When it comes to table games, there is no doubt that Ping-Pong is one of the most popular out there. In fact, given that it’s the only one that is played in the Olympics, it would be easy to argue that Ping-Pong is the undisputed king of table games. In any case, it also has a rich, interesting history that should help you enjoy the sport even more.
Tennis for the Parlor
As with so many table games, Ping-Pong was originally an option reserved for the upper class. Fans of lawn tennis were looking for a way to enjoy the game with friends in the parlor during a party or after dinner. Table tennis was the natural option. All it took was a table, two paddles and a ball.
It wasn’t long before the name “Ping-Pong” was invented and trademarked by an English firm, J. Jacques and Son. This occurred toward the end of the 1800s and Parker Brothers quickly followed suit in the United States.
By 1901, Ping-Pong had found so much popularity that tournaments were being organized, some of which featured more than 300 players. In 1922, The Table Tennis Association was formed (originally, it was called the Ping-Pong Association).
The following year, a Japanese university professor visited the United States, discovered Ping-Pong and brought the game back home. It found immediate popularity there, as well. This would also occur in Budapest and Vienna shortly after that.
Meanwhile, more and more players in England were falling in love with Ping-Pong. The famous cricketer, Jack Hobbs, even began publicly competing. The Daily Mirror organized a tournament that drew some 40,000 competitors.
This popularity led to the founding of the English Table Tennis Association. At the time, the association was comprised of 19 leagues. Today, that number is well over 300, representing 70,000 players.
World champions began getting crowned in 1927 by this organization. The first was Dr. Jacobi of Hungary. England would take the title in 1929, but after that, Hungary remained a powerhouse in the sport throughout the 30s. The team captain, Victor Barna, remains a legend in Ping-Pong to this day.
The Introduction of Spin
Up until this point, the game was played with wooden paddles. It wasn’t until the 50s that sandwich rubber was used. This was a truly revolutionary moment. The new material allowed players to put an unprecedented amount of spin on the ball, controlling it in ways never before imagined.
Prior to this rubber, which the Japanese introduced, the game was largely played on the defense. Now, though, serves alone could quickly decide the direction of the game.
As we mentioned at the beginning, Ping-Pong became a recognized Olympic sport in 1988. That year, in Seoul, more than two billion people tuned in to watch the men’s singles matches.
In China, professional players are given the same amount of celebrity reserved for athletes in the NBA or NFL in the USA. Millions play – often workplaces are outfitted with Ping-Pong tables – and the best of them are viewed upon as national heroes.
The Rules of Ping Pong
First, we should mention the paddles used in this sport. They must meet specific guidelines. The International Table Tennis Federation (ITFF) governs the rules and specifies that every paddle should have a red and black side, though any color will do for casual play. The same applies to the color of the ball, which should be orange or white.
Second, there’s the table. It must be 2.74 meters long, 1.525 meters wide and have a thickness of 0.76 meters.
When it comes to the balls and tables, you shouldn’t have any problem meeting these rules. Both are mass-produced to these specifications because, again, they are required by the ITFF.
With the paddles, at least 85% of the hitting surface must be made of natural wood. The rest is used for the pimpled rubber and adhesive.
Who serves is decided upon one of many different ways, often with a coin toss or by having a rally that awards the winner with the right to go first.
Either way, the serving player takes the ball in their hands and can drop or toss it in any way they like before hitting it over the net. Before it can cross the net, though, it must touch their side of the table first.
A player scores when their opponent fails to return the ball across the net or doesn’t get it over during their serve. Players are only required to hit the ball back after it touches their side of the table. If one player hits the ball and it either goes into the net or doesn’t touch the other side of the table, their opponent gets the point.
Table tennis continues to grow in popularity, and it’s not hard to see why. Now that you know the rules, it should be easy for you to quickly take up such a fun sport.