Tips & Tidbits

Ping Pong Table Information & Tips



History of Table Tennis

Ping Pong Table Equipment

Ping Pong Balls

Types of Ping Pong Blades (Paddles)

Glossary of Table Tennis & Ping Pong Terms

International Table Tennis Federation

Table Tennis Rules


History of Table Tennis

Twelfth century festivals of merriment, intended to relieve stress and add order to mayhem, actually consisted of more than eating, drinking, and sideshows. It is believed that after the jester sang for the king and queen, a game that resembled table tennis, derived from their Royal Court Tennis, was enjoyed by all.

The Birth of Ping Pong
Stationed in South Africa and India in 1881, bored British officers carved ping pong balls from the Champagne corks and used lids of cigar boxes as ping pong paddles. Stacks of books formed the table tennis net line. This game of table tennis grew to a fashionable sport among the elite, including the women.

The International Table Tennis Federation (ITTF, the governing body) recognized the first use of the term table tennis in 1887, and the earliest marketable game was invented by Parker Brothers in 1890. The game consisted of a ping pong net, table tennis paddles, and cork-wrapped ping pong balls. In 1891 the drum-type ping pong paddle was developed, and by 1900 the USA crafted a hollow celluloid ping pong ball. The sound of the hollow ping pong ball bouncing from the drum paddle made a ping pong sound.

The Adolescent Years
In 1901, England formed both the Table Tennis Association and the Ping Pong Association. In 1903, the two associations joined to form The United States Table Tennis and Ping Pong Association, which later became the Table Tennis Association, and in 1926 the International Table Tennis Federation was formed. In 1935, three groups (the American Ping Pong Association, the National Table Tennis Association and the US Amateur Table Tennis Association) merged to create the US Table Tennis Association.

In Its Maturity
In the 1950s, the sport rocketed into worldwide popularity. New paddle constructions, lowering of the net line, and bans on shots changed competition. The top world players of this era came out of China and South Korea. In 1971 the US Table Tennis Team made a diplomatic trip to China, and in 1988 table tennis became an Olympic sport in South Korea.

In 2000, the ITT revised their rules. Increasing ball size from 38 mm to 40mm and going from a 21-point to an 11-point scoring system promoted television broadcasts and made the game easier to see on home screens.

Back to top

Ping Pong Table Equipment

You have decided to take up table tennis. Now, all you need is the table tennis equipment. What do you really need? That depends somewhat on your plans. Do you plan on recreational play or tournament play?

Those considering tournament play will want to purchase USATT or ITTF approved equipment. Specific equipment regulations cover ping pong balls, ping pong tables, table tennis rackets, table tennis nets, and the table tennis rubber sheets.

Many of us have played table tennis in the past; maybe your parents had a table tennis table in the basement. If you haven't played in a few years or if you are new to the sport, there are some things you need to know about table tennis equipment.

The International Table Tennis Association (ITTF) and the USA Table Tennis Association (USATT) have lists of approved regulation equipment available on their websites. If you are considering tournament play, make sure you buy approved equipment. There are extensive rules covering every aspect of the table tennis equipment.

The Basics
Start with a good quality table tennis table. A regulation size table is 2.74 meters long and 1.525 meters wide standing 76 centimeters above the floor. The ping pong table should be dark color with while lines marking the boundaries. Some Stiga table tennis tables have a ping pong playback feature for playing alone. This works by folding one side of the table up and using it as a backboard.

For tournament play, the table tennis net assembly must have a uniform height of 15.25 centimeters above the playing surface of the tournament ping pong table. The bottom of the net must be as close possible to the ping pong table.

Table tennis balls have a star rating system. The more stars a ping pong ball has, the better the quality. A three star ping pong ball is competition level table tennis ball, while the one and two star ping pong balls are practice quality. The higher the quality, the easier the ping pong ball will crack and break. Balance the cost and breakage with the consistency of the bounce when choosing the ping pong balls.

Ping pong rackets and table tennis rubber sheets are sold together or separately. How you purchase these is largely determined by your level of play. For tournament play, paddles must be at least 85 percent natural wood. Regulations allow carbon fiber and other fillers, as long as the thickness is less than 0.35 mm. Table tennis rubber sheets have various sizes and lengths of pimples, and thickness of the overall table tennis rubber sheet. The thicker the table tennis rubber sheets are faster the play. Not everyone wants the most speed. Most players balance speed with control and their own playing level. Whether or not you plan to compete, it makes sense to use regulation table tennis equipment.

Back to top

Ping Pong Balls

Table tennis balls vary in quality and price according to the number of stars in the rating. The fewer number of stars in the rating, the lower the quality of the ping pong balls. The rating depends on seam quality, roundness, and bounce consistency. Why would you want to use a lower quality practice table tennis ball? Read the article to find out.

The first table tennis balls were small air-filled latex ping pong balls. Then in 1880, James Gibb invented the modern table tennis ball made of celluloid. The hollow celluloid ping pong balls provide a much more consistent bounce and control than air-filled latex. Even celluloid ping pong balls vary in quality and consistency, so a star rating system was developed.

Star Rating System
You can tell the ball's rating by the number of stars; one is the lowest quality while three is the highest quality. Three star ping pong balls are competition balls and are much more expensive than lower rated practice balls. Competition and practice balls are the same size, and weight, the difference is the quality. Color can vary, and is unimportant for practice table tennis balls. ITTF and USATT tournaments require competition balls to be white or two-toned orange and matt colored balls.

Competition balls have a true bounce, which means they bounce the same way each time. Competition balls are more consistent than practice balls because the shell is thinner. The thinner shell has a downside, it is more apt to crack and break. Since these table tennis balls are expensive compared to practice balls, some players use a one or two star ball for routine practice or recreational play.

Practice with the highest quality ball you can afford. The irregular seams in lower quality balls cause the ball to have an erratic flight pattern and bounce. The roundness of the ping pong ball is another factor in the rating and bounce consistency. This makes it difficult to predict where they will land and that does not help you play more consistently. Some players feel that this can actually help your game, as it forces you to react quicker.

Experiment with balls from each group to find the brand and rating that works best for your practice. After choosing your table tennis balls, keep them in good condition for longer playing life. Store the balls in a cool place away from dampness, and out of direct sunlight.

Back to top

Types of Table Tennis Blades (Paddles)

Anatomical, flared, straight, padded, penhold, carbon, and wood, table tennis blades come in many styles and materials. While handle style is largely a matter of personal preference, the material composition of the table tennis blade will affect performance. Which is right for your game?

Choosing the best table tennis blade is more involved than buying the fastest or newest ping pong blade on the market. The right ping pong blade for you depends on your playing style and level. To improve your game, access your style and then find a table tennis blade that matches your game.

Handle Type
The type of handle you choose is largely personal preference, although there are a few rules of thumb. Straight ping pong paddles give the best flexibility for backhands, where forehands get the best grip with flared ping pong paddles. Straight ping pong paddles are the easiest to flip, so are popular with players who like to flip the ping pong blade. Flared ping pong paddles allow the player to maintain a loose grip, and are the most popular handle style. Anatomical ping pong paddles, also called double flared handles, have a flared handle with a second wide part in the middle.

Penhold Table Tennis Racket
Penhold table tennis blades are designed for the Asian style of play. Japanese and Chinese penhold blades differ in the grip and the blade itself. The Japanese grip spreads out the non-index fingers behind the blade for maximum forehand power. The Japanese table tennis blades have a longer and narrower head and thicker handles than other blade styles. The Chinese grip curls the non-index fingers around the handle. The table tennis blade is less powerful, but easier to control than the Japanese style. Chinese penhold table tennis blades have a rounder shape and thinner, rounded handle.

Table Tennis Blade Composition
Thin slices of wood veneers are bound together to make the table tennis blade. Some table tennis blades have an outer laminate coating of carbon fiber that will give the blade a larger sweet spot. Composite blades have one or more carbon fiber, graphite, or other synthetic material layers, giving them the advantage of being lighter, faster, and stronger than wood blades. To meet regulations, the blade must be 85 percent wood. Although composite table tennis blades have a larger sweet spot, they are more expensive.

Back to top

Glossary of Table Tennis Terms

Backhand: Table tennis shot made with the back of the ping pong paddle. This shot is the opposite of the forehand.

Backspin: Backward spin on the table tennis ball. May also be called underspin.

Table Tennis Blade: Wooden portion of the table tennis paddle.

Block: A defensive shot accomplished by blocking the path of the ping pong ball.

Chop: A shot with heavy backspin. This shot will force the table tennis ball to drop downwards as it hits the opponent's table tennis paddle.

Cross-court: Term applied to ping pong balls hit diagonally across the ping pong table.

Dead ball: A shot that has no spin.

Drive: A basic topspin shot. May also be called a smash.

Drop shot: A shot meant to fall close to the net. When executed properly, the table tennis ball bounces twice on the ping pong table before the opponent can return it.

Forehand: Table tennis shot made with the front of the table tennis paddle.

Game point: The final point of a game.

ITTF: International Table Tennis Federation. This is the sport's governing body.

Kill: An aggressive shot hit with too much speed for the opponent to return it.

Let:Playing the point over because a service shot has hit the net or because of an outside distraction.

Lob:A shot in hit high in the air with both sidespin and topspin. This shot is meant to be difficult for the opponent to return with a smash.

Loop:A shot similar to the drive but with more topspin. This shot also curves in the air, and it is the most common shot in the sport today.

Penhold Table Tennis Racket: A style of grip in which the ping pong paddle handle is inverted between the thumb and forefinger, making forehands relatively easy and backhands difficult.

Pips: The small bits of rubber protruding from table tennis rubber sheets.

Serve:The opening shot of a table tennis game.

Shakehand: The most common ping pong paddle grip in table tennis. It allows the player to execute both backhands and forehands with equal ease.

Skunk:The table tennis slaughter rule. If a game is played to the score of 11-0, it is considered a skunk.

Back to top

International Table Tennis Federation

The International Table Tennis Federation (ITTF) is the world governing body for the sport of table tennis. Founded in 1926, the ITTF held the first World Championship tournament the same year. Before the founding of the ITTF, table tennis was simply a parlor sport. Today table tennis is an Olympic sport with many followers, largely due to the work of the ITTF.

The International Table Tennis Federation (ITTF) is the governing body for the sport of table tennis worldwide. As such, the ITTF sets the regulations for play, organizes tournaments, and sets standards for a table tennis table and other table tennis equipment.

In December 1926, the first ITTF World Championship was held in London. Players from Austria, Czechoslovakia, Denmark, England, Germany, Hungary, India, Sweden, and Wales competed. The founders of the ITTF discussed joining the Olympics in 1937, but it was not until 1988 that table tennis was included as an Olympic sport.

ITTF Website
International Table Tennis Federation's website is worth a visit. Visitors can view the official handbook, calendar of events, photo gallery, links to member associations, and news. The handbook is available to read online or for download in English, French, German, and Spanish.

The website has a list of approved equipment including adhesives, ping pong balls, ping pong nets, table tennis rackets, and ping pong tables. Each type of table tennis equipment has its own page with drop down menus to narrow down your search to a particular manufacturer.

The Museum section of the website contains three main sections:

ITTF/Sport History

Each section has many virtual galleries. Some topics are History of Table Tennis, Early Rackets, Ping Pong Diplomacy, Meet the Champions, and ITTF Hall of Fame.

International Table Tennis Federation has a physical museum located in Switzerland, in the Olympics community near Lausanne. Directions, hours, and special events are listed on the homepage of the online museum. If you cannot travel to Switzerland, or in the meantime, make sure you visit the online museum.

Back to top

Table Tennis Rules


The player, or doubles team, who first scores 21 points wins the game. However, you must win by two points so a game could go on to 30-50 points before being decided. A match is usually the best two out of three games, and in international championships, it is best three out of five games. In other words, if you lose the first game it’s not the end of the world; winning the next games can make you the winner.

Choice of Ends and Service

Who starts serving and which player gets to stand at which end? You can flip a coin... if you win the flip you can choose to SERVE or RECEIVE from the end you like. After each game you will alternate the ends. Should there be a tie, for instance, one game to one game, the players will change ends after the first player reaches 10 points in the final game.

The Serve

Stand behind your end of the table. Hold the ball in the palm of your free hand and throw the ball straight up in the air. As the ball falls, hit it so it lands on your half of the table, makes one bounce, and lands on the other side of the table. If the serve touches the net, it is a let, and you must serve again. If it touches the net and lands on the floor, you lose a point. If the serve goes into the net, you lose the point. You serve until five points have been scored, and then the other player gets to serve for the next five points. At 20 to 20 (you must win by two points), you alternate the serve after each point.

The Server

The server is the player who starts the game by being the first to put the ball into play.

The Recever

The receiver is the player who receives the ball from the server and returns it over the net. If you are the receiver, remember: The ball must not bounce twice on your side of the table and you can hit the ball only once to return it.Try to hit the ball on its highest peak and you will have a better angle hitting it back onto the opponent's side. If your return touches the net and goes over, it's okay. If it goes into the net, it is bad news! You lose a point. If your return goes over the net but misses the table, bad news again! You lose another point. Should your returning ball touch the edge of the table on your opponent's side, that's great! It's very hard to return an edge ball. As long as the ball hits the edge while dropping, it counts. Should the ball hit the side of the table top, it is not considered an edge ball and will not count.

Win a Point

If the opponent fails to return your shot. Your shot can hit the boundary lines (white lines) on your opponent's side or even the edge of the table and it is legal. Your serve can also hit the edge and it is legal. If you hit the ball off the table but it lands on you opponent's paddle before it touches the floor or wall. This may seem odd that you can win a point by missing the table, but this rule is to prevent any volley play.

Lose a Point

If when attempting to serve or make a return, you miss the ball.
If you hit the ball into the net, including the top of the net, and it comes back to your side of the table.
If you hit the ball wide or too far so the first bounce hits the floor or the wall. If you hit the ball before it bounces on your side of the table.
No volley is allowed. If the ball bounces twice on your side of the table before hitting it. If you move the table or touch the net during play.

Legal Point

The server is the player who starts the game by being the first to put the ball into play.

Back to top