15 Best Table Tennis Players of All Time

This article was last updated by on

Table tennis, also known as ping-pong and whiff-whaff, is a sport in which two or four players hit a ping-pong ball back and forth across a table using small solid rackets.

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

The WTT Contender Durban 2023 will be held from January 10 – January 15 in South Africa.

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

Two Young TT Players
Two Young TT Players (Source: PNGitem)

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.

The world has seen many excellent table tennis players over the 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. 

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

S.N Name Nationality
1. Ma Long Chinese
2. Jan Ove-Waldner Swedish
3. Liu Guoliang Chinese
4. Deng YaPing Chinese
5. Wang Liqin Chinese
6. Kong Linghui Chinese
7. Zhang Jike Chinese
8. Wang Hao Chinese
9. Wang Nan Chinese
10. Xu Xing Chinese
11. Zhang Yining Chinese
12. Timo Boll Germany
13. Ma Lin Chinese
14. Ichiro Ogimura Japanese
15. Guo Yue Chinese

15. Guo Yue

Born in 1998, Guo Yue was in her prime between 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 did not lack 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. 

Guo Yue, The Former World Champion of Women's Singles
Guo Yue, The Former World Champion In Women’s Singles (Source: Sports Illustrated)

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

In her professional career, Guo earned 17 medals in World Championships, including gold medals in all four disciplines; singles (2007), doubles (2009, 2011, 2013), mixed (2005, 2007), and team (2004, 2006, 2008, 2012).

14. Ichiro Ogimura

Japanese Table tennis player Ichiro Ogimura also served as a coach and the president of ITFF during his career. He reached the world no. 1 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.

Ichiro Ogimura, The Ping-Pong Diplomat
Ichiro Ogimura, The Ping-Pong Diplomat (Source: nippon.com)

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

13. Ma Lin

Ma Lin is a retired Chinese table tennis player born in Shenyang, China, on February 19, 1980. He achieved his career’s highest ranking #1 in September 2007.

Lin started playing table tennis at 5 and became the provincial team’s member in 1990. He is the only male player to win gold in Olympics in all three formats; singles, doubles, and team.

Talking about his title, he has won the Men’s World Cup (2000), ITTF Pro Tour Grand Finals Men’s Singles (2002), Men’s World Cup (2003, 2004, 2006), Men’s Team World Championship (2010), and many more.

Ma’s rumored girlfriend Bai Yang was dropped from THE Women’s National Team in 2004, as it was against the rule to date for athletes who are under 20 years old in the Chinese National Team.

Lin tied the knot with actress Zhang Yi in a secret event in 2004. However, the pair got divorced in 2009. Later, Ma married Zhang Yaqing in December 2013, and they had a son together on April 19, 2016.

After retiring from his professional TT career, he started his coaching venture as the Chinese national team’s coach. He has been serving as a coach for the Guangdong provincial team since 2013.

12. Timo Boll

One of the few non-Chinese players who have dazzled tennis fans is Timo Bell from Germany. Despite being left-handed, 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’s #1 ranking thrice in 2003, 2011, and 2018. However, his current ranking, according to ITTF, is #12.

Timo Boll (Source: Hessenschau)

Timo was born in Erbach, Hessen, West Germany, on March 8, 1981. 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.

Boll suffered an injury in June 2022 after his club team, Borussia Düsseldorf, triumphed in the German League in Frankfurt against the number #1 team FC Saarbrucken.

He recently competed in the World Table Tennis Cup and lost in the quarter-final against Tomkazu Harimoto in a 0-2 set.

11. Zhang Yining

Four times World Cup winner Zhang dominated women’s table tennis during the first decade of the 21st century. Zhang Yining is a Chinese ping-pong player born on October 5, 1981.

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 in 2004 & singles and team competitions in 2008.

Zhang Yining, One of The Most Dominanat Female Table Tennis Players
Zhang Yining, One of The Most Dominant Female Table Tennis Players (Source: Twitter)

ITTF ranked her the world’s no. 1 female player from 2003 to 2009, except for two months in 2008. However, she ended her career abruptly after she got hitched and had kids in 2009.

Since moving to the U.S., she has expressed her desire to introduce the sport to Americans.

Zhang was featured in an exclusive educational session for World Hopes week in June 2022.

10. Xu Xing

Xu Xin, a Chinese professional 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.

Xu Xin And His Penhold Grip
Xu Xin And His Penhold Grip (Source: Twitter)

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.

Xin got married to another tennis player Yao Yan in 2016 and welcomed their first child, a son, in September 2019.

At the Tokyo Olympics 2020, Xu Xin bagged a silver in the mixed doubles. He also competed in the China National Games and won gold in the mixed doubles, but Liu Dingshuo halted his journey to the singles title in the quarter-finals.

Talking about his career achievements, he has won the ITTF World Tour (51 times), World Tour Grand Finales (2 times), Asian Cup (4 times), Asian Games winner (4 times), Asian Champion (11 times), World Cup winner (7 times), and Olympic Champion (2 times).

9. Wang Nan

Wang Nan is an excellent player whose skills lie in ball placement and her overall hitting style. She stayed as world no. 1 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 the 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, but she lost in the Women’s singles Final against Zhang Yining.

The Chinese player announced her retirement after the 2008 Beijing Olympics, and she married Guo Bin in 2008.

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

8. Wang Hao

The 40 years old Wang Hao is an offensive penholder. His playing style led him to win the World Championship in men’s single in 2009.

His notable achievements include three World Cup Championships (2007, 2008, 2010) and silver medals in Olympics (2004, 2008, 2012).

ITTF ranked him 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 To Play Table Tennis (Source: Twitter)

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

The talented player retired in 2014 and is working as a personal coach of Fan Zhendong.

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 win all three major titles; in just 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 Jike, Fastest Player To Win Three Major Titles
Zhang Jike, Fastest Player To Win Three Major Titles (Source: YouTube)

Jike’s career achievements include Olympics Games (2012), World Championships (2011, 2013), World Cup (2011), Asian Cup (2010) in singles, and many others in doubles and mixed doubles.

Zhang was placed 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, Heilongjiang, China. He is well known as the third person ever 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 5 months. 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 number 1 ranking.

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

He was also highlighted in a controversy where a hotel sued him for failing to repay the S$1 million ($747k) he borrowed from the Marina Bay Sands hotel in Hong Kong.

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, and Olympic singles bronze medalist.

Liqin’s shots are considered one of the most powerful in table tennis. His above-average height of 6 feet 1 inch (1.85 meters) is a significant factor influencing this powerful shot. In addition, his handgrip grip is also top-rated.

Wang Liqin Ready To Serve
Wang Liqin Ready To Serve (Source: Sports Illustrated)

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

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

This fantastic player was inducted into the ITTF 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.

She 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 (Source: Twitter)

Deng was ranked world no. 1 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 in 1997, she has followed an academic career, pursuing various degrees in Chinese Universities. Besides, she also has an honorary DLitt degree from the University of Nottingham Ningbo, China.

She was also a member of the Beijing Organizing Committee for the 2008 Olympics.

3. Liu Guoliang

The 48 years old Liu Guoliang is the second player in the history of table tennis to achieve a career grand slam of three majors (Olympic Gold, World Cup, World Championship). The player comes from Henan, China, and was born on January 10, 1976.

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

Liu 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. 

Liu Guoliang, Former Ping Pong Player And A Coach
Liu Guoliang, Former Ping Pong Player And A Coach (Source: Twitter)

Since Liu has taken the position as a coach, Chinese men have won every men’s singles teams championships in the World Table Tennis Championships. 

Liu was elected as the president of the Chinese Table Tennis Association on December 1, 2018. The former Chinese player and coach, Liu Guoliang, was able to clinch all the gold medals at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics with his team.

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

The 58 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, also called Lao Wa in China. It is said that during the 2000s, he was more prevalent in China than 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 7, he had mastered the art of returning 75 backhands without a single mistake.

Waldner In His Youth
Waldner In His Youth (Source: The Times)

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, the tennis world has seen younger players surpass the medal tally of Jan Ove. However, the legend of Waldner is sure to live on. 

1. Ma Long

The number 1 in our best table tennis players list is a Chinese player, Ma Long. In 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 three-time Olympic gold medalist (2016, 2020, 2020), three-time World Championship winner in singles ((2015, 2017, 2019), and two-time 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 (Source: Twitter)

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 6 and Waldner’s 4. He is three times Asian champion and two times china national champion.

Long competed in the World Tour Grand Finals on October 29, 2022, where he lost 3-4 against his fellow countryman C.Q. Wang.

Alaka Acharya
Alaka Acharyahttps://playersbio.com/

Alaka Acharya

Alaka Acharya is a dynamic writer whose passion for sports and deep understanding of player dynamics enrich her writing with unparalleled insight and fervor. With a unique ability to capture the essence of sportsmanship and athleticism, Alaka's writings resonate with both enthusiasts and casual observers alike.


Sports Journalism Player Profiles


  • Alaka Acharya's knack for capturing the essence of athletes through her vivid and insightful player profiles.
  • Alaka's analytical prowess shines through in her astute observations and incisive commentary on sports events and player performances.


Alaka Acharya's passion for sports and writing converged early in her career, as she began covering local sporting events and profiling up-and-coming athletes for community newspapers. Over the years, she has honed her craft, immersing herself in the world of sports journalism and cultivating relationships with players, coaches, and industry insiders.

Related articles


  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!


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Share article

Latest News