Korean table tennis player Joo Sae Hyuk has never won an Olympic or world championship, but this has not stopped fans from loving him, and he is affectionately known as the “World’s No.1 chopper”. In this blog, we will cover his career, his playstyle, the equipment that he uses, and his personal life.
Early Years of Joo Sae Hyuk
From junior school, his strength and talent were recognized by the Korean table tennis community and he came to the attention of many famous coaches and later joined the professional team.
But since then, Joo Sae Hyuk felt that his life is not like what he had dreamed of before: “Unlike when I was in junior high and high school, it was super frustrating when I first entered the professional team in 1998, it was really hard and I couldn’t meet the coaches’ requirements.
From physical to mental, everything could not keep up and it was hard to adapt to training.”
In 2002, Joo Seok-hyuk enlisted in the Samsung team (similar to China’s Bayi team). For a while, before he retired from the Korean military(it’s a duty for all Korean men), he went through a very painful period.
The reason for this was that the training team he originally belonged to refused to accept him. During the time when he was fighting the lawsuit and waiting for the court’s verdict, Joo Seok even had the idea of retiring from the sport.
However, after the final court decision, he joined the ‘Samsung Life Team’ and was later selected for the Korean national team.
Fame battle of Joo Sae Hyuk
Joo became famous at the 47th World Championship in 2003. He defeated many players such as Chuang Chih-Yuan, Ma Lin, and Kreanga to reach the final.
Especially in the men’s singles 16 to 8 tournament, Ma Lin was already a top player in the world at that time and he was regarded as the one who will win the singles title. Joo Sae Hyuk, on the other hand, was just an ordinary player and even not ranked in the Korean men’s team.
Before the match, everyone predicted that Ma Lin would sweep Joo Seok. However, during the game, Joo showed excellent skills. His chipping spin was varied, his counter-attack was amazing, and his forehand backhand loop was no worse than any other offensive player in the tournament.
At that time, Ma Lin was not patient enough and always showed an anxious side when playing with choppers.
Faced with Joo’s steady play, Ma Lin became more and more impatient and made a lot of mistakes, eventually losing 3-4 to his opponent and missing out on the champion.
Joo, on the other hand, gained confidence after that match and defeated many excellent players such as Chuang Chih-Yuan, Ma Lin, and Kreanga to reach the final, becoming the biggest dark horse.
Although he failed to win the final, Joo has since become a leading figure in the Korean men’s game and has been named the “world’s number one chipper”.
Joo Sae Hyuk’s career
Joo Sae Hyuk won a bronze medal for Korea in the team competition at the 2004 World Championship in Qatar with Oh Sang-Eun and Ryu Seung Min.
Paired with Oh Sang Eun in doubles at the 2004 Athens Olympics, after defeating Liu song in the third round, Joo lost 2-4 to Wang Liqin in the eighth final, missing out on the last eight.
At the 2005 World Championship in Shanghai, Joo failed to participate, as it was revealed that he was about to retire from the army and should no longer be affiliated with the Korean army’s Sangmu club, but he was reluctant to return to the club he was with before joining the army, thus delaying his participation in the trials.
At the 2006 World Championship in Bremen, Joo Seok was selected for the Korean team squad, eventually getting the silver medal.
At the 2007 World Championship in Zagreb, Joo Seok defeated Chinese youngster Ma Long in the last eight before losing to Wang Hao in the quarter-finals.
At the 2008 Beijing Olympics, due to internal conflicts within the Korean table tennis association, Joo was not informed until 5 days before the Olympic selection and finally missed the Beijing Olympics.
At the 2012 World Championship in Dortmund, he reached the semi-finals of the men’s team with his teammates, and Joo did not play in the final against China, with Korea eventually finishing third in the men’s team.
At the 2012 London Olympics, he failed to reach the last 16 of the tournament after a cold defeat to North Korea’s Kim Hyok Bong at 2:4 in the third round; However, he got second together with his teammates in the men’s team competition.
In October 2015, Joo Se-hyuk was selected for the South Korean men’s team for the Rio 2016 Olympic Games as the 17th-ranked player in the world.
On 20 January 2022, the Korean table tennis association announced Joo Sae-hyuk as the head coach of the men’s team.
Joo’s record as a chopper is also very impressive, having been runner-up in the men’s singles at the ’03 World Series in Paris and runner-up in the men’s team at both the World Championship in Bremen and the London Olympics with his team.
Although Joo never won a world title, it was the best record for a chopper. He has also beaten Ma Long, Ma Lin, and Zhang Jike in many tournaments, which is a testament to his amazing ping pong skill.
In April 2012, Joo Sae Hyuk was admitted to the hospital with an ankle injury and was found to be suffering from a rare form of Leukoaraiosis. It is a rare and difficult disease that causes inflammation throughout the body, often involving the nervous system, digestive tract, lungs, kidneys, and epididymis.
And it can be recurrent and difficult to resolve. In order to qualify for the London Olympics, Joo continued to train with glucocorticoids to bring his athletic performance back to a high point after hitting a plateau. Finally, Joo relied on his medication to win a silver medal at the London Olympics.
Plagued by injuries, Joo Sae Hyuk announced his retirement at the end of 2017 and began coaching. However, the 38-year-old returned to international competition after just one year out of the game, which made all of the worlds surprised.
At that time, he has already been a father of two kids. After a few years of perseverance, Joo finally announced his retirement in 2020. Joo’s perseverance stems from his love for table tennis and deserves the respect of all.
Joo Sae Hyuk’s playstyle
Joo Sae Hyuk holds his racket in the form of shakehand grip in his right hand and plays a counter-attacking style in chipping.
As a chopper, Joo has a very unique technique. He creatively blends the stability of KōjiMatsushita’s chipping with the harshness of Ding Song’s chipping and counterattack, opening up a new era for all choppers.
Joo Sae Hyuk’s backhand long rubber chipping technique is low and flat, with a strong spin. He can also use the technique of blocking and cutting with his long pips in the short court to create a good opportunity for the forehand attack in the match.
What’s more, sometimes he uses inverted rubber to block the ball can make the opponent difficult to deal with. However, sometimes when the opponent attacks the forehand and then attacks the backhand, he is not prepared and can easily be confused by the opponent and predicts wrongly.
Joo Sae Hyuk has a superb ability to attack with his forehand consistently and always with high success rate. Unlike a purely defensive chopper, Joo’s forehand is capable of pulling the ball all over the table and is no match for an attacker in terms of consistency, strength and accuracy.
He always changes the rhythm with loop and chops with his forehand to create more opportunities in the games.
Joo Sae Hyuk’s equipment
Forehand: Butterfly-TACKIFIRE SPECIAL
Backhand: Butterfly-FEINT-LONG II (long pips)
Blade: Butterfly BUTTERFLY JOO SE HYU-FL33901/Nexy Joo Sae Hyuk Blade
Joo Sae Hyuk’s personal life
Joo Se Hyuk married his girlfriend, Kim Sun Hwa, whom he met in 2002 and is one year younger than him, on 14 April 2007 in Seoul, Korea. They have two babies now after their wedding.
Faced with the title “Number 1 chopper in the world” given by his fans and the public, Joo Sae Hyuk said, “There are a lot of people who are better than me, but I just want to do my best and live up to the expectations of everyone.
He also said that when he and his wife first met, he was not a good player at all and not very successful. “It was my wife’s silent support along the way, giving me a source of strength and spiritual pillar, which motivated me to keep improving and climbing to a higher level, so I am really grateful to her and hope that we can keep going on like this. “.