Friday 16 January 2015

Will We See A Defensive Player at The Top?

Over the decades, defensive players have provided an incredible amount of entertainment in table tennis, displaying consistency and a high level of athleticism, but it has been quite some time since a defender has really challenged a place in the top 5 players in the world.

Joo Se Hyuk has been the defender of this generation, peaking at number 5 in the world rankings on a couple of occasions but only for a month each time and of course making his incredible performance at the 2003 World Championships where he won a silver medal and 2011 World Cup where he defeated Boll to win bronze.

Joo Se Hyuk in the Chinese Super League
So here is the real question. How long will it be till a defender becomes number 1? Is it even possible? The Chinese National Team are incredibly well trained to face defensive players and have many defensive practice partners to learn from. While Joo is still as wonderful as ever to watch out on the table, the peak of his career has certainly passed. Or has it?

I am not one to discourage defensive players or fans of defensive table tennis, I for one thoroughly enjoy watching choppers play on the international stage. I'm a great fan of Joo and Shiono and Gionis also. What is the potential of defensive players, can they reach the top spot? This would be a great topic for a lot of discussion, there are a lot of good defensive players out there, but there are also an overwhelming number of strong offensive players. At the end of the day, what does it take for the defensive players to overcome the offensive players and make the top 5 in the world?

Even a player from the last generation with exceptional skills, Koji Matsushita, only reached a peak ranking of 17th in the world. The Chinese National Team don't see many defensive players rising through the ranks, not in the men's competition at least. Ding Song was probably the last great Chinese defender who won a bronze in the 97 World Champs.

You also have the likes of Chen Weixing who was top 15 in China but moved to Austria where he reached the top 10 in the world with a high of number 9. Also Hou Yingchao who was top 20 in the world for the year of 2007, peaking at number 10 in January of that year.

These players seem to be few and far between. We see Gionis who recently reached a peak world ranking of 18th and is moving up in the recent year, not so many other choppers from Europe to join him at that level.

Out of interest does anybody know the last time a defensive player was top 5 in the world or even ranked number 1? Welcome as much discussion as possible here, can defensive players be competitive in the top 5 in the world, what needs to change, what will it take?


  1. He won against Boll in the 2011 World Cup, not the 2012 one :)

  2. I don't think that a defensive player can reach those heights, especially with less spin with the new ball.

  3. A change of rules that balance defence/offence would be needed. For example, if we look at tennis, faster courts on the 90s led to mostly serve and volley domination (an aggressive style similar in focus to the modern tt attacker), outside of clay. Then came more advanced string technology and slower courts, meaning spin/consistency started to take over. As such, defenders have been more successful than attackers in recent years.
    For me, a defender in table tennis is at a serious disadvantage. They have been for a very, very long time. You'd probably have to go back to the hardbat days to see a balance between defence and offence.


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