Absent in London, Boll Moves to the Top, Ma Long Undefeated, Moves Down

By Matt Hetherington | Feb. 27, 2018, 9:21 a.m. (ET)

As Federer reaches new heights by becoming the oldest tennis World number 1, it was 36 year old Timo Boll who returns to the top spot in the ITTF March World Ranking list. Notably absent from the 2018 ITTF World Team Cup it raises further questions about the adjustment phase of the new world ranking system. Boll who was very active in the 2017 season is still carrying points, while other players had points expiring. Most notable was the expiration of points from the 2017 Qatar Open from Ma Long, which led his world ranking to fall from 7th to 9th - despite being undefeated in London.

Boll has made it clear that he is not a big fan of the new system and in a recent public statement he openly admitted that he believe that Ma Long, Fan Zhendong and Dimitrij Ovtcharov were indeed the players who should be ranked at the top, regardless of what the computer says.

In reality the world ranking of Ma Long could almost be seen as the indicated of whether the system is moving towards becoming more accurate. Fang Bo currently sits at a ranking position of 48, Gionis Panagiotis a formerly top 25 ranked player moves from 91st to 68th this month. Zhang Jike is in a laughable 70th position, while one of South Korea's finest Jeoung Youngsik re-enters the top 100 at 89th.

In the Women's rankings both Ding Ning and Liu Shiwen remain outside the top 10 in 14th and 20th position respectively. 2016 Olympic Bronze medalist Kim Song I of North Korea is in 46th, and given their rate of participation in international events it is unlikely that she will ever be accurately represented in the world rankings in the future. 

Chile's Paulina Vega, 4th at the 2017 Pan Am Cup, outranks USA's Lily Zhang who was the Pan Am Cup champion at the same event and China's powerhouse Mu Zi sits at 176 WR.

The real question is, what is the role of a ranking system? It is to be accurate in defining the comparative level of the players within the list. Yes while the new system is admittedly still in an adjustment phase, the latest trends indicate a system which will be ever changing as points expire and are replaced. While the world can be happy that Timo Boll has returned to the top, we sit here wondering just what the future holds for the ITTF World Rankings. From years of watching and being table tennis fans, we know who to expect in each position, will our expectations ever be met?

New - March ITTF World Rankings (click here)