Timo Boll: Table Tennis Player Profile

Name: Timo Boll
Nationality:
Germany
Date of Birth:
03/08/1981
Grip:
Shakehand
Hand:
Left
Playing Style:
Attack

Timo Boll serving in table tennis
Credit: XIAOYU TANG – resized – CC BY-SA 2.0

Timo Boll Biography

Born in Erbach, Germany, Timo Boll started playing table tennis from just the age of 4. Unlike many other players, Boll wasn’t pushed into the sport by his parents. The decision to play table tennis was entirely his own. His father enjoyed the sport and decided to purchase a table for the house, which led to Boll’s first experiences playing the sport. His father happily spread his love for the game by coaching Timo.

However, it wasn’t just table tennis that he enjoyed. Boll was a very sporty child. He also enjoyed sports like soccer and tennis. In fact, his father looked into building a tennis court for him to train but they were unable to obtain planning permission.

Boll joined his first club, TSV Höchst in 1986. At 8 years old, Boll had his talent discovered by Helmut Hampel, a trainer from Hesse. He then started to promote Boll.

In 1994, Boll switched teams to FTG Frankfurt where he played in the Second Division. There he gained a reputation, and within one year, TTV Gönnern invited him to join their club. This forced Boll to move some 170km to Höchst. They placed him in 5th position in the team, meaning he would not be playing the top seeds in opposing teams.

As a result, Boll only lost one match in the entire season, helping TTV Gönnern’s promotion to the first division: Tischtennis-Bundesliga.   

Early Success

At 14 years of age, Boll was the youngest player to compete in the national league. And, he would win the Table Tennis European Youth Championships in 1995, claiming 3 gold medals. A year later, he would settle for a silver in the Junior Boys Singles at the European Youth Championships. But in the two years that followed, he rose to the mark securing another two golds in singles.

Boll won his first major senior titles in 2002. The first was the European Top 12 Tournament. He became the first German to win the competition when he beat Vladimir Samsonov. Boll would go on to win another 6 of these competitions in his career. Also, in 2002, Boll won his first European Championships in both the singles and doubles event. To cap off a successful year, Boll also triumphed in the singles at the World Cup.

This was a huge win for him, as it not only marked his first international win outside of Europe but also demonstrated his ability against top-caliber opponents. To win gold, Boll beat both Wang Liqin and Kong Linghui. These two players were the World Champion and Olympic Champion at the time, proving Boll belonged with the best. By January of the next year, Boll rose to world number 1.  

Injuries and Resurgence

Injuries became a hurdle for Boll in 2004. Back problems stunted his training for the Olympics and he only managed to get 5th place, losing to Jan-Ove Waldner 4-1. He would go on to win a few World Tour events that year, but his back injury persisted.  

By 2005, Boll’s form improved. He won his second gold at the World Cup in Liège, beating three of the best Chinese players in seven tough matches. These players were Wang Liqin, Ma Lin, and Wang Hao. Boll would also claim his second silver at the World Championships, this time in the doubles though, rather than the team event. Timo Boll’s world ranking rose to number 2 by the end of the year.

December 2006 marked Boll’s final club switch to Borussia Düsseldorf. He originally signed a three-year contract but still plays with the club to this day. After continued success, back issues would once again strike in 2008 causing Boll to miss key competitions. Fortunately, they seemed to clear up; he would not face a significant injury for another seven years.

After returning from the Chinese Super League in the summer of 2015, Boll noticed inflammation in his knee. He later learned he’d need surgery for his knee. With the Olympics looming, Boll went under the knife and recovered in time to compete. He won a Bronze in the team event but lost in the round of 32 in singles to Quadri Aruna.

Challenging Match-ups

Every player has an Achilles heel; a player they struggle to perform against, be it a poor match-up of styles, or simply a mental barrier.

Boll has explicitly referenced three such players. The first is Jan-Ove Waldner. He struggled to read his serves, as Waldner is an expert tactician. However, Boll has only lost twice to the Swede and won on eight occasions.  

Another player Boll mentioned as his weakness is Ma Lin. He similarly explained that Ma was a tactical player and hard to read. His record here makes more sense; he has beaten Ma five times and lost 15.

Curiously, the player he mentioned the least is with whom Boll has the worst record. This is Fan Zhendong. Boll has played the Chinese player on 11 occasions and failed to win a single time. A bad matchup indeed!

As a bonus, I thought I’d check out Timo Boll vs Ma Long to see how he has performed against the greatest player of all time (we think!). The numbers are what we would expect. Timo has won 6 of 26 matches. Not great, but not bad against such an opponent!

People’s Champion

Timo Boll is one of the most popular table tennis players of all time. This is in part due to his exemplary attitude — he is very humble.

People’s love for Boll also derives from his playstyle and career longevity. He has performed at the top level for almost two decades and his game is very entertaining.

Boll is so popular, in fact, that even when he plays in China where the sport is huge, the crowd sometimes cheers louder for him than for the local players! Given how loved he is there, Boll has tried learning Mandarin but it eludes him past a few basic phrases. He only speaks English besides his German mother tongue.

Fans love to see Boll outside of matches as well. And many enjoyed watching a funny commercial back in 2014 featuring him facing off against a table tennis robot. It’s a great advertisement, and it’s no wonder that the company featured him ahead of every other player.

Give the Timo Boll vs machine video a watch below!

 

Timo Boll Net Worth

Timo Boll’s estimated net worth is around $7 million, making him one of the highest-earning table tennis players.

He supposedly receives $16,000 per match when he plays in the Chinese Super League, but this figure likely pales in comparison to his earnings through bonuses and prize money.

Boll has also been the face of his sponsor, Butterfly, for many years now. His earnings from the partnership are unknown but likely very high. Numerous pieces of Butterfly equipment feature Timo Ball’s name.

Timo Boll’s Style

Boll sports an offensive style of play with a lot of looping on both sides. However, where many of the top players open from backspin with very fast loops, Boll will often use slower loops, focusing instead on his spin.  

He is very consistent, and although he favors his forehand, his backhand is very formidable.

 

Boll stated in an interview that he has had to change his style over the years. When the plastic ball became standard, he was unable to get the spin he was used to on his loops, forcing him to be more precise.

With age, he is also less able to rely on his physicality. As such, Boll stresses that he tries to play more tactically now and stick a little tighter to the table.

Perhaps a little counterintuitive to this tactical mindset is the flashy signature hand switch shot that Boll likes to use. He has become well known for it, and it has even won him points in the past!

Timo Boll’s Achievements

Timo Boll is certainly one of the best German table tennis players of all time. He was the first German to reach the world number 1 ranking position. What’s so remarkable about Boll’s career is that he has sustained playing at the top level throughout.

He has risen on three separate occasions to become world number 1, and these span 15 years (2003, 2011, and 2018). The last time he was outside of the top 20 was two decades ago in 2001!

Boll achieved most of his success at European events. He has dominated since 2002, claiming mostly gold medals. However, on a worldwide scale, he also has many medals to his name, the most prestigious of which being his 2002 and 2005 World Cup golds.

Boll has unfortunately been unable to obtain any gold medals at the World Championships or Olympics, but he has come remarkably close. In total, he has eight silvers and four bronzes in these competitions.  

Below are Boll’s major gold medal wins:

  • World Cup X2 – Singles – 2002, 2005
  • European Games X1 – Singles – 2019
  • European Games X1 – Team – 2019
  • European Championships X8 – Singles – 2002, 2007, 2008, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2018, 2021
  • European Championships X5 – Doubles – 2002, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010,
  • European Championships X7 – Team – 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2017, 2019

Timo Boll Equipment

Timo Boll is a Butterfly-sponsored athlete. They have sponsored him since 1993, so the pair have a strong relationship. Butterfly even created equipment, even a Timo Boll paddle, to keep him at the top of his game.

Boll has toyed around with numerous blades, such as the Timo Boll Spirit and the Viscaria. However, it is the Timo Boll ALC that he fell in love with. He has been using this blade for many years. We have a review for the ALC here.

As for his rubbers, he has experimented with quite a few in the past as well. For a very long time, Boll used Tenergy 05 on both sides (Read our Tenergy 05 review).

However, with the release of the new Dignics range, Boll experimented with the rubbers and found that Dignics 09C was the best for him. He uses it on both sides.

Timo Boll’s paddle may have changed over time, but he has always seemed to remain loyal to Butterfly. And although he has switched equipment on several occasions, these changes have been very small.

Butterfly Timo Boll ALC Table Tennis Blade
Butterfly Dignics 09C Table Tennis Rubber

Timo Boll’s Future

In a 2019 interview, Boll has stated that he is afraid of retiring. This is because table tennis is all he has ever known. He has been playing since he was just 4 years of age and he knows that leaving the sport will be emotional.

Currently, he has no plans to retire, but at 40 years of age, we expect his retirement is soon on the horizon. Boll has spoken about the uncertainties of his future in the game for around five years now.

However, he is still performing at an elite level, having recently won the singles at the European World Championships and also claiming silver in the Team event at the Tokyo Olympics. As long as he can keep up the great performances. Boll will undoubtedly push to continue playing. Hopefully, his body can keep up with the punishment. Injuries have plagued him in the past and they are often a factor in a sportsman’s retirement.

When he does retire, he might take up golf again. Timo Boll’s wife is Rodella Jacobi. Before he married and had his daughter, he loved to play golf. He quit due to lack of time but once he retires, he will once again have the time to play.

Alex Horscroft
+ posts

Freelance writer. Table tennis enthusiast. Lover of all things online. When I’m not working on my loop game I’m probably binge-watching some fantasy show.

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