Wang Nan was one of the few women table tennis players, who were considered world-class champions. She was born in Fushun in Liaoning Province in China on October 23, 1978. She was left handed and started playing table tennis at the age of 7. She joined the national team in 1993, the youngest player in the team. Her speed, the loop drive, and change of placements during rallies gave her a sharp edge over her opponents. Wang Nan remained at the top place in ITTF world rankings between 1999 and 2002. After the retirement of Deng Yaping, she became the second Chinese player to make a clean sweep of all major titles in singles. Nan has been the Olympic and three times Women’s Singles World champion.
The first major singles title won by Wang Nan was at the Sweden Open in 1994. She won the Women’s World Cup in 1997 and 1998. In the World Championships and ITTF Tour finals in 1999, she won both the singles and doubles titles.
Wang Nan was beaten by Zhang Yining in the semi-final stages of the Women’s Singles event at the 2008 Salwa Cup and also in 2008 Erke Qatar Open.
Wang Nan and Zhang Yining added Gold to their incredible collection in the doubles category of 2008 Kuwait Open. Prior to this they are the reigning Olympic champions, three times World champions which includes two wins at the Grand Finals. They now have a total of ten successes on the ITTF Pro Tour also.
In the 2003 World Championships in Paris, she won gold medals in singles, doubles, and mixed doubles. She created a new record at that time, winning the singles championship 3 times and the doubles championships 4 times.
Wang Nan had won the World Championships at Osaka in 2001 and at Eindhoven in 1993. In 2003, in Paris, she fought off a late surge by the top seed Zhang Yining to win the singles title for the third time, after a gripping 7-game match. Wang Nan won the first 3 games somewhat easily at 11-7, 11-8, and 11-4. However, Zhang Yining, ranked number one in the world at that time, came back strongly to take the next 3 games at 11-5, 11-6, and 11-8. The seventh game was crucial for both. Nan used her wide-angled shots cleverly in the decider to win the game at 11-5 and lift the title. A few days earlier, she had won the mixed doubles title, playing with Ma Lin. She became the first player to win 7 world championship titles in the history of table tennis. Nan thanked her coach Qiao Hong, who was specially recalled to help Wang Nan out of the difficult times and the bad patch she was going through.
In the Olympics Games in 2000, held in Sydney, Wang Nan won both the singles and doubles gold medals. However, in the 2004 Olympic Games, she was unable to retain her singles crown but excelled in the doubles event, claiming the gold, partnering Zhang Yining.
For a player, who started playing the world table tennis events in 1994, it speaks volumes of her strength and stamina that she is still ranked number two in ITTF women’s rankings. For several years, she held the first place. In the Volkswagen Open held in China in June 2006, Wang Nan recovered from an early deficit to overcome compatriot Guo Yue and win the women’s singles title. Both were attacking left handers. Guo Yue won the first game 11-7. In the second game also, Guo Yue took an early lead of 95 and took the game at 11-6. However, in her effort to dominate Guo Yue started making mistakes but still took a lead of 9-5. Wang Nan recovered to level at 9-all. When Guo Yue was serving at 10-9 for the game point, Nan again leveled and then went on to win the game 12-10. The consistency of Wang Nan surfaced and she took an early lead of 8-2 and won the fourth game 11-3. She maintained her high level of play to take the fifth game 11-9. In the crucial sixth game, Wang Nan held her nerve and won the game 11-8 to claim the championship.