Ma Lin is a retired table tennis player. He featured prominently in the Chinese national team and he was the world’s sixth-ranked player as of 4th July 2012 in the official International Table Tennis Federation (ITTF) rankings.
Ma Lin: a Brief Introduction
Born on February 19, 1980, in Shenyang, Liaoning, China, he learned to play table tennis at the age of five and became a member of the provincial team in 1990. In 1994, he joined the Chinese national team. Since retiring in December 2013, Ma Lin has been serving as the head coach of the Guangdong provincial table tennis team.
Ma Lin is the only male player ever to win Olympic gold in the men’s singles, men’s doubles, and team events. In addition, he holds a professional era record of five major titles (four World Cups and one Olympic Gold), which means he has won more World Cups than any other male table tennis player in the history of the sport.
He was considered something of a controversial player because he would often argue and disagree with his opponents. He would sometimes take excessive time by delaying his services, which is a notorious Chinese strategy. Over the course of his career, he received quite a lot of yellow cards from the umpires.
People often make comparisons between Ma Lin and Ma Long, another extremely successful Chinese table tennis player. It is claimed that Ma Long in his prime would beat Ma Lin, because his backhand is considered slightly weaker. It has been predicted that Ma Lin would only have a chance if he could attack and finish the point fairly early in the match. The longer the point, the bigger the advantage would be for Ma Long.
Ma Lin’s Equipment
While he was a professional player, Ma Lin most often used a Yasaka Ma Lin Extra Offensive Penhold as his blade. He often tended to use a DHS NEO Skyline 2 TG2 for his forehand and a Butterfly Bryce Speed FX for his backhand. These pieces of equipment fit his playing style very well. As an effective forehand attacker and penholder in most of his matches, Ma could often be seen using the pen-hold grip.
The block is a stroke used to control an attacking shot. Players commonly block against a loop by simply volleying the ball back safely. An aggressive block is a block with more force pushed back to produce a faster return. With his own really effective backhand block shot, Ma Lin also often used the reverse pen-hold backhand (RPB), which is an innovative stroke that uses the underside of the blade to produce a large amount of topspin.
Ma Lin was regarded as one of the table tennis players with the best serves in the game. His serves would sometimes spin back to the net instead of traveling directly to his opponents, and this meant that they had to stay constantly alert in order to even hit the ball. Table tennis performance is partly about the individual repertoire a player has, and to which his opponents are not accustomed.
In table tennis, backspin (also known as slice or underspin), is a shot where the ball rotates backward rapidly (as though rolling back towards the player) after it is hit. Backspin is the opposite of topspin and it can be a really effective strategy when serving, but it is also a controversial technique. Something that has come into question recently is whether Ma Lin’s most effective serves would still be allowed under the current rules of table tennis.
Hidden (or ghost) serves are now considered the most common illegal serves in table tennis. This type of serve occurs when the player uses his free arm or his body to hide the contact point. The reason these serves are now illegal is that it can be difficult to determine whether they are topspin serves, no-spin float serves, or backspin serves. Although these hidden serves were certainly allowed and even encouraged when Lin was a player, the ITTF has now changed its rules.
Ma Lin’s Stats
In China, Ma is still famous for his extreme dedication to training. It is said that in his early days, he was known for wearing down the soles of his shoes in three hours or less. He managed to win four World Cup trophies in total (2000, 2003, 2004, and 2006), which is more than any other player in history, but he has also ended up losing three times in the World Championship finals (in the years 1999, 2005, and 2007).
One thing that Ma Lin has been criticized for was his lack of mental resolve because he often seemed to crumble in crucial moments. Despite his successful career in 1999, he played badly in the national trials and he was denied from competing in the 2000 Sydney Olympics. This was a serious blow for the sport of world table tennis because Lin was also a popular and entertaining player to watch.
When it came to the World Championship at Zagreb (2007), he was seeded first but he ended up losing in the final match to his compatriot Wang Liqin, after leading 3–1 in terms of games and being 7–1 up in the fifth game. To be fair, his performance was somewhat justified later on in the day. During the post-match press conference, he revealed that his maternal grandfather had committed suicide before the tournament began, so he was not exactly in the best mental state.
During the 2008 Beijing Olympics, Ma Lin was able to win the team competition with his compatriots Wang Hao and Wang Liqin. In the men’s singles, Ma Lin defeated the Korean Oh Sang Eun in the quarterfinals (4–0), his main rival Wang Liqin in the semifinals (4–2), and the world number 1 Wang Hao in the finals (4–1). Ma Lin finished his career with a record of 15–10 head-to-head against Wang Hao.
Oddly enough, Ma Lin is one of the few Chinese players who never achieved a table tennis grand slam in his career because he was unable to claim a men’s singles World Championship title (the closest he came to winning one of those was in 2007, but he crumbled at a crucial stage of the match).
Having said that, Ma Lin is still considered to be the most successful Olympic table tennis player in China as well as worldwide because he won all of the possible titles available to him in the Olympic Games (in Athens 2004 he was the Doubles Champion with Chen Qi, in Beijing 2008 he was the Singles Champion and also the Team Events Champion).
Ma Lin’s Height
Table tennis players are generally a little shorter than most athletes, although there are some notably tall players around the world. Like most sports, table tennis players are of all shapes and sizes. Germany’s Timo Boll is a good example of a world-class player who is reasonably tall.
However, the Chinese superstar Ma Lin is not one of those taller players. He stands at a height of about 5 feet 7 inches and he weighs about 170 pounds. Like many Asians, his eye color is black and his hair is black. Although his size may have been considered a defect in some sports, it seems that his small stature allowed him to be more mobile than many of his opponents around the table tennis table.
Ma Lin’s Titles
Ma Lin was famously able to capture most of the world’s most important titles over the course of twelve or thirteen years. In addition to all of his international awards, he also claimed nine medals from the Asian Games and eight from the Asian Championships. Ma Lin can also claim 18 medals from World Championships, including golds in the mixed doubles (1999, 2003), doubles (2007) and team (2001, 2004, 2006, 2008, 2010). This puts him among other Chinese greats like Xu Xin and Ma Long in terms of his professional accomplishments.
Here is a partial list of Ma Lin’s most important titles that he won in each of the years throughout his career.
- 1999 Men’s World Championship (second place)
- 2000 Men’s World Cup champion
- 2002 ITTF Pro Tour Grand Finals Men’s Singles Gold
- 2003 Men’s World Cup champion
- 2004 Athens Olympic Games champion doubles (with Chen Qi)
- 2004 Men’s World Cup champion
- 2005 Men’s World Championship (second place)
- 2006 Men’s World Cup champion
- 2007 Men’s World Championship (second place)
- 2007 ITTF Pro Tour Grand Finals Men’s Singles Gold
- 2008 Beijing Olympic Games Men’s Singles champion and Team champion
- 2009 Men’s World Championship (third place)
- 2010 Men’s Team World Championship, gold medal.
Ma Lin’s Net Worth
Ma Lin’s net worth or net income is estimated to be $1 million – $4 million dollars. He has made such an immense amount of wealth all the way from the beginning of his primary career as a table tennis player, and he continues to earn more money as a coach and a table tennis consultant.
Over the course of his career, Lin was able to earn a large number of endorsement deals with various brands and sports companies. Lin sometimes received equipment and extra money from all of these sponsors. As a very important member of the Chinese national team, he also earned large sums of money from the Chinese government while he was a player.
When he played in the China Table Tennis Super League or “chn”, he represented teams such as Bayi Gongshang, Shandong Luneng, Guangdong Gotone, Shaanxi Yinhe and Ningbo Haitan. His transfer to Shaanxi Yinhe for over 5 million Chinese yuan was a league record. His next transfer was to Ningbo Haitan for 1.3 million yuan (about US$170,000), and this deal included 1 million yuan in salary.
He has also launched a successful line of ping pong paddles that are available commercially. Ma Lin Extra Offensive paddle is light in weight with a good speed and a large sweet spot. The center veneer is a little bit thicker and harder than other paddles, which gives additional power to the amateur athlete. The surface is also lacquered by the factory as a way to improve the speed and durability of the paddle. It is an ideal paddle for offensive players who really know how to control topspin shots.
Today he continues his close collaboration with Yasaka in the development of new products. In addition to being a successful ping pong paddle marketer, here are a few other interesting things that you might not know about the famous Ma Lin.
1. Ma Lin has Three Nicknames
Ma Lin was considered a real master at serving and his serve was considered one of the best in the world under the old ITTF rules. This earned him the nickname of “Ghost Server”. These types of serves can cause the ball to bounce or spin back toward the net instead of traveling straight off the table. Because of his brilliant serving technique at the time, Ma Lin has often been called “Maestro Ma Lin,” “Defense Killer,” and “Table Tennis Olympic Champion”.
2. Ma Lin is Now a Father
Ma Lin remains fully committed to the International Table Tennis Federation (ITTF) and he has even stated in the past that “Table tennis would be my wife forever. This will never change.” However, it helps remembering that nowadays he does have another wife too. Ma Lin married his sweetheart Zhang Yaqing in December 2013 and on April 19, 2016, they had a son together.
3. Some of his Olympic Heroes
Like many people in the world of table tennis, Ma Lin greatly respects Jan-Ove Waldner, the Swedish former table tennis player. He also considers some of his predecessors in the Chinese table tennis team to be his heroes. One example of this is Liu Guoliang, the former Chinese head coach, former Olympic and world champion, and current president of the Chinese Table Tennis Association. He also is very fond of Li Yongbo, the former head coach of the Chinese badminton team.
4. Ma Lin Today
Today, Ma Lin often gives motivational talks and he appears as a popular guest speaker at many schools and sports clubs around the cities of China and even in the rest of the world. He has been quoted in an interview saying, “Everyone has a different life path. Once you choose to become an athlete, sure you have a lot to lose. But if you work hard, you also have a lot to gain.”
He also went on to say in that interview that the most important thing in life, for ordinary people as well as for star athletes, is to never give up under pressure. “Everyone is facing their own problems on their own life paths, life can’t be all plain sailing, so it’s important to face difficulty, set your own goals, and work your way through them one at a time.” This is some really encouraging advice from one of the world’s top players.
After he decided to retire, Ma has certainly stayed busy in world table tennis. For example, he has performed admirably as a coach for the Chinese national team. He has a close relationship with Liu Shiwen and he can often be seen collaborating in the coach’s corner during some of their matches.
China can be very grateful for Lin’s contribution to table tennis even though he is now officially retired from the professional game. He remains heavily involved with the sport. He is currently the director of the Guangdong Table Tennis Centre and the head coach of the provincial team. He also spends a large amount of time visiting local schools and educating the next generation. Check out some of these memorable shots by this gifted player!