Featured image – Budapestpulse.com
The World Table Tennis Championships is one of the 3 most important competitions in Table Tennis, alongside the Table Tennis World Cup and the Olympic Games.
This prestigious event gathers the best players in the world, who compete for their countries in both teams and individual events.
We are going to share the rules of the tournament, delve into its history, and talk about the current World Table Tennis Champions.
How the WTTC works
The World Table Tennis Championships is an ITTF-regulated tournament that is hosted once a year usually in April or May.
This tournament has two different formats, an individual format and a team format ( also known as the World Team Table Tennis Championships).
The two formats are played alternately, one of them is played each year. Individual tournaments are held in odd-numbered years and team tournaments are held in even-numbered years.
The individual format has 5 events, which include men’s singles, women’s singles, men’s doubles, women’s doubles, and mixed doubles.
The team format, on the other hand, has 2 events, men’s team, and women’s team.
The history of the World Table Tennis Championships
The World Table Tennis Championships were introduced in 1926, and they were played once a year. Up until 1957, all 7 events were played every year (the 5 individual events and the 2 team events).
In 1957 the rules were changed. From that year until 1999, the World Table Tennis Championships were played once every two years.
Until 1999, all 7 events were played in the same competition, 5 individual and 2 team events.
In 1999, the format changed and only the individual competitions were played. After 1999, the ITTF started the format we see today with the two types of championships.
Now the tournament is played every year, alternating as the World Table Tennis Championships with the World Team Table Tennis Championships.
1926-1936 Hungarian Domination
On the men’s singles side, from 1926 to 1935, Hungary won 8 of the 9 WTTC events played. During this period, the legendary player Viktor Barna won a record 5 individual events. It’s a record that still stands today.
There was only 1 edition, in 1929, that Hungarian players failed to win. That year the champion was the English player Fred Perry, winner of 8 Grand Slams.
Yes, you read that right, Grand Slams. Perry was far more successful in Tennis than in Table Tennis, even though he was the first person to break the Hungarian domination. Imagine Roger Federer coming and winning the WTTC today!
Perry won the World Table Tennis Championships when he was only 16 years old before he switched to focus on his tennis career.
On the women’s side, it’s a similar story. Of the 8 women’s singles events contested, Mária Mednyánszky won 5 and did so consecutively. The next two were won by Anna Sipos, also Hungarian, and the next two by Czechoslovakian Marie Kettnerová.
1936-1956 The rest of Europe rises
In this period, the two strongest nations were, on the men’s side, Czechoslovakia and England, and on the women’s side, Romania and Hungary.
The most successful man of this period was undoubtedly Richard Bergmann, who won 4 men’s events, the first one representing Austria until he switched and won 3 more championships representing England.
On the women’s side, Romanian player Angelica Rozeanu won a record 6 individual events. No one else has since been able to match this figure, neither men nor women. She is, to this day, the most successful player in history as far as World Table Tennis Championships are concerned.
Her style of play was an elegant defensive game with an incredible fighting spirit. She played with incredible chops from both sides, and could also attack with great power and spin. See for yourselves!
1956-1989 The awakening of the Asian Giants
In these 33 years, Europe went from being the strongest region to winning only 2 titles between men and women combined. Both Japan and China became much stronger and started winning time and time again.
The only Europeans to win a team competition in all these years was the Swedish men’s team in 1973, composed, among others, of Kjell Johansson and Stellan Bengtsson.
1989-2000 Sweden strikes back
After 33 years of Asian domination, 1989 was a year of glory for the Swedish team. Jan Ove Waldner was the men’s singles champion, and the Swedish team beat their Chinese counterparts in the team event, after 3 years of losing against them in the finals.
After this edition, Sweden would also win the team events of 1991, 1993, and 2000. Jorgen Persson won the men’s singles event in 1991 and Waldner would do the same in 1997, so this was a golden era for Swedish Table Tennis.
Also, in this period, Jean-Philippe Gatien won the men’s singles event in 1993 becoming the only Frenchman to win the tournament.
On the women’s side, this period was absolute Chinese domination. Of the 12 events that were contested, 6 team events, and 6 women’s singles, the Chinese team won 10 events.
In these years, there was a massive technological advance regarding Table Tennis rubbers Watching it back, we start to see a sport that’s very reminiscent of today’s game. From this period onwards, the sport was all about speed and spin.
2000-Present Day The Chinese domination of Table Tennis
After Sweden won the last team event in the year 2000, China returned to its former glory, and to this day, they dominate Table Tennis. Check out our article on why the Chinese are so good at table tennis for more information.
From 2000 until now, they have lost only 1 team event between men and women combined. That’s when Singapore won the women’s team event in 2010.
In the individual events, it is the same story. They have lost only 1 individual event between men and women, which was the men’s singles event in 2003. Austrian player Werner Schlager was crowned champion, beating the Korean, Joo Se Hyuk, in the final.
This is also the era of domination for the greatest player ever, Ma Long, who won 3 individual events and 7 consecutive team events.
Current World Table Tennis Champions
2018 was the last time the team event was played. It should have been played in 2020, but it was suspended due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Both men’s and women’s Chinese teams are the current team champions.
The Chinese men’s team beat the German team 3-0, dropping only one single game when Patrick Franziska got on the scoresheet in his loss to Xu Xin 3-1.
This was probably the most dominant the Chinese National Team has ever been, fielding the undisputed top 3 players in the world, Ma Long, Fan Zhendong, and Xu Xin. In the whole tournament, China didn’t lose a single match.
In the case of the women’s team event, it was a truly special tournament that transcended Table Tennis. As we said before, the Chinese team also won this event, but that was not what made this event special.
In the quarterfinals, there was a matchup that generated excitement among Table Tennis fans: North Korea against South Korea.
We were all waiting for the first game to start. It was up to Cha Hyo Sim and Jeon Jihee to play the first match.
However, instead of the 2 players going out to play their match, all the coaches and players from both teams came out.
At that moment, the tournament announcer read a statement that left us all speechless. Both teams decided not to play the series and get together as a unified team to advance to the next round.
Everyone applauded the decision, which was seen as a sign of respect and acceptance between the two countries.
In the next round, the Korean team would play against Japan. Two South Koreans and one North Korean player faced off against the Japanese players, but they lost 3-0.
In the final, the Japanese team went down 3-1. Mima Ito won the first match of the series, but it wasn’t enough.
3 years later, in 2021, the World Table Tennis Championships individual format was played in Houston, Texas.
This tournament was just as exciting as the previous one.
There were surprises such as the Swedish brothers Falck and Karlsson, the mixed doubles between China and the United States, and the rise of Truls Moregardh, the 19-year-old ranked #77 who reached the final using a hexagonal racket.
4 of the 5 events were won by the Chinese team. The exception was the men’s doubles event which was won by their main rival, Sweden.
Starting with the men’s singles event, the champion was Fan Zhendong who beat 19-year-old Swede Truls Moregardh in the final.
Moregardh’s path was more than remarkable. The first match that we can highlight was a legendary comeback against the Korean player Lim Jong-hoon.
Moregardh was losing 2-0, tossed his racket to the opponent’s side, kicked the air in frustration, got a yellow card, and came back from a 3-0 deficit when he started performing unorthodox receives and majestic chop blocks that confused his opponent and granted him the win.
After that, he beat the strong Nigerian player Quadri Aruna 4-2, and Timo Boll in another incredible match by 4-3. After this, he would go down in the final against the world number 1 Fan Zhendong, losing 4-0.
In the women’s singles, the winner was the Chinese player Wang Manyu, getting her first WTTC title. Along the way, she beat 3 of her compatriots, Chen Xingtong 4-0, Chen Meng in a very tight match 4-3, and she would beat Sun Yingsha in the final 4-2, 17-15 in the 6th set.
In the men’s doubles event, we had probably the biggest surprise. The Swedish brothers Falck and Karlsson were crowned champions, leaving the 2 favorite couples on the way.
First, they defeated An Jae-Jyun and Cho Seung-Min 3-2, and immediately after they knocked out one of the best doubles partnerships in the world, Fan Zhendong and Wang Chuqin, also by 3-2.
After that, they were drawn against the number 1 seeded pair, Liang Jingkun and Lin Gaoyuan, whom they comfortably defeated 3-0. In the final, they faced up against Koreans Lim Jong-Hoon and Jang Woo-jin, who they beat 3 to 1.
In the women’s doubles, the winners were both finalists of the women’s singles event, Sun Yingsha, and Wang Manyu. The pair defeated the Japanese pair Mima Ito and Hina Hayata 3-0.
The Chinese players had a very difficult road in the tournament, as they had to defeat No.6 seeded Petrissa Solja and Shan Xiaona 3-1, and then won a very tight match against No.2 seeded Kasumi Ishikawa and Miu Hirano 3-2.
In the semi-final, they beat the tournament’s breakout pair, Luxembourg players Ni Xia Lian and Sarah de Nutte, and then went on to beat Mima Ito and Hina Hayata 3-0 in the final.
Mixed doubles was a really fun event at this tournament, as it always is. The winners were Wang Chuqin and Sun Yingsha.
Sun Yingsha was arguably the best player of the whole tournament, as she took the silver medal in the women’s singles, and the gold medal in both doubles events in which she participated.
They won the final match against Tomokazu Harimoto and Hina Hayata of Japan 3-0.
The standout of this event, in my opinion, was the Chinese and American teams joining forces. These teams presented two mixed doubles pairs, Lin Gaoyuan with Lily Zhang, and Kanak Jha with Wang Manyu.
Of these two mixed duos, Lily Zhang and Lin Gaoyuan were the most successful, taking the bronze medal.
Alvaro’s been playing Table Tennis since he was 15 and is now ranked within the top 100 in his native Argentina. He loves to compete in provincial tournaments and is always looking for ways to improve. Alvaro made his favourite memories with a racket in hand, and he joined the RacketInsight team to share his passion with other players!