From the sound of the ball hitting the table to the feel of it bouncing off your bat, the satisfaction of a well-placed shot, the sensation of your first spin, the power of a smash, or more simply the fun of keeping a rally going, table tennis is a sport of thrills, concentration and spending time together.
What is Table Tennis?
Table tennis was invented in England at the end of the 19th century. The story goes that the first ping-pong players were trying to reproduce a tennis match - by hitting a champagne cork with cigar boxes on a coffee table - in order to discuss tactics.
At any rate, table tennis meant that the English could play their favorite sport indoors even when it was raining. Although it was born in Britain, table tennis has been exported all over the world. It was dominated by Eastern European countries in the 1930s, then by Asia in the 1950s.
The Chinese have reigned supreme since the 1960s, occasionally interrupted by Hungary or Sweden. The sport has even played a political role, in particular in 1971 during the Cold War, by bringing China and the United States together.
Table tennis became an Olympic sport at the 1988 Seoul Olympics. It is also commonly known as ping pong, a reference to the American brand that offered a table tennis kit for use in the home.
Today, we use the name ping pong, or free ping-pong, to describe a version of the game that can be played anywhere, with any rules, on a surface of any size. It's different from the demanding, technical, official table tennis you do in a club or at school.
Table tennis is played by two or four players, in three or four games to 11 points, which must be won by a two-point difference, on a table equipped with a net. The aim is to return the ball to your opponent's side of the table. It must bounce once, meaning that volleys are not permitted.
When serving, the ball has to bounce on each side of the net. If it touches the net, it is a "let" and the player serves again. Diagonal serves are only obligatory in doubles (games with four players). After the service, a let will not make any difference to the game and the ball must be played normally.
Table Tennis: What are the Benefits?
You'll love how easy it is to get into free ping pong: no matter your level of fitness, you can do it. It's the ideal fun activity if you want to take up a sport or get back into sport and, the more you do it, the more physical and sporty things will get. As table tennis is such a physical, technical activity, you'll develop your reflexes and concentration.
Is Table Tennis for You?
Individual or team sport? Table tennis is an individual sport, but the club vibe creates a real feeling of belonging to a community or family. Intense or relaxing? Contrary what you might think, it's actually a very physical sport when played at a high level.
The repeated fast, dynamic movements work your calves and thighs intensely. However, it's more relaxed if you're just hitting a ball about with friends or family, making it perfect if you want to play with children from age 5 and up or spend time with the grandparents.
Mental rest or game of strategy? At a more advanced level, if you want to win it you'll need to use tactics: ball placement, trajectory, spin, and wrong-footing your opponent. You need to combine your reflexes with precision and ingenuity to win!
What Equipment You Need
You're going to need a table with a net, a ball, and a bat.
The table: A standard table tennis table is 9ft by 5ft and must be 2ft 6in off the floor. But for free ping pong, the table can be any size. You can vary it to create new challenges and a new playing experience.
The rollnet lets you play on everything from garden tables to kitchen tables. The table you use needs to be bouncy enough for you to do rallies.
The net: The height of the net will depend on how long your table is. It needs to be the right height for you to play any table tennis shot. A net that is too high will stop you doing things like smashes and topspins. On a standard table, the net is 6 inches high and reaches to the edges of the table.
For free ping pong, the net should be as wide as the table so that you don't hurt yourself, particularly on the rotating parts.
The paddle: The paddle is composed of a handle, a blade (the core of the racket) and rubbers that are stuck to the blade. The combination of the blade and the rubbers gives players the ability to control the ball, put spin on, it and change the speed. For free ping pong, you can get hard, durable plastic paddles that withstand impacts and bad weather. These paddles give you the same playability as standard ones aimed at beginners and intermediates.
The ball: the ball needs to be durable enough and spherical enough to give a good game experience. Celluloid balls are now forbidden because of their flammability, and have been replaced by plastic balls.