Zhang Xielin ‘The Magic Chopper’

Zhang Xielin ‘The Magic Chopper’


The TTFit team love to look back into the history of Table Tennis, and especially enjoy learning a little more about some of the players from the older generation.

Today, we are focussing on Zhang Xielin, who was one of the first players to introduce an effective defence/attack style that was ahead of it’s time. We hope you enjoy the 10 snippets we have discovered after some research.

1. Zhang Xielin was born in China in 1940 and was one of the best players in the World in the 1960s. He had a unique playing style as he was a ‘pen-grip chopper’! (Yes, seriously!)

2. ‘The Magic Chopper’ used long pimples without sponge and had incredible variation in his game. His chop was very consistent and he could change the spin with his unbelievable feeling. He also had the skills to surprise an opponent with a sudden change to attack! Every shot he played was executed with style, elegance and usually precision! He was truly majestic to watch!

3. The younger Zhang was initially taught to be a pen-hold attacker but was always intrigued and hypnotised when watching the older choppers in the training hall. He used to frustrate his coaches as they could only see defence but Xielin had the vision to see beyond this. One day he mustered up the courage to announce, ‘Master, I wish to change my style!’ What? Change your style? Do you wish to be a defender and not an attacker? No Master, I think I wish to be both!!’

4. In 1953 the Chinese had been beaten by the Japanese attackers with topspin and the European defenders with backspin so Xielin knew he had to find a method and style in order to defeat these players. His research into the game was second to none as he continually looked for ways to improve, whether by changing equipment or by improving his technique. This young Chinese player was passionate and ambitious!

5. Xielin was already a good attacking player so he put all his energy into defence. He would retrieve ball after ball and actually obtained two serious injuries in his obsession to learn his craft. Once he mastered defence, he turned his attention to attacking as both skills were paramount if he was to be successful at world level.

6. ‘The Master Chopper’ was a man for the small detail, he even looked for ways to improve his game by changing grips and moving his index finger position around the Racquet during certain strokes. He researched ways to gain power from the ground and weight transfer, changed from short to long pips, and was always looking for better methods to become the best he could be!

7. Zhang’s game plan was firstly, to retrieve every ball, never to make a mistake, keep his ball flight low and make it as difficult as possible for his opponent to attack him. He would then surprise them with moments of attack when the opportunity arose, he was a tactical genius and rarely played a careless shot!

8. He won a bronze in the 1961 and 1963 World Singles Championships, the same year he became the National Champion. Also in 1963, he became the first Chinese player to become a Doubles World Champion and he also won the Mixed Doubles World Championships in 1971. In 1972, he was appointed the Chinese National Women’s Coach, a role he kept for a very long time.

9. In 2008, he carried the Olympic Flag in the Summer Olympic Games!

10. Zhang Xielin was one of the earliest successful long pimple players in world Table Tennis. He was one of the first to even consider the concept of a chopping/attacking style and was revered in China so much he was given the honour of carrying the Summer Olympic Flag! What a true inspiration to all Table Tennis fans and sport lovers in general.

Please check out some old footage of ‘The Magic Chopper’ as you will be amazed!




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