Ping pong, also known as table tennis, is one of the most played games in the world. Often deployed for recreation, many great players have played the game professionally. And there’s absolutely nothing not to relish about their exciting and incredible achievements. Like in every other sport, the GOAT (Greatest Of All Time) debate is not missing in ping pong.
Even though ping pong is played worldwide, no one can deny the obvious fact that it’s most popular in Asia. As you’ll see later in this article, Asian ping pong players, more specifically, Chinese players, have dominated the sport for several decades. With amazing talent and hard work, many players have put themselves in the GOAT debate.
Who do you consider the ping pong best players? Is your chosen GOAT truly great? Read on to get answers to this question as we talk about the best professional ping pong players who have played the game.
While playing with the best table tennis net, best table tennis rubber, and best ping pong paddles, helps a ping pong player, these pieces of equipment are not enough to make them the best; there’s more to being a top player.
Below, we will discuss everything you need to know about the top ping pong players, including their nationality, date of birth, playing style, medals, and the tricks they’re known for:
If you’re a huge follower of ping pong, there’s no chance that you don’t know who the incredible Ma Long is. Long, a Chinese, was born on October 20, 1988. He’s widely known for his right-handed and shake-hand grip playing style. Also, the Chinese ping pong player is reputed to be the best forehand attacker in the history of the game and that’s not a farfetched claim considering his incredible feats.
Not only is Long the first male player to complete a career Double Grand Slam (Grand Slam in ping pong requires winning gold at the Olympic games, World Table Tennis Championship, and the World Cup), but he was also the number 1 tennis player in the world for a total of 64 months (and 34 consecutive months)—the most by any male in the history of table tennis.
Representing the People’s Republic of China at the Olympic Games, World Championships, World Cup, Asian Cup, Asian Championships, and ITTF World Tour Grand Finals, Long has amassed at least 74 medals, including 55 gold wins. It’s hard to argue that he’s not the world best ping pong player.
Sitting pretty comfortably on our list is the talented Jan-Ove Waldner—another ping pong legend who’s well in the conversation of the best table tennis player of all time. Waldner, a Swedish, was born on October 3, 1965, in Stockholm, Sweden. With his shake-hand grip playing style, the Swedish player had a long career that spanned the 80s until February 2016 when he played his last match.
If there was one thing that stood Waldner out throughout his glowing career, it was his excellent ability to serve properly which helped him trick his opponents effectively and win several medals. As of July 2021, the table tennis champion was the only ping pong player who’s an Olympic table tennis gold medal representing a non-Asian country.
Additionally, he won more than 45 medals, including 20 gold wins, at the Olympic Games, World Championship, World Cup, and European Championships.
The next player on our list is another Chinese—Ma Lin who was born on February 19, 1980, in Shenyang, Liaoning, China. Lin’s Chinese penhold playing style won him several medals during his playing career which ended in December 2013. And he’s the only male ping pong player to win the Olympic gold in the Singles, Doubles, and Team categories.
In total, Lin won at least 48 medals, including 27 gold medals, at the Olympic Games, World Championships, World cup, Asian Games, and Asian Championships. Since he retired, he’s served as the head coach of the Guangdong provincial table tennis team.
Liu Guoliang is fourth on our list of top pro ping pong players. A Chinese, Guoliang was born on January 10, 1976, in Xinxiang, Henan. The Chinese player, who was very good at playing even as a child, favored a penhold grip playing style that helped him become the second male ever to clinch a grand slam.
Since Guoliang was chosen to represent the Chinese national team in 1991 as a 15-year-old until his retirement in 2001, he won plaudits with his backhand reverse topspin technique. During his playing career, he won at least 19 medals, including 10 gold wins, at the Olympic Games, World Championships, and World Cup.
Not long after he retired, Guoliang became the youngest head coach of China’s National Men’s Table Tennis Team at the age of 27. After quitting as coach in 2018, he was elected as the president of the Chinese Table Tennis Association on December 1, 2018, Trusted SourceLegend Liu elected new president of table tennis association - Chinadaily.com.cn China’s table tennis legend Liu Guoliang has been elected as new president of the Chinese Table Tennis Association. www.chinadaily.com.cn
Continuing the Chinese streak on our list is Wang Nan, a talented female player, who was born on October 23, 1978. Her shake-hand grip playing style made her dominate the ping pong world and become the world’s number one player on the International Table Tennis Federation (ITTF) ranking from January 1999 to November 2002.
Besides her excellent playing style, Nan possessed great speed and incredible skill in changing the ball placement during rallies. During her playing career, she won a total of 32 medals, including a 24 gold haul, representing China at the Olympic Games, World Championships, and the World Cup.
Post-retirement, Nan’s exploits have not slowed down: She’s currently the Vice Director of the Chinese Athletics Association (CAA) and was recently elected as the first-ever Asian woman council member of the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) Trusted SourceWang Nan, champion of firsts - International Table Tennis Federation A legendary player like no no other, an ardent talent for being the first to achieve targets often thought next to impossible. www.ittf.com
Kong Linghui is another Chinese ping pong great on our list. Born on October 18, 1975, in Harbin, Heilongjiang, China, he favored and mastered the shake-hand grip playing technique. He was also strong in both containing and attacking. It’s no surprise that he became the third male ping pong player to achieve a career grand slam.
Besides doing it alone, Linghui is popular for his medals in the men’s doubles competition together with Guoliang. He won at least 29 medals at the Olympic Games, World Championships World Cup, and Asian Championships, and the ITTF World Tour Grand Finals, during his playing career.
Following his retirement, the Chinese great took up the position of the Head Coach of China’s National Women’s Team.
Wang Lin dominated the world of table tennis during his playing career. Born on June 18, 1978, in Shanghai, China, he was another player who favored the shake-hand grip playing style and played a forehand dominated style. His technique, unsurprisingly, pushed him to the top of the world as he was ranked the number one player by the ITTF for 25 consecutive months.
Furthermore, Liqin won at least 38 medals, including 20 gold wins, at the Olympic Games, World Championships, and World Cup, Asian Games, before he retired from professional table tennis in 2013.
Zhang Jike is another Chinese ping pong great whose talent and incredible drive are never in doubt. Born on February 16, 1988, in Qingdao, Shandong, China, Jike has had a very successful career with more than 22 medals to show for it.
Unlike his predecessors, this shake-hand grip player was notably strong from the backhand and has employed the backhand so-called “banana” return of service that made him different. Besides becoming the fourth player in history to achieve a career grand slam, Jike won the Grand Slam in only 445 days.
Additionally, Jike has won 22 medals, including 16 gold wins, at the Olympic Games, World Championships, World Cup, Asian Games, and Asian Championships. Due to injuries, he’s been unable to play for years.
Away from Chinese ping pong greats, Timo Boll, a German, stands out as one of the best players of all time. Born on March 8, 1981, he’s a left-handed player who favors the shake-hand grip playing style and uses the forehand topspin drive efficiently. Instead of creating a passive block, the German creates the spin-block to heap pressure on his opponents.
Unsurprisingly, Boll has won several medals in various international competitions, including the World Cup. Specifically, he’s won 48 medals, including 24 goal medals, at the Olympic Games, World Championships, World Cup, European Games, and European Championships.
Guo Yue is an incredibly talented female ping pong player. The Chinese, who was born on July 17, 1988, utilized her left-handed shake-hand attack so well as her career wins show. Besides winning two Gold and two Bronze medals at the Olympics, she’s won the World Championship too. She won at least 21 medals, including 12 gold wins, at the Olympics and World Championships.
Yue’s career was over in 2015 after officials kicked her out of the National Team, citing “lack of interest” and “poor behavior”
Trusted SourceGuo Yue — Google Arts & Culture
Guo Yue is a Chinese table tennis player and the 2007 women’s world
champion. artsandculture.google.com She went on to study finance at Tsinghua University in Beijing, China.
Table tennis lovers marveled at the sight of yet another Chinese great—Deng Yaping. Born on February 6, 1973, Yaping took the tennis world by storm as a teenager. Between 1989 and 1997, she won 18 world championship medals, including four Olympic titles, thanks to her excellent long rubber backhand playing style.
At the time of Yaping’s retirement in 1997, the 24-year-old had won 28 medals, including 21 gold wins, at the Olympic Games, World Championships, World Cup, and Asian Games. Since retirement, she’s served on the International Olympic Committee’s ethics and athletes commissions and was also a color-commentator for the Women’s World Cup in 2020.
Ichiro Ogimura is a Japanese ping pong great who many modern players look up to. Born on June 25, 1932, Ogimura is famous for inventing and popularizing a playing style known as the “Fifty-One Percent Doctrine”. The style encouraged an aggressive playing style that forced a player to risk a smash shot if they believed they had a good chance of defeating the opponent with it.
Besides winning 12 world titles at the World Championships, Ogimura won 5 consecutive titles in the team competitions. He won a total of 33 medals, including 20 gold wins, at the World Championships, Asian Games, and Asian Championships. After his retirement, he became an executive member of the ITTF in 1973 and president in 1987.
Wang Hao followed the footsteps of many other Chinese greats to become a force to reckon with in the world of table tennis. Born on December 15, 1983, in Changchun, Jilin Province, China, Hao is known to perform the Reverse Penhold Backhand (RPB) with admirable skill. Little wonder that he was ranked number one on the official ITTF world rankings for 27 consecutive months.
Before Hao retired from the national team in 2014, he had won 42 medals, including 24 gold wins, at the Olympic Games, World Championships, and World Cup, Asian Championships, and Asian Cup.
Xu Xin is the last on our list of the greatest ever ping pong players and like others, he’s done remarkably well in the game. Born on January 8, 1990, Xin is a Chinese player. Favoring the penhold grip, his frame and long arms help him to move quickly and execute a graceful forehand loop. He’s also employed the reverse penhold backhand grip which allows a two-winged attack.
Furthermore, Xin rose to the number one position in the ITTF world ranking in 2013 after winning the ITTF World Tour Grand Finals in December 2012. Overall, the Chinese player has won 40 medals, including 28 wins, at the Olympic Games, World Championships, World Cup, ITTF World Tour Grand Finals, Asian Games, and Asian Championships.
It’s not rare to find ping pong lovers disagree about who’s the GOAT among the famous table tennis players. The debate is a tough one considering the huge number of ping pong world champions. Notwithstanding, outlining the triumphs of these ping pong players can go a long way in gauging their greatness as we’ve done in this article.
Besides, nothing stops non-professional tennis enthusiasts from experiencing the thrills of playing ping pong but they must invest in high-quality pieces of equipment. The JOOLA Infinity Overdrive racket, for example, features a smooth inverted surface as well as an ergonomic handle for enhanced performance. Plus, it’s ideal for kids and adults. The JOOLA Prime 3-Star ABS Balls, on the other hand, make you feel like a pro thanks to their ABS plastic construction that guarantees even hardness and identical thickness.