Table tennis, or ping pong as it’s widely nicknamed, is one of the most popular sports across America and indeed across the world. According to an article by Stadium Freak, the game has become so popular that it’s played by 300 million people, which is more than the combined global total of participants of golf, tennis, and baseball!
But not only is it enjoyed as a pastime, but it’s also a sport undertaken by the most highly skilled of individuals, all showing lighting quick hand-eye coordination that’s rarely seen in any other event. It’s a sport that features prominently at the Olympics; although it wasn’t introduced until the games in Seoul, South Korea, in 1988, it’s now established as a vital part of the schedule. Many people regard it as a true equal to some of the other, seemingly more popular sports.
The sport’s global appeal is highlighted in the number of professional leagues there are, but some stand out above the rest as the pinnacle of ping pong. So today, we take a look at those and demonstrate just why they attract the best players across the world.
Chinese Super League
There is no doubt that the Chinese Super League is head and shoulders above the rest. The competition, which runs from May to August, features the best players in the world. With China ranking as the top team on the planet, and the top three men and women hailing from the Far East, it’s easy to see why. Over recent years, there have been developments to introduce more overseas players to sign for Chinese teams, and it’s proved to be a good policy that has helped grow the popularity of the competition outside of the country.
In recent years, table tennis has grown in popularity in Russia, making the Premier League a contender as one of the strongest leagues in Europe. So much so, there are now quite a few foreign players playing there too. There are even table tennis odds on Ladbrokes for the Russian competition, where Egor Mishutin was the overwhelming favorite to defeat Vladimir Safonov recently. Whilst leagues such as the Swedish Elite League are not featured on popular sites, both Russia and the Men’s Challenger Series have sportsbooks, which underlines their popularity. A huge influence on that was the recently retired Belarussian, Vladimir Samsonov, who was a favorite across the world. Even the Chinese gave him a nickname, the Tai Chi Master, because of his superb all-around ability at the table.
The German league is one of the world’s strongest leagues and comes close to China. German internationals play here, and many foreign players are aiming to play there. A driver for this is that many of the teams often qualify for the Champions League, which again highlights its quality. Dimitrij Ovtcharov is one of the best in the league and known for his serve, which some suggested defied the serving rules as listed on our previous blog article here on Ping Pong Glory. Such is the quality of Ovtcharov and his German national teammate, former world number 1 Timo Boll, they have previously been invited to play as guests in the Chinese Super League.
Although it’s in China where the top-ranked players play their games, it’s refreshing to see so many other countries continuing to support the sport. With the first World Championships recently coming to an end in Houston, it shows the appetite for ping pong is as strong as ever all the way around the world.