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Table Tennis vs Ping Pong – Same or Different Sport?

What is the difference between table tennis versus ping pong? Are they the same or different?

Trust me! It’s not the same!

There are indeed many different rules between these two names. Many new players asked me this same question. Let me compare the difference between ping pong and table tennis right now.


Are ping pong and table tennis the same sport?

No! Table tennis and ping pong were originally the same sport. But nowadays, Ping Pong and Table Tennis are different! They are two different sports. So Ping pong is no longer the informal American title of the game of table tennis. Here is the summary table of table tennis versus ping pong.

To feel the difference between these 2 sports, let’s see the “2020 World Championship of Ping Pong Final“. Note that, this is a “ping pong game” but not a “table tennis game”.

2020 World Championship of Ping Pong Final

Watch this video.

 

Another huge difference between ping pong and table tennis is, the World Championship of Ping Pong is organized every year. While World Championship of Table Tennis is organized every 2 years (see the table below).

The only similarity between table tennis and ping pong is they are originated from England.


Why is table tennis called ping pong?

Some players have posted on theguardian.com that “Table tennis and ping pong are exactly the same game”. But this is no longer true!



Ping-pong is a trademarked name for the game also known as table tennis. In 1901, John Jacques registered “Ping-Pong” as a trading name in England, then the rights were sold to Parker Brothers. Ping Pong is also called “whiff-whaff” in England. Such a funny name 🙂

Before 2011, “Ping Pong” or “Table Tennis” is the same sport. Some recreational players tend to use “ping-pong” or “table tennis in the basement”. Amateur players consider “ping-pong” as a hobby. But serious players call it table tennis exclusively and consider it as a sport. In general, Ping Pong relates to garage players, while Table Tennis is used by players that formally train in the sport.

After 2011, Ping Pong is another sport. Nowadays, Ping Pong and table tennis are not the same.

Watch this video for my analysis between table tennis and ping pong:

table tennis vs ping pong - are they the same
Watch this video: table tennis vs ping pong – are they the same? No, they are now 2 different sports!


Difference between Ping Pong vs. Table Tennis?

There is the World Championship of Ping Pong, organized every year in England. The Ping Pong event is held in London England (Alexandra’s Palace) hosted by Match Room (Barry Hearn’s) enterprise.

Ping Pong World Championship Event hosted in England
Ping Pong World Championship Event hosted in England

There is also the World Table Tennis Championship organized by ITTF.

Table Tennis World Championship organized by ITTF
Table Tennis World Championship organized by ITTF

So obviously, Ping Pong and Table Tennis are the different Sports for two different audiences.

2020 World Championship of Ping Pong Final
2020 World Championship of Ping Pong Final

Here are the main difference between Ping Pong and Table Tennis:

 Table TennisPing Pong
TrademarkedNoYes
Amount of SpinVery highLittle
SpeedVery highMedium Slow
Type of serviceManyLittle
Different types of paddlesYesNo (same paddle)
Points per match21 then 11 (now)15
Olympics SportYesNo
World ChampionshipYesYes
Flexible RulesNoYes
Grand Slam players50
World Championshipevery 2 yearsevery year
Table Tennis versus Ping Pong

 

Equipment: Table tennis can use various types of equipment: pips-in, pips-out rubber, and no-limit type of table tennis blade. However, Ping Pong uses only one type of equipment: sandpaper bats. So in Ping Pong, every player uses the same equipment.

Rule: Table tennis plays the best of 11 points, in 7 games. While ping pong plays 15 points best of 3 (except the semi-finals and the final which is the best of five sets), with a sudden death point at 14 all and a double point ball played once on the service. There is a special “double-point ball” that can be used once per match when serving, and it gives 2 points to the serving player if won, and 1 point to the receiving player. It is white instead of orange to mark this occasion.

Ping Pong is played with 15 points but not 11 points
Ping Pong is played with 15 points but not 11 points

Scoring: The score ends at 11 points with a difference of at least 2 points for Table Tennis. The score ends at 15. A final score of 15-14 is a winning score.

Playing style: Ping Pong uses sandpaper which provides medium to slow speed and medium spin. Table tennis has a faster pace and a higher amount of spin. Table tennis has an offensive and defensive playing style. Ping Pong can mix both playing styles in a game.

 

Sandpaper racket used in ping pong - without the rubber but only a sandpaper - It will slowdown the speed and the spin and make the rallies longer
Sandpaper racket used in ping pong – without the rubber but only sandpaper – It will slow down the speed and the spin and make the rallies longer


Equipment for table tennis and ping pong

The main equipment difference: In Table Tennis, each person has their own customized paddle. In Ping Pong, the standard paddle used by all: sandpaper.

Equipment for ping pong players

Unlike table tennis, in Ping Pong, every player uses the same equipment: A sandpaper paddle. If you love “Ping Pong”, you can buy a “Sandpaper paddle”. Sandpaper paddles are only 5 ply racket (which is slow and give a lot of control and feedback to ping pong player). The sandpaper paddle doesn’t have 2 rubbers, but instead, it has 2 laminated layers.

 

Classic Sandpaper table tennis paddle – slow down the speed of the rally (more info)

 

Advantages:

  • Sandpaper paddles reduce the speed and the spin of the ball. Therefore, the rally’s length in ping pong increases. You have a lot of time during each shot. Ping pong is much slower than table tennis.
  • Sandpaper paddle is much cheaper (only around $5 to $10) than a typical table tennis rackets (a blade costs $40 and 2 rubbers cost around 2 x 35 = $70, total price is 70 + 40 = $110).

Disadvantages:

  • Sandpaper generates very little speed and spin, so you won’t have the joy of the real table tennis sport.
  • The game is slow and less entertaining for the viewers.

Equipment for table tennis players

If you really want to be a “serious table tennis” player (not a ping pong player), don’t buy cheap, and low-quality equipment. But choose this, one of the best set-ups for the serious table tennis player. The racket + 2 sides rubbers are hand-assembled by Butterfly Equipment Expert.

 

Butterfly Balsa Carbo X5 Pro-Line Table Tennis Racket - ITTF Professional Ping Pong Paddle
Butterfly ITTF Approved Pro-Line Hand Assembled Professional Table Tennis Racket (more info)
World champion of ping pong is using hard bat racket
World champion of ping pong is using hard bat racket

Many new players don’t know how to choose the right equipment. In table tennis, you need both powers, spin, and control. Here is the full guide for choosing the right blade and rubber for competitive table tennis players.


Who is the World Champion of Ping Pong?

From 2011 to 2014, the World Champion of Ping Pong is Maxim Shmyrev (RUS). For the next two years (2015 to 2016), the champion is Andrew Baggaley (ENG). Last year, the current World Champion of ping pong is again Andrew Baggaley (ENG).

In 2017, the Chinese players started to interest in “Ping Pong”. The latest Ping Pong Champion is a Chinese “Yan Weihao”. He is only 20-year-old and comes from Nanking. In 2018, Wang Shibo, other Chinese players won the World Championship of ping pong.

YearPing Pong Champion
2011 Maxim Shmyrev (RUS)
2013 Maxim Shmyrev (RUS)
2014  Maxim Shmyrev (RUS)
2015 Andrew Baggaley (ENG)
2016Andrew Baggaley (ENG)
2017 Yan Weihao (CHN)
2018 Wang Shibo (CHN)
2019Andrew Baggaley (ENG)
2020Andrew Baggaley (ENG)

 

It seems that England, Russia, and China are the most 3 powerful countries in ping pong.

Baggaley (ENG) is the World Champion of ping pong
Baggaley (ENG) is the World Champion of ping pong
YAN IS WORLD CHAMPION OF PING PONG 2017
YAN IS THE WORLD CHAMPION OF PING PONG 2017
The trophy ping pong champion
The trophy ping pong champion

You can see it here. Andrew Baggaley is currently the World champion of ping pong (in 2020).

Winner list of ping pong champion
Winner list of ping pong champion


Who is the World Champion of Table Tennis?

As you see, table tennis and ping pong are not the same! So the World Champion of table tennis is also different. Here is the list of the Men’s World Champion of table tennis. They are the best table tennis players of all time!

YearTable Tennis Champion
2003 Werner Schlager
2005 Wang Liqin
2007 Wang Liqin
2009 Wang Hao
2011 Zhang Jike
2013 Zhang Jike
2015Ma Long
2017Ma Long
2019 Ma Long
2021Fan Zhendong

 

Since 2013, China dominates the table tennis scene. There are 8 table tennis champions who are Chinese players in a row (2013 to 2019).

 

Schlager Werner is the World Champion of table tennis in 2003 Paris
Schlager Werner is the World Champion of table tennis in 2003 Paris – The last non-Chinese table tennis champion since then.

 

Ma Long won three World table tennis championships in a row (2019, 2017, 2015).

Ma Long won the men’s singles World Champion 2019 and thus joined the legendary group of Hungary’s Victor Barna and Chinese compatriot, Zhuang Zedong, who likewise won three in a row (2019, 2017, 2015)
Ma Long won the men’s singles World Champion 2019 and thus joined the legendary group of Hungary’s Victor Barna and Chinese compatriot, Zhuang Zedong, who likewise won three in a row (2019, 2017, 2015)

Recently, in Houston 2021 World Championship, Fan Zhendong won his first World Champion in his career.

Truls lost to Fan Zhendong in the final of WTTC 2021 Men's single final
Truls lost to Fan Zhendong in the final of WTTC 2021 Men’s singles final


Table Tennis Champion vs Ping Pong Champion

So finally, here is the resume of the main difference between ping pong and table tennis.

Main differences between table tennis and ping pong

 

Let’s watch the funny match between the Table Tennis Champion (Zhang Jike, Liu Guoliang) and the Ping Pong Champion (Yan Weihao). They are using the hardbat (or sandpaper racket). Who will win?

 

Table Tennis Hardbat So Fun! Zhang Jike vs Yan Weihao

Watch this video.

 

If you love hardbat, then ping pong may fit you better. If you love the modern speed and spin in table tennis, learn the basic table tennis techniques here.

Read more



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Table tennis coach in France since 2012, founder of pingsunday.com (the best online coaching program for table tennis players). Born in Vietnam in 1983, Ph.D. in Université Pierre Marie Curie. Read more about him.

19 thoughts on “Table Tennis vs Ping Pong – Same or Different Sport?”

  1. I’m not into the political semantics.
    The words are used interchangeably outside of niche competitions / satisfying niche interest groups.

    What exactly happened in 2011 to change things?

    I suppose there is the struggle of the ITTF to have ping pong / table tennis recognised as a spectator sport the equal of football, basketball etc. However, that ping pong remains less popular, I think, has nothing to do with the name…

    Reply
    • I think one of the main reason we can’t call table tennis ping pong is because the former name is trademarked. If not, ping pong is a better name for advertising and popularizing the sport. It’s shorter, catchier and more fun to call out. That’s also why there’s “pingsunday” and “pongfinity” while their subject is table tennis

    • I’m replying to Ban Nguyen.

      We can call it ping pong and do – but perhaps they can’t at the official level. What you mention about trademarks is a reality of the world of commerce.

      As you probably know, in mandarin Chine ping pong / tt is ping pang. I don’t know how they distinguish the two sports here.

    • You are right. “Ping Pong” in general is the same as “table tennis”. But recently, there are a “World championship of pingpong” which is very confused with the “World Championship of table tennis”.

  2. You mention hardbat, but you left out hardbat as being ping pong. There is table tennis and Ping Pong. Ping Pong is both sandpaper and classic hardbat. There is a sandpaper champion and there is also a classic hardbat champion and hardbat championships.
    https://www.facebook.com/515238671/videos/312775167400851/

    This August, the current sandpaper world champion will compete with the current hardbat world champion along with 94 other champions and one World Ping Pong Champion will emerge.

    Reply
  3. It isn’t kind to call ” whiff waff” a funny name. You could be hurting people’s feelings if they take the sport very seriously.

    Reply
  4. It was my understanding that hardbats still used rubber, but with pips facing outwards and no sponge and were legal in Table Tennis. if Ping Pong uses only Sandpaper lined bats, then it is rather different.

    Reply
  5. Thank you EmRatThich for another great article. I am a sponge player but also enjoy hardbat and sandpaper paddles, but only when both my and opponent and myself are playing with the same paddles.

    I feel that playing with the hardbat/ sandpaper paddles, the strokes are much more intuitive and simpler. And I think since I like hitting, rather than spinning, it feels good too.

    There is a good article by Scott Gordon who is a sponge player who plays hardbat full time against sponge players. He says that Table Tennis is the only sport where it is disconnected from it’s history which is hardbat. Whereas, in Baseball they have Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, etc and hold them up as heroes of the past. Our players regularly say that “We dont play that way anymore”, and we dont hold up those players of old such as Barna, Marty Reisman, or Dick Miles up as our heroes.

    Reply
  6. What’s the benefit of using sand paper bats, are they recommended for beginners, please explain

    Reply

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