Ma Long (table tennis)

Ma Long

Ma at the 2013 World Championships
Personal information
Native name 马龙
Nationality  China
Born (1988-10-20) October 20, 1988[1]
Anshan, Liaoning, China[2]
Playing style Right-handed, shakehand grip
Equipment(s) (2016) DHS Hurricane Long 5, DHS Hurricane 3 NEO National (FH, Black), DHS Hurricane 3 NEO National (BH, Red)
Highest ranking 1
Current ranking 1 (November 2016)
Club Zhejiang Ningbo Haitian
Height 175 cm (5 ft 9 in)[3]
Weight 72 kg (159 lb)
This is a Chinese name; the family name is Ma.

Ma Long (simplified Chinese: 马龙; traditional Chinese: 馬龍; pinyin: Mǎ Lóng; born 20 October 1988) is a Chinese table tennis player.[1] As of November 2016, he is ranked number 1 in the world by the International Table Tennis Federation (ITTF), a ranking he has held for a total of 51 months, more than anyone else except Wang Liqin (54 months).[4] Ma was born in Anshan, Liaoning, China. He won a record total of 5 straight ITTF World Tour tournaments in a row, including a streak of 35 sets. Since June 2009 Ma Long has been ranked either #1 or #2 in the world for a total of 79 of 89 months, making him the most dominant and consistent player on the ITTF World Tour during this time. He has held the #1 ranking since March 2015.

After a clean sweep victory in the Men's Singles at the 2016 Rio Olympics, Ma Long became the fifth player to complete a career Grand Slam (winning the Olympics, World Championships, and World Cup), joining Sweden's Jan-Ove Waldner and China's Liu Guoliang, Kong Linghui, and Zhang Jike. Additionally, he became the first male player (and second overall) in the world to have won every singles title in table tennis.

Playing style and Career

Ma is arguably the best two-winged looper in table tennis history. His serves appear to be traditional pendulum serves, but are some of the most visually deceptive in the world. Ma's playing style is that of the modern strategy of close-range third ball play, as his range of attack is nearly unparalleled. At the beginning of his career, his play strategy was primarily forehand-oriented, dominating play with powerful forehand loops, only using his backhand for controlled returns and to set up the forehand. He still plays a forehand-oriented style, but his backhand has become more consistent and stable as his career progressed. Ma uses his backhand mainly to aggressively block incoming loops, but will occasionally loop himself. Opponents are usually caught off guard when he suddenly loops with his backhand, which he can do near the table or away from it. Compared to when he was younger, he is much more confident using his backhand to attack and defend. He is also the most prominent employer of the chop block on the Chinese National Team, which he uses to counter slow loops with heavy side spin.

After winning both the Asian and World Junior Championships, Ma became the youngest world champion at 17 years old after he participated in the 2006 Bremen World Team Championship. Ma developed his foundations under the tutelage of Wang Hao and former Chinese National Team coach Ma Kai Xuan before studying under Qin Zhi Jian. Before turning 22, he had great success in singles, reaching the finals of 11 ITTF World Tour tournaments (winning 8). He won the Asian Cup and World Tour Grand Finals twice, and also made it to the final round of the Asian Championships two times (losing to Wang Hao in 2007 and winning in 2009). In addition, he played in the finals of the China National Games and All China Championships, losing both matches to Wang.

Despite being the #1 player in the world for much of 2010–2012 stretch he was not chosen to represent China at the 2012 Olympics due to his temporary dip in ratings that happened after a 560-day win streak on the ITTF World Tour. In the first place, he suffered career setback by Japan's Koki Niwa in six games at the Asian Olympic Qualification Tournament and then subsequently lost to Lee Sang-su at the 2012 Korea Open, 4–1. Players were selected based on the ITTF World Rankings. As a result, he was not given an opportunity to win an Olympic medal in singles at the time when he was widely accepted as the best table tennis player in the world.

Chinese National Team coach Liu Guoliang remarked that Ma had all the tools necessary to be the best, yet at major tournaments, he had so far lacked sufficient mental toughness to play to his full ability when under pressure. This was evident in his losses to Timo Boll and Vladimir Samsonov in the 2008 and 2009 World Cup semifinals as well as his defeats to Wang Hao (4–1, 4–2, 4–2) in the semifinals of three consecutive World Championships (2009, 2011, and 2013). Although he performed well on the ITTF World Tour and in domestic competitions, Ma never made it to the final of the World Championships in his first four attempts. This led to many believing he was inferior to compatriot Zhang Jike, who completed his Grand Slam in just over a year.

After his third defeat to Wang Hao at the WTTC in 2013, Ma had a successful year. He won the China Open at two different locations (beating Wang and then Xu Xin in the final), the Asian Championships (for the third time), and the China National Games in a full-stretch match against phenom Fan Zhendong. However, Xu defeated him 4–3 at the end of the year at the ITTF World Tour Grand Finals.

In March 2014, he won the Asian Cup for the fourth time, again defeating Fan in seven games. At the 2014 WTTC, he didn't lose a single set. In the final against Germany, he played a pivotal role, beating Timo Boll in the opening match and defeating Dimitrij Ovtcharov for the win. For his efforts, he was awarded the Victor Barna Award as the tournament's best player. He then won the China Open for the fifth time, which tied him with Wang Liqin for the most ever. Ma's first encounter with Zhang Jike at a Grand Slam competition came in October 2014, at the World Cup in Düsseldorf. Although he was leading 3–2 in sets, Ma lost the match, saving two match points in the deciding game but still losing 10–12. This led to further criticism of his inability to come through on the biggest stages at the toughest moments. In November, he reached the final of the All China Championships, but was defeated by Fan, 4–2, again ending the year on a sour note.

However, 2015 would prove to be Ma's year. He won the Kuwait Open, beating Xu Xin 4–1 in the final, and then the German Open, getting revenge on Zhang Jike in an intense final after being down 3–1. But his biggest win came at the 2015 WTTC, where he did not drop more than one set until the final where he defeated tournament sensation Fang Bo in six games. This was a huge breakthrough for him, as his only other major singles title was the 2012 World Cup. After a surprising 4–1 loss to Shang Kun at the Japan Open, Ma won the China Open for a record sixth time, winning 4–1 against Xu Xin. In September, he led Ningbo over Fan Zhendong and Bayi to win the Chinese Super League championship. Injuries prevented him from competing at the Asian Championships, but he participated in the World Cup in Halmstad in October. Following a dropped set to Omar Assar in the round of 16, he did not lose another game in the competition, allowing his opponents to score an average of 6 points per set the rest of the tournament. He did not participate in the last two World Tour tournaments of the year, again due to injuries, but still was seeded first at the World Tour Grand Finals because he had won 3 other World Tour tournaments. In the final, he faced Fan again, winning 11–9 in the last game of a full-stretch match, coming back from being down 3–2 in sets (after being up 2–0), including down 8–6 in the sixth and 6–2 in the decider (when he won 8 points in a row). In 2015, Ma only lost once in international competition and just five times overall.

Ma won the German Open in January 2016, going undefeated until the final, where he beat Vladimir Samsonov 4–1. While helping China win the 2016 WTTC over Japan in Kuala Lumpur, he didn't lose a game, which extended his unbeaten streak to three straight World Team Championships. In March, he reached the final of the Kuwait Open, but was defeated 4–1 by Zhang Jike, who had recently defeated him 5–4 in China's Trials for the 2016 WTTC. However, a week later, he won the Qatar Open by defeating Fan in five games, breaking Wang Liqin's record for most ITTF World Tour singles titles by a Chinese player. In April, he directly qualified for the Olympic Singles in Rio by winning his section of the Asian Olympic Qualification Tournament, taking down Zhang and then Fan in six and five games respectively. After this, Ma remained world #1, despite not participating in another international competition until the middle of June. Within a span of two weeks, Xu Xin beat him twice, first in the semifinals of the Japan Open (his second consecutive loss at that station dating back to last year) in six games, and then in the full-stretch final of the Korea Open (Xu had also beaten him the last time he participated at Korea, in the final in 2013). This was the shortest time between international losses for Ma since 2012 (when he lost to Niwa and Lee). At the Olympics in Rio, he automatically qualified to third round in the singles due to his #1 ranking. He swept Denmark's Jonathan Groth, but experienced a scare in the next round when he went down 2–0 to Korea's Jung Young-sik. However, he recovered and won the next four games to advance to the quarterfinals. His next opponent was Quadri Aruna from Nigeria, who had upset Timo Boll and Chuang Chih-yuan to become the first African player to make it to the singles quarterfinals at the Olympics. Ma beat him in four straight games to face Jun Mizutani, Japan's top player, in the semifinals. The first three games were all 11–5 wins by Ma, but Mizutani took the next game 11–7 and the fifth 12–10. Ma won the sixth, again 11–5, to set up a historic final match against reigning Olympic champion Zhang Jike. Their second meeting at a Grand Slam final was very unexpected: Ma took the gold by overpowering Zhang in a 4–0 vanquishment (14–12, 11–5, 11–4, 11–4), the first four-game sweep in an Olympic singles final.

By winning the gold medal in Rio, Ma etched himself a place as an immortal figure in table tennis history. He became the fifth male player to complete the Grand Slam, and the second male to be the defending champion of all three Grand Slam competitions simultaneously (Zhang being the first). He was the second male (after Kong Linghui) to win the ITTF World Tour Grand Finals and the three Grand Slam titles (dubbed a "Full House" in an ITTF article), being the first to win them all consecutively (therefore being the first male to be the reigning champion of all four at the same time) and the fastest to complete it (in just 467 days). In addition, he became the first male to have won every important singles competition possible, from majors to the ITTF World Tour to domestic competitions. The only other player who has done so is Deng Yaping.

As the current World Champion, he was slated to participate in the 2016 World Cup in Saarbrücken, Germany, but withdrew a month before the competition, citing exhaustion in addition to waist and knee pain. He did, however, play in the China Open in Chengdu, where his reasons for withdrawing from the World Cup were brought to light: he barely survived a seven game semifinal with Zhang Jike and was crushed in a sweep by Fan Zhendong in the finals. This marked the first time since the 2008 China Open that Ma lost in four games on the ITTF World Tour, excluding a withdraw from the 2014 Qatar Open due to injury.

Career records

Singles (as of November 2016)[5]
Men's Doubles
Mixed Doubles

Summary of Accomplishments

Other Records

See also


  1. 1 2 "MA Long – Biography". Guangzhou Asian Games Organizing Committee. Retrieved January 25, 2011.
  2. "Ma Long". Olympics at Sports Reference LLC.
  3. Long Ma.
  4. "ITTF world ranking". International Table Tennis Federation. Retrieved January 5, 2012.
  5. "ITTF Statistics". International Table Tennis Federation.
  6. "Ma Long Extends Amazing Run, World Champion Beaten in London Final". ITTF. Retrieved December 19, 2011.
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