If you’re a serious table tennis player, you no doubt pay attention to the top-ranked players in the world, like Chinese player Zhang Jike. Additionally, you probably wonder what makes them so good.
There are a lot of factors to this, such as equipment, training, and even height. In this article, we will be taking a look at this player to show you why he’s one of the best players in the world since 2013.
Zhang Jike Background
Zhang Jike was born on February 16, 1988, in Qingdao, Shandong province to his parents, Zhang Chuanming and Xu Xinying. A fun fact about how his parents named him: He was actually named after the Brazillian soccer coach, Arthur Antunes Coimbra, better known as Zico. Jike has been playing ping pong since the age of four.
This was when his father first introduced him to the game. Since then, he has been training, playing, and winning up until his injury during the Rio Olympic Games in 2016. He still participates in tournaments and competitions and has proven that he’s still in good form. However, he doesn’t play nearly as much as he used to but is still considered one of the best players of all time.
Records and Career
This famous Chinese table tennis player got his first medal back in 2009 when he first seriously entered the professional scene. He took a silver medal home for competing in the singles Asian Championships and competed in other team and doubles events around the same time.
He and his team managed to bring home both silver and bronze medals but not any gold. This would change when he competed in his first big men’s singles event at the World Championships, organized by the International Table Tennis Federation (ITTF).
In order to win, he had to go through a gauntlet of amazing players that included Joo-Sae Hyuk, Wang Liqin, Timo Boll, and Wang Hao. He went on to defeat all of them and won a gold medal at this event. In true dramatic fashion, Zhang Jike then tore off his shirt when he won the final.
This would not be the last time he would do something like this, hilariously. After another gold medal win in the 2011 World Cup in Paris against Joo-Sae Hyuk and Wang Hao, Zhang Jike took his shirt off again and threw it into the crowd.
After 2011, Zhang Jike took the world of table tennis by storm with a myriad of gold medal wins starting in 2012. The 2012 gold medal win at the Olympics was an especially exciting feat for Zhang Jike. Not just because of the medal, but because of the players he had to get through to get it.
He faced off first against the legendary Vladimir Samsonov where he made a comeback to win the match. Next, he went up against Dimitrij Ovtcharov in the semifinals where he achieved a decisive victory. For the final match, Zhang Jike had to go up against his teammate and old adversary, Wang Hao.
Zhang Jike destroyed him in the final match and ultimately won the Olympic tournament and a gold medal. Additionally, this win would mark a career Grand Slam. A Grand Slam is when a player wins a gold medal in each of the following competitions: The Olympic Games, World Table Tennis Championships (WTTC), and the World Cup of Table Tennis.
A Grand Slam is one of the hardest and most sought-after achievements in the sport of table tennis. In 2013, the Olympic champion would once again prove why he was worthy of such a feat. He would go on to win three more gold medals at the World Cup, WTTC, and Asian Championships.
For his win at the WTTC, he once again had to face off against difficult opponents. Most notably, he triumphed over Fan Zhendong, Xu Xin, and Wang Hao once more. He celebrated by running over the play barriers to greet his parents.
2014 was a typical career year for this world champion as he continued to bring back gold medals by himself and with his team. During the Tokyo WTTC and the Asian Games, he won gold medals for teams and doubles events. He then won the singles World Cup where he defeated Timo Boll in the semi-finals and then Ma Long in the finals in a close matchup.
In 2015 he would, unfortunately, bring home a bronze medal for singles during the WTTC. But, he still won a gold medal in the doubles event by partnering with Xu Xin. He would also go on to compete in both the Asian Championships and the World Cup for team events.
Gold medals were won for both of those events. In 2016, he won during the finals of the Kuwait Open where he defeated Ma Long with surprising ease. He also took a gold medal during the team event for the WTTC. After these events, the Rio Olympic Games were soon underway.
For the singles event, he ended up taking home a silver medal, ultimately losing to Ma Long in the finals. He did, however, still take home gold for the team event. What’s impressive about his time during the 2016 Olympic Games is that he actually proceeded to play while he was injured.
He, unfortunately, suffered a hip injury that is believed to be from a hairline fracture in his pelvic bone that he’s had since birth. Regardless he played on and still put on an impressive performance. After 2016, things start to go a little downhill for this amazing player.
His hip injury would be too much for him to deal with and he had to concede during the China Open in 2017. He was just unable to play to his true potential at this time and had to take an absence from the world of ping pong. He would return, 5 months later, to compete in the World Tour.
His ranking dropped from his long absence and he did his best to secure some big wins. He competed in the German open in 2017 but ended up losing, causing his ranking to drop again. 6 months later he would compete in the 2018 World Tour where he would lose to the young prodigy, Tomokazu Harimoto.
His competition in the Japan Open led to another injury, this time in his back. Still, he lost narrowly to Tomokazu Harimoto. While he has attempted to compete in the ITTF World Tour to prove that he’s in good form, for the most part, it is unlikely that he will reach the level he was at before his injuries.
Though, he plans on competing in the next Olympic Games. Zhang Jike has had an extremely impressive table tennis career. From 2009-2016, just seven years, he managed to win a total of 16 gold medals, 3 silver ones, and 3 bronze ones. His records clearly show that he is easily one of the best players to ever compete in the sport.
Looking at Zhang Jike’s very impressive career must leave you wondering, “What about his playstyle makes him so good?” The answer to this question is a bit long-winded as his playstyle is a bit strange. It’s so strange in fact, that when he first joined the Chinese national team, the coaches considered changing his technique completely.
They felt it was too unorthodox. Getting into specifics, Zhang Jike’s style is known as a two-winged shake-hand attacker. For those unfamiliar with the terminology, it essentially means that you use a lot of topspin on the forehand and the backhand shots.
This makes him a difficult opponent to deal with because of his quick topspin drive attacks. His topspin play is only one piece of the powerful machine though. Along with this he also uses counters and loops, strong foundations of any good playstyle.
Zhang Jike likes to stay low to the ground while he plays and is very fast. Compared to his teammates on the Chinese national team, Zhang Jike is well-known for his backhand technique. Specifically, he uses it while he’s in the forehand corner utilizing an on-the-table flick.
He especially favors this technique when he has to return a heavy under-spin serve or a push. His backhand shot is also said to be one of the best in the world! His forehand technique, which vexed his coaches at first, allows him to generate very powerful and spinny shots.
His stance, execution, and follow-through of the shot utilize his entire arm, hips, and shoulders to generate power. This is different from a typical forehand where you would only snap your forearm to generate power. Only Zhang Jike’s personal coach realized the potential and power of this forehand technique and allowed him to use it.
When it comes to serves, Zhang Jike is deceptive and deadly. The serve he is most known for is called a reverse-pendulum short serve. It is a service that is done by swinging your wrist and forearm away from your body while hitting the bottom half of the ping pong ball.
However, Zhang Jike does a few things differently. The reason his serve is called a short serve is that his follow-through is very short. This ensures that the ball will always land at its intended location. Additionally, Zhang Jike keeps his elbow very high up while performing this serve.
This gives him a better angle and actually helps to make the service that much more deceptive. All of the spin that is caused by his particular brand of service, combined with all of his footwork and impressive backhand flicks creates great opportunities for Zhang Jike during topspin rallies. He can easily turn the tide to his advantage if need be.
Now that you’ve seen the amazing career of Zhang Jike and you know about his playstyle, you must be wondering what equipment he uses. After all, a unique playstyle can only get better with the proper paddle. A ping pong player cannot perform at their peak without the proper equipment.
Any good player will always have a custom ping pong paddle that perfectly compliments their playstyle and accentuates their strengths. Zhang Jike is no different and uses a paddle that reinforces his drives and provides lots of spin. Starting with the blade of his paddle, it is no surprise that he would use a Butterfly Viscaria.
Not only because he is a Butterfly sponsored athlete, but because of the blade’s excellent features. It is a 5-ply, fairly fast, and soft blade that uses arylate fiber. It is surprisingly elastic and flexible, allowing for a lot of shock absorption and little energy dissipation.
Additionally, this blade is more compact than other blades. This makes it perfect for re-looping right after a bounce. On top of all of this, the blade provides a long dwell time. This means that this blade is a topspin machine and perfectly compliments Zhang Jike’s particular playing style.
Moving onto his forehand rubber, Zhang Jike uses a DHS NEO Hurricane 3 National with a blue sponge. This particular rubber is not as tacky as other models of the Hurricane rubber but surprisingly has more grip. The song itself is also very hard.
The combination of all of these factors makes this rubber ideal for spinny, fast shots during looping, forehand drives, and services without sacrificing control. The backhand rubber of Zhang Jike’s paddle is a Butterfly Tenergy 80. This sponge provides a unique balance between speed and spin that makes it perfect for someone who favors topspin play.
It easily allows skilled players to switch between spinny or speedy shots. Additionally, this rubber uses a spring-sponge and high-tension technology. Zhang Jike’s blade and two choice rubbers really help to emphasize his overall strategy.
He creates a lot of explosive, spin-filled shots on the forehand while preparing for a devastating backhand shot. Even with all of the spin he produces, the paddle ensures that he will still have a lot of control over the ball.
Zhang Jike’s Height
Something that might not seem that important at first is the height of the ping pong player. Being too tall or too short can pose some serious disadvantages but also has some good advantages as well. For instance, a tall player will have an easier time hitting lobs than a shorter player, however, the tall player will have to bend their knees a lot.
Doing this can be hard on their joints. However, there is one big advantage of being tall that certainly helps Zhang Jike. he stands at 5’10” or 1.8m. A tall player like him will have an easier time performing backhand shots because of his long arms.
The reason he has an easier time with backhand shots is that, usually, the body gets in the way during a backhand shot. Zhang Jike’s height ultimately helps to make his backhand shots that much deadlier.
Zhang Jike’s Net Worth
As you might expect, Zhang Jike is one of the wealthiest ping pong players in the world. Not only is this due to his many tournament wins, but also because of his sponsorship. Obviously, any brand would be more than lucky to have his name associated with its products. Currently, Zhang Jike holds a net worth of $10 million.