Thursday 1 June 2017

China's Grand Slam Table Tennis Sensation - Interview with Ding Ning

I had the distinct pleasure of interviewing Grand Slam champion Ding Ning during the 2017 ITTF World Table Tennis Championships in Dusseldorf, Germany, as she attempts to claim another world crown. Special thank you to Wu Yue for helping me with this and translating!

For more interviews with top players, visit my Interviews Page

Name: Ding Ning
Date of Birth: 20 June 1990
Nation Represented: China
Highest World Ranking: 1

World Number 1 Ding Ning - courtesy of ITTFWorld

Equipment Used: 

Blade: Stiga Ebenholz NCT V

FH Rubber: DHS Hurricane III

BH Rubber: Butterfly Tenergy 05


How old were you when you started playing table tennis? How did your table tennis career begin?

I was 5 and a half years old. My mother was a basketball coach and in her workplace there were also some table tennis tables. Of course while she was working we would play table tennis there.

At what age did you begin to climb the ranks in China and eventually make the Chinese National team? How hard was it to make it to the team?

At the age of 10 I joined the Beijing team, I made the second National Team when I was 13 years old and then finally progress to the first National Team at 15 years old. You have to work incredibly hard to make it into the first National Team, in some cases you must be able to beat the last 2 players of the team to try and make it, also it depends on how many players can make the first team as there can be a quota in the team. So there are many challenges to face.

We don't often hear about the pressure and intense competition inside the Chinese system. How difficult was it to cope with the pressure of trying to become the best out of thousands of other players? Did you have moments of doubt along the way? What kept you going?

First when I was young I didn't have a lot of experience so I just listened to my coaches and friends and parents to get some more experience and to learn to control the pressure. After getting older when I started to know myself more I could find ways to control the pressure.

It's important to understand that it is a long term mission to achieve these goals, so you must always trust your plan and look at the bigger picture.

You had some big results in your career especially having completed the career grand slam, what is your most memorable moment?

2012 World Championship - China against Singapore. Match against Feng Tianwei. 

Having become World Champion and World Cup winner, how did it feel to have successfully made it to become the very best player in the world?

After winning both I felt very excited it was an unbelievable feeling I was very happy. But in reality the Chinese national team doesn't care so much about number 1, more about titles. Number 1 is not that important. First time was very happy about it. After a while it's normal.

Rio was a huge result for you, 4 years after winning silver in London in an emotional final. After the London Games what were your thoughts about your table tennis career, how did it feel to come back 4 years later and take gold in Rio?

The 4 years, from 2012 to 2016 was very hard and there were many times where I felt like giving up after having given everything to try and win in 2012. I felt relieved to win in Rio because I had spent another 4 years to try and achieve this goal and was finally able to.

With two World Cup and WTTC titles along with an Olympic Gold, is it your main goal now to become the first player ever to complete a double Grand Slam by winning Tokyo 2020?

I don't really think about it so much, just one goal at a time. So right now my goal is to try and win here in Germany.

Do you feel being left handed has given you any advantages during your table tennis career? What is your favourite strength of playing left handed in matches?

Of course because there are not so many left handed players around the world so we have some advantages, I like to rally a lot in my game and so I can create some advantage in the rally with some different angles.

What are some tips you can offer left handed players to improve their game? What are good areas to focus on in training and match tactics to make the best of being a lefty?

Serve is very important and can be a big advantage for left handers, it is a good area to focus a lot of practice.

As a member of the Chinese National Team what was your greatest fear? How did you deal with personal failures and periods of bad form or results?

When I was younger I was afraid of not being good enough to make it to the higher levels. Once I became older and started to train more and more, I felt very disappointed when I wasn't able to fight my way through problems that I faced. But as I said, the journey is in long term so I always look at the bigger plan.

Non-Table Tennis Questions

What is your favourite:

Food: Dessert – Cake, Bread
Singer: Always changing, lots of different Chinese, Korean, American.
Type of Movie: Comedy
Travel Destination: France

What do you like to do when you aren't training or playing table tennis? 

I like to watch movies and go to eat food!

What is one piece of advice you can offer to all table tennis players around the world? 

Always do the best that you can do! :)


  1. Thanks Matt ! Please keep these interviews coming :)

  2. Outstanding insight into a great champion!

  3. she is one of my favourite you Ding Ning.

  4. Though i love only outdoor sports but in case of table tennis I consider it favorite indoor game.


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