Table tennis

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Table tennis

A competition game of table tennis played at the highest level
Highest governing body ITTF
Nickname(s) Ping pong, wiff waff
First played 1880s
Contact No
Team members Single or doubles
Mixed gender men and women
Category Racquet sport, indoor
Ball celluloid, 40 mm
Olympic 1988

Table tennis, also known as ping pong, is a sport in which two or four players hit a lightweight, hollow ball back and forth with rackets (also known as "bats" or "paddles"). The game takes place on a hard table divided by a net. 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.

The game is controlled by the International Table Tennis Federation (ITTF), founded in 1926. Since 1988, table tennis has been an Olympic sport which includes four events. From 1988 until 2004, the events 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 Since 2008 the doubles have been replaced by the team events (Beijing was the first time where table tennis had an Olympic team event).


[edit] General description

A standard table tennis table, together with a racket and ball

The sport is played with two or four players hitting a ball with rackets back and forth to each other on a table, in a manner similar to tennis. The rules are slightly different, but the concept is very similar. In singles play, the serve is not required to cross from the server's right-hand court to the receiver's right-hand court (or left to left) as it is in tennis. However, serving across is required in doubles play. 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 (70 mph). [1]

The game is played on a 274 cm × 152.5 cm × 76 cm high (9 ft × 5 ft × 30 inches high) playing surface. The International Table Tennis Federation requires an area not less than 14 m long, 7 m wide and 5 m high for competitions. No limitations in size or shape are specified.

Modern rackets usually have a thin layer of rubber covering the racket's striking surface. The rubber may have dimples 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 size of the sweet spot or the stiffness of the blade.

The ball used in table tennis has a diameter of 40 mm (formerly 38 mm), is made of celluloid, and is 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 or more while being ahead by 2 points or more. Players alternate 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 two point advantage over his opponent. The 11 point game is an International Table Tennis Federation (ITTF) change which occurred in 2001. Previously, the first player to gain 21 points (except in case of a deuce, handled as described above) won the game. All games played at national level and at international tournaments (ITTF) are now played to 11 points in either a best of five (5) games (preliminaries) or best of seven (7) games format (championship matches).

[edit] History

Table tennis depicted on a 1987 postage stamp from the GDR

The game 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 racket[2].

Table tennis evolved into the modern game in Europe, the United States and Japan.[3] 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 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 next major innovation was by James Gibb,[4] an English enthusiast of table tennis, who discovered novelty celluloid balls on a trip to the U.S. 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 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 a 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 1950s rackets that used a rubber sheet combined with an 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. 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 (1.5 inch) 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 rackets, 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. The ball's mass is 2.47 grams.

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 play style, with no-sponge, short pimpled rubber equipments, when defense 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 skillful maneuvering of the opponent before an attack can be successful.

[edit] Equipment

[edit] Ball

The international rules specify that the game is played with a light 2.7 gram, 40 mm diameter ball. Generally, it is the most-used ball. The rules say that the ball shall bounce up 23 cm when dropped from a height of 30 cm thereby having a coefficient of restitution of 0.88. 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[citation needed]. A 40 mm table tennis ball is slower and spins less than a 38 mm one. The ball is made of a high-bouncing gas-filled celluloid, colored white or orange, with a matte finish. The choice of ball color is made according to the table color and its surroundings. For example, a white ball is easier to see on a green or blue table than it is on a grey table. Stars on the ball indicate the quality of the ball. 3 stars indicates that it is of the highest quality, and is used in official competitions.

[edit] Table

Diagram of a table tennis table showing the official dimensions

The table is 2.74 m (9 ft) long, 1.525 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.[5] The table surface can either have a green or blue color.

[edit] Racket

Players are equipped with a laminated wooden racket covered with rubber on one or two sides depending on the grip of the player. This is called either a paddle, racket, blade or a bat depending on where in the world the game is being played. In the USA the term "paddle" is common, in Europe the term is "bat," and the official ITTF term is "racket." This section will use the ITTF term.

Table tennis regulations allow different surfaces on each side of the racket. The different types of surfaces provide various levels of spin or speed, or in some cases, nullify spin. For example, a player may have a rubber that provides much spin on one side of his racket, and no spin on the other side of the racket. By flipping the racket in play, different types of returns are possible. To help a player distinguish between different types of 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 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. Current rules state that, unless damaged in play, the racket cannot be exchanged for another racket at any time during a match.

Recent years have seen an advancement in technology of table tennis blades. 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 titanium, acrylate, aramids, fiberglass, 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 more resistant to a spin. However, it is illegal to use these types of racket in competition as they are not approved by the ITTF. Some types of rubbers are also not approved. Approved rubbers have the ITTF emblem on the base of the rubber.[6]

Players have many choices and variations in rubber sheets on their racket. Although a racket 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 racket 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 wears out or becomes damaged. In the 1980s, 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.

The surface of a racket will develop a smooth glossy patina with use. The rubber surface needs to be regularly cleaned to ensure it retains a high friction surface to impart spin to the ball. Players use a commercial cleaner, or just water and detergent as cleaning agents. [7]

Racket construction and new rubber technology (skilled elite players typically select and attach the rubber to their own rackets 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 on touch shots where little or no spin is put on the ball. Speed glue was allowed for the last time in the 2008 Summer Olympics. From the 2012 Summer Olympics on speed glue will be banned at the Olympic games. [8]

Different types of rubber sheets
  • Inverted (non-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 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, which is more condensed and firm. The result is usually a far better short game and potential offensive capabilities than normal inverted, but also a less consistent defensive and/or counter play.
  • 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. Speed generated from a short pip rubber is generally greater than that of an inverted with the same sponge. Depending on the thickness of the sponge it is also possible to play a chopping game with short pimples by varying the spin of the return. Whilst blocking and attacking a "dead ball" effect is often noticed. Ding Song is an exponent of this style.
  • Long pimples (or "pips"): Long pimples-out rubbers carry relatively long and soft pips. They do not have the ability to generate any real spin of their own, but feed off of the opponent's spin instead. This allows the user to confuse the opponent and upset his or her rhythm. Long pips rely on the opponent's oncoming spin, as they tend to "continue" the opponent's spin, by bending upon impact, rather than reversing or changing the spin like inverted rubbers (for example, a topspin executed by the opponent will return to him/her as a backspin after contact with the pimples). Long pips are usually used by close-to-the-table blockers, or choppers, but, in some cases, they can be used away from the table for long distance chops. They are usually only used on the backhand side, as they offer very limited attacking capabilities. Depending on the grip of the sides of the pimples and the thickness of the sponge it is also possible to play an aggressive game with long pips, although without much spin capability.
  • Anti-spin: Anti-spin rubbers may look similar to the inverted ones, but their surfaces are very slick and frictionless. Like long pimples, they cannot generate much spin. Anti-spin is also not very susceptible to the opponents oncoming spin, due to the low coefficient of friction of the rubber's surface, as well as the incredibly soft sponge, which is designed to cushion or absorb the momentum of the ball upon impact. This is also used to confuse the opponent, but is not widely used on a competitive level.

[edit] Game play

[edit] 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, receive, or to choose which side of the table to use. Another method is for one player to hit the ball to the other and he or she returns it or by hitting it back and forth four times and then playing out the point. This is commonly referred to as "volley to serve". Then, they play one point to see who serves first. Players also determine the first to serve by placing a racket on the table with the handle off the board, taking turns throwing the ball at their opponent's racket. The first to strike the opponent's racket without receiving a return shot gets the serve.

[edit] Service

In game play, the player serving the ball commences a point. Standing so that the ball is held behind the endline of the table, with the ball in the palm of the free hand—over the table's height—and the racket in the other, the server tosses the ball without spin, upward, at least 16 centimeters (approximately 6 inches). In casual (non-tournament) games, many players do not toss the ball upward, however this is technically illegal and can give the serving player an unfair advantage. The ball must remain above the height of the table at all times. The server cannot use his body or clothing to obstruct sight of the ball; the opponent and the umpire must have a clear view of the ball at all times

He or she then must hit the ball from behind the baseline 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 (or net-in). 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—due to the numerous spin choices at his or her disposal—and thus most advantageous to him or her.

[edit] Hitting the ball

Wang Liqin. The 2001, 2005 and 2007 World Champion

Any hitting of the ball must be done such that the ball passes over or around the net. If the ball is struck such that it travels around the net, but still lands on the opponent's side of the table, the hit is legal and play should be continued. If the opponent cannot return it over (or around) the net and make it bounce on your side, then you win the point.

[edit] Scoring

Points are awarded to the opponent for any of several errors in play: [9]

  • Allowing the ball to bounce on one's own side more than once.
  • Double hitting the ball. Note that the hand below the wrist is considered part of the racket and making a good return off one's hand or fingers on the racket-holding hand 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: (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).
  • Hitting the net with racket or any body part.
  • By volleying the ball (not allowing the ball to bounce on your side)

[edit] Alternation of service

Service alternates between opponents every two points (regardless of winner of the rally) until a player reaches 11 points with at least 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. This is the currently used standard followed by the ITTF[1].

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 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.

[edit] 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.

[edit] Doubles game

Service zone in 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 makes his or her return, the server's partner returns the ball and then the service receiver's partner would play the ball. 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 announced that doubles table tennis will only be featured as a part of teams events in the 2008 Olympics.

[edit] Styles of play

[edit] Grip

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 penhold, and the other shakehand. 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 most popular style, usually referred to as the Chinese penhold style, involves curling the middle, ring, and fourth finger on the back of the blade. The amount of curl in the fingers can vary from clenched, to almost perfectly straight. The three fingers however, will always remain touching one another. Chinese penholders favour a round racket head, for a more over-the-table style of play. In contrast, another style, sometimes referred to as the Japanese penhold grip, involves splaying those three fingers out across the back of the racket, usually with all three fingers touching the back of the racket, rather than stacked upon one another. Japanese penholders will often use a square-headed racket for an away-from-the-table style of play. Traditionally these square-headed rackets feature a block of cork on top of the handle, as well as a thin layer of cork on the back of the racket, for increased grip and comfort. Penhold styles are popular among players originating from East Asian regions such as China, Taiwan, Japan, and South 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) where the player produces a stroke (most often topspin) by turning the traditional side of the racket to face him or herself, and swinging, with a backhand motion, using the opposite side of the racket. This stroke has greatly improved and strengthened the penhold style both physically and psychologically, as it eliminates the strategical weakness of the traditional penhold backhand.
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," although it has no correlation to the Western grip used in Tennis. The shakehand grip is most popular among players originating in Western nations and South Asian nations, for example. Today, though, there are many Asian players using the shakehand grip[citation needed]. This is due to the increasingly fast nature of the game, making the backhand stroke more prevalent, a stroke which is difficult to execute consistently at a high standard when using the penhold grip.

[edit] Types of shots

The strokes break down into generally offensive and defensive. The types of strokes include backhand and forehand. The shots vary from the forehand loop to the backhand smash.

[edit] Offensive strokes

Speed drive 
These strokes differ to ones 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 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 
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. Returning a loop drive may not be as difficult to return as a speed drive; however, because of its topspin, it is more likely to rebound off the opponent's racket at a very high angle, setting up an easy smash (described below) 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 add to the effectiveness of this shot.
Chinese players categorize loop-drives in 3 variations based on trajectories:
1. The "Loop"
The "Loop" produces a more pronounced loopy arc, with a higher trajectory and extreme topspin, but is typically slower.
2. The "Loop Kill" ("Rush" in China)
The "Loop Kill" produces a flatter arc, with higher speed that resembles a speed drive but with stronger topspin, typically used for replacing speed drive or smash in "put-away" situations.
3. The "Hook"
Similar to a regular Loop, but carries a tilted topspin (or is referred as the "top-side" spin), it bounces sideways and downward upon hitting the table. Similar to but stronger than the defensive "side-drive" described below.
Counter drive 
Usually a counter attack against drives (normally high loop drives). You have to close the racket and stay close to the ball (try to predict its path). The racket is held closed and near to the ball, which is hit with a short movement "off the bounce" (before reaching the highest point) so that the ball travels faster to the other side. If performed correctly, a well-timed, accurate counter-drive 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.

[edit] Defensive strokes

Push (or Slice in Asia)
The push is usually used for keeping the point alive and creating offensive opportunities. A push 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 obvious, a push 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 push, a player must usually loop the ball back over the net. Often, the best option for beginners is to simply push the ball back again, resulting in pushing rallies. For good players it may be the worst option because the opponent will counter with a loop, putting you in a defensive position from which most likely you will lose, unless you are a good chopper. Another option to pushing is to flip the ball when it is close to the net. Pushing can have advantages in some circumstances. Players should only push when their opponent makes easy mistakes. Offensive players should only push for variation and not for general rallies. A push can easily be counter-looped into the opposite corner if it is not short enough. The goal of most player's pushes is to make the ball land too short to be attacked, rather than attempting to over-spin the opponent.
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 backspin. 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. 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 push block or active block, adding speed to the ball (with a small topspin movement). When playing in the Penhold Grip, many players use push blocks when being pressured on the backhand. Chinese pen-hold players refer to it as a push-block as they literally "push" their backhand forward, instead of simply blocking it.
Side Drive 
This spin shot 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 racket. 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 vice versa. To return, simply execute the same sided spin as your opponent just gave you.
The defensive High Ball or Lob is possibly the visually most impressive shot in the sport of table tennis, and it is deceptive in its simplicity. To execute a High Ball, a defensive player first backs off the table 8-10 meters; 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 High Ball is inherently a creative shot, and can have nearly any kind of spin you can imagine. Top quality players use this fact to their advantage in order to control the spin of the ball. For instance, though the opponent may smash the ball hard and fast, a good defensive Lob could be more difficult 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 High Balls. However, most of the time one will lose the point so it is not recommended unless it is really necessary.
Drop Shot 
The drop shot is a high level stroke, used as another variation for close-to-table strokes (like harai and slice). You have to position the racket close to the ball and just let the ball touch it (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.

[edit] Effects of spin

Adding spin onto the ball causes a whole range of major and minor changes:

4 phases in a backspin curve

Backspin: The easy-to-learn backspin strokes adds subtle lift to the first part of the ball-curve, lets the ball drop more suddenly, makes the ball bounce more upright and most significantly: makes the ball dive downwards when the opponent uses a common rubber (pimples inwards) on his racket. (The opponent is forced to seriously compensate for the backspin) Due to the initial lift of the backspin-curve, there’s a limit on how much speed one can hit the ball without overflying the opponents half. Backspin also makes it harder for the opponent to hit the ball with lots of speed. In table-tennis backspin is regarded as a defensive alternative, due to: the limitation on ballspeed, the simplicity of producing the strokes and the daring of the opponent. (It is possible to smash with backspin offensively, but only on easy high balls, close to the net)

4 phases in a topspin curve

Topspin: The hard-to-learn topspin strokes has a minor influence on the first part of the ball-curve, but the Magnus effect clearly forces the ball back down as it approaches the opposing side. On the bounce the topspin will accelerate the ball a little more. Again the most significant change appears when the opponent hits the ball (with a common pimples inwards rubber on his racket). Due to the topspin the ball jumps upwards and the opponent is forced to seriously compensate for the topspin. There’s virtually no limit on how much speed a topspin-ball can be given (besides your own timing and strength) and a speedy topspin stroke gives the opponent very little time to respond. In tabletennis topspin is regarded as a offensive alternative, due to: the virtual limitless ballspeeds, the highly required skills for producing the strokes and the enhanced tactical pressure on the opponent. (It is possible to play defensive topspin-lobs from far behind the table, but only world class players use this type of gallery play successfully)

[edit] 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 World Cup, World Championship, the Olympics and the ITTF Pro Tour, as well as continental competitions like European Championship, Euro Top-12, Asian Championship and Asian Games. China continues to dominate most world titles, while other strong teams come from East Asia and Europe including France, Germany, former Yugoslavia, 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 of the examples being at the highest level. There are also some important international club teams competitions such as the European Champions League and its former competition, the European Club Cup, which the top club teams from different European countries compete.

[edit] Notable players

Ma Lin, 2008 Olympic champion. Now holds a professional era record of 10 major titles (7 World Cups, 3 Olympic golds).
Jan-Ove Waldner who holds a career grand slam of 4 major titles (2 World Championships, 1 Olympic Gold, 1 World Cup).

An international hall of fame exists at the ITTF Museum webpagePDF (349 KiB). 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.

[edit] Governance

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.

  • The European Table Tennis Union is the governing body responsible for table tennis in Europe.
  • The English Table Tennis Association is the governing body responsible for table tennis in England.
  • The Irish Table Tennis Association is the governing body responsible for table tennis in Ireland.
  • The Scottish Table Tennis Association is the governing body responsible for table tennis in Scotland.
  • The Table Tennis Association of Wales is the governing body responsible for table tennis in Wales.
  • The Canadian Table Tennis Association is the governing body responsible for table tennis in Canada.
  • The 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.

[edit] Miscellanea

  • Multi-talented sportsman Max 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 racket.[10]
  • 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. The entire match lasted over four hours.
  • More than 30 table tennis companies exist around the world, making a full line of accessories from rackets to warm-up suits.[citation needed]
  • A man in Hawaii has invented a three-player table for table tennis, calling it Tri-Pong.
  • There are also competitions in table tennis variants: "Hardbat", in which all competitors use a racket with small pips-out rubber (sponge is not allowed); and "Large ball", where a 44 mm ball is used to decrease the speed.
  • Comedian George Carlin once noted in a stand-up routine that all racquet sports are derivatives of Ping Pong: for instance, tennis is "Ping Pong played while standing on the table," and even volleyball is "racquetless, team Ping Pong played with a raised net and an inflated ball while standing on the table."

[edit] References

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

[edit] Notes

  1. ^ Speed of ball article from the International Table Tennis Federation
  2. ^ Did You Know? "Westside News", April 9, 2008, published in Brisbane, Queensland, Australia
  3. ^ History of table tennis from the Table Tennis Museum of the International Table Tennis Federation
  4. ^ University of Florida table tennis history project
  5. ^ Table tennis ball regulations at
  6. ^ Table tennis racket regulations at
  7. ^ "Table Tennis Information - Equipment maintenance". Webgenix. Retrieved on 2007-07-10. 
  8. ^ ITTF Bans Speed Glue, Boosters and Tuners - and Much More! By Greg Letts, Accessed September 2008
  9. ^ The Laws of Table TennisPDF (28.0 KiB) at the ITTF. Accessed July 2007
  10. ^ Collins, Mick (2006). All-Round Genius: The Unknown Story of Britain's Greatest Sportsman. London: Aurum Press Limited. ISBN 1-84513-137-1. 

[edit] Bibliography

  • Sizzling Chops & Devilish Spins: Ping-Pong and the Art of Staying Alive by Jerome Charyn, 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 [2]

[edit] External links

Look up table tennis, ping pong in Wiktionary, the free dictionary.

[edit] Governing bodies

[edit] Africa

[edit] Asia

[edit] North America

[edit] Europe

[edit] Oceania

[edit] South America

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