It is generally agreed that table tennis originated about 1890 as a game “ping-pong”. It had a brief popular following throughout the United States and then fell into obscurity. The International Table Tennis Federation was established in Berlin in 1926, and in 1933 the United States Table Tennis Association (USTTA) was established.
Table Tennis is considered as the number one racket game in China, Japan and the United States. Early years of international competitions were dominated by European countries especially Hungary and Czech Republic, and in 1950’s the dominance in table tennis shifted to Asia and it has remained there with a few notable exceptions. In the 1998 Olympics, the Chinese and the South Koreans split the gold medals with China winning the women’s single and the men’s doubles and South Korea winning the men’s singles and the women’s doubles.
Any type of clothing and shoes allowing freedom of movement and comfort is acceptable. However, in tournament playing rules specify that the attire should be a uniform color other than white.
The racket (Blade)
A wooden rubber faced racket is mandated by the rules. The striking surface of the racket must be covered with a pimpled rubber facing inward or outward. A single layer of cellular (sponge) rubber may be located underneath the rubber surface of the blade shall be black on one side and bright red on the other side.
The ball is small, celluloid, spherical, white or yellow in color, 40 mm in diameter and 2.5 g in weight. It is fragile but quite hard to break unless stepped on. The ITTF approved standard ball has a uniformed bounce. It is dropped from a height of 12 inches (30.5 cm) on a plywood table, it should bounce up to 8 ¾ to 9 ¾ inches (22 to 25 cm).
The table should be constructed of ¾ inch (1.9 cm) material, usually plywood or particle board, and be 9 feet (2.74 m) in length and 5 feet (1.52 m) in width. The playing surface should be dark (usually green) and no reflection and should lie in horizontal plane 2 feet 6 inches (76 cm) above the floor. The sidelines and end lines are white and should be ½ to ¾ inch (2 cm) wide. The centerline is also white, but only 1/8 (3 mm) wide.
A game is won by the player who first scores 11 points, unless players have scored 10 points, in which case the one who first scores 2 points more than the opponent is the winner.
The choice of playing position at the table and order of service are determined by the toss coin. If the winner of the toss prefers to have first choice of playing positions, the opponent then has the choice of whether to serve first or receive first, or vice versa.
The server is only given two consecutive services before the opponent takes place in doing the service. At the score of 11-all, the receiver becomes the server and the server becomes the receiver, and so on, alternating after each game.
The game is played with 4 out of 7 matches, wherein players need to win four sets to be declared winner of the match. In a case of a tie of 6-6 sets, set 7 is played applying the same rules.
A good service is delivered by projecting the ball from the free hand and the projection starts from above the playing surface. The ball must be resting on the palm of the free hand, which his flat and the thumb free of the fingers. As it starts to descend, the ball is struck so that it touches the receiver’s court.
A good return of a served ball must be struck by the receiver on the first bounce so that it passes directly over or around the net and touches directly on top of the opponent’s court.
A point is awarded to the opponent in the following circumstances:
- Failure to make a good service, unless a let is declared.
- Failure to make a good return of a good service or a good return made by the opponent, unless a let is declared.
- If the player, the racket or anything that the player wears or carries touches the net or its support while the ball is in play.
- If the player, the racket, or any wearing apparel moves the playing surface while the ball is in play or touches the net (or its support).
- If the player’s free hand touches the playing surface while the ball is in play.
- If, before the ball in play has passed over the end lines or sidelines, not yet having touched the playing surface on the player’s side of the table after being struck by the opponent, it comes in contact with the player or anything the player wears or carries.
- If any time the player volleys the ball, except as provided in number 1 under let.
- If a player strikes the ball twice in succession.
- If the server (or partner) stomps a foot during the service.
A let ball, which is then replayed, is called in the following cases.
- If the served ball, in passing over the net, touches it or its support, provided that the service would otherwise have been good or volleyed by the receiver.
- IF a service is delivered when the receiver is not ready, provided always that the receiver may not be deemed unready if an attempt to strike at the ball is made.
- If either player is prevented by an accident not under his or her control from serving a good service or making a good return.
- If either player gives up a point, as provided in number 3 to 7 under points, owing to an accident not within his or her control.
A point is scored by the side that makes the last successful return prior to the end of a rally. In an unsuccessful return the ball is missed, struck with the side of a racket blade having an illegal surface, hit off the table, sent into the net, or hit onto the player’s own half of the court on the return. Failure to make a good serve also scores a point for the opponent unless it is a let.
The ball is in play from the moment it is projected from the hand in service until one of the following has occurred:
- It has touched one court twice consecutively.
- It has, except in service, touched each court alternately without having been struck by the racket intermediately.
- It has been struck by either player more than once consecutively.
- It has touched either player or anything that the player wears or carries, except the racket or racket hand below the waist.
- On the volley it comes in contact with the racket or the racket hand below the wrist.
- It has touched any object other than the net and supports.
Fundamentals Skills and Techniques
Forehand grip – in forehand grip the short t handle of the racket is gripped very close to the blade, with the blade itself partially held in the hand and the forefinger and thumb bracing opposite sides of the blade. The index finger is positioned behind the blade for support.
Backhand grip – the backhand grip is the same as the forehand, except that the thumb is usually placed on the back of the blade.
Penhold grip – because the same blade surface is used for all shot, the grip position remains unchanged.
Points to Remember
- Do not hold the racket too tightly; relax
- Hold the writs firmly and rotate the forearm as needed to obtain the correct blade angle.
- Whenever possible, face somewhat to the side in forehand and backhand shots as in tennis.
- Constantly check the racket hand, making sure that it is not dropped because the wrist is bent.
- Regularly check the thumb and index finger to keep them in the proper place.
Push stroke – This is the foundation of all strokes and it is the recommended service for beginners. With a ball resting on the free hand or palm, using the forehand and backhand grip the ball is tossed in the air about 3 to 4 inches in height and the racket hand slowly and gently hits the ball.
Topspin serves – The ball is put into play be projecting it upward from the flat free hand. As the ball is descending it is met by the racket, which is swung forward and upward, and the racket face is closed (facing the table top and net).
Backspin (Chop) – The ball is struck with a downward, forward motion of the racket. The racket face is open (facing upward from the table top and net). The player will need to practice adjusting the angle of the racket to find the most effective one.
Footwork and Stance
Proper stance and footwork in serving or receiving are just as important in learning table tennis as they are in other racket games.
A good stance in serving the ball is positioned from about 1 ½ to 2 feet (45 to 160 cm) directly behind the centerline of the table. Face slightly to the right side with the feet well apart and the left foot forward (for a right-handed player). Remember the service rule stating at that moment of impact, both the racket and the ball must be behind the end line on the table. In addition, the service toss must start at table height or above.
A good stance position in receiving is from about 2 to 2 ½ feet directly in back of the centerline of the table. The feet are spaced well apart, the knees slightly bent, and the body is inclined forward in an alert position.