Welcome to our post about the greatest table tennis players that have ever lived. There have been so many, and it is very tough to decide that which player who is the undisputed king. But there is one factor with which you can determine who the ultimate champion of champions is and that is their achievements. We need to consider the time frame right from the beginning when in 1926 ITTF came to being and then in 1988 when the game was recognized in the Olympics.
The Asian players dominate the list of best table tennis players of all time. However, most of the people who know about table tennis do compare Jan-Ove Waldner vs. Ma Long. These two have been greatest achievers of all time and are regarded as the top dogs of ping pong.
Who are The Greatest Table Tennis Players?
Table of Contents
Our list of the greatest is as follows:
9. Zhang Yining
Yining headed the global female player ranking for six years from 2003 to 2009 excluding two months in 2008. She won Olympic gold medals on four different occasions along with four world cups and ten world championships. Yining used a specially designed ZLC Zhang Yining blade from Butterfly along with Tenergy 05 for forehand shots and Tenergy 64 for backhand shots.
She also used the shake-hand grip with full authority to take the game away from her opponents. She was very quick on her feet. Yining announced her retirement when she was the reigning Olympic and World champion. During 2008 Olympics, Yining was reefed to as The Yellow Beast which referred to how good she was at ping pong.
8. Deng Yaping
Like Guoliang, Yaping also hales from Henan, China and is the greatest female player of the game. Yaping held a record four Olympic gold medals during her career as a player. She won her first gold in 1989 in the world championship. She went on to win the gold in the 4th world cup in 1995. Yaping won her consecutive medals in the world championships again in 1994 and 1995.
Yaping started with the shake-hand grips, but her father advised her to use tennis grip because she was short in height. The tennis grip allowed her to gain a better grip and provided her with extra reach. She used DHS PF4 series blade with 729 FX blue sponge and Friendship 755 Long pips.
7. Fan Zhendong
Zhendong is the youngest in this list and was born in Guangzhou, China in 1997. The right-handed player also uses the tremendous shake-hand grip and is heading the global ranking since April 2020. Zhendong was the youngest member of Chinese team when he joined in 2012, and he is also the youngest to win the world championship and also has ITTF Pro Tour championship under his belt.
From November 2015 he was ranked number 2 and held his spot for 29 months straight before becoming number 1 in April 2020. Zhendong uses Butterfly Viscaria blade (Infinity Handle) with DHS Hurricane Neo 3 black for forehand shots and Tenergy 05 red for backhand shots.
6. Wang Nan
Wang Nan was born in 1978 and began to play this sport when she was only 7. She headed the global ranking for female players from January 1999 to November 2002. The left-handed Nan carried the torch from Yaping for the Chinese team and used the shake-hand grip for her success. She won her first tile in 1994 in Sweden and then again won in 1997 and 1998.
In the 1998 Asian Games, Nan won four gold medals: teams, mixed doubles, doubles, and singles. In the same year, she won the finals of ITTF Pro Tour. The next year Nan again won the world championships and ITTF Pro Tours both in singles and doubles competitions and led the global ranking. In Olympic 2000 she won gold in singles and doubles and completed her grand slam. Wang used DHS Hurricane Wang Nan FL blade with DHS Hurricane 2 black for forehand and DHS Hurricane 3 Neo for backhand due to her high speed and fast topspin.
5. Liu Guoliang
Presently, Guoliang is a coach of a Chinese team of table tennis. He was the second in the history to achieve a grand slam in the career when he won the world cup and world championship along with tasting the Olympic Gold when he was an active player. He has won at least a title in all major tournaments. Guoliang was born in Henan, China just like Deng Yaping.
He earned two Gold medals, a Silver medal and a Bronze medal in all Olympic events and became the coach at the age of 27. When playing, Guoliang used the penholder grip which is considered to be offensive, but he was widely known for being best at backhand topspin reverse. He used Stiga Clipper blade with Stiga Clippa black for forehand shots and Stiga Mendo Energy red for backhand shots.
4. Wang Liqin
According to ITTF, Liqin has headed the table tennis players ranking for twenty-five months straight between the year 2004 and 2006. It is the second best record after the current record of more than thirty consecutive months that has been set by Ma Long. Liqin has won world championship three times. He has also won the bronze in singles in 2004 Olympics and a gold medal in the doubles competition in 2000 Olympics.
Liqin has tasted gold in the team competition as well. He joined the National Chinese team at the age of 15 and started to develop his style at a kinder age of 6. Due to his popular shake-hand grip, Liqin was considered to have the most effective shot in the sport. Liqin was very comfortable to use different equipment for different games, and he never sticks to anything specifically.
3. Zhang Jike
Jike topped the world table tennis ranking from June to December of 2012. He became the 4th male to achieve a grand slam in the career. He took only 445 days to complete this achievement which is the fastest by anyone in the history. Jike won the world championship, and the world cup in 2011 and then tasted Olympic gold in 2012.
He again won the world championship in 2013 and world cup in the next year. Jike’s this achievement makes him close to achieving grand slam for the second time. He is also among the three male table tennis players to hold most number of titles in the history. Jike is the only player to win five major titles consecutively in the history of the sport. He plays right-handed with a shake-hand grip and uses Butterfly Viscaria FL blade with Tenergy 80 red for backhand shots and DHS Hurricane 3 Neo National black for forehand shots.
2. Jan-Ove Waldner
Waldner is from Sweden, and he is the most successful non-Chinese ping pong player to date. He was considered to be more popular in China than the US President of that time, Bill Clinton. He had the longest career during his time and was able to maintain brilliant hand-eye coordination until his last game. His most memorable achievement is his ninth Swedish title.
He won the title against the person who was born on the day when Waldner won his first Swedish title. He also tasted Olympic Gold in the year 1992 and then Silver in the year 2000. In 1996 European Championship, Waldner won gold medals in team, singles and doubles competitions. Over time, he has used different types of equipment, however, in the recent times, he has frequently used Waldner Senso Carbon blade with Coppa JO Gold red for forehand and Coppa JO Platinum black for backhand.
1. Ma Long
Ma Long is the true champion of champions in table tennis. Born in 1988, Ma Long won his first gold in 2010 Asian Games. He was the World and Asian Junior Champion in the year 2004. He is the current world no. 1 table tennis player. He has been heading the world table tennis rankings since March of 2015. Before that, he was on number 2 spot. Ma Long has the record of consecutively championing 5 ITTF Pro Tour tournaments.
During these tournaments, he has developed a consecutive 35-set winning streak. For this Ma Long got the nickname “ITTF Pro Tour King”. At present, he is the 5th player to achieve grand slam in the career by winning the world cup, world championship and Olympic gold medal. For his backhand shots, Ma Long uses Nittaku Hurricane 3 Neo while for the forehand shots he uses red Tenergy 05 with a DHS Hurricane Long 5 blade. For the combination that he uses, Ma Long is ranked as the best two-wing looper of the sport.
As mentioned above, the game of table tennis has been dominated by the Asians or Chinese to be very specific. There are many other players from other Asian countries like Japan who have achieved a lot in this sport. Germans and Swedish have been very strong as well.
However, China has produced the highest number of greatest table tennis players, and nothing seems to slow them down. The art is to be quick on your feet and use your bodyweight to create extra power in your shots. China appears to have learned the trick of the trade and therefore, is ruling the world.
Please share your favorite players in the comments below or if you disagree with our picks then share your order of great players.