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The 10 Best Backhand Players of Modern Table Tennis + VIDEOS

15 October 2014  | Posted in: Fun & Inspiration

About the author
Guy Elensky is an international Israeli player. He spent 15 years playing in the top French leagues and 8 years practicing with the French national team in Paris. His best world ranking was 229.
He recently developed a table tennis mobile app called Speedglue that curates all table tennis videos in an easy to use interface. On Speedglue, you can find all recent table tennis videos, most popular videos and videos of your favorite players sorted by category.

The backhand topspin is a paradoxical shot. On the one hand, it is a difficult shot to make and many players struggle with it. The forehand topspin feels much more natural to most players. Yet on the other hand, when we make this perfect backhand shot, it feels great! If you have ever done it, you know what I mean. The satisfaction is greater than with any other shot.

On this topic, I had the pleasure to watch hours of table tennis videos and select for you the 10 best backhand players of modern table tennis. I hope you enjoy it.

1. Kalinikos Kreanga - The King

I am sure that the moment you saw the title of this article you thought of Kalinikos Kreanga. The Greek player brought the backhand stroke to a new level that no one in the history of table tennis has been able to surpass. Kreanga himself declared recently in an interview that his strength is that “contrary to other players, he uses his backhand topspin to finish points”.

Kreanga has a very powerful backhand where he uses his whole body and he also has a very long arm movement. His short height forces him to touch the ball very high and, at the same time, his leg speed allows him to play far from the table. Enjoy Kreanga in the following videos.

Check this amazing point. One of my favorite table tennis points of all time:


2. Wang Hao - impossible is nothing

Wang Hao revolutionized the backhand topspin using a penhold grip. Before Wang Hao, no one imagined such a consistent and powerful backhand could be played with a penhold grip. In addition, the traditional Chinese grip gives the ball a very uncomfortable sidespin that is really hard to block. What is even more amazing is that although Wang Hao touches the ball on the side, he is still capable of extremely deadly down-the-line backhand topspins. Check Wang Hao’s backhand in action and pay attention to his special backhand flick.

Tribute to Wang Hao:

Fatal flick:


3. Adrien Mattenet - the backhand prince

Adrien Mattenet is one of the most surprising table tennis players in recent years. I know him personally from many years of playing in France and his ascension to the world top was just mind-blowing. He went from being a top-average player in France to the top 30 in the world in just a few years. He did it mainly thanks to his unbelievable backhand topspin. Adrien is capable of playing a very powerful backhand from any position. Close to the table returning a serve, far from the table in a long rally or even if he is taken by the speed of the game, he is still able to return the situation and send a powerful finish from his backhand. His backhand is the closest we have today to the King Kreanga. Will the prince be able to overcome the king?

Check Mattenet in action here:


4. Timo Boll - precision before power

A lot has been written about the extraordinarily perfect technic of Timo Boll. He is so balanced from both sides. Boll’s backhand is not as that of the three players above but he is extremely efficient in precision, especially against right handed players. Timo Boll keeps his racket very high in all situations and this allows him to hit a very precise shot across the table far from his opponent. Check out this video of the rally that was elected the best of 2013.

Similar shot here again against Ma Long:


5. Vladimir Samsonov - safest backhand of all time

Vladimir Samsonov doesn’t have the power or the precision of the above-mentioned players, but try to get past his backhand side. Due to his height, he is keeping the racket very high at all times. He has an amazing ability to return any ball from his backhand side. His motto is “zero mistakes from the backhand”. Having had the chance to play against Samsonov in the past,I can confirm that even though it seems passive from the outside this is not a weakness. He can just return and block anything you throw at him. He is also impressive with high balls far from the table. Watch his amazing skills in the following videos:


6. Michael Maze - the creative one

Michael Maze is one the most fun players to watch. His technique is so creative and his backhand is no exception. The Dane has the ability to put sidespin on the ball with his backhand like no one else in the world. His backhand high ball far from the table got him the bronze medal at World Championships in Shanghai.

Watch Maze in action here:


7. Werner Schlager - fastest wrist on earth

The Austrian former world champion has an amazing ability to topspin with his backhand against defense. Most players in the world would use 100% of their forehand when playing against a defender, but not Schlager. His extremely fast wrist gives him a lot of confidence with his backhand and makes it harder for defenders to return. His fast wrist also gives him a huge amount of power in a very short hand movement. He can play an extremely powerful backhand close or far from the table.

See Schlager against defense here:

Greatest shots from Schlager here:


8. Jörg Rosskopf - the german power

The older generation will remember the spectacular and powerful backhand of Jörg Rosskopf. The current German national team coach was European champion in 1992 and showed some skills that would still be valid 22 years later. The left hander used a very long arm movement with a very powerful wrist. In combination with the smaller balls of the time and the speed glue the power he would get out of his backhand side was just mind blowing. 

Check Rosskopf in action here (skip the end of the video which is less interesting): 


9. Zoran Primorac - backhand push with style

If we did this article about players with most style, Primorac would definitely be at the top of the list. The legendary Croat has this little something that makes him look so good in front of the table. His famous backhand serve and strong balance from both sides made him one of the best players of the 90’s golden European generation of Jean-Michel Saive, Jean-Philippe Gatien, Jan-Ove Waldner and others.  Primorac’s backhand is unique by the way he can be aggressive with his backhand punch. He can of course top spin extremely effectively, but his backhand punch is really special.

See Primorac in action here:


10. Andrei Filimon - power far from the table

The national team Romanian is less used to world top games, but he is a pleasure to watch every time you see him. His style is close to his compatriot Kalinikos Kreanga (who is originally Romanian) and has a surprising and powerful backhand far from the table.

See Filimon in action here:

I hope you enjoyed this article and to finish, find this great tribute to backhand skills.

Find more videos of all the players above on Speedglue mobile app. Speedglue is a a easy to use mobile app that curates all table tennis videos in one place.

Do you know any other fantastic backhand players and videos?
Let everybody know in the comments!

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