Table tennis

Table Tennis is one of the most practiced sports in the world.

It can be played individually, in couples or teams, its objective is to strike a ball to push it over the net and make it bounce on the opponent's side of the table in such a way that the they can't reach it or strike back correctly. Table Tennis at #Santiago2023 offers quota places for the Paris 2024 Olympic Games.

In the picture, a male table tennis athlete about to hit the ball.

History of this sport

Despite the success of this sport in Asia, it was born in England as “ping-pong” by the end of the 19th century, after a rainy afternoon in the England club. Tennis players, frustrated for not being able to play due to bad weather, had the idea to improvise an indoors game with characteristics similar to tennis, but in miniature size. They took a squared table, in the centre they placed a rope held in place by wooden poles, using it as a net and then they took a flat object to replace the racket. They used any object as a ball, and the first ones were made from cork.

Table tennis has come a long way from its origins, when high class English families used to play after dinner. Over a century later, it is the sport with the largest number of recreational players.

In its beginnings, table tennis had names such as “ping-pong”, “whif, waff” and “flim flam”, that imitated the ball’s sounds upon being struck. In 1926 it is named table tennis after the foundation of the English Association, and after this the International Table Tennis Federation was born, the same one we know today, after the first world congress and championship in 1927.

In 1992, the definitive name is adopted and the regulations are composed by a Cambridge student.

This discipline is celebrated at the Pan American Games since Caracas 1983. The United States leads the all-time medal count with 23 gold medals.

In the picture, a male table tennis athlete about to hit the ball.

Technical descriptions

  • The table is rectangular, it measures 2,74 m long and 1,525 m wide. The field of play is located 76 cm high from the floor, and it is divided in half by a net. The game surface is limited by a 2 cm white line that goes around the table. It is divided in half by a central white line. The sport follows the same basic principles as tennis, but with a very different scoring system.
  • The net. The field of play must be divided into two smaller same-size courts through a vertical net that runs parallel to the backlines and must measure 15,25 cm high.
  • The ball must be round and have a diameter of 40 mm. It must weight 2,7 g, made of cellulose or other similar plastic material.
  • The racket can be any size, shape or weight. The blade must be made of wood, with an even thickness, flat and rigid, and the sides to strike the ball must be covered by surfaces complying with the regulations.

In table tennis, any number of odd sets to 11 points can be played. If there is a tie at 10 points, the game continues until a difference of 2 points is achieved.
The serve is done crossed, from the right side of the serving player, to the right side of the receiving player.
If the ball barely touches the opponent’s field, it is valid. If the player touches the table with any part of its body, apart from the racket, the player loses the point.
A player will lose a point in the following cases:
a) If they fail to perform a correct service.
b) If they fail to return the ball correctly.
c) If they obstruct the ball.
d) If they hit the ball with a face of the racket that has a non-accepted surface.
f) If their free hand touches the surface of the game while the ball is in play.
g) If anything they are wearing touches the net while the ball is in play.
h) In doubles if the player hits the ball out of the appropriate sequence, except when there has been a real mistake in the game order.
In doubles, the players in the couple must hit alternatively the ball. The service will be done in a crossed manner from the right side of the serving player.
The team matches consist in four single matches and one double match, each of them played in best of five sets. Each team has three players and encounters end when a team has won three matches. In the doubles match, the players take turn hitting the ball.

The official table tennis events are:
  • Singles
  • Doubles
  • Mixed Doubles


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Information for the community

International Table Tennis Federation
South American Table Tennis Confederation
Latin American Table Tennis Union

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