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The history of table tennis: Some key points to know

Some players think that table tennis has its origin in China. No, it’s not correct. So I need to explain to you the origin of our sport – table tennis. Note that, table tennis and ping pong are not the same sport nowadays.

Table tennis started in England, but not in China

Table tennis began in England at the end of the nineteenth century when some upper-middle-class Victorians decided to turn their dining room tables into miniature copies of the traditional lawn tennis playing surface after dinner. As a net, they used a row of books. Rackets were made from the lids of empty cigar boxes, and parchment paper was added afterward. A string ball, or, more typically, a champagne cork or rubber ball, would be used as the ball.

table tennis is a popular sport for young players nowadays
table tennis is a popular sport for young players nowadays
plain wooden paddle in table tennis with cork-faced racket
plain wooden paddle in table tennis with a cork-faced racket

Table tennis has different names

The game was known by several different titles when it originally began. Onomatopoetically was described as “whif whaf,” “gossamer,” and “flim flam.” However, one of the most popular names, Ping-Pong, was filed as copyright by English manufacturer J. Jaques & Son Ltd in 1901. In the United States, he sold the trademark to Parker Brothers, and the name and sport were reintroduced in Europe as table tennis in the 1920s.

The first advertiser for Japanese company who make sponge racket
The first advertiser for a Japanese company who make sponge racket

The first racket in table tennis

Many more improvements to the sport occurred at the turn of the century, including the introduction of celluloid balls, which were found by Englishman James Gibb during a tour to the United States in 1901. E.C Goode began using pimpled rubber on light hardwood “blades” as rackets in 1903, replacing parchment paper and cigar box lids.

table tennis paddle with pimple out rubber
table tennis paddle with pimple out rubber

The foundation of ITTF

By the mid-twentieth century, the sport had expanded throughout Europe and the United States, as well as to Asian countries such as China, Korea, and Japan. The International Table Tennis Federation conducted the first official world championship in London in 1927. England, Sweden, Hungary, India, Denmark, Germany, Czechoslovakia, Austria, and Wales created the ITTF in Berlin in 1926.

The foundation ITTF is a great sign to develop this sport.


The modern era with sponge rubber

Horoi Satoh, a Japanese player, invented the foam rubber paddle in 1952. The paddle made the game faster, and the ball spinning became much more important. In 1960, Japan became the most successful competitor in international contests, and by the mid-1960s, China had taken over the top spot, which it held until the early 1980s. With the inclusion of table tennis in the Olympic Games in 1988 and the involvement of players from Korea and Sweden, their overwhelming dominance of the sport was finally challenged.

Hiroji thick sponge
Hiroji thick sponge

The most famous “Ping-pong diplomacy”

On April 6th, 1971, the US table tennis team was invited to play in China on an all-expenses-paid tour. Nine players, four officials, and two wives crossed the Hong Kong-China mainland bridge four days later. Since the communist takeover in 1949, they were the first group of Americans to be allowed into the nation. It was dubbed “the ping heard around the world” by Time magazine as one of the first indicators of improving relations between the US and China during the Cold War.

ping pong diplomacy
ping pong diplomacy

The domination of China

Since then, Chinese table tennis players dominate the sports. All of the top players on the world ladder are Chinese players. Ma Long is considered one of the best Chinese players of all time.

Ma Long Xu Xin the best double in table tennis
Ma Long Xu Xin the best double in table tennis

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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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