Sometimes referred to as Ping Pong, table tennis is a sport enjoyed by people all across the world. The game involves either two individuals (singles) or four individuals (doubles) hitting a small ball back and forth attempting to keep it in the boundaries of play while making their opponent either miss the ball entirely or hit it out of bounds. The sport is unique in that there is minimal running because the playing surface is fairly small. The game requires strategy and consistency for that reason.
Table Tennis began in the 1880s in England when lawn tennis players were searching for a way to continue their racquet sport indoors during the winter. The sport began as a "parlor game" because of its ease to play and availability to anyone who had paddles, a ball, and a table. The game quickly became extremely popular and developed into a competitive sport as the 1900s began culminating in large tournaments being played amongst hundreds of competitors.
According to the rules of table tennis, each table must be roughly 107 inches in length and 60 inches wide. The surface can be made up of any material as long as the ball bounces about 9 inches when dropped from 12 inches above the table. The table is split equally into two ends with a net running across the middle of the table splitting the two sides. On the table itself there are a few lines:
Table tennis is unique because it requires minimal equipment in order to play. Along with the table, all you need is a set of paddles, a ball, and a net. Some players chose to wear additional equipment such as wrist and headbands, but those are optional. Here is a list of equipment you may need for table tennis:
Table tennis matches differ in terms of what the games are played to in points as well as how many games are played until a winner is determined. Each point is awarded by a player either making the opponent miss-hit the ball out of bound or miss the ball entirely.
At the highest level in the Olympics, the games are played to 11 points in a best of 5 series where the player to win 3 games first wins the entire match. There are other variations played amongst more casual players such as a best of 3 series in which games are played to 21. In the Olympic setting, each player gets two serves and then alternate back and forth until the game is decided. If a game is tied 10-10, someone must win by two points meaning the game goes on as long as it takes for someone to win two points in a row. In this win by two scenario the players alternate every serve as opposed to every two serves. In the games played to 21 points, players alternate every 5 serves. The best of 3 and 5 are the most common series lengths, but some matches are best of 7 or even 9!
There are not many positions in table tennis as it is mostly an individual sport. That being said, in doubles there is a server and non server for the team serving and a returner and non returner for the team returning. The server serves the ball to the returner and only they can return the ball. After that, the positions somewhat go out the window and either player on each team can hit the ball. In singles, there is only a server and returner so once the point begins the players move wherever they like.
Table tennis rules are straightforward. There are two main focuses: points and serving rules.
In table tennis there are referees and umpires present for the high level matches. A referee is responsible for overseeing the entire tournament being played which includes supervision of the umpires. Any executive decisions or arguments in a specific match are to be dealt with by the referee. The umpires are responsible for focusing on an individual match and determine who wins each point based on the laws of the game. Additionally, at the high level tournaments there are timekeepers, stroke counters, and even a jury!
There are some terms you should know in order to understand what people are talking about when it comes to table tennis. Here is a list of a few terms and words commonly used in the table tennis world.
|Let||Refers to when a player is serving and hits the ball off the net but still lands the serve in bounds. When this occurs, the server gets a do over.|
|Chopper||A playing technique where a player hits down on the ball and "chops" it resulting in the ball not bouncing as high as it normally would when it hits the other players side of the table.|
|Pusher||Refers to a player who doesn't fully swing through and just pushes the ball back. This playing style is frowned upon and is used by players who aren't very good.|
|Block||Refers to a player not swinging their paddle to return a shot rather just putting their paddle face out using the power from their opponent's shot to return the ball. This strategy is often used when the opponent slams the ball.|
Coaching in table tennis is unique given that it's mostly an individual sport. Therefore, coaches play an important role in preparing a player mentally as well as fundamentally. Most competitive table tennis players start playing the game at a young age through training programs known as academies. At these academies, players learn the game weekly through training sessions and competitions. If you reach the highest level, you will have a coach who attends competitions with you and gives you advice throughout matches.
In table tennis there are two main strokes each player must possess: a forehand and a backhand. Each stroke is a fairly simple motion in which the player holds the paddle in their dominant hand and swings through the ball. The two strokes differ in that each is performed from a different side of the body. There are many variations of each shot players utilize such as different spins, drop shots, and slams. Each player has a different playing style meaning that some only use spin while others use every kind of shot.
Table tennis is a very unique game in that you must know your opponent's strengths and weaknesses as well as you know your own. In order to use proper strategy you must exploit your opponents weaknesses rather than playing into their strengths. For example, if your opponent has an amazing forehand, but struggles with their backhand then you will most likely focus on hitting the ball to their backhand side.
Additionally, players utilize different spins to counter their opponents' play. For example, if a player hits the ball really hard, his or her opponent may add top spin so the ball has an extra kick to it when it bounces off the table making it harder to slam the ball back in a return.
Table tennis emphasizes consistency. The longer you can keep the ball in play, the more effective a player you will be. In order to work on this, players must continually hit their strokes over and over. They do so by rallying with coaches or other players focusing on proper form and technique. Drills such as crosscourt rallies, down the line rallies, or a combination of both are commonly used. In these drills players hit the same stroke (backhand or forehand) as many times as they can until they miss. Occasionally, if a player doesn't have another person to practice with you will see them fold one half of the table up creating a wall they can rally against.
Table tennis debuted in the Seoul, South Korea Summer Olympics in the 1988. The games at the time hosted four table tennis specific events including men's and women's singles and doubles. Currently, the Olympics still holds the men's and women's singles tournaments, but instead of the doubles they have what are called team competitions for both the men's and women's side. These competitions involve three players per country on a team.
As with any Olympic sport, there is a cap on how many participants can attend and compete. For table tennis, the maximum number of participants worldwide is 86 men and 86 women with at most 3 men and women from each country.
There are various table tennis brands available, but players tend to rely on a select few for their equipment needs. Here are a few popular table tennis brands.
There are various youth table tennis organizations throughout the world that have different objectives. Some are aimed at training players to become professionals one day while others are simply after school programs that introduce kids to the sport.
|American Youth Table Tennis Organization (ATTYO)||Competitive|
|World Junior Table Tennis Championships||Competitive|
|After School Learning Tree Table Tennis Club||Recreational|
Almost all table tennis coaches are former players themselves. There are a few notable coaches who are recognized nationally for coaching the top players. Below is a list of them:
Throughout the history of table tennis there have been a few dominant players. These individuals have continually performed at a high level and won almost every tournament. Here are some of the top table tennis players ever.
There are various table tennis leagues around the world that the top players compete in. These leagues are usually a combination of singles and doubles play. Below is a list of a few of the worlds most competitive table tennis leagues.
|Chinese Super League||Professional|
|Russian Premier League||Professional|
|Austrian Premier League||Professional|
|French Pro A League||Professional|
The most notable of table tennis teams are the olympic level teams. These teams are composed of the best players in their respective country. There are also teams that are less competitive such as amateur and club teams. Below is a list of the top table tennis teams that compete in the olympics.
|China||Ma Long, Zhang Jike|
|Japan||Tomokazu Harimoto, Mima Ito|
|Germany||Timo Boll, Xianoa Shan|
|South Korea||Joo Sae-hyuk, Suh Hyowon|
As is with any competitive sport, there are plenty of events that occur throughout the year where players get to showcase their skills in table tennis. Below is a list of a few of the top table tennis events that occur throughout the world.
|Olympics||Every 4 years|
|World Juniors Table Tennis Championships||Annually|
Table tennis tournaments occur year round because they are played indoors negating any problems with weather. There are competitions for every age ranging from children's tournaments to senior citizen tournaments. At the professional level, there are a few highly recognized tournaments that hold the most significance. Below is a list of them.
|ITTF World Tour||International|
Table tennis books are often instructional or personal stories from players. Here are a few popular reads in the table tennis world.
|Table Tennis for Thinkers||Larry Hodges|
|Table Tennis: Steps to Success||Richard McAfee|
|Breaking 2000||Alex Polyakov|
There are various different table tennis websites where you can get news about the best players, learn more about the game, or get involved in the game. Below is a list of a few popular table tennis websites.
|Americantabletennis.com||American Table Tennis News/Products/tutorials|
|Olympic.org||Olympic Table Tennis|
|InternationalTableTennis.com||International Table Tennis News|
Table tennis is a game that can be played at a competitive level or just for leisure purposes. The game consists of 2 or 4 players hitting a small ball back and forth with the goal of making their opponent miss the ball or miss-hit the ball so it goes out of bounds. Games are played on a table with a net in the middle which the players have to hit the ball over.
Table tennis is popular all around the world. These three countries however, are known to play and enjoy the sport the most: China, South Korea, and Germany.
Table tennis is an olympic sport and has been since 1988. There are currently four events that are played every four years at the summer Olympics: Men's singles, Women's Singles, Men's Team, and Women's Team.