A Complete Guide To Table Tennis

Just because it’s played ‘indoors’ doesn’t mean you have to sit on a desk and chair, hold flash cards or play monopoly! Indoor sports can be breathtakingly difficult as well. Table Tennis is an example of it. The fastest moving indoor sports will leave you in balls of sweat. But the sweat, the strategizing and the run to hit the ball is all worth it!

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Opponents face each other and hit the ball with a small racquet, in somewhat a similar manner as in lawn tennis. It uses a lightweight ball. The celluloid ball, which is used in the game produces a ‘ping-pong’ and hence the alternate name.

World championships have been held for Table Tennis since 1926. Table Tennis has been an Olympic sport as well, with several categories, including men-women’s singles and doubles.

International Table Tennis Federation, established in 1926 governs the game internationally while Table Tennis Federation of India is the governing body in the country. Currently, the national Table Tennis champion is Soumyajit Ghosh. Other popular players include Ankita Das, Madhurika Patkar, Chetan Baboor, Arup Basak and others.


Exploring Table Tennis

Also known as ‘ping-pong,’ Table Tennis is majorly considered to be an indoor sport, were two players (individual) or four players (doubles) hit lightweight ball back and forth. The game is played on a table that’s 9 feet by 5 feet and stands 2.5 feet from the floor.

A net, transverse in nature divides sections for teams, while a small paddle, also known as a racquet is used to pass the ball. This paddle is wooden and comes with a 3 inch handle, with a round blade that’s 6.5 inches long. Unlike tennis racquets, this paddle is covered with rubber. The ball itself is a celluloid, which is hollow and seamless, weighing about 2.8 grams- the weight is strictly controlled).

As a sport, Table Tennis emphasizes on endurance and use of reflexes over size and strength. That’s the reason why people of all ages can enjoy the game.

But this massively adopted sports is different from its outdoor counterpart. For instance, in service, the ball must bounce at least once before it clears the net. After the service, the returns should go over the net without bouncing on a near surface (this is allowed twice in tennis and only once in table tennis).

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On the simplest level, points are scored when a player fails to return the ball, if the service doesn’t land properly in the play or due to other reasons.

The game, which originated with cork and rubber balls has evolved itself over the years. Its widespread fame is credited to England, where upper classes played it on a regular basis. Today, Table Tennis is a popular indoor recreation sport in India. Played primarily in states like Tamil Nadu, West Bengal, Maharashtra and Gujarat, the sport has produced several competitive players. Currently, Indian sports’ body, Table Tennis Federation of India is ranked 30th in the world.


From Ping-Pong To Table Tennis- A History

The origins of this sport is credited to Victorian-England, where it was once played a parlour game. Upper Class men would enjoy a recreational game after dinner. During this period, the game was even called ‘whiff-whaff.’

  • Once the popularity soared, British military personnel began creating makeshift versions of the games during their serving stints in India and South Africa. They had their own, unique rules of the game by the time they went back to England.
  • During this period, military officials would use row of books on the table as a net, while two other heavy books would be used as racquets. A golf ball was used for the play as compared to the modern celluloid ball.
  • The alternate name, ‘Ping-Pong,’ became popular after British manufacturer J. Jacques and Son Ltd. trademarked it in 1901 and developed rules for the games, while manufacturing expensive equipment.
  • The expensive Jacques’ equipment for the game resulted in competitors manufacturing cheaper or alternative equipment. Since the word ‘ping-pong’ couldn’t be used, these manufacturers called it ‘table-tennis,’ which led to the popularity of the name.
  • It was only in 1901 that the first, modern celluloid ball was introduced for the game. James W. Gibb, a table tennis enthusiast discovered these balls when he was on a US trip. He played with them and realized that they were more ideal than a regular golf ball. Then E.C. Goode designed racquet with wooden blade.
  • Shortly after, the first Unofficial Table Tennis Championship was held in 1902.
  • By 1921, the game had gained immense popularity, primarily due to cheaper equipment manufacturing and a number of books written on the subject.
  • Table Tennis Association was founded in Britain, followed by International Table Tennis Federation in 1926. The same year, first World Championship was held in Britain. By 1933, the game made its way to USA, where it was called ‘USA Table Tennis.’
  • Extensive promotion and popularity was the game was witnessed in China during Chinese Civil War of the 1930s, but this was also the period when popularity of the sports waned in Soviet Union, because of an absurd theory that the game had negative health effects.
  • Since its introduction, Table Tennis has remained a popular sport in India. Indians learnt this game through British officials who resided in the country. But official games and the practice of organized sporting events began only in year 1937, when Table Tennis Federation came into existence in the city of Calcutta.
  • A major revolution was witnessed in Table Tennis when paddles with rubber sheet were combined with underlying layer of sponge in 1950s. This changed the game dramatically, providing better spin and speed. This ultimately led to introduction of Table Tennis as an Olympic game in 1988.
  • Apart from Olympics, India’s was one of the first participants in the inaugural World Championship and the subsequent World Championship event held in Mumbai, 1952.
  • Over the years, India has established its mettle in international Table Tennis events, showcasing successful performances in team events. The country is currently ranked in the top 30 teams.


Understanding rules of the game

Rules for Table Tennis have remained similar to what they were a century ago. A major change was only introduced in 2000 Olympics, Sydney, where ITTF, the international governing body initiated certain changes to make it a more viable, entertaining and televised sport.

The changes including introduction of new balls 38 mm balls were replaced by 48 mm balls. This increased air resistance and slightly slowed the game. The scoring system was changed from 21 point to 11 point system.

This made the game swift, sharp and more exciting for the viewers. Another major change was in the ‘serve’ section. It was concluded that the serve would only be recognized if the ball is tossed to a minimum of 16 cm in the air. Since 2014, new events have been played with a more resistant and easy to use poly-material ball. Rules are re-assessed annually by the governing body.

Other common rules of the game are discussed below.

  • Service can only start with the ball resting freely on the open palm of the server’s hand.
  • Gameplay starts with a coin-toss, where it is decided who will serve first. Otherwise, the scorer can hide the ball in one hand, hidden under the table and the player who correctly guesses the hand gets to serve. The ball is played back and forth three times, which is known as serve to play. This is before the actual event begins.
  • A rally is a period during which the ball is in play. A let is a rally where a result doesn’t let to a point.
  • Points are given in following situations– if an opponent fails to make correct service, in case the ball fails to return, if after the service, the ball touches anything but the net assembly before being struck by the opponent.
  • Other ways to score a point includes, if a ball passes over the court and beyond the end line, if the ball passes between the net, if the opponent obstructs the ball, if the ball is struck deliberately twice, if anything that the opponent is wearing or carrying moves playing surface or touches the net assembly.
  • Points can also be scored if free hand of the opponent touches playing surface, if a doubles opponent strikes the ball in out of the first server-first receiver sequence.


The nit bits to remember while playing table tennis

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In Table Tennis, a game is won by the player who scores 11 points first, unless both players have scored 10 points each. In this case, the game would be won by the player who gains a lead of 2 points before the other.

Service alternates between the players for every two points, irrespective of who wins the rally. This is continued till the end of the game or till both players score 10 points. Players must also switch sides during the game.

Table Tennis has provisions for Doubles’ Game as well. Doubles’ games have been played since 1988 Olympics and 2002 Commonwealth Games. A specific order of play, serving and receiving is followed during Doubles’ Game. Certain aspects of that should be kept in mind

  • Players must hit the ball. For players A and B in Team 1 and X and Y in Team 2, players will be paired with one server and one receiver. The order of play would involve A to X and Y to B, X to Y or vice versa. Points can be scored if the rally doesn’t proceed in this manner or if one side fails to make a return.
  • After each point, previous receiver becomes the server and the order of partnership changes.
  • Once a pair achieves 5 points, the pairs must switch ends of the table for reverse play order.

In both singles’ and doubles’ game, expedite system can be placed. This system is used if a game is unfinished even after 10 minutes of play and less than 18 points have been scored. In such situations, the umpire will interrupt the game and players serve for one point. Herein, the server must win a point before their opponent can make 13 consecutive returns. Or otherwise, the opponent will score a point. This rule shortens the match and brings defensive players to action.

Sometimes, rally shall be a let, i.e. no points may be given to the player. This happens if,

  • The ball touches net assembly during the service
  • The service is delivered when receiving player isn’t ready
  • If the play is interrupted by umpire or his assistant
  • If the ball comes to rest on receiver’s court
  • If the ball leaves receiver’s court after touching side-lines, applicable only in singles’ game
  • If the play is interrupted due to an error of order, to expedite system, to penalise or warm the player or the conditions of the play are disturbed.


What are the specifications?

These are the specific conditions followed for the game.

  • The playing surface is rectangular. It is 2.74 meters and 1.525 meters wide. The table should be 0.76 meters above the floor.
  • The net assembly should include net, a suspension, supporting posts and attached clamps.
  • The net shall be suspended to be 15.25 cm high.
  • The ball shall be a spherical, with a diameter of 40 mm
  • Players can choose racquets of any size, shape or weight, but it must have a flat and rigid blade.

Organizations that Govern Rules in Table Tennis

These organizations promote, organize and implement the rules of game.

International Table Tennis Federation

Governing body of all international associations. The body oversees rules and regulations, endeavours to provide technological improvement for the game. The IITF is responsible for organizing Table Tennis Championships around the world. Established in 1926, the governing body has set up rules for the play. Over the years, it has also banned speed glue and implemented a VOC ban, as the use of speed glue increased elasticity of the racquet, which add increased spin and speed to the ball, resulting in unfair treatment of the opponent.

Table Tennis Federation of India

TTFI was established in 1926 as well. It also serves as one of the founding members of ITTF. The governing body in India is affiliated to 32 state units’ and 37 institutions. The Indian channel of the governing body is known for participating and selecting teams for major international championships such as World Championships, Olympics, Commonwealth, Asian and Professional Tours.

Participation in Championships


World Table Tennis Championships

Held in April and May, these World Championships have men-women singles’, doubles and mixed doubles. The championships have been held biennially since 1957. Over the years, Hungary’s men’s team were considered dominating champions, winning 12 championships. But recently, China has become a more dominant power winning over 18 championship titles.

Commonwealth Table Tennis

Commonwealth championships have been held in Table Tennis since 1971. The game follows general and established table tennis rules. In 2015, India emerged as men’s winner in the championship. Over the years, India has successfully competed in commonwealth championships, winning titles in 2004 Team and Singles’ Event. It has also won several mixed doubles championships.


Inter-State Championships

These championships are played for selection of players that compete at global level. The championships are further divided into genders’ singles, gender doubles, mixed doubles, under-19 and under 15 events.

Inspirational Personalities in Table Tennis

These inspirational Table Tennis players will motivate you.

Sharath Kamal

JAIPUR, MAR 13 (UNI):- India's Sharath Kamal celebrates afrer beating Korea's Joo Saehyunk during 28th Table Tennis Asia Cup 2015, in Jaipur on Friday. UNI PHOTO-91U

At 6 feet 2 inches, Sharath Kamal is a leading Indian Table Tennis Player. He is considered as one of the best players India has produced in Table Tennis. Winning men’s singles in 2004, his is marked with Arjuna Award and other winning championships. The right handed player is ranked 32nd in the world, as of May, 2015 rankings.

Kamlesh Mehta

An acknowledged Table Tennis player, Mehta has been remarkable with the racquet. Apart from winning international titles, he has received an Arjuna Award and worked as a National Coach for the Indian Team.

Chetan Baboor

Chetan has won national Table Tennis titles’ four times, has won doubles’ gold twice in Commonwealth Championships. An Arjuna Awardee, he has been a versatile Table Tennis Player. His career includes participation and wins in Olympics’ as well.

Table Tennis is a fun sport that requires endurance and strength, and if your child is already a keen Table Tennis player, then you can help encourage this sport through YoGems! Get in touch with us today!



Shivangi Gupta is a Content Writer Expert at YoGems. With years of experience in writing blogs, articles and guides, she writes about every sport. Also, she is good at sports and expert in shooting and won numerable awards at various events. She started receiving shooting training under her father at the age of 6. To get updated with her posts, stay tuned to the website.