China has one of the world's largest table tennis talent pools, with most children coming across and playing the sport at a very young age. For those who end up playing professionally, there's stiff competition which means some don't get the recognition of some of their countrymates. One of the talents we rarely hear about due to the many achievements of those around her is Zhang Rui.
She is certainly good enough to have a few medals in her cabinet. She has also made it into the global top 10 women's table tennis rankings at least once in her career, which some of the top players in other countries can only dream of achieving. So, what more is there to know about this understated talent? Keep reading to find out.
Zhang Rui was born in Wuhan, Hubei, China, on January 23, 1997. She is the second Chinese Player by that name, with the previous owner of the name having been born in 1979. Given her relative lack of achievements compared to other Chinese in the sport, very little is known about her pre-2013.
However, in 2013 she burst onto the world table tennis scene, ranking 283rd globally in the women's division. By this time, she was just 16 years old. That said, it took her until 2018 to make a splash in the senior division. She participated in three World Tour Opens, taking home one gold and two silvers.
Overall Zhang Rui has had more success in doubles than in singles and team events. Nevertheless, it still puts her among some of the best players the world has seen in recent times.
Also, she's not just a sports star, with the Wuhan-born table tennis star receiving her postgraduate recommendation from the Hubei University of Technology in 2018.
One of the earlier successes of Zhang's ping pong playing career came in 2017 when she topped the under-21 segment at the ITTF Austria Open. She then went on to win gold at the 2017 Swedish Open and would manage a similar feat the following year at the ITTF Qatar Open.
2018 was another good year for Zhang, where she partnered with Liu Gaoyang and proceeded to win a silver at the ITTF World Tour Bulgarian Open. She and her partner lost the final to Japan's pairing of Mima Ito and Kasumi Ishikawa.
In the same year, Zhang and Liu Gaoyang again paired for gold at the ITTF World Tour Czech Open.
In 2019 she took three medals from the Universiade as part of the Hubei University of Technology team. The competition is held every two years for university students and has since been renamed the FISU World University Games.
The medals were two silvers from the women's singles and doubles and a gold from the team event.
2022 and 2023 saw Zhang Rui Pair up with Kuai Man for the doubles at the 2022 WTT Contender Muscat, 2022 WTT Contender Tunis, 2023 WTT Contender Durban, 2023 WTT Contender Doha, and 2023 WTT Feeder Doha. The pair managed to take home four golds and one silver. The silver came from the 2023 WTT Feeder Doha.
She also combined once with Qian Tianyi at the 2022 Feeder Doha, with the two taking home the silver medal.
Zhang's singles career hasn't been too bad either, with the Chinese national getting 2nd place at the 2022 WTT Contender Doha after losing the final to Fan Siqi. A similar scene played out at WTT Contender Doha 2023, where Fan Siqi again edged Zhang Rui in the final to clinch the top spot.
Zhang Rui is a shakehand attacker, often preferring to stick close to the table. She also prefers power using her forehand to attack, keep an opponent on the defensive, and push them away from the table.
Playing an opponent like Zhang can be hard if you don't have the right shoes, as it can affect your footing and ability to return powerful shots. Fortunately, we've already reviewed the best table tennis shoes in the market, and you can check out our list and pick something appropriate for your needs.
In one of her matches against Fan Siqi at the WTT Doha, Zhang also showed her cheeky side with a drop shot after she had pushed Fan further from the table with her forehand.
This shows why staying on the offensive is important, with short pips well suited to that play style. If you want the offensive capabilities of short pips, we've already listed the best short pips rubber you can find.
Nevertheless, playing like that would require learning to play offensively under pressure, with ping-pong robots being an excellent way to practice. If you're unsure which robot works best, most reviewers having positive things to say about the Butterfly Amicus Prime. The device allows you to change ball frequency from 5-120 balls per minute so you can take things at your own pace.
Some of Zhang Rui's achievements include:
2017 ITTF Austria Open U21s – singles gold
2018 ITTF Qatar Open U21s – singles gold
2018 ITTF World Tour Bulgarian Open – doubles silver
2018 ITTF World Tour Czech Open – doubles gold
2019 Universiade – singles silver
2019 Universiade – doubles silver
2019 Universiade – team gold
2022 Contender Muscat – doubles gold
2022 Feeder Doha – doubles silver
2022 Contender Doha – singles silver
2022 Contender Tunis – doubles gold
2022 Contender Durban – doubles gold
2023 Contender Doha – doubles gold
2023 Feeder Doha – doubles silver
2023 Contender Doha – singles silver
Zhang Rui has been among the top rankers for a long time, having made it into the top 100 globally for the first time in October 2017 at position 94. In 2018 she made her stay among the top 100 more, permanent ranking 75th globally, and continually improving since.
Her highest world ranking was 8th, and it came in April 2023.
Zhang Rui has a non-existent social media presence preferring to keep most of her life away from the internet.
Zhang Rui's name may not be as famous as other Chinese players like Fan Siqi or Ma Long in the men's division. However, she has had plenty of success and still plays at the highest levels. The fact that in 2023 she ranked 8th in the world shows she's among the best talent-wise. That said, only time will tell how far that talent takes her.