About Table Tennis

Overview

Table tennis, also known as ping-pong, is a sport in which two or four players hit a lightweight, hollow ball back and forth using table tennis rackets. The game takes place on a hard table divided by a net. Except for the initial serve, players must allow a ball played toward them only one bounce on their side of the table and must return it so that it bounces on the opposite side.

Points are scored when a player fails to return the ball within the rules. Play is fast and demands quick reactions. A skilled player can impart several varieties of spin to the ball, altering its trajectory and limiting an opponent’s options to great advantage.

Table tennis is controlled by the worldwide organisation International Table Tennis Federation (ITTF), founded in 1926. ITTF currently includes 215 member associations. The table tennis official rules are specified in the ITTF handbook.

Since 1988, table tennis has been an Olympic sport, with several event categories. In particular, from 1988 until 2004, these were: men’s singles, women’s singles, men’s doubles and women’s doubles. Since 2008 the doubles have been replaced by the team events.

The History of Table Tennis

The game originated as a sport in Britain during the 1880s, where it was played among the upper-class as an after-dinner parlour game, then commonly known as “wiff-waff”. A row of books were stood up along the centre of the table as a net, two more books served as rackets and were used to continuously hit a golf-ball from one end of the table to the other. Alternatively table tennis was played with paddles made of cigar box lids and balls made of champagne corks.

The popularity of the game led game manufacturers to sell the equipment commercially. Early rackets were often pieces of parchment stretched upon a frame, and the sound generated in play gave the game its first nicknames of “wiff-waff” and “ping-pong”. A number of sources indicate that the game was first brought to the attention of Hamley’s of Regent Street under the name “Gossima”.

The name “ping-pong” was in wide use before British manufacturer J. Jaques & Son Ltd trademarked it in 1901. The name “ping-pong” then came to be used for the game played by the rather expensive Jaques’s equipment, with other manufacturers calling it table tennis. A similar situation arose in the United States, where Jaques sold the rights to the “ping-pong” name to Parker Brothers.

The next major innovation was by James Gibb, a British enthusiast of table tennis, who discovered novelty celluloid balls on a trip to the US in 1901 and found them to be ideal for the game. This was followed by E.C. Goode who, in 1901, invented the modern version of the racket by fixing a sheet of pimpled, or stippled, rubber to the wooden blade.

Table tennis was growing in popularity by 1901 to the extent that table tennis tournaments were being organised, books on table tennis were being written, and an unofficial world championship was held in 1902. During the early 1900s, the game was banned in Russia because the rulers at the time believed that playing the game had an adverse effect on players’ eyesight.

In 1921, the Table Tennis Association was founded in Britain, and the International Table Tennis Federation followed in 1926. London hosted the first official World Championships in 1926. In 1933, the United States Table Tennis Association, now called USA Table Tennis, was formed.

In the 1950s, rackets that used a rubber sheet combined with an underlying sponge layer changed the game dramatically, introducing greater spin and speed. These were introduced to Britain by sports goods manufacturer S.W. Hancock Ltd. The use of speed glue increased the spin and speed even further, resulting in changes to the equipment to “slow the game down”. Table tennis was introduced as an Olympic sport at the Olympics in 1988.

After the 2000 Summer Olympics in Sydney, the International Table Tennis Federation instituted several rules changes aimed at making table tennis more viable as a televised spectator sport. First, the older 38 mm balls were officially replaced by 40 mm balls in 2000. This increased the ball’s air resistance and effectively slowed down the game.

By that time, players had begun increasing the thickness of the fast sponge layer on their rackets, which made the game excessively fast and difficult to watch on television. Second, the ITTF changed from a 21-point to an 11-point scoring system in 2001. This was intended to make games more fast-paced and exciting. The ITTF also changed the rules on service to prevent a player from hiding the ball during service, in order to increase the average length of rallies and to reduce the server’s advantage.

Variants of the sport have recently emerged. “Large-ball” table tennis uses a 44 mm ball, which slows down the game significantly. This has seen some acceptance by players who have a hard time with the extreme spins and speeds of the 40 mm game.

There is a move towards reviving the table tennis game that existed prior to the introduction of sponge rubber. “Hardbat” table tennis players reject the speed and spin of reversed sponge rubber, preferring the 1940–60s play style with no sponge and short-pimpled rubber. Defence is less difficult by decreasing the speed and eliminating any meaningful magnus effect of spin.

Because hardbat killer shots are almost impossible to hit against a skilled player, hardbat matches focus on the strategic side of table tennis, requiring skilful manoeuvring of the opponent before an attack can become successful.

Table Tennis Equipment

The international rules specify that the game is played with a light 2.7 gram, 40 mm diameter ball. The rules say that the ball shall bounce up 24–26 cm when dropped from a height of 30.5 cm on to a standard steel block thereby having a coefficient of restitution of 0.89 to 0.92. The 40 mm ball was introduced after the 2000 Olympic Games.

However, this created some controversy as the Chinese National Team argued that this was merely to give non-Chinese players a better chance of winning since the new type of balls has a slower speed, while at that time most Chinese players were playing with fast attack and smashes. A 40 mm table tennis ball is slower and spins less than the original 38 mm (1.5 inch) one.

The ball is made of a high-bouncing air-filled celluloid or similar plastics material, coloured white or orange, with a matte finish. The choice of ball colour is made according to the table colour and its surroundings. For example, a white ball is easier to see on a green or blue table than it is on a gray table. Stars on the ball indicate the quality of the ball. Three stars indicate that it is of the highest quality, and is used in official competition.

The table is 2.74 m (9 ft) long, 1.52 m (5 ft) wide, and 76 cm (30 inch) high with a Masonite (a type of hardboard) or similarly manufactured timber, layered with a smooth, low-friction coating. The table or playing surface is divided into two halves by a 15.25 cm (6 inch) high net. An ITTF approved table surface must be in a green or blue colour.

Players are equipped with a laminated wooden racket covered with rubber on one or two sides depending on the grip of the player. The official ITTF term is “racket”, though “bat” is common in Britain, and “paddle” in the U.S.

The wooden portion of the racket, often referred to as the “blade”, commonly features anywhere between one and seven plies of wood, though cork, glass fibre, carbon fibre, aluminium fibre, and Kevlar are sometimes used. According to the ITTF regulations, at least 85% of the blade by thickness shall be of natural wood. Common wood types include Balsa, Limba, and Cypress or “Hinoki,” which is popular in Japan. The average size of the blade is about 6.5 inches (16.5 cm) long and 6 inches (15 cm) wide. Although the official restrictions only focus on the flatness and rigidity of the blade itself, these dimensions are optimal for most play styles.

Table tennis regulations allow different surfaces on each side of the racket. Various types of surfaces provide various levels of spin or speed, and in some cases they nullify spin. For example, a player may have a rubber that provides much spin on one side of his racket, and one that provides no spin on the other. By flipping the racket in play, different types of returns are possible. To help a player distinguish between the rubber used by his opposing player, international rules specify that one side must be red while the other side must be black.

The player has the right to inspect his opponent’s racket before a match to see the type of rubber used and what colour it is. Despite high speed play and rapid exchanges, a player can see clearly what side of the racket was used to hit the ball. Current rules state that, unless damaged in play, the racket cannot be exchanged for another racket at any time during a match.

Table Tennis Competition

Competitive table tennis is popular in Asia and Europe and has been gaining attention in the United States. The most important international competitions are the World Table Tennis Championships, the Table Tennis World Cup, the Olympics and the ITTF Pro Tour. Continental competitions include the European Championships, Europe Top-12, the Asian Championships and the Asian Games. Chinese players have won the men’s World Championships 60% of the time since 1959; in the women’s competition,

Chinese players have won all but three of the World Championships since 1971. Other strong teams come from East Asia and European countries, including Austria, Belarus, Germany, Hong Kong, Japan, South Korea, Singapore, Sweden, and Taiwan.

There are also professional competitions at the clubs level. The national league of countries like China (the China Table Tennis Super League), Germany, France, Belgium and Austria are some highest level examples. There are also some important international club teams competitions such as the European Champions League and its former competition, the European Club Cup, where the top club teams from European countries compete.