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Table Tennis – Everything about this sport

Do you really understand table tennis? Do you know that there are many changes since the foundation of this sport? As a table tennis coach in France, I want to know everything about table tennis.

But unfortunately, this topic is not very well covered by the official organization of this sport. I decide to write an overview of my favorite sport. Table tennis is, no doubt, my main sport, my main hobby. I can’t live without playing and coaching table tennis.

Here is the recap of the most important information about this wonderful sport, explained by coach EmRatThich. I will cover the history, the recent changes, 4 principles of table tennis, equipment, facts, etc.



What is table tennis?

If you haven’t tried table tennis, you should. It’s called “Ping-Pong” by certain people. But nowadays, they are not the same sport.

The principle rules of table tennis are very simple. Playing table tennis on the flat table separated into two equal courts by the net fastened across the table’s width at the center is a ball game similar in principle to lawn tennis (the first form of table tennis).

table tennis is a competitive non-contact sport
table tennis is a competitive non-contact sport

Table tennis is a competitive non-contact sport. You will compete through the speed and the spin of the ball.

The goal is to strike the ball so that it flies over the net and lands on the opponent’s half of the table in such a way that the opponent is unable to reach it or return it accurately. A small hollow ball is driven across the net by the players using small rackets (bats, or paddles).

The game is a worldwide phenomenon. It is a highly competitive sport in most nations, particularly in Europe and Asia, especially China and Japan, Korea, Germany, France, and Sweden.

There are more than 300 million people worldwide who are playing table tennis competitively in a table tennis club.

Since the foundation of this sport, there are many changes that you need to understand.





The name of table tennis?

How do people call this sport? In history, this sport has different names.

In other languages, this sport is called:

English: table tennis is a racket sport, also called ping pong or wiff waff.

French: tennis de table, sport de raquette or ping-pong

Spanish: tenis de mesa, or ping-pong, pimpón, pimpon

German: Tischtennis, Ballsportart

 

“La Vie Parisienne” 1926! People continues to use French world in racket sport
“La Vie Parisienne” 1926! People continue to use the French world in racket sport

Table tennis is the most popular racket sport, besides tennis and badminton.



Table tennis is the most popular racket sport

Based on the number of players, table tennis is the most popular racket sport. The reason is that there are so many table tennis players in China. China is also the strongest nation in table tennis.

when to start table tennis
when to start table tennis

The 3 most popular rackets sport is table tennis, badminton, and tennis.

Table tennis: 350 million players.

Badminton: 220 million players

Tennis: 87 million players

There are around 350 million table tennis players in the world. Meanwhile, International Tennis Federation (ITF) released its first worldwide report in October 2019 based on data collected from 195 countries. According to the magazine, there were approximately 87 million tennis players in the world in 2017.

The fact that badminton is one of the world’s most popular sports, just after table tennis. The game is, nonetheless, immensely popular, with an estimated 220 million individuals playing it regularly all around the world.



The strongest country in table tennis

China is currently the strongest country in table tennis, based on the number of medals won in the official competition and the number of players in the country.

Nearly 1 percent (0.72 percent) of a 1.402 billion Chinese population reported playing table tennis occasionally! It is a huge number of players (reported in 2020).

Based on the current Olympic medals results, China has won 85.7% of the Gold medal in table tennis.

China team - men's team
China team – men’s team
CountrySportGold medals won
ChinaTable Tennis85.7%
USABasketball78.6%
South KoreaArchery64.3%
GermanEquestrian35.7%
South KoreaTaekwondo31.3%


The best table tennis player

Ma Long is considered the best table tennis player in the world right now. He is the only men’s player who won the Double Grand Slam title.

Ma Long is the GOAT the greatest of all time
Ma Long is the GOAT the greatest of all time

Fan Zhendong is considered the second-best table tennis player. Recently, Fan Zhendong managed to surpass Ma Long in some international and Chinese competitions.

Jan-Ove Walder is considered another candidate for the title “the G.O.A.T” – The greatest table tennis player of all time. However, many players have voted for Ma Long for this title. Ma Long could be also the “G.O.A.T” in table tennis.



History

The history of table tennis started in the early 1900s.

Creation in England

The country of origin of table tennis in England, not China (as some players think).

Ping-Pong was initially a trading name for the game, which was created in England in the early 1900s and first sold under the name Ping-Pong. A revival of the Ping-Pong Association in 1902 led to the adoption of the term table tennis in 1921–22.

playing table tennis in London in 1901
playing table tennis in London in 1901

However, it appears that the game continued to be played in England outside of London, and by the 1920s, it had spread to a number of other countries around the world.

An international table tennis federation, the “Fédération Internationale de Tennis de Table” (in French) (or in English, ITTF), was established in 1926 by Germany, Hungary, England, and the Czechoslovak Republic, Austria, and Wales as its founding members. More than 165 national groups had joined by the mid-1990s.

Partie de Tennis de table en 1901 Paris
Partie de Tennis de table en 1901 Paris

Early domination by European players

Players from central Europe dominated the game when the first World Championships were held in London in 1926. Hungary won the men’s team event nine times, while Czechoslovakia won it twice. When Asia emerged as a breeding ground for champions in the 1950s, China dominated both individual and team events (for men and women).

dominance of European players in table tennis
the dominance of European players in table tennis

Ping-Pong diplomacy, a term used in the 1970s to refer to a series of high-profile table tennis matches between sportsmen from China and the United States, was a significant result of the game’s widespread appeal in China. Nixon’s historic visit to China is largely ascribed to the first such event, which took place in Beijing in 1971. The first World Cup was held in 1980, and China’s Guo Yuehua won the $12,500 first prize. Singles and pairs competition for men and women were added to the Olympic program in 1988.

Ping pong diplomacy Nixon and China
Ping pong diplomacy Nixon and China

The current domination of Asian players

Before the arrival of coach Liu Guoliang as the head coach of the Chinese National Team, China has dominated table tennis at the Olympics. Asian countries like Korea, Japan also are very strong nations in table tennis.

Chinese National Team has dominated the London Olympics 2012
Chinese National Team has dominated the London Olympics 2012

I’ve explained the top 5 reasons why Chinese players have always won the most major table tennis tournaments.

Four gold medals were won by China in Rio de Janeiro Olympics 2016. Reversing the result of the London Olympics 2012, Ding Ning beat Li Xiaoxia in the women’s singles gold medal match. This year’s Rio de Janeiro Olympics will include a two-player singles field, which means that the bronze medal is now open to other countries thanks to a rule change aimed toward China.

Top Chinese players are very strong in table tennis (2)
Top Chinese players are very strong in table tennis (2)

It was also an all-Chinese affair for the men to win the gold medal in tennis. Ma Long, the new world champion, defeated Zhang Zike in the finals. Bronze went to Japan’s Jun Mizutani, who beat Belarus’ Vladimir Samsonov, the former world number one.

At the Tokyo Olympics 2020, Ma Long from China is again won his second Gold Olympics medal. China confirms its leadership in table tennis, up-to-date.

Ma Long is the GOAT the greatest of all time
Ma Long is the GOAT the greatest of all time


What is the official organization of table tennis?

ITTF (International Table Tennis Federations) is an important organization for world table tennis. It’s is considered the official organization of this sport in the world. ITTF and WTT are the same organization, however, their purpose is not the same.



4 Principles of Table Tennis

What are the principles of table tennis? Every table tennis coach should at least know these 4 principles. Understanding these basic skills will help you improve fast, and improve to the highest level.

Chinese coaches explain that there are 4 philosophies in the foundation of table tennis. Every new player who wants to improve fast should master these principles. Here are 4 elementary of table tennis, based on Chinese coaching philosophy.

  1. Power From The Ground
  2. Yin Pai
  3. Right Timing
  4. Foundation Skills

1. “Power From the Ground”

“Power From The Ground” is one of the 4 fundamentals of Chinese philosophies about table tennis. If a player can apply this concept, he can improve the power, the speed of his shots.

Zhang Jike backswing step to get "power from the ground"
Zhang Jike backswing step to get “power from the ground”

It’s due to the limit of power of the forearm, you can’t hit very hard. By “taking” the power from your legs, (the ground), transferring it through the whole body, you can now hit as hard as possible.

Chinese coach often says

“You should hit by the legs, but not hit by the forearm”.

While Western coach says:

“Hit and close the racket by snapping your arm”.

2. Yin Pai – Prepare your strokes

“Yin Pai” is the key to power and consistency. Top Chinese players like Ma Long, Fan Zhendong, Xu Xin, Zhang Jike always have a good “yin pai”. Yin pai is the way you prepare your stroke, generate power and contact the ball at the right timing.

Yin Pai (prepare for the stroke) and keep your elbow close to the body
Yin Pai (prepare for the stroke) and keep your elbow close to the body

3. “Right timing”

Hitting the ball at the right timing is the key to reducing unforced errors. The timing here includes the “right contact position“, and the “right trajectory“. China dominates table tennis because of its superior techniques, and coaching methods.

If you want to play better, follow their coaching principles.

Wait for the right timing - the key point of forehand counter topspin
Wait for the right timing – the key point of forehand counter topspin

4. Foundation skills

Like building a house, you need a solid foundation. Chinese coaches emphasize a lot on the 10 fundamental skills and the 4 types of footwork. They are the foundation skills in table tennis that every player should master in their first 2 years.

Knowing how to hold the racket, the proper distance, and how to spin (“acceleration”) are also crucial for beginners players.

Pro players understand very well these principles. They accelerate at the right timing with the power from the whole body. While amateur players forget to “accelerate into” the ball. Don’t know how to move and generate powers.

the most important skill in table tennis
the most important skill in table tennis

To the highest level of table tennis, you also want to learn the basics tactics to win smartly.



The fundamental skills of table tennis

Chinese coaches have improved the training program. Here is the list of 10 fundamental skills in table tennis that every new player needs to learn first.

By learning this program, you will improve very fast during your first 2 years of training. The solid foundation techniques are the key to jumping to the next level in table tennis.

  • 1. Forehand Drive Technique
  • 2. Backhand topspin close to the table
  • 3. Forehand push and backhand push
  • 4. Forehand flick
  • 5. Backhand flick
  • 6. Backhand loop the underspin ball
  • 7. Forehand attack the semi-long ball
  • 8. Forehand fast serve
  • 9. Forehand pendulum serve
  • 10. Backhand sidespin serve

Here is the video of the most basic skills that you should learn as soon as possible!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ptbCwcXw530



Table tennis is an Olympic Sport

In 1988, the Olympic Committee officially recognize table tennis as an official Olympic sport. Table tennis became an Olympic sport, including men’s and women’s singles and pairs events.

Table tennis has been a Summer Olympic sport since 1988, featuring men’s and women’s singles and pairs tournaments. But in the Tokyo Olympics 2020, the mixed double event is added. The first mixed double winner is Mima Ito and Jun Mizutani of Japan.

Jun Mizutani and Mima Ito won the first Gold medal of mixed double table tennis at Tokyo Olympics (3)
Jun Mizutani and Mima Ito won the first Gold medal of mixed double table tennis at Tokyo Olympics (3)

 

 



The rules of table tennis

Table tennis rules are very clear. However, the serving rules are very difficult to apply, because the decision “legal or not legal” depends on the umpire. This decision is very subjective.

minimum number of players: 2 (Single event)

maximum number of players: 4 (Double event)

 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q-XFXcJNTko



Serving rules in table tennis

In order to make a legal serve in table tennis, you need to follow these 5 basic serving rules:

  • 1. Throw the ball 16 cm
  • 2. Throw the ball vertically
  • 3. Open palm
  • 4. Serving behind the end line
  • 5. Not hide the serve


The table tennis equipment

The main table tennis equipment is a table, a racket (which includes a blade, a backhand rubber, and a forehand rubber).

Based on the feedback of many players, here are the most popular equipment for the players. It is a safe choice if you don’t know how to choose the right equipment.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FpmqjSmLhJ0

Best table tennis blade:

  • 1. Butterfly Viscaria
  • 2. Butterfly Timo Boll Spirit
  • 3. DHS Hurricane Long 5 – Looping Machine
  • 4. Butterfly Primorac
  • 5. Nittaku Acoustic
  • 6. Darker Speed 90
  • 7. Stiga Clipper
  • 8. Tibhar Stratus Power Wood
  • 9. Stiga Offensive Classic
  • 10. Yasaka Ma Lin Extra

Best table tennis racket:

  • 01. DHS HURRICANE-II Tournament Ping Pong Paddle
  • 02. STIGA Tournament-Quality Titan Table Tennis Racket
  • 03. Butterfly Zhang Jike Box Set
  • 4. Butterfly Zhang Jike ZLC Pro-Line (Most Expensive)
  • 5. Butterfly Timo Boll ALC Pro-Line Table Tennis Racket (Spinniest set up)
  • 6. Elite Topspin Ping Pong Paddle Set – Professional 4 (Best Valued)
  • 7. NuLandings Ping Pong Paddle Set (Outdoor)
  • 8. Palio Master 2 Table Tennis Racket & Case
  • 9. STIGA Pro Carbon Performance-Level Table Tennis Racket (Best For Intermediate player)
  • 10. Killerspin JET800 Speed N1 Ping Pong Paddle (Nice gift)

Best forehand rubber

  • 01. DHS Hurricane 3 National (blue sponge)
  • 02. Stiga Calibra LT+
  • 03. Tenergy 05 Hard
  • 04. Stiga Mantra H
  • 05. XIOM OMEGA ASIA
  • 06. Haifu Shark 3
  • 07. TG Skyline 3
  • 08. Sanwei Target National
  • 09. Fastarc G1
  • 10. Tibhar EVOLUTION MX-P50

Best backhand rubber

  • 1. Butterfly Tenergy 05
  • 2. Butterfly Dignics 05
  • 3. Butterfly Tenergy 64
  • 4. Tibhar MX-P
  • 5. Nittaku Fastarc G-1
  • 6. DHS Hurricane 3
  • 7. JOOLA Rhyzm-P
  • 8. Yasaka Rakza Z
  • 9. XIOM Vega Europe
  • 10. DONIC Bluefire M2


When to search for table tennis?

What is the moment that everyone is interested in table tennis? Coach EmRatThich has made research, and he found something interesting.

Here is the graph of the search interest about table tennis. Can you see the peak? It’s in 2008, 2012, 2016, and 2021. It’s the moment that the Olympics are organized (Beijing 2008, London 2012, Rio 2016, and Tokyo 2021). So the most important moment in table tennis is the moments of the Summer Olympics.

search volume of table tennis
search volume of table tennis

The next important moment for table tennis is 2024. It’s the Paris Olympics 2024. So people will search for the keyword “table tennis” again. Prepare yourself!

see you in Paris 2024 - table tennis is an amazing sport
see you in Paris 2024 – table tennis is an amazing sport


Which country loves table tennis the most?

Table tennis is extremely popular in China, and this is no secret. Because of this, China’s ping-pong players have dominated the global championships for nearly half a century.

Here is the list of the most popular country of table tennis, based on the number of players:

  • 01 China
  • 02 Japan
  • 03 Germany
  • 04 Korea
  • 05 Sweden


What are the best points in table tennis?

There are many amazing rallies in table tennis. Here is the list of the top 10 best points in table tennis. Many players have agreed that the best point in table tennis should be the point between Ma Long and Jun Mizutanity in the Olympics.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dokC3iGTmSw

You can comment below to explain what is your favorite, the best point in table tennis in your opinion. I like hearing from you.


Is table tennis a healthy sport?

Yes, playing table tennis is great for your health. Table tennis, like most sports, provides excellent mind-body stimulation, aerobic exercise, and social contact. Table tennis has numerous health benefits, some of which are as follows: Hand-eye coordination improvement, mental alertness, attention, and clarity boost.

10 health benefits of playing table tennis
10 health benefits of playing table tennis


Is table tennis a complex sport?

Yes, table tennis is one of the hardest if not the hardest sport in the world. It’s a very complex sport. Here I gave you 3 reasons, why table tennis is one of the most difficult sports:

Easy to learn, difficult to master

It’s rather fun to play table tennis as a beginner. But’s it’s very difficult to master this sport. There are so many aspects in this game: spin, contact position, power, footwork, acceleration, timing, tactic, etc.

I know some players who play table tennis for 15 years, but their level is about the beginner, intermediate level. Table tennis is very hard.

It takes a long time to become a pro

Table tennis requires a lot of repetition. And there are many skills in table tennis. In general, to become a professional table tennis player, you need to practice for 10 to 15 years.

So many things to learn

As I have explained to you in the about coach EmRatThich page, I have finished my Ph.D. research about the Sport at UPMC (Sorbonne University). I still remember the Jussieu Campus of the Pierre Marie Curie University. I have written a lot about Sport, and Sport Management.

diplome de Dr of coach EmRatThich
diplome de Dr of coach EmRatThich

Here is my Ph.D. thesis, it has 155 pages.

PhD thesis of coach EmRatThich
Ph.D. thesis of coach EmRatThich

In my Ph.D. thesis report, there are about 35k words.

PhD thesis word counts of coach EmRatThich
Ph.D. thesis word counts of coach EmRatThich

However, there are still many things to learn about table tennis. This is another proof to show that table tennis is a very difficult sport to be master.



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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.

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