The top-ranked International Table Tennis Federation player, Fan Zhengdong, seems to be entering the prime of his career. He has several first-place awards in different tournaments, and the only thing seemingly missing is an Olympic Singles gold medal. That and a win against his older teammate and rival Ma Long in a major competition. But how did Fan Zhendong get here? Well, for him, it started at the age of five and has been an interesting journey ever since.
Born in Guangzhou, China, on January 22nd, 1997, Fan would start playing table tennis just five years later, which shouldn’t be surprising given it’s the most popular sport in the country. Nevertheless, it was his parents who first encouraged him to start.
He would compete in and win the Guangzhou City Men’s table tennis tournament just two years later. After that, he joined a specialized training school for table tennis, a platform that allowed him to get much more exposure to the sport.
By 11, he had competed in quite a few table tennis competitions, which eventually led to his recruitment by the Eight Table Tennis Team. Some of the heavy hitters on the team at the time were Liu Guoliang and Wang Hao.
Liu Guoliang would go on to become one of the youngest head coaches of the Chinese men’s team after an illustrious playing career. Wang Hao, on the other hand, won a total of five Olympic medals throughout his career.
Fan Zhendong made it into his country’s B team at 14, winning a team even in TongZhou soon after. Even more surprising is it only took him one year to push his way into the A team, followed by a series of impressive performances and a few accolades in singles, mixed, and team events. Among these performances was one in which he upset the then-world champion, Wang Liqin, in the men’s singles tournament.
Since then, Fan Zhendong has gone on to impress even more and as of May 2023, he is ranked 1st among his peers by the International Table Tennis Federation. He is followed closely by fellow countrymen Xu Xin, Ma Long, and Lin Gaoyuan in the rankings, with Japan’s Harimoto Tomokazu.
Given Fan Zhengdong’s early start to the sport, he’s had a fairly long and illustrious career as part of China’s national A team. By the time he joined, he was the squad’s youngest player and quickly became the youngest ITTF World Tour Champion.
He also set the record for the youngest World Champion and Singles Champion. That said, some of these records have since been broken by Harimoto Tomokazu.
Having been ranked 139th in 2012, it only took Fan a year to break into the top 5, and he’s never dropped below there since.
Notably, most of his competition seems to come from his teammates, given China’s dominance in the sport. In particular, Ma Long, his senior teammate, has been one of the players that give Zhendong a hard time.
Of the 28 matches the two have played against each other, Fan has only won seven. Notably, two of Fan’s losses against Ma Long came in the World Championships in 2018 and 2015. That said, given that Ma Long has indicated that he doesn’t have plans to retire any time soon, the Fan Zhendong vs Ma Long rivalry may yet continue for a few more years.
Fan Zhengdong Playing Style
Fan Zhendong’s playing style consists mostly of explosive footwork that allows him to launch attacks on his opponents and force them onto the backcourt. His backhand attacks are particularly dangerous, although more recently, he seems to be incorporating an improved forehand as well.
Some of his signature moves include forehand looping, and a deadly reverse pendulum serve that allows him to control ball spin. He also mixes up serves to try and keep his game less predictable. That said, there is still some room for improvement in this area. Also, Fan Zhendong uses a right-handed, shakehand grip.
Fan Zhengdong Olympic Record
Fan’s first Olympic outing came in 2021 at the age of 23, where he got gold as part of China’s men’s team. However, in the Tokyo event that combined the Paralympics and Olympics and was attended by approximately 20,000 spectators, according to Statista, Fan could only manage silver in the men’s singles.
He played second fiddle to teammate Ma Long. With the 2024 Paris Olympics fast approaching and Ma Long growing older, the Olympic men’s single’s gold may be within reach for Fan ZhengDong. So, for those looking forward to a Ma Long vs Fan Zhendong Olympics match, you may just get it.
Honors and Achievements
Despite Fan not having a single’s Olympic gold medal to his name, Fan has collected quite a few accolades over the years. These include:
- ITTF World Tour X15 – Singles – 2013-2019
- Asia Table Tennis Championships X2 – Singles – 2015, 2017
- Table Tennis World Cup X3 – Singles – 2016, 2018, 2019, 2020, 2021
- Asia Cup Table Tennis Tournament X2 – Singles – 2018,2019
- ITTF World Tour X11 – Doubles – 2014-2019
- Asia Table Tennis Championships X2 – Doubles – 2015,2017
- World Table Tennis Championships X1 – Doubles – 2017
- Asia Table Tennis Championships X1 – Mixed Doubles – 2015
- Asia Table Tennis Championships X4 – Teams – 2013, 2017, 2018, 2019
- World Team Table Tennis Championships X3 – Team – 2014, 2016,2018
- Table Tennis World Cup X3 – Teams – 2015,2018,2019
- Olympics – Teams – 2020
Net Worth and Income
Given his successes in the sport, Fan Zhendong’s net worth has grown to an estimated $5 million. He is sponsored by Butterfly after his previous deal with Stiga expired.
He’s also earned lots of money from taking various titles.
The ITTF World Tour, for example, has a $1 million cash prize for the winner, and he’s won several of those. Nevertheless, there’s no definitive number on his net worth, and it could easily be higher or lower than the estimated $5 million.
Like most of his teammates, Fan Zhengdong’s social media life is non-existent. There are, however, some fan pages on Instagram and the likes that post regular content. However, you’re unlikely to see anything personal.
Fan Zhendong’s personal life remains a mystery, although it has been reported that he spends most of his time either practicing or hanging out with his friends. As such, it’s safe to conclude that he’s single, and there’s no wife in the picture that the world knows of.
Fan Zhendong Equipment
What is Fan Zhengdong’s ITTF ranking?
Fan has held on to the 1st position for a few years, only losing it briefly in the 2019-2020 period.
Is Fan Zhengdong better than Ma Long?
According to the ITTF rankings, Fan is better than Ma Long since he ranks two positions ahead of him. However, this hasn’t played out the same way in games between the two. Ma Long has much better results winning 21 out of 28 games. That said, given that he doesn’t plan to retire any time soon, Fan has plenty of chances to prove himself against his older rival.
Who are Fan Zhengdong’s current sponsors?
As of May 2023, Fan Zhengdong is affiliated with the Butterfly brand with the signature Butterfly Fan Zhendong ALC blade as a result of the partnership.
Fan Zhendong seems to be gunning for his predecessor, Ma Long’s 64-month record. Fan has been knocked off this perch severally in the last few years but always finds a way back. Notably, given that he’s only 25, some might argue that he’s going into the prime of his career. As such, the world can expect a lot more from the Chinese national. He might even have an Olympic gold medal or two in his future cards. We’ll have to wait and see.