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Table tennis

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Jan-Ove Waldner at the 2004 Summer Olympics
Jan-Ove Waldner at the 2004 Summer Olympics

Table tennis (also colloquially known as ping pong) is a sport where two or four players hit a ball back and forth to each other with bats. The game takes place on a table divided by a net. Players must allow a ball played towards them only one bounce on their side of the table and must return it so that it bounces on the opponent’s side. Play is fast and demands quick reactions. A skilled player can impart spin to the ball, which makes its bounce and its reaction on the opponent's bat difficult to predict or return with confidence. Spin combined with speed makes table tennis an exciting sport to play as well as to watch.

Table tennis is very popular in East Asia [1] and is the most popular sport in the world in terms of player numbers,[2] as well as one of the newest of the major sports.[3]

  • 乒乓球 (Ping Pang Qiu) is the official name for the sport in the mainland China, Taiwan, and Hong Kong.
  • 卓球 (Takkyu) is the official name for the sport in Japan.
  • 탁구 (Tak-ku) is the name for the sport in Korea.

General description

A standard table tennis table, together with bat and ball
A standard table tennis table, together with bat and ball

Table tennis is an Olympic sport where two or four players hit a ball back and forth to each other, with a bat on a table, in a manner similar to tennis. The rules are slightly different, but the concept is basically the same. Ball spin, speed, placement, strategy and tactics play an important part in competitive table tennis matches. The speed of the ball can vary from slow serves with much spin to smashes that travel as fast as 112.5 kilometers per hour (69.9 miles per hour).[4]

The game is played on a 274 cm × 152.5 cm × 76 cm high (approx 9 ft × 5 ft × 30 in high) hard rectangular table with the surface usually colored green or dark blue. A 15.25 cm (6 inch) tall net divides the table in half (similarly to tennis) and is strung to extend 15.25 cm (6 inches) beyond the table on each side.[5]

Table tennis requires a large enough room so that players can move freely. In international competitions, the International Table Tennis Federation requires an area not less than 14 m (46 ft) long, 7 m (23 ft) wide and 5 m (16 ft) high. The 4 corners may be covered by surrounds of not more than 1.5 m (5 ft) length.

The bats, also known as paddles or rackets, are usually about 10 inches long, with a hitting surface that is approximately 6 in × 6 in (15.2 cm × 15.2 cm), although the rules specify no limitations in size or shape. Modern bats usually have a thin layer of rubber covering the paddle's striking surface. The rubber may have pimples pointing outwards or inwards, as well as a thin layer of sponge between the plywood center and the rubber surface. Since spin plays a large role in the modern sport of table tennis, the composition of the rubber and the combination of sponge and rubber is designed to maximize the amount of spin and speed a player can impart onto the ball. Other technological improvements include the use of carbon or other synthetic layers as part of the blade to increase the sweet spot or the stiffness of the blade.

The ball used in table tennis has a diameter of 40 mm, is made of celluloid, and is completely hollow. A three star rating on a ball usually implies a top quality ball, in relation to its bounce, roundness and their respective consistency between balls of the same make and type.

The winner is the first to score 11 points, with each player alternating serves every two points. At 10-10 (or deuce) the players alternate with every serve; the winner is then the first person to gain a clear two points advantage over his opponent. The 11 point game is an International Table Tennis Federation (ITTF) change which occurred in 2001. All games played at national level and at international tournaments (ITTF) are played to 11 points in either a best of five (5) games (preliminaries) or best of seven (7) games format (championship matches).


Table tennis making an 'impression' on the world of sports
Table tennis making an 'impression' on the world of sports

Table tennis has its origins in England as an after dinner amusement for upper class Victorians in the 1880s. Mimicking the game of tennis in an indoor environment, everyday objects were originally enlisted to act as the equipment. A line of books would be the net, a rounded top of a Champagne cork or knot of string as the ball, and a cigar box lid as the bat.

The popularity of the game led game manufacturers to sell the equipment commercially. Early bats were often pieces of parchment stretched upon a frame, and the sound generated in play gave the game its first nicknames of "whiff whaff" 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 English 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 equipment, with other manufacturers calling theirs table tennis. A similar situation came to exist in the United States where Jaques sold the rights to the ping pong name to Parker Brothers. The term is now used as a generic name for table tennis.

The next major innovation was by James Gibb,[6] an English enthusiast of the game, who discovered novelty celluloid balls on a trip to the U.S. in 1901 and found them to be the ideal balls for the game. This was followed by E.C. Goode who in 1903 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 when table tennis tournaments were being organized, books on table tennis were being written, and an unofficial world championship was held in 1902. During the early 20th century the game was banned in Russia due to the belief that was held by the rulers at the time that playing the game had an adverse effect on players eyesight. In 1921 the Table Tennis Association was founded in England, and the International Table Tennis Federation followed in 1926. London hosted the first official world championship in 1927. Table tennis was introduced as an Olympic sport at the Olympics in 1988. In the 1950's rackets that used a rubber sheet combined with a underlaying sponge layer changed the game dramatically, introducing greater spin and speed. These were introduced to England by the sports goods manufacturers S.W. Hancock Ltd. and the Hancock bat gave Johnny Leach the edge when he became World Champion in 1949. The use of speed glue increased the spin and speed even further, resulting in changes to the equipment to "slow the game down".

Toward the end of 2000, the ITTF 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. 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 bats, which made the game excessively fast, and difficult to watch on television. Secondly, the ITTF changed from a 21 to an 11 point scoring system. 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 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, Classic table tennis or "Hardbat" table tennis players reject the speed and spin of reversed sponge rubber, preferring the 1940-60s style of no-sponge, short pimpled rubber of play which makes defense 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 skillful maneuvering of the opponent before an attack can be successful.


The ball

The international rules specify that the game is played with a light 2.7 gram, 40 mm (formerly 38 mm) diameter ball. The 40 mm ball was introduced at the 2003 World Table Tennis Championship. However, this created some controversy as the Chinese National Team complained that this was merely to give non-Chinese players a better chance of winning. A 40mm table tennis ball is slower and less "spinny" than a 38mm one. The ball is made of a high-bouncing gas-filled celluloid ball, colored 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 table or a blue table.

The table

Diagram of a table tennis table showing the official dimensions
Diagram of a table tennis table showing the official dimensions

The table is 2.74 m (9 ft) long, 1.525 m (5 feet) wide, and 76 cm (30 inches) high with a masonite or similarly manufactured timber, layered with a smooth, low-friction coating. The table or playing surface is divided into two halves by a 15.2 cm (6 inch) high net.[7]

The racket

Players are equipped with a wooden bat (also known as rackets or paddles) covered with rubber on one or two sides.

Recent years have seen an advancement in technology of table tennis blades (a bat without rubber). Materials of different properties may be combined with the wood in the blade to enhance its playing performance. Many blades today feature one or more carbon layers within them to enhance their 'sweet spot', and to give the player a greater margin of error when playing powerful shots. Materials incorporated into table tennis blades today include kevlar, titanium, arylate, aramid, and aluminium.

The rubber coating may be of pimpled rubber, with the pimples outward, or it may be a rubber that is composed of two materials, a sponge layer, covered by a pimpled rubber, with the pimples pointed inwards or outwards. Some rackets are not covered with rubber at all, because a "naked" racket is believed to be more resistant to a spin however it is illegal to use these types of rackets in competition as they are not approved by the ITTF. Some types of racket rubbers are also not approved. Approved rubbers have the ITTF emblem on the base of the rubber.[8]

Players have many choices and variations in rubber sheets on their bat. Although bats may be purchased with rubber by the manufacturer, most serious tournament players will create a customized racket. A player selects a blank blade (i.e. a bat without rubber), based on his playing style. The type of wood and synthetic layers used to make up the blade will provide a slower or faster blade. The player can choose from different types of rubber sheets which will provide a certain level of spin, speed and specific playing characteristics.

Normally, a sheet of rubber is glued to a blade using rubber cement and not removed until the rubber wore out or becomes damaged. In the 1980's, a new technique was developed where the player would use a special glue called speed glue to apply the rubber every time he played. The glue would help provide more spin and speed by providing a "catapult" effect. This technique is known as "regluing" and has become a standard technique for top players.

Table tennis is the only racket sport that allows different surfaces on each side of the bat. The different types of surfaces provide various levels of spin or speed, or in some cases, nullifies spin. For example, a player may have a rubber that provides much spin on one side of his bat, and no spin on the other side of the bat. By flipping the racket in play, different types of returns were possible. To help a player distinguish between different types of rubber used by his opposing player, international rules declared that one side must be red while the other side must be black. The player has the right to inspect his opponent's bat before a match to see the type of rubber used and what color 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.

Different types of rubber sheets

Inverted (not Chinese): This is the most widely used rubber type. The surface is smooth, with the pimpled side facing inwards toward the blade. This enables the player to generate high levels of spin and speed. Spin is mainly generated not by the action of the topsheet alone, but also by the ball sinking into the sponge and allowing greater surface area to contact the ball.
Inverted (Chinese): Chinese rubbers typically have stickier (or "tackier") topsheets. Spin is generated mainly by the topsheet, as opposed to the sponge. The result is usually a far better short game and potential power capabilities than normal inverted.
Short pimples (or "pips"): Short, pimples out rubbers are usually used by close to the table hitters (for example, Liu Guoliang). They do not generate as much spin as inverted rubbers, but also make the user less susceptible to the opponent's spin. Depending on the thickness of the sponge it is also possible to play a chopping game with short pimples (an exponent of this style would be Ding Song) by varying the spin of the return. Whilst blocking and attacking a "dead ball" effect is often noticed.
Long pimples (or "pips"): Long pimple out rubbers do not have the ability to generate any real spin of their own, but feed off the opponent's spin, to allow the user to confuse the opponent and upset their rhythm. They are usually used by close-to-the-table blockers, or choppers. They are usually only used on the backhand side, as they offer very limited attacking capabilities. Depending on the grippyness of the sides of the pimples and the thickness of the sponge it is also possible to play an aggressive game with long pips, though with not much spin capability.
Anti-spin: Anti-spin, like long pimples, cannot generate any real spin, but just allows the user to produce a no-spin ball. Anti-spin is also not very susceptible to the opponents incoming spin, due to the low coefficient of friction of the rubber's surface. This is also used to confuse the opponent, and is not widely used at international level.

Game play

Starting a game

In top-flight competition, service is decided by a coin toss. At lower levels it is common for one player (or the umpire/scorer) to hide the ball in one or the other hand (usually hidden under the table), allowing the other player to guess which hand the ball is in. The correct or incorrect guess gives the "winner" the option to choose to serve, or to choose which side of the table to use. In recreational games, the players may have a rally for a minimum set number of hits, after which the rally is played out, with either the winner choosing to serve or the tableside. Others use the "P-I-N-G" method rallying back and forth spelling a letter of P-I-N-G after every hit. After P-I-N-G is spelled the person to win the rally also wins the serve.

With the introduction of the 11-point game, the serve has become more critical, and the choice to serve first is the most popular decision. Depending on playing conditions, glare, background distractions, etc. it may be to a player's advantage to choose side over serve. If player wins the toss and chooses side, the other player decides to serve or can give the first player the serve.


In game play, the player serving the ball commences a point. Standing behind the end of the table, with the ball in the palm of one hand and the bat in the other, the server tosses the ball without spin, upward, at least sixteen centimeters (approximately 6 inches).

He or she then must hit the ball such that it bounces once on his or her half of the table, and then bounces at least one time on the opponent’s half. If the ball strikes the net but does not strike the opponent's half of the table, then a point is awarded to the opponent. However, if the ball hits the net, but nevertheless goes over and bounces on the other side, it is called a let. Play stops, and the ball must be served again with no penalty. A player may commit any number of lets without penalty.

If the service is "good", then the opponent must then make a "good" return — by returning the ball before it bounces on his or her side of the table a second time. Returning the serve is one of the most difficult parts of the game, as the server's first move is often the least predictable.


Points are awarded to the opponent for any of several errors in play:

  • Allowing the ball to bounce on one’s own side twice
  • Not hitting the ball after it has bounced on one’s own side
  • Having the ball bounce on one’s own side after hitting it
  • Hitting the ball before it has bounced on one's own side of the table, i.e. making a volley
  • Double hitting the ball. Note that the hand below the wrist is considered part of the bat and making a good return off one’s hand or fingers is allowed, but hitting one’s hand or fingers and subsequently hitting the racket is a double strike and an error.
  • Allowing the ball to strike anything other than the racket (see above for definition of the racket)
  • Causing the ball not to bounce on the opponent’s half (i.e., not making a "good" return)
  • Placing one’s free hand on the playing surface or moving the playing surface
  • Offering and failing to make a good serve (i.e., making a service toss and failing to strike the ball fairly into play)
  • Making an illegal serve: one deemed outside the rules (e.g., one preceded by a player's hiding the ball or his failing to toss the ball at least 16 centimeters [six inches] in the air).

Alternation of service

Service alternates between opponents every two points (regardless of winner of the rally) until a player reaches 11 points with a two-point lead, or until both players have 10 points a piece. If both players reach 10 points, then service alternates after each point, until one player gains a two-point advantage.

In doubles, service alternates every two points between sides, but also rotates between players on the same team. At the end of every two points, the receiving player becomes the server, and the partner of the serving player becomes the receiver.

In the old 21-point game system, service would alternate every 5 points. If both players reached a score of 20, then service would alternate each point until one player gains a two-point advantage.

Series of games

After each game, players switch sides of the table and in the fifth or seventh, game "for the match", players switch sides when the first player scores 5 points, regardless of whose turn it is to serve. In competition play, matches are typically best of five or seven games. Before 2001, players alternated serves every 5 points and games would be played to 21 points and had to be won by at least 2 points. Now, table tennis is played to 11 points, with service change every 2 points.

Recreational variations

Some recreational players may choose to use a volleyball style system of scoring and play. Such variations include, but are not limited to, allowing the let serve, not requiring the server to hit the ball on his half of the table first (but still allowing it), allowing the volleying of returns, and relaxing other small rules in doubles to make the game easier to play. Common recreational scoring styles include best-of-three-game side out scoring to 15, 21, 25, or 30 points per game with a third game being played rally style to 15; best-of-five-game rally style play with each game, save the fifth (to 15), played to 30 points; and traditional tennis scoring.

Doubles game

In addition to games between individual players, pairs may also play table tennis. In doubles, all the rules of single play apply except for the following. A line painted along the long axis of the table to create doubles courts bisects the table. This line’s only purpose is to facilitate the doubles service rule, which is that service, must originate from the right hand "box" in such a way that the first bounce of the serve bounces once in said right hand box and then must bounce at least once in the opponent side’s right hand box (far left box for server). Play then continues normally with the exception that players must alternate hitting the ball. For example, after a player serves the receiving player make his or her return, the server’s partner returns the ball and then the service receiver’s partner would play the ball. In wheelchair doubles table tennis, a player hits when the ball reaches their side. The point proceeds this way until one side fails to make a legal return and the point is then awarded to the other team. Also, when the game reaches the final set, the teams must switch side and the team that receives the service must switch receiver when one of the teams reach 5 points. Singles and doubles are both played in international competition, including the Olympic Games since 1988 and the Commonwealth Games since 2002. In 2005, the ITTF has announced that doubles table tennis will only be featured as a part of teams events in the 2008 Olympics.

Styles of play

Main article: Table tennis styles


Korean player, Kim Soong Sil, executing a loop drive against a defensive opponent
Korean player, Kim Soong Sil, executing a loop drive against a defensive opponent

Competitive table tennis players grip their rackets in a variety of ways. The manner in which competitive players grip their rackets can be classified into two major families of styles. One is described as shakehand, and the other penhold. The Laws of Table Tennis do not prescribe the manner in which one must grip the racket, and numerous variations on gripping styles exist.

The penhold grip is so-named because one grips the racket similarly to the way one holds a writing instrument. The style of play among penhold players can vary greatly from player to player. The style, usually referred to as the Chinese penhold style, involves curling the middle, ring, and fourth finger back. In contrast, another style, sometimes referred to as the Japanese penhold, involves splaying those three fingers out across the back of the racket. Penhold styles are popular among players originating from Asian nations such as the China, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Japan, and Korea.
Traditionally, penhold players use only one side of the racket to hit the ball during normal play. The side which is in contact with the last three fingers is generally not used. However, the Chinese have developed a new technique in which a penholder utilizes both sides of the racket. This is referred to as the reverse penhold backhand (RPB).
The shakehand grip is so-named because one grips the racket similarly to the way one performs a handshake. The grip is sometimes colloquially referred to as a "tennis grip" or a "Western grip." The shakehand grip is popular among players originating in Western nations.
An experimental style being developed in China, its held by forming a "V for victory" sign and gripping the blade between the forefinger and middle finger, whilst having the other fingers rest under and on top of the handle; it requires a modified blade to grip successfully. A noticeable spin benefit is noticed due to the longer lever and mechanics utilized in the forehand and backhand (much like those found in the Western grip in tennis).

Types of shots

In table tennis, the strokes break down into generally offensive (producing topspin) and defensive (producing backspin). Spin exceptions are the smash, block, and lob. The types of strokes include backhand and forehand.

Offensive strokes

Speed drive 
In table tennis it is similar to strokes from other racket sports like tennis. The racket is primarily perpendicular to the direction of the stroke, and most of the energy applied to the ball results in speed rather than spin, creating a shot that does not arc much, but is fast enough that it can be difficult to return. A speed drive is often the bread-and-butter stroke of a player’s arsenal, used mostly for keeping the ball in play, applying pressure on the opponent and potentially opening up an opportunity for a more powerful attack.
Loop drive 
It is essentially the reverse of the speed drive. The racket is much more parallel to the direction of the stroke ("closed") and the racket thus grazes the ball, resulting in a large amount of topspin. A good loop drive will arc quite a bit, and once striking the opponent’s side of the table will jump forward, much like a kick serve in tennis. A loop drive is dangerous because of its topspin — while not as difficult to return as a speed drive, it is more likely to rebound off the opponent’s racket at a very high angle, setting up an easy smash on the follow up. As the loop drive requires a lot of topspin, players generally use their entire body to generate the movement required. Variations in spin and speed adds to effectiveness of this shot.
Counter drive 
It is usually a counter attack against drives (usually loop drives that go pretty high). You have to close the racket and stay close to the ball (try to predict its path). You have to hit the ball off the bounce (before it reaches the highest point), with a pretty short movement in a way that the ball goes faster to the other side. A well-timed, accurate counterdrive can be as effective as a smash.
Flip (or Flick in Europe) 
When a player tries to attack a ball that has not bounced beyond the edge of the table, he/she does not have the room to wind up in a backswing. The ball may still be attacked, however, and the resulting shot is called flip because the backswing is compressed into a quick wrist action. A flip is not a single stroke and can resemble either a drive or a loop in its characteristics. What identifies the stroke is instead whether the backswing is compressed into a short wrist flick. Also known as 払い "harai" in Japanese.
The offensive trump card in table tennis. A player will typically execute a smash when his or her opponent has returned a ball that bounces too high and/or too close to the net. Smashing is essentially self-explanatory — large backswing and rapid acceleration imparting as much speed on the ball as possible. The goal of a smash is to get the ball to move so quickly that the opponent simply cannot return it. Because the ball speed is the main aim of this shot, often the spin on the ball is something other than topspin. Sidespin can be used effectively with a smash to alter the ball’s trajectory significantly, although most intermediate players will smash the ball with little or no spin. An offensive table-tennis player will think of a rally as a build-up to a winning smash; only a calculated series of smashes can guarantee a point against a good opponent. However, most players will be able to return at most one or two smashes consistently. Provided that the opponent is not too close to the table or too far away from the ball, a smash can be lobbed, chopped, blocked or even counter-looped, albeit with some difficulty. A player who smashes generally works out a series of smashes (and possibly drop-shots) to rush the opponent out of position, put him off balance, or both. Smashers who fail to do this find it difficult to win a point against an excellent defense.

The way a point develops obviously varies widely, just as in any racket sport, but a very basic tactic for an offensive player can be: speed drive until an opportunity for a loop drive opens up, loop drive and then smash the high-bouncing return of the loop.

Defensive strokes

Slice (also known as push)
The slice is analogous to the speed drive in some respects — it is very simple, usually used for keeping the point alive and creating offensive opportunities. A slice resembles a tennis slice: the racket cuts underneath the ball, imparting backspin and causing the ball to float slowly to the other side of the table. While not immediately obvious, a slice can be difficult to attack because the backspin on the ball causes it to drop toward the table upon striking the opponent’s racket – in order to attack a slice, a player must lift the ball back over the net. Often, the best option is to simply slice the ball back again, which repeats and results in slicing rallies. Otherwise, another option is to flip or drive the ball, only when it is far enough from the net. Also known as a push. Slicing can have its advantages, but its a shot worth avoiding. You should only be slicing if you know your opponent makes easy mistakes. Offensive players should only slice for variation and not for general rallies. A slice can easily be counterlooped into the opposite corner, if it doesn't drop short enough on the table. The goal of most player's slice is to be too short to attack, rather than spin.
A chop or cut is the defensive, backspin counterpart to the offensive loop drive. A chop is essentially a bigger, heavier slice, taken well back from the table. The racket face points primarily horizontally, perhaps a little bit upward, and the direction of the stroke is straight down. The object of a defensive chop is to match the topspin of the opponent's shot with your own racket speed. A good chop will float nearly horizontally back to the table, in some cases having so much backspin that the ball actually rises. A chop such as this can be extremely difficult to return due to the enormous amount of backspin. Sometimes a defensive player can impart no spin on the ball during a chop, or frequently add right- or left-hand spin to the ball. This may further confuse his/her opponent. Chops are difficult to execute, but are devastating when completed properly because it takes a tremendous amount of topspin on a loop drive to return the ball back over the net.
The block or short is a simple shot, barely worthy of being called a "stroke," but nonetheless can be devastating against an attacking opponent. A block is executed by simply putting the racket in front of the ball — the ball rebounds back toward the opponent with nearly as much energy as it came in with. This is not as easy as it sounds, because the ball's spin, speed, and location all influence the correct angle of a block. Disregarding the difficulty of a block, it is very possible for an opponent to execute a perfect loop, drive, or smash, only to have the blocked shot come back at him just as fast. Due to the power involved in offensive strokes, often an opponent simply cannot recover quickly enough, and will be unable to return his own shot blocked back to him/her. Blocks almost always produce the same spin as was received, which is nearly always topspin. High level players may use what is called active block, adding speed to the ball (with a small topspin movement). When playing in the Penhold Grip, many players use active blocks when being pressured on the backhand.
Side Drive 
This spin is alternately used as a defensive and offensive maneuver. The premise of this move is to put a spin on the ball either to the right or the left of the paddle. The execution of this move is similar to a slice, but to the right or left instead of down. This spin will result in the ball curving to the side but bouncing in the opposite direction when the opponent returns it. Do not attempt a right-side spin (moving your arm to the right when hitting the ball) when too close to the left side of the table, and visa versa. To return, simply execute the same sided spin as your opponent just gave you.
The defensive lob is possibly the most visually-impressive shot in the sport of table tennis, and it is deceptive in its simplicity. To execute a lob, a defensive player first backs off the table 8-10 feet (2.5 to 3 m, advanced players sometimes go 20 feet or 6 m or more); then, the stroke itself consists of simply lifting the ball to an enormous height before it falls back to the opponent's side of the table. A lob is inherently a creative shot, and can have nearly any kind of spin you can imagine. Talented players use this fact to their advantage in order to control the point. For instance, though the opponent may smash the ball hard and fast, a good defensive lob could quite possibly be even harder to return due to the unpredictability (and heavy amounts) of the spin on the ball. Thus, though backed off the table by tens of feet and apparently running and leaping just to reach the ball, a good defensive player can still win the point using good lobs.
Stop (or drop shot) is a high level stroke, used as another variation for close-to-table strokes (like harau and slice). You have to position the body close to the ball and just let the ball touch the racket (without any hand movement) in a way that the ball stays close to the net with almost no speed and spin and touches the other side of the table more than twice if the opponent doesn’t reach it. This stroke should be used when opponents are far from the table and not prepared to get close to the table. This technique is most usually done by pen-holders and players who use long or short pimples. A very deceiving technique, this could result in the opponent failing to reach the ball after misjudging the distance of the ball. A perfectly executed stroke after a topspin sequence can win a point.


A competition game played at the highest level.
A competition game played at the highest level.

Competitive table tennis is popular in Asia and Europe and has been gaining attention in the United States. China continues to dominate most world titles. France, Germany, Hong Kong, Japan, Korea, Singapore, Sweden, and Taiwan also have many world-class players.

Skilled players exhibit extraordinarily swift reaction times, footwork and body control. Also, bat construction and new rubber technology (skilled elite players typically select and attach the rubber to their own bats and glue them before every match) contribute significantly to the amount of deviation from the expected ball flight path. The fairly recent development of speed glue speeds up the departure of the ball from the rubber considerably, though at the cost of some ball control. There are also competitions in table tennis variants: "Hardbat", in which all competitors use a paddle with small pips-out rubber (sponge is not allowed); and "Large ball", where a 44 mm ball is used to decrease the speed.

Notable players

Further information: List of World Table Tennis Champions
Chinese player Zhang Yining (张怡宁), at 2004 Korea Open.
Chinese player Zhang Yining (张怡宁), at 2004 Korea Open.

An international hall of fame exists at the ITTF Museum webpagePDF. A Grand Slam is earned by a player who wins an Olympic Games gold medal, world championship title, and World Cup of Table Tennis gold medal.

  • Alan Cooke (England), Recent England no 1 retired after the 2006 Commonwealth Games at the age of 40
  • A.K. Vint (England)
  • Angelica Rozeanu (Romania), six times consecutively the world champion (betwixt 1950 and 1955)
  • Anna Sipos (Hungary)
  • Bettine Vriesekoop (Netherlands), 1982 and 1992 European champion
  • Bohumil Vana (Czechoslovakia)
  • Cao Yanhua (China)
  • Chen Weixing (Austria) currently the best defensive player in the world
  • Christopher Chuong (USA)
  • Chuan Chi Yuan (Taiwan)
  • Deng Yaping (China), twice Olympic singles and doubles champion (1992 and 1996), thrice world champion, thrice world doubles champion
  • Desmond Douglas (England), an attacking player famous for his scissor jump smash
  • Ding Song (China), the first chopper in the world to counterattack consistently and successfully
  • Ella Zeller (Romania)
  • Ferenc Sido (Hungary)
  • Frantisek Tokar (Czechoslovakia)
  • Fujie Eguchi (Japan)
  • Ge Xinai (China)
  • Gizi Farkas (Hungary)
  • Guo Yuehua (China), noted for his extremely powerful forehand even without the use of speedglue; twice a world championship finalist and a back-to-back world champion
  • H. Roy Evans (Wales)
  • Ichiro Ogimura (Japan)
  • Ivan Andreadis (Czechoslovakia)
  • Ivor Montagu (England)
  • Jan-Ove Waldner (Sweden) The first grand slam winner in 1992, 1989 and 1997 World champion, 1987 and 1991 World runner-up, 1992 Barcelona Olympic Games singles gold medalist, 2000 Sydney Olympic silver medalist, 2004 Athens Olympic Games 4th place (defeating Ma Lin and Timo Boll), 1990 World Cup winner. Considered by many to be the best player ever for his creativity, longevity and progressive all-around playing style. Popularised the shakehand service grip and a top ranker in most aspects of the sport.
  • Jean-Philippe Gatien (France) 1992 Olympic singles silver medalist, 1993 World champion
  • Jean-Michel Saive (Belgium) 1993 World runner-up, 1994 Euro Top-12 Winner, 1994 European champion, 1994 World Cup runner-up
  • Jiang Jialiang (China) Said by Jan-Ove Waldner to be the fastest player ever, perhaps rivaled only by Ma Lin. Famous for his service return, killing any loose serves and one of the only players to successfully defend his title as World Champion (1985 and 1987).
  • Jimmy McClure (USA)
  • Johnny Leach (England) Britain's only world champion
  • Joo Se Hyuk (Korea) 2003 World Championship runner-up, noted for his ability to stay on the offense once begun and the pressure that his backspin exerts.
  • Jörgen Persson (Sweden) 1991 World champion
  • Kalinikos Kreanga (Greece) Spectacular player, famous for his powerful backhand.
  • Kimiyo Matzusaki (Japan)
  • Kong Linghui (China) The third grand slam winner in 2000, 1995 World champion, 2001 World runner-up, 1996 Olympic doubles gold medalist, 2000 Olympic doubles silver medalist, 2000 Olympic singles gold medalist, 1995 World Cup winner, 2002 World Cup runner-up. Kong’s two-winged shakehand looping style combined with excellent footwork and short game make him one of the best players ever. Noteworthy is the opinion of former team-mate and now-coach Liu Guoliang that his serves are far worse than his level would indicate, perhaps a nod to his incredible rallying abilities.
  • Ladislav Stipek (Czechoslovakia)
  • Laszlo Bellak (Hungary)
  • Li Furong (China) Multiple World Championships finalist, was forced to dump to Zhuang Zedong each time.
  • Li Jia Wei (Singapore)
  • Liang Geliang (China)
  • Lin Huiquing (China)
  • Liu Guoliang (China) The second grand slam winner in 1999, 1999 World champion, 1996 Olympic singles and doubles gold medalist. By popular opinion the best player China has ever produced due to the combination of smarts, mental toughness and variation. The best server ever by critical analysis.
  • Liu Jia (Austria)
  • [[Liu Wei](table tennis)] (China)
  • Maria Mednyanszky (Hungary)
  • Marie Kettnerova (Czechoslovakia)
  • Marty Reisman (USA) 1958 & 1960 U.S. Men’s Singles Champion and 1997 U.S. Hardbat Champion
  • Matthew Syed (England) A defence specialist. 3 times Commonwealth Games champion.
  • Matthew Paul (USA) Smash return Master. 7 time winner of the Lindeke World Tournament, Santa Cruz, Ca.
  • Ma Lin (China) 1999 and 2005 World runner-up, 2004 Olympic doubles gold medalist, 2000, 2003, 2004 and 2006 World Cup winner. By popular acclaim the best player in China, even over Wang Liqin. Possesses a deadly combination of smarts and firepower, very much a table tennis McEnroe. On the ther hand, he never won an important individual title (Olympic Games or World Championship).
  • Michael Maze (Denmark) 2005 World 3rd place, 2004 Olympic doubles bronze medalist, 2004 Euro Top 12 winner
  • Michael Xue Twomlow (China) 2006 runner-up
  • Miklos Szabados (Hungary)
  • Nobuhiko Hasegawa (Japan)
  • Peter Karlsson (Sweden)
  • Qiao Hong (China)
  • Richard Bergmann (Austria)
  • Stephen Kelen (Hungary)
  • Timo Boll (Germany) 2002 and 2005 World Cup winner, 2002 and 2003 Euro Top 12 winner, 2002 European champion
  • Vladimir Samsonov (Belarus) 3 times European champion, Twice World Cup champion, 3 times Euro Top 12 champion
  • Toshiaki Tanaka (Japan)
  • Trace Armstrong (America) Winner of the 2004 Clyde Fontaine Invitational Underground Table Tennis Championship - Son of Harvey "the hammer" Armstrong.
  • Vera Votrubcova (Czechoslovakia)
  • Victor Barna (Hungary and England) Early table tennis master. 5-time singles and 7-times doubles world champion in 1930s
  • Wang Liqin (China) 2001 and 2005 World champion, 2000 Olympic doubles gold medalist, 2004 Olympic bronze medalist, 2001 World Cup Finalist. Thought by many to be the best player in the world (and ever) due to his extremely high quality of play, having top-notch power, consistency and high speed.
  • Wang Nan (China) 2000 Olympic singles champion, 3 times World champion
  • Wang Hao (China)
  • Werner Schlager (Austria) 2003 World champion, 1999 World 3rd place, 1999 World Cup runner-up, 2000 Euro Top-12 winner
  • Zhang Xielin (China)
  • Zhang Xue Ling (Singapore) 1st in the 2006 Commonwealth Games
  • Zhang Yining (China) ranked #1 in the ITTF rankings, in both women's singles and women's doubles, 2005.
  • Zhuang Zedong (China) 3-time world men's singles champion, 1961, 1963 and 1965
  • Zoltan Mechlovitz (Hungary)
  • Zoran Primorac (Croatia) 1993 and 1997 World Cup winner, 1998 and 2000 European runner-up

Physics of table tennis

A table tennis ball is governed first and foremost by Newton’s laws of motion. However, a significant component of the game is spinning the ball, the effects of which are observed as a result of the Magnus effect on the ball. Through spinning, the Magnus effect adds a whole new dimension to the game, allowing the successful execution of shots that would not be possible according to Newtonian projectile motion alone.


The International Table Tennis Federation (ITTF): worldwide governing body with national bodies responsible for the sport in each country. There are other local authorities applicable as well.

USA Table Tennis (USATT): national governing body for table tennis in the United States.

The National Collegiate Table Tennis Association (NCTTA): official governing body for collegiate table tennis in the United States.

Notes and trivia

  • Multi-talented sportsman Maxwell Woosnam, an Olympic and Wimbledon champion at lawn tennis and one-time captain of the England national football team, once defeated actor and film director Charlie Chaplin at table tennis while playing with a butter knife instead of a bat.[9]
  • Table tennis inspired the first commercially successful video game, PONG.
  • In the early 1970s the People’s Republic of China (PRC) invited American table tennis players to a tournament in the PRC. This marked a thawing in relations with the United States that was followed up by a visit by U.S. president Richard Nixon. The popular media therefore dubbed this visit "Ping Pong Diplomacy".
  • At the 1936 World Championships contested in Prague, two defensive players took over an hour to contest one point.
  • Soviet rule once banned the sport because it was seen as carrying significant risk of eye damage.
  • The sport inspired the creation of an Xbox 360 video game, Rockstar Games Presents Table Tennis.
  • In the 1994 film Forrest Gump, the titular character participates, whilst in the United States Army, in the Ping Pong Diplomacy of President Richard Nixon and ultimately earns a paddle endorsement contract.
  • Certain world-class players can impart spin approaching 9000 revolutions per minute on table tennis balls.
  • Table tennis balls are not really hollow; they are pressurized slightly with a gas.
  • More than 30 table tennis companies exist around the world, making a full line of accessories from paddles to warm-up suits.
  • A man in Hawaii has invented a three-player table for table tennis, calling it "TriPong"[10]

External links

  • Laws of Table Tennis

Governing bodies

  • International Table Tennis Federation (ITTF)
    • The ITTF table tennis museum
  • Asian Table Tennis Union (ATTU)
  • Table Tennis Federation of India (TTFI)
  • Chinese Table Tennis Association
  • Chinese Taipei Table Tennis Association
  • Korea Table Tennis Association
  • Japan Table Tennis Association
  • Singapore Table Tennis Association
North America
  • USA Table Tennis (USATT)
    • USATT Rules
  • National Collegiate Table Tennis Association (NCTTA)
  • Canadian Table Tennis Association (English)
  • European Table Tennis Union
  • English Table Tennis Association
  • Table Tennis Association of Wales
  • Table Tennis Scotland
  • Irish Table Tennis Association
Australia and New Zealand
  • Table Tennis Australia
  • Table Tennis New Zealand
South America
  • Uruguay Table Tennis Federation

Table tennis sites

  • Table Tennis Training Wiki
  • Mesatenista.Net
  • Open Directory entry for Table Tennis
  • Ping Pong Games (fr)
  • PongWorld Table Tennis
  • Table Tennis Stadiums
  • Table Tennis Association of the Philippines Extension


For all aspects of the game refer to the ITTF official web site at

Specific references

  1. ^ "Table tennis roundup: Asia dominates as China sees threats", People, 14 August 2004.
  2. ^ The World's Most Popular Sports
  3. ^ History of table tennis from the Table Tennis Museum of the International Table Tennis Federation
  4. ^ Speed of ball article from the International Table Tennis Federation
  5. ^ Table tennis table regulations at
  6. ^ University of Florida table tennis history project
  7. ^ Table tennis ball regulations at
  8. ^ Table tennis racket regulations at
  9. ^ Collins, Mick (2006). All-Round Genius: The Unknown Story of Britain's Greatest Sportsman. London: Aurum Press Limited. ISBN 1-84513-137-1.
  10. ^ Three-player table tennis


  • Sizzling Chops & Devilish Spins: Ping-Pong and the Art of Staying Alive by Jerome Charyne, Publisher: Four Walls Eight Windows (September 2002) ISBN 1-56858-242-0
  • Winning Table Tennis: Skills, Drills, and Strategies by Dan Seemiller, Publisher: Human Kinetics Publishers (October 1996) ISBN 0-88011-520-3
  • Planet Ping Pong, A Time Shift TV documentary from BBC4 60mins 2006 [1]

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