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The exact origin of Table tennis is unknown. It first appeared in England in 1890 as a sport for aristocrats and slowly spread to the general population. The sport was originally named “ping pong”, after the sound the ball makes when it hits the table. Ping pong was used as a commercial name by the J. Jaques & Son Ltd. company. In 1936, the term “ping pong” was replaced by the term "Table Tennis", during the Prague Convention.

The International Table Tennis Federation (ITTF) was founded in 1926 during the 1st World Championship.

In recent years, Table Tennis has made great progress. The regulations have evolved in an effort to make the sport more attractive and more popular to the public. When the sport was added into the 1988 Olympic Games Programme, in Seoul, Table Tennis started to acquire a mass character. It is currently considered one of the most popular sports in the world in terms of participation numbers, with more than 187 National Federations being members of ITTF.


Olympic History

Table tennis became an Olympic sport in Seoul in 1988, without ever being a demonstration sport. Since 1988, China has won 16 of the 20 gold medals awarded, including all five in both the women’s singles and the men’s doubles.

Perhaps the greatest Olympic player has been Deng Yaping who won each of the women’s singles and women’s doubles twice. Her doubles partner, Qiao Hong, finished second in one of those singles titles and third in the other.

At the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games a team event will replace the doubles event for both men and women.


In the Olympic Games, Table Tennis includes four disciplines: men’s singles, women’s singles, men’s team event and women’s team event.

According to the game structure of the Olympic Tournament, athletes will compete against each other according to the knockout system. Each match consists of seven sets maximum. The athlete who wins four sets first is the game’s winner.


A Good Service

Service starts with the ball resting on the open palm of the server’s stationary free hand; the server throws the ball vertically upwards. As the ball is falling, the server strikes it so that it touches first his or her court and then, after passing over or around the net assembly, touches the receiver’s court. In doubles, the ball must touch the right half court of the server and the receiver.

From the start of the service, until the ball is struck by the server’s racket, the ball must be visible to the opponent and not hidden by any part of the player’s body, or their clothing or their doubles partner; in addition, the ball must be above the level of the playing surface and behind the server’s end line.

It is the responsibility of the player to serve in such a way, so that the umpire or the assistant umpire can verify compliance with the requirements of a good service. Otherwise, there are penalties imposed, like the receiver being awarded the point.


A Good Return

The ball, after having been served or returned, is struck by the player so that it passes over or around the net assembly and touches the opponent’s court, either directly or after touching the net assembly.



The table used in Table Tennis is 274 cm long, 152 cm wide and 76 cm tall, while its surface is not less than 20 mm thick. The table and, therefore, the playing surface are mainly made of dark green or blue-coloured wood. Nevertheless, there are tables made of synthetic material of equally satisfactory performance.

Net Assembly

The net has a height of 15.25 cm and runs across the centre of the table separating it into two courts. It is suspended by two metal or plastic posts of 15.25 cm in height and the outer limits of the posts are 15.25 cm outside each side of the table. The net is usually made of nylon and is dark green.


The ball has a diameter of 40 mm and weighs 2.7gr. It is made of celluloid or other similar plastic material and is white or yellow matte, depending on the colour of the table used in the match.


The first rackets were wooden with a long handle while their main part (body) was mainly made of cork. From 1929 onwards, players used wooden rackets covered by tough pimpled (hard embossed) rubber. This was the first combination of wood – rubber, which was used until the end of the 1940s.

In 1952, a Japanese athlete, Hiroje Satoh, appeared in the World Championship with a racket having an insert of a cellular (spongy) material between the rubber and the wooden layers, thus creating a new type of rubber that was later called “sandwich rubber”. This new rubber revolutionised Τable tennis, due to its ability to give greater spin and speed to the ball.

In the following years, almost all top players began using this new type of rubber and getting adjusted to the new way of playing the game. New technical strikes were developed, emphasising the speed and spin of the ball.


There are different match systems, such as matches with five, seven or nine sets. The winner of the match is the player who wins most sets, depending on the system used, e.g. four out of seven games.

The player, or the pair, scoring 11 points first, wins a set. In the event either players or pairs reach 10 points, the winner is the player or pair that gains a lead of two points.

An athlete scores a point:

If the opponent fails to make a good service
If the opponent fails to make a good return
If the opponents makes a return and the ball touches the net assembly
If the ball passes beyond the end line without touching his court, after being struck by the opponent
If the opponent obstructs the ball
If the opponent strikes the ball twice successively
If the opponent strikes the ball with a side of the racket blade whose surface does not comply with regulations
If the opponent, or anything the opponent wears or carries, moves the playing surface (meaning the surface on which the game is played: table, net assembly etc.)
If the opponent, or anything the opponent wears or carries, touches the net assembly
If the opponent’s free hand touches the playing surface
As provided by the Expedite System

The Expedite System

The expedite system is introduced if a set has not finished after a play of 10 minutes or at any earlier time at the request of both players or pairs. An exception is made in the instance where both players or pairs have scored at least nine points, at which case the expedite system can not be introduced.

If the 10-minute time period lapses while the ball is in play, the umpire interrupts the play by calling ‘time’. The match resumes with service by the player who served in the rally that was interrupted. Otherwise, if at the lapse of 10 minutes the ball is not in play, play shall resume with service by the player who received in the preceding rally.

Under the expedite system, each player makes a service. If the receiving player or pair makes 13 good returns, the receiver shall score a point. Once introduced, the expedite system remains in operation until the end of the match.


Two major techniques have been developed in Table Tennis and they are related to the way the player grips the racket:

Asian grip (or ‘penholder’)

From the very definition, it is easy to grasp what the Asian type grip is, meaning that it is held the same way we grip a pen when writing.

There are two variations, which are related to the positioning of the fingers on the handle: the Chinese and the Japanese grip. The Asian grip technique is the main grip used by players from the Far East, although many athletes all over the word use it as well.

European grip

Players grip the racket by the handle as in Tennis or rackets. Depending on the way they play their game, players are separated into two major categories: offensive and defensive, each one having its own subcategories.

Team HeroesEntire Team

Sibley is four-time English national singles champion and five-time winner of the doubles title. She competed for Great Britain at the London Olympic Games in 2012.

She first represented Great Britain at the 2001 Senior European Champio...

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