Ma Long Table Tennis Player Profile

Here's everything you'd like to know about Ma Long: his biography, sports achievements, titles, equipment, and playing style.
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Last updatedLast updated: November 01, 2022
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Ma Long, fondly referred to by some of his fans as the dictator due to how long he stayed #1 in the world table tennis rankings, is one of the world’s sports G.O.A.T.s. He has won just about everything there is to win in the sport, including a double grand slam. He is also older than most others in his sport. But what has brought him this far, and where did it all start for him? The 34-year-old has roots in Anshan, Liaoning, China, from where the legend has grown into a hero for China and table tennis lovers worldwide. Here’s most of what you’d need to know about the two-time Olympic singles gold medalist.

Quick Facts

Name

Ma Long

Nickname

The Dictator, The Dragon

Date of Birth

20/10/1988

Age

34

Gender

Male

Place of Birth

Anshan, Liaoning, China

Nationality

Chinese

Height

5 feet 9 inches

Weight

159 lbs

Hair Color

Black

World Ranking

2

Team

Shandong Weiqiao, China National Team

Grip

Shakehand grip

Hand

Right

Net Worth

$20 million

Biography

Ma Long is easily one of the current generation’s most highly decorated table tennis players and is even considered by some the greatest of all time. In an era of sports greats like Kipchoge Keino, the Marathon runner, and Lionel Messi, the “football” or “soccer” player depending on where you’re from, he stands among the best of the best. His story begins on 20th October 1988. Though there isn’t much information about him in his younger years, he burst onto the national table tennis world scene in 2003 at 15.

His first major achievement was the singles at the world junior championships. However, he wouldn’t perform as well in single events for quite a while. Instead, he racked up wins in teams and doubles events. One example is the Jeju Asian Championship, where he was part of the team that took the gold.

There’s also the Bremen World Championship, where he took the teams’ gold in 2006, and the Hong Kong World tour, where he got gold in the doubles the same year. Of course, during this period, there were several silver and bronze medals.

He would start getting into his element near the end of the decade with a few gold medals in the 2007-2009 period. However, his singles career really took off in the 2010-2012 period and was highlighted by 51 consecutive wins.

Over the next few years, he would climb up the ranks, and although he’s currently 3rd on the I.T.T.F. World Rankings, there were a few years when no one could knock him off 1st place. His reluctance to let go of first place may have been one reason he was aptly nicknamed “the dictator.”

One of his other nicknames was “the dragon,” although that may have been due to his name “Long,” meaning dragon in his native language.

He’s also had a few rivals in his time, including Wang Hao, who retired shortly after being beaten by him in 2014. There’s also Zhang Jike, who got his first grand slam much sooner than Ma Long in his career. That said, in a somewhat poetic fashion, now that he’s 34 and nearing the end of his career, he is also rivals with one of his juniors, Fan Zhendong, who currently ranks 1st in the world I.T.T.F. player ratings.

While he may have lost the top spot in world rankings, he’s intent on not retiring any time soon. He may even make it to the 2024 Paris Olympics.

Career

As mentioned above, Ma Long made waves in team and doubles events long before he broke into the singles scene. Some of his first senior accolades came in the form of gold at both the German and Kuwait opens in 2007. Between 2007 and 2009, he got mixed results, even exiting early at the 2007 Zagreb World Championships.

He eventually started to maintain some form leading up to the 2012 Olympics but ultimately did not make the cut for the singles team. He did, however, participate in the team competition, adding to his list of medals.

Between 2015 and 2019, he added three World Championships to his name. He has also won at least one of almost every singles title there is, alongside team and doubles accolades as well. His five successive I.T.T.F. wins are particularly impressive.

However, even more, impressive is his double grand slam. Of course, if you’re familiar with table tennis awards, you know a grand slam is a combination of gold in the Olympics singles, World Championship singles, and World Cup singles. By the time he got his first grand slam, he was only the fifth to ever do it.

There have also been some major scares along the way. For instance, in the period after the 2018 Olympics, he suffered a horrific knee injury but was fortunate enough to be back in action about a year later.

Ma Long Equipment

Ma Long EquipmentOver the years, Ma long has switched up equipment quite a few times. In the 2012 period, for instance, he was using a DHS PG-7 blade with a DHS NEO Hurricane 3 as the forehand rubber. The backhand rubber was a Butterfly Tenergy 05, which also came to be among Fan Zhengdong’s favorites.

While there are many things young table tennis players can emulate from Ma Long, the rubbers should be a choice they settle on to match their playing style and needs. Additionally, paddle technology has changed a lot since 2012.

As such, if you’re wondering which options are considered the best table tennis rubbers in the modern era, you may want to review our list of the same. That said, the Butterfly Tenergy 05 Table Tennis Rubber has certainly withstood the test of time, with recent reviews noting it holds up well against even some of the newer options.

Ma Long’s forehand option for the 2012 period was the D.H.S. Hurricane 3 N.E.O. rubber, another option that plays well to date if reviews are to be believed.

In 2014 Ma Long used the same rubbers but switched to the Hurricane Long 5, which served him well. The Hurricane Long 5 Ping Pong Blade has served plenty of other players well despite coming with dedicated rubbers. For those who get this option, they’re free to upgrade the rubbers to what Ma Long used when the first set wears out.

In 2016 Long again switched blades to something custom-made specifically for him.

Ma Long Playing Style

Ma Long’s playing style is a little less straightforward than most of his counterparts, with the player often using trickery and his brains to quash opponents. His footwork and backhand from further away may not be anything to write home about. However, he can easily use what he is good at to have opponents on the back foot.

His forehand, for instance, is exceptional, and he’ll initiate fast, fierce attacks that barely allow the opponent to counterattack. Also, in his playing arsenal is a powerful counterattack close to mid-table.

Additionally, despite not being exceptionally good, his backhand can be a significant threat if he is closer to the table. It may even end games for opponents who are not careful.

Some of Ma Long’s common attacks include a power looping backspin ball using his forehand, half-long balls, forehand counter looping, etc. In the multiple Ma Long vs Fan Zhengdong battles, the latter, despite being higher rated, has fallen quite a few times to Ma Long’s attacks allowing Ma to maintain a fairly significant lead in their rivalry.

Ma also holds his paddles in a shakehand grip. While the shakehand grip has been great for Ma Long’s career, it’s not for everyone. There are also the penhold and seemiller grips, and if you want to know how to hold a ping pong paddle, we’ve got a guide for you.

Ultimately, people choose how they hold their paddles based on what’s most comfortable and what fits their playing style, and for Ma, the shakehand grip was the perfect fit.

Ma Long Olympic History

Ma Long Olympic HistoryMa Long in the Olympics has been an absolute asset for his country. His first major achievement was as part of the men’s team in 2012, but it was only a launch pad for the following two Olympics.

In the 2016 Rio Olympics, which had 11,384 athletes according to Forbes, Long stood tall among his ping pong peers, getting gold in the singles. He also assisted the Chinese men’s team get the gold in the team event.

Ma Long extended his stellar record in the 2020 Olympics, which was delayed due to global health concerns but eventually took place in 2021.

Honors and Achievements

Ma Long’s overall Honors and achievements, including bronze and silver medals, are too many to list since 2003; however, his more notable accolades include:

  1. Three Asian Junior Championships
  2. Seven I.T.T.F. World Tour Grand Finals gold
  3. Seven I.T.T.F. World Tour Grand Finals gold
  4. Five singles and teams gold medals combined
  5. Seven I.T.T.F. World Tour Grand Finals gold
  6. Three All China Table Tennis Championships
  7. Nine World Cup Winner’s medals
  8. Three National games of China gold medals

Net Worth and Income

Ma long’s $20 million net worth estimate shows that his long, illustrious career has not been for nothing, and he’s racked up a significant amount of wealth. Some of this wealth is from tournament prizes, with some being as high as several hundreds of thousands of dollars.

There are also various sponsorship and endorsement deals. The W968 blade he used in 2016 is an example of one of his sponsorship deals, as it was custom-made by D.H.S. He’s also endorsed by Nittaku, a ping pong apparel brand.

Social Media

Although there is a Facebook fan account, Ma Long is inactive on Social Media, and even the latest posts on his fan Facebook page are several years old. As such, anyone looking to reach him would need to find another way.

Personal Life

Ma Long is married, having wed his wife Xia Lu in 2017. The couple also has a son.

F.A.Q.s

Who is better, Ma Long or Fan Zhendong?

While Ma has won most of the matches between the two, the jury is still out. Zhendong ranks as the world’s 1st in the I.T.T.F. rankings and is much younger than Ma. Consequently, the scales may tip soon in his favor.

Is Ma Long retired?

Despite being fairly advanced in age, Ma Long is not and does not plan to retire any time soon.

 

In Conclusion

With Ma Long, there’s certainly a case for him being the greatest table tennis player of all time. His accolades speak for themselves, including the double grand slam. Also, despite getting older, he shows no signs of stopping. Perhaps he aims at setting a record that no one else can beat. For now, he’s out of the top spot in world rankings, having paved the way for Fan Zhendong. However, Fan still has a long way to go to match Ma Long’s achievements. One thing is for sure; table tennis lovers should be grateful they get a few more years of watching Ma Long play.

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