Ma Long, Fan Zhendong still the world's best, says top-ranked Boll

Updated 2018-03-01 01:09:08 Xinhua

German table tennis legend Timo Boll expressed his pleasure after returning to the world's top position for the fourth time in his career, but said he regards others to perform better at present.

In the new ranking published by the sport's world association ITTF, Boll replaced fellow countryman Dimitri Ovtcharov who recently took the spot from China's Ma Long in December 2017.

Boll called himself "the slowest number one in table tennis' history", laughing loudly about his joke.

Turning 37 on March 8, Boll is the oldest top-ranked player ever (36 years 11 months and 21 days). Having won the European Top 16 tournament in Montreux made him proceed to the top. Until now, the oldest No. 1 was Jan-Ove Waldner of Sweden who was crowned at the age of 32 years and 28 days in 1997.

"At first I thought it was a joke when Dimitri Ovtcharov told me about it," the 2017 German champion said, "But I knew Dimitri is a nerd when it comes to rankings and statistics, and it had to be true. But it was a surprise."

Boll said he is happy about the world's number one status after 2003 (twice) and 2011 but renewed his opinion that the applied ranking system does not reflect the correct current performance level.

"I can't say I am not happy about this surprising news, but I already expressed my doubts regarding the new counting system," the German evergreen emphasized. In his perspective, "Ma Long and Fan Zhendong are still the best despite the results provided by some computer," Ovtcharov aside.

He does not intend to change his mind about the system just because he has regained the top position, he stressed.

Boll said he is not a fan of the ranking system in use. "It gives an advantage to the ones playing a lot of matches, but does not allow any breaks or injuries," the German said. It would be a disadvantage for club players having to attend league games and due to their national engagement neglect international tournaments.

"You have to compete a lot, and that's what I did during the last 12 months. That's why I took advantage of the new system as I could avoid injuries," Boll told German media.

The 2014 China Open champion said he is proud to still play at such a top level at his age. He still feels a lot of energy and enthusiasm as "table tennis is my life and ever will be."

For the 2018 team World Cup in Halmstad in Sweden in April 2018, Boll predicted a determined German team.

"The race is closer than ever. We have never been that close to the Chinese. We have beaten some of their best performers and intend to deliver a hard fight," Boll said, adding that the German team has already increased efforts "as we are in the middle of our intense preparation stage."

German national coach Joerg Rosskopf said table tennis is benefiting from changes at the top position. The former prime class player emphasized he is expecting Boll to continue his career beyond the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo on the highest level, the fifth Olympics for Boll.

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