If you have ever watched any table tennis matches in the Olympic Games or the ITTF World Table Tennis Championship, you might know that China often dominates the sport and the Chinese men’s team holds by far the most world team championship titles.
Table tennis is the most popular sport in China. When Ma Long became the men’s singles World Champion in 2019, that made it three world titles in a row. In this article, we will be taking an in-depth look at one of the greatest table tennis players of all time.
Ma Long is one of the players who have completed all the International Table Tennis Federation (ITTF) Grand Slams in their careers. Here are some of the most important and interesting things to know about this Chinese superstar.
Ma Long: a Brief Introduction
Born on October 20, 1988, Ma Long won his first championship in 2006 at the age of eighteen. He has by now become one of the best players in the entire history of the game of table tennis. Despite achieving a massive amount of fame in his sport, Ma Long has very few pretensions or airs and he is a very polite and respectful person.
In fact, Ma already became a recognizable name in the table tennis world from a young age, taking four titles at the 2004 World Junior Championships including the Men’s Singles trophy. However, he sometimes struggled with discipline and led to clashes with his coaches.
For example, in 2005 at a training camp in Xiamen, Coach Li Yi was not happy with the number of mistakes Ma was making, and so he made him repeat the exercises several times before punishing him with running 20 laps. As the reigning Olympic singles champion, he usually receives rock-star treatment from his fans, who are willing to travel all over China and the rest of the world to cheer him on at all of the various table tennis tournaments.
Like many table tennis players in China, Long is constantly engaged in autograph signing sessions, yet he remains humble and appreciative of his many fans. Ma Long is a three-time gold medallist at the Olympic Games and he is the reigning singles Olympic champion.
Ma Long’s Equipment
Ma Long is a right-handed player who uses the shake-hand grip to great effect. He has won a wide variety of awards in the Olympic Games using a National Hurricane 3 blue sponge rubber, with a 40.5 to 41 DHS hardness scale and a 2.15 millimeter thickness. During 2019, Ma Long also used a DHS Hurricane Long V Forehand, a DHS NEO Hurricane 3 Backhand, and a Butterfly Tenergy 05.
In addition, he has earned a number of endorsement deals with various brands such as Nike. This means that Long also receives equipment and extra money from all of his sponsors. As an integral part of the Chinese national team, he also receives large sums of money from the Chinese government for a wide variety of uses.
As an effective forehand attacker in most matches, Ma uses a close-range third-ball technique to confuse all of his opponents. As it was at the beginning of his career, his approach continues to be mostly forehand-oriented. He generally dominates his games with plenty of sturdy forehand loops, and he tends to use his backhand skills only for controlled returns to set up his forehand shots.
Ma Long’s Stats
Long started playing the game of table tennis at a very early age. At the age of 17, he won both the Asian and World Junior Championships and became the youngest champion in the world in 2006. In his early career, he trained with Wang Hao and former Chinese National Team coach Ma Kai Xuan. Later, he began training with Qin Zhi Jian.
Long achieved great success in the singles game even before he reached 22 years of age. He won the World Tour Grand Finals and the Asian Cup twice, as well as reaching the finals of the China National Games and All-China Championships and eleven other ITTF World Tour tournaments or ITTF finals.
As a bit of background, the World Table Tennis Championships (WTTC) have been held since 1926, biennially since 1957. Five individual events are currently held in odd-numbered years. The World Team Table Tennis Championships became their own competition in 2000. The Team Championships are held in even-numbered years.
In 2013, he defeated Wang Hao at the world cup of table tennis, the WTTC, and the next year, he was able to win the China Open, the Asian Championships, and the China National Games. He won the Asian Cup for the fourth time in March 2014 and he also won the 2014 WTTC without losing even a single set.
In 2015, Long won the Kuwait Open as well as the German Open in Dusseldorf. During the entire WTTC tournament of 2015, he just lost a single set. He then went on to win his sixth victory at the China Open, and he was also able to win the doubles tournament of the Chinese Super League championship along with his partner.
In 2016, Long won the German Open in Dusseldorf without losing a single set until the final game. Even in the 2016 men’s world cup, he helped China win the tournament without losing a single set. He qualified for the Olympic Singles in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, by winning his section of the Asian Olympic Qualification Tournament and he ultimately took the gold medal at the Rio Olympics.
Ma Long’s Height
Table tennis players are generally a little short, although there are some notably tall players. The Chinese superstar Ma Long is right in the middle because he is neither short nor tall. He stands at a height of 1.75 meters, or about 5 feet 9 inches, which is about the average height for a grown male. He weighs about 70 kilograms or around 158 pounds. His eye color is black and his hair is black.
Ma Long’s Net Worth
Ma Long has become one of the richest tennis players in the world with an estimated net worth of $20 million (as of 2019). He earned about $2 million from his prize money and various other sources in 2012 alone. There was a $250,000 prize that came with his 2013 championship title.
As many athletes have experienced over the past few years, Long has had a fairly lengthy spell away from competitive table tennis action, and this means he will now have to get used to something of a new order in the world of table tennis. Although Long is still very rich and powerful in the sport, there are plenty of newcomers who are trying to capture those big paydays for themselves.
For example, there is the Japanese teenager Tomokazu Harimoto, the Buenos Aires 2018 Youth Olympic silver medallist, who recently became the youngest ITTF World Tour Grand Finals champion. Also, Germany’s Timo Boll, the European champion, Vladimir Samsonov, the Belarusian, and the Ukrainian Dimitrij Ovtcharov remain constant threats to Long’s domination of the sport.
A Bit More About Ma Long
Long loves a wide variety of Chinese music, and he watches all kinds of films to relax in his free time. He also loves going out to eat regularly with his friends. His favorite food is huo guo, a Chinese hotpot. He enjoys traveling in Europe, especially in Germany and Austria. He has been to South America twice and he loves Brazil because he became the Olympic champion there.
As a potential history maker, Ma Long could do very well at the Tokyo Olympics by winning his fourth and fifth Olympic gold medals. Olympic champion Ma Long does admit to thinking a great deal about the upcoming Olympic Games and he makes no secret of the fact that he would love to put in a really good performance.
Ma made his return to international competition by winning his comeback tournament, the Qatar Open, in Doha before finishing second to the current world number one player Fan Zhendong at the Asia Cup in Japan. It was a striking reminder to everybody that he is still indeed a major force to be reckoned with.
On Sunday 29th November 2020, a day of new medals and trophies appeared at the WTT (World Table Tennis) tournament in Macau. Sun Yingsha and Ma Long wrote their names in history as the first-ever winners of a WTT event. While Sun was shining in Macau, the Dragon roared as Ma Long conquered the gold medal in the men’s singles final against Wang Chuqin.
The 32-year-old, who could become the greatest table tennis Olympian ever at the Tokyo Games in 2021, is truly a global superstar of the sport, but he prefers to keep a low profile as a Chinese player. Here are five other things you might not know about the three-time singles world champion from the northeastern Chinese city of Anshan.
1. Ma Long has Three Nicknames
Some people might have one nickname or even two, but Ma Long has at least three in regular usage among his fans and the table tennis world. The first of those nicknames is “the Dragon”. Ma’s given name, Long, is written with the Chinese character that means dragon, and so the name quickly followed.
Another common nickname for him is “Captain Long”. Ma is the captain of China’s men’s national table tennis team, and he has been since 2014. The final one of his nicknames is “the Dictator”. He earned this nickname from his style of play in which he completely dominated and dictated games. He is an incredibly ruthless attacker who controls his matches from start to finish.
Before the International Table Tennis Federation (ITTF) started listing weekly world rankings at the start of 2021, it was Ma Long who held the record for the longest time spent at the world number one position for men’s singles. Ma recorded 64 months at the top of the standings when he first topped the rankings in January 2010.
From March 2015 to December 2017, he recorded 34 straight months at world number one, before injuries and a change in the calculation style forced him off the top. While he has not been at world number one since he has continued to feature prominently by successfully defending his 2015 and 2017 world singles titles at the 2019 World Championships. For over a decade from March 2007 until October 2018, Ma was never ranked outside the world’s top ten.
3. His Olympic Heroes
Ma counts a few of his predecessors in the Chinese table tennis team, including Liu Guoliang, the former Chinese head coach and current president of the Chinese Table Tennis Association, among his heroes. He also greatly respects Jan-Ove Waldner, the Swedish former table tennis player.
Aside from table tennis, Ma has several fellow Olympic champions in other sports that he admires, including Argentinian football superstar Lionel Messi, a Beijing 2008 Olympic champion, and seven-time NBA All-Star Paul George (gold at Rio 2016), among his favorites. He likes tennis, too, naming both Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal as inspirations. Paul George and three-time NBA winner Stephen Curry are among some of Ma’s sporting heroes.
4. Ma Long as a Golfer
In addition to playing football and basketball, Ma also enjoys golf. China is not exactly known for producing many top golfers, with only one, the Rio bronze medallist Feng Shanshan, ever winning a major championship. But this doesn’t stop Long from enjoying the game.
Although Ma loves to play golf, he recently confessed that he had reduced the amount of recreational golf he has been playing in order to avoid injury. This is probably for the best in terms of keeping his table tennis career going strong for as many years as he possibly can. China can be very grateful for Long’s contribution to table tennis and perhaps he will have the chance to play a few more rounds of golf once he finally retires from the professional game.
5. Greatest Table Tennis Star of All Time?
Ma currently ranks joint-second among men in the all-time table tennis Olympic medal honors, with three gold medals. He is behind only Zhang Jike (three golds and one silver), who he beat memorably in the Rio 2016 final. Ma Long is also highly rated by his fellow competitors.
Zhang Jike said that Ma’s skills are, “better than mine” and Nigerian player Quadri Aruna noted that, “everything is just perfect about Ma Long”. Check out some of these incredible shots by this amazing player! If selected for the Tokyo 2020 Olympics in 2021 as expected, Ma would have the opportunity to become the most distinguished male table tennis player in Olympic history and surpassing Xu Xin in the world rankings.
Xu Xin is a Chinese professional table tennis player who is currently ranked world No. 2 by the International Table Tennis Federation (ITTF). A few other honors that Ma Long holds include having the most ITTF World Tour singles golds of any Chinese male player (22), being the 2015 ITTF Male Star Player, and being the first male player to simultaneously hold the World Cup, World Championship, Olympic and Grand Finals singles titles.
Already widely regarded by his contemporaries as one of the best players of all time, Ma could really seal that title for himself if he competes in both the singles and team events in Tokyo. Wang Nan (four golds, one silver) currently leads, and only two players (Ma Long and Ding Ning) could claim the top spot for themselves.
However, with Ding no longer among the top three Chinese women, her place in the Tokyo squad is not certain, so Ma Long could well become the greatest table tennis star of all time.