Table tennis, to the outsider, might come across as an easy sport to play. However, no sport is easy to play at the professional level, and to be the best player at table tennis you require consistent training and constant focus on the match. Several players have come and gone, but there are only a few that are considered the best of all time. In this article, I give you my top best table tennis players of all time who consistently dominated the sport in their time.
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|Serial No.||Player Name||Olympic Medals||World Championships|
|1||Jan-Ove Waldner||1 gold, 2 silvers||6 golds, 7 silvers|
|2||Liu Guoliang||2 golds, 1 silver||7 golds, 4 silvers|
|3||Deng Yaping||4 golds||9 golds, 5 silvers|
|4||Xu Xin||2 golds, 1 silver||10 golds, 1 silver|
|5||Ma Long||5 golds||12 golds, 1 silver|
|6||Kong Linghui||2 golds, 1 silver||8 golds, 6 silvers|
|7||Wang Liqin||2 golds||11 golds, 4 silvers|
|8||Zhang Jike||3 golds, 1 silver||7 golds, 1 silver|
|9||Wang Hao||2 golds, 3 silvers||9 golds, 4 silvers|
|10||Timo Boll||2 silvers||6 silvers|
Hailing from Sweden, Jan-Ove Waldner is one of the most successful non-Chinese table tennis player of all time. He started his career in 1998 when he was 16 years old. Over his long career, Jan-Ove won many Swedish and European championships as well as Olympic medals.
One of Jan-Ove’s most memorable achievements came in his ninth Swedish title win, as he defeated Pär Gerell in 2010, who was born in the same year he won his first Swedish Championship title.
Jan-Ove’s career lasted so long that he even competed against players trained by his former opponents, thereby earning himself the nickname “The Evergreen Tree” among the Chinese.
Jan-Ove’s career was one of the longest at his time, and he is rated one of the greatest players of all time because he was able to maintain an impressive hand-to-eye coordination throughout his career. He is one of only seven players to have played in the first five Championship years, during which he won an Olympic Gold in 1992 and a Silver in 2000. He won three gold medals in 1996 alone in the European Championship singles, doubles and team competitions.
Jan-Ove is also one of the only five players to have ever completed a career Grand Slam. With stunning records such as these, he is considered a living legend of the sport, and that’s not an overstatement.
Liu Guoliang, the current Chinese table tennis team coach, is the second out of five players in the history of table tennis to achieve a career Grand Slam by winning the World Championships, the World Cup and an Olympic Gold during his playing career.
Guoliang holds the distinction of winning at least one title in every major tournament, including the World Cup, the Olympic Games and the World Championships. He won two gold medals at the 1996 Olympics and also won the men’s singles title during the 1996 World Cup. He later went on to win the singles World Championship in 1999 and the world doubles championship in 1997 and 1999.
Guoliang won two gold medals, a silver and a bronze in the table tennis events of the Olympic Games and is also widely considered to be the best backhand reverse topspin player ever.
Guoliang went on to become the head coach of the Chinese table tennis team at the age of 27. As a coach, he has been the most successful, with his team having won almost every men’s singles title from 2001 to 2018. Guoliang was also appointed president of the Chinese Table Tennis Association in 2018.
Deng Yaping in her youth was considered to be a tennis prodigy, however, her professional career didn’t come to fruition as she had to leave the sport due to her short height. Since then she shifted to table tennis and In 1988 made it into the Chinese national team and immediately won her first world championship title in women’s doubles.
Deng Yaping dominated the women’s table tennis scenario between 1990-2000, and was ranked the world number for 8 years, from 1990-1997. In this period of time she won 6 titles which include the singles title in 1991, and singles and doubles world championship in 1995 and 1997. In addition to this she also managed to win both singles and doubles titles in the 1992 and 1996 olympics.
In the 1990 decade, Yaping won the most titles ever amongst both men and women table tennis players. Yaping was also voted as the Chinese athlete of the century and inducted into the ITTF hall of fame.
Xu Xin is an active table tennis player who is ranked No. 3 for the men’s singles by the International Table Tennis Federation (ITTF). Xin has won 17 world singles titles, three men’s doubles titles, two mixed doubles titles, and has even won the World Championship five times in a team event.
Xin is also a back-to-back winner of the World Tour Championship, a feat he achieved in 2012 and 2013, and has also won the Asia Cup twice: in 2013 and 2016. In his illustrious career, Xin has also been a two-time World Championship semi-finalist, and was ranked No. 1 in the world for men’s singles in 2013.
Ma Long is also an active table tennis player and is the reigning Olympic singles champion. Widely regarded as the greatest table tennis player of all time, Long started his career by becoming the Asian and Junior champion in 2004. Since then, his career has only gone upwards.
Long holds the record for being the longest reigning No. 1 in table tennis (64 months) and has been the captain of the Chinese table tennis team since 2014. He has won five straight IITF World tournaments in a row and 28 IITF World Tour titles, which is another record he holds. Long is also one of the five illustrious players to have completed a career Grand Slam and the only male player in the world to have won every single title in the sport.
Former world no 1 Kong Linghui was born in 1975 in harbin, China. He is well known as the third-ever person to achieve a career grand slam in Tennis. Kong won a gold medal in the doubles men’s event of the 1996 olympics.
Four years later, he was a dominant force as he won gold in both the singles and doubles events at the 2000 olympics. Kong is currently the head coach of the Chinese national Women’s team. Kong Linghui is considered as one of the greats of the sport, and ended his long career in 2006.
Born in Shanghai, Wang Liqin started his career in the 90’s and was ranked no.1 men’s table tennis player by the ITTF for 25 consecutive months. The 3-time world champion has also won two olympic gold medals and an olympic bronze medal as well.
The 43-year old retired from the game in 2013, and was widely renowned for his power shots which was one of the best in the game due to his tall height of 6 feet 1 inches. Wang won his first gold medal in the men’s doubles event of the 2000 summer olympics in Australia. He also won a team gold medal in 2008 Olympics with the Chinese team.
Due to his industrious career, Liqin was also inducted into the ITTF hall of fame and is currently the coach of the Shanghai team in the Chinese super league.
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The chinese born 34-year old is only the fourth male player to have won the career grand slam in table tennis. He is also the fastest player to do so, winning all three major titles within 445 days. Jhike is one of the few ever athletes to play with his father in several team competitions, and he was also the No.1 ranked male in 2012 by the ITTF.
He was a dominant force in the first few years of the 2010 decade, winning two world championships in 2011 and 2013. The Qingado born athlete also won a singles gold medal in the 2012 Olympics, and finished runners up in 2016.
Zhang Jike, who retired in 2021 also won the men’s doubles world championship in 2015, and hence gets a place in the top 10 table tennis players of all time.
The 38-year old from Changchun, China won his first ever men’s singles world championship in 2009. Wang Hao retired from the game in 2014, and his other accolades also include becoming a three time world champion, winning it in 2007, 2008 and 2010.
Being a part of the dominant Chinese Olympic team, Wang Hao also has other accomplishments, winning silver medals in the 2004, 2008 and 2012 Olympics.
Wang was also ranked number 1 by the ITTF for 27 consecutive months from 2007 and 2009, and makes it into this list.
Timo Boll is only the second non-Chinese player to make this list, and was a dominant force in the Table Tennis world. The German born athlete is a left-handed player and currently ranked second in the German Table Tennis National League, and at the age of 41 still ranked 10th by the ITTF.
Boll who currently plays for Borussia Dusseldorf has won several major competitions including the World Cup, European Cup and single World Championships. The German team won the Table Tennis World Cup in 2002, 2005, and also finished runners-up in 2008, 2012, 2017 and 2018.
Timo Boll is also undoubtedly the best German player ever and has also won a staggering 13 German world championships.