A brief history of table tennis

Table tennis would arguably top any list of the world’s most popular indoor sports. It is played in virtually every country in the world by young people and adults, both athletes and unfit. It is extremely easy to collect and requires very little investment in terms of equipment. You can learn it in an afternoon, get good at it in a week, but still take a lifetime to master it. These unique properties have made it one of the world’s favorite sports.

Brief history of table tennis

The origins of the game can be traced back to a popular board game in late 19th century England. This simple game mainly consisted of hitting a champagne cork with a book, back and forth across a large table (usually a dining table) separated into two halves by a row of books (the ‘net’). Initially, the game was called “whiff-whaff” because of the sound that the books made when the players handled them.

The growing popularity of this game caused manufacturers to make money and create specialized equipment: tables, balls and rackets (which consisted of a thick scroll of parchment spread out on a wooden frame). The sound produced by these early rackets when hitting the ball slows down the game, its name, ‘Ping Pong’, and thus modern table tennis was born.

In the 1920s, there were thousands of amateur players across Europe and the need to regulate the sport was felt. Thus, in 1926, the International Table Tennis Federation (ITTF) was formed, which regulates the sport to this day. The same year, the first World Championship was held in London, thus giving rise to professional table tennis.

Basic rules of table tennis

An important factor in the popularity of table tennis is the simplicity of its rules. Some sports, such as basketball or cricket, have a large number of rules that dictate how the game should be played.

Table tennis, on the other hand, consists only of hitting a ball across a table with a pair of rackets while making sure that the ball doesn’t crash into the net, and bounces once (and only once) in the opponent half of the desk. Failure to hit the ball in the opponent’s half court causes a player to lose a point.

The first player to reach 11 points wins a game. The game is played between 2 (singles) or 4 (doubles) players. Of course, at a competitive level, there are a number of other rules regarding serve, rebounding, etc., but a beginner only needs to know the above rules to start playing.

Table tennis equipment

The equipment used to play table tennis consists only of a pair of rackets, a celluloid plastic ball, and a table separated into two halves by a net. The rackets and ball are relatively inexpensive and the table is the only “expensive” part, although you can buy beginner tables at a fairly low price.

The rackets or paddles are made of wood and are covered with rubber on one or both sides. The quality and pattern of the rubber is extremely important, as it dictates the spin and speed of the ball. The ball itself is made of celluloid plastic and has a diameter of 40mm.

The table the game is played on must be 9 feet long, 5 feet wide, and 30 inches high with a hardboard top, per ITTF regulations, although amateur players often use smaller tables. The quality of the table greatly affects the game. Better tables offer more consistent bounce, spin, and speed.

A world sport

The main countries that play table tennis are China, South Korea, Singapore, Japan, Germany, Austria and Sweden. China is the dominant power in the sport and has won 60% of the World Championships since 1960. Hungary was another dominant power in the first half of the century, but it has declined considerably in recent decades. Major tournaments include the Olympic Games, the World, Asian and European Championships and the Table Tennis World Cup.

Changes in the equipment used to play this sport (higher quality paddles, tables and balls) have brought new dimensions to the game and have further increased its accessibility. In the coming years, table tennis is sure to increase in popularity around the world.

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