhang Chuanming, is a table tennis coach. The duo has also played before as a team in some competitions. 

Zhang was placed in world no. 1 by ITTF from June to December 2012.

6. Kong Linghui

Formor world no 1 Kong Linghui was born on 1975 in harbin, China. He is well known as the third-ever person to achieve a career grand slam in Tennis.

When he was 17 years old, then national team coach Cai Zhenhua decided to send him to Sweden for exclusive training for 5months. It was an attempt from China to counter the dominance of European men in the early 90s table tennis. 

Within three years of returning from Sweden, he reached the world with no one ranking.

He uses a shake-hand grip style modeled after top European players of the 80s and 90s, such as Jan Ove Waldner. Currently, King is serving as the head coach of the Chinese national women’s team.

He was also recently highlighted in a controversy where a hotel sued him for failing to repay the $1 million he borrowed from their casino.

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5. Wang Liqin

Born in Shanghai in June 1978, Wang Liqin started his career in the early 90s. During his career, he was ranked ITTF number 1 for 25 consecutive months!

He is a three-time world championship winner, Olympic doubles gold medalist, Olympic singles bronze medalist.

Liqin’s are considered to be one of the most powerful shots in table tennis. His above-average height of 6 feet 1 inch is a significant factor that influences this powerful shot. In addition, his handgrip grip is also top-rated.

Another fantastic fact about Liqin is that he frequently changed his paddles, unlike most of the players. He has used more than ten different models of rackets throughout his career.

Liqin has retired from professional table tennis in 2013. However, he serves as a coach of his Shanghai team that plays at the Chinese super league. 

This fantastic player is inducted into the IITF hall of fame. 

4. Deng Yaping

Yaping was a tennis prodigy, but her short height failed her. She was denied a spot on the national team just because of her size.

However, she made it into the team in 1988 and immediately won her first world championship title in the women’s double.

Furthermore, she has won the singles world championship in 1991, singles and doubles titles in 1995, and the 1997 world championships. In addition, she won both singles and doubles titles at the 1992 and 1996 Olympics.

The best tennis players - Deng Yaping
Deng Yaping during her younger days

She ranked world no. 1, one women player for eight years, from 1990 to 1997. At the time of retirement, she had won the most table tennis tiles ever among both men and women.

Yaping was voted the Chinese athlete of the century and was inducted into the ITFF hall of fame.

Since her retirement, she has been following an academic career, pursuing various degrees in Chinese Universities. 

3. Liu Guoliang

46 years old Liu Guoliang is the second player in the history of table tennis to achieve a career grand slam. The player hails from Henan, China, and was born in 1976.

After winning all the tiles at significant world tournaments, he retired after the 2001 season. At 27, he was appointed the coach of the Chinese national men’s team. The talented did not disappoint at this role too!

He is widely considered the most successful coach in the history of table tennis.  He has coached some of the finest players like Ma Lin, Wang Hao, and Wang Liqin. 

Since Liu has taken the position as a coach, Chinese men have won every men’s singles team’s championships in the world table tennis championships. 

Interestingly, his older brother Liu Gudong is also an excellent table tennis player. He has previously worked as the head coach of Singapore’s women’s table tennis team and is currently coaching the Indonesian team.

2. Jan Ove- Waldner

57 years old Jan  Ove-Waldner is a legend in the world of table tennis. Waldner is the first person ever to complete a TT grand slam. 

Although he is Swedish, he is more prevalent in China, dearly called Lao Wa. It is said that during the 200s.,.he was more prevalent in China than the American president Bill Clinton.

One of the reasons why Jan is considered a great player is his unmatched serving ability. At the young age of seven, he had mastered the art of returning 75 backhands without a single mistake.

He also quickly learned to easily trick opponents with different angles, types, and forces of serve. TT analysts say that no one else has the kind of connection Jan has with his bat and ball. For that reason, Ove has earned the nickname ‘The Mozart of table tennis.’

Another reason why he is highly regarded is his longevity. He played tennis professionally from the 1990s till his last match in 2016. During those years, he won 6 world championship singles medals,

Well, recently tennis world has seen younger players who have surpassed the medal tally of Jan Ove. However, the legend of Waldner is sure to live on. 

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1. Ma Long

The number two title among the best table tennis players goes to Chinese player Ma Long. In the recent years, he has won many big titles back to back, surpassing the track record of other great players like Waldner.

The list of his accomplishments in tennis goes on and on. He is a two-times Olympic gold medalist (2016, 2020), three times world championship winner in singles ((2015, 2017, 2019), two times world championship winner in doubles (2011, 2019).

The best tennis players - Ma Long
Ma Long is widely regarded as the best table tennis player of all time

Furthermore, he has given consistent performance in the world cup as well with two gold medals (2012, 2015), two silvers (2012, 2015), and three bronzes (2008,2009, 2017).

He has an astounding 24 titles in the ITTF pro tour, which Is way high against Zhang Jike’s six and Waldner’s 4. He is three times Asian champion and two times china national champion.

Summary

We have reached the end of the article. Here is a quick summary of the list:

  1. Ma Long
  2. Jan Ove-Waldner
  3. Liu Guoliang
  4. Deng YaPing
  5. Wang Liqin
  6. kong Linghui
  7. Zhang Jike
  8. Wang Hao
  9. Wang Nan
  10. Xu Xing
  11. Zhang Yining
  12. Timo Boll
  13. Ma Lin
  14. Ichiro Ogimura
  15. Guo Ye

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Comments

  1. The list is compelling but subjective, as table tennis has evolved since the 1st world championships in 1926. I would divede the list between the pre-sponge era and post-sponge era. Putting aside the great champios of the pre-sponge era (Barna, Bergmann, for example), I would add Guo Yuehua CHN (3 WC in teams, 2 WC in singles, 2 Finals in singles, 1 WC in mixed doubles) and A. Rozeanu, Romania (6 WC in Singles, 3 WC in doubles, 3 WC in mixed doubles). My opinion. Cheers!

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