By Kabir Nagpal
Ma Long & Timo Boll
If you have to start, start at the top. These two legends could not have more respect for one another. German Timo Boll and China’s Ma Long have played together as a men’s doubles pair and exhibited that there is nothing but utmost praise for each other between them:
Adriana Diaz & Bruna Takahashi
Representing Puerto Rico and Brazil respectively, Adriana Diaz (aged 18) and Bruna Takahashi (19) two buddies are Latin America’s rising female table tennis stars, and much like everything else have grown in table tennis together. A real millennial pair, they are often seen hanging out at events and liking each other on Instagram, where both have fans who “ship” them.
Hugo Calderano & Simon Gauzy
When Brazilian star, Hugo Calderano, made the unusual move from sprawling home city Rio de Janeiro to the sub 10,000 inhabitants town of Ochsenhausen in south-west Germany, you can imagine how the 23-year-old would might have felt rather isolated. Fortunately for him, Frenchman Simon Gauzy, well settled in the region with a wife and kid, has taken “The Thrill from Brazil” under his wing. Their friendship can only have been a positive as TTF Liebherr Ochsenhausen were crowned 2019 German Champions!
Liu Shiwen & Ai Fukuhara
What’s more special than having your friend by your side on your most special day? Nothing! China’s Liu Shiwen was the bridesmaid for Japanese Ai Fukuhara’s wedding, and the two could not look happier!
Liam Pitchford & Jonathan Groth
It speaks volumes towards your friendship if you live together while competing against each other! Denmark’s Jonathan Groth did the same with his English buddy, Liam Pitchford, as they shared an apartment in Copenhagen for a few years. The mutual trust between the pair was fully evident when they appeared as “coach” for one another at the 2019 Australian Open!
Bernadette Szocs & Manika Batra
Undoubtedly their respective nations’ biggest female stars, Romania’s Bernadette Szocs and India’s Manika Batra have consistently been in the spotlight for their performances in recent years, which led them to being nominated for the 2018 ‘Breakthrough Star’ Award. At Incheon for the ceremony, Manika won the award and if possible, Bernadette looked happier for her friend than Manika herself!
Xu Xin & Patrick Franziska
Respect between two ‘fighters’ of the game: that is how Chinese star and world no.1 Xu Xin has developed a bond with Germany’s Patrick Franziska. Both were recently involved in a number of classic thriller matches and this photo was taken just days after their sensational semi-final at this year’s Australian Open.
Quadri Aruna & Omar Assar
Africa’s two highest-ranked male players have often been seen training hard with each other before many ITTF events. Nigeria’s Quadri Aruna and Egpyt’s Omar Assar were both interviewed on their rise and Quadri had the following to say:
“Omar Assar is a good friend and in 2017, we were doubles partners. We respect each other and the rivalry between the two of us is very healthy for Africa.”
Mattias Falck & Kristian Karlsson
Childhood friends in Sweden, Mattias Falck and Kristian Karlsson have grown up as a formidable men’s doubles partnership. Mattias recently even acted as coach for Kristian at the 2019 Korea Open! Hearty and regular banter is the trademark of the dynamic duo’s close friendship.
Chen Meng & Kasumi Ishikawa
The popular internet term, “Pics or it didn’t happen?!” was taken seriously by these two best friends on the request of their fans. By posting such a cute picture, these two have proved that Team China and Japan are fierce rivals on court, yet off it, friendships – and deep ones – can be formed!