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PEFN03G: Individual/ Dual Sports

On many continents, there is a governing body responsible for table tennis


on that continent. For example, the European Table Tennis Union (ETTU) is the

History of Table Tennis

The game originated as a sport in Britain during the 1880s, where it was
played among the upper-class as an after-dinner parlor game, then commonly
known as "wiff-waff". A row of books were to be stood up along the center of the
table as a net, two more books served as rackets and were used to continuously hit

governing body responsible for table tennis in Europe. There are also national
bodies and other local authorities responsible for the sport, such as USA Table
Tennis (USATT), which is the national governing body for table tennis in the
United States.


a golf-ball from one end of the table to the other. Later, table tennis was played
with paddles made of cigar box lids and balls made of champagne corks. The

popularity of the game led game manufacturers to sell the equipment

commercially. Early rackets were often pieces of parchment stretched upon a
frame, and the sound generated in play gave the game its first nicknames of "wiffwaff" and "ping-pong".

The international rules specify that the game is played with a light 2.7

gram, 40 mm diameter ball. The rules say that the ball shall bounce up 2426 cm
when dropped from a height of 30.5 cm on to a standard steel block thereby
having a coefficient of restitution of 0.89 to 0.92. The 40 mm ball was introduced

The next major innovation was by James Gibb, a British enthusiast of

after the 2000 Olympic Games. However, this created some controversy as the

table tennis, who discovered novelty celluloid balls on a trip to the US in 1901and

Chinese National Team argued that this was merely to give non-Chinese players a

found them to be ideal for the game. This was followed by E.C. Goode who, in

better chance of winning since the new type of balls has a slower speed, while at

1901, invented the modern version of the racket by fixing a sheet of pimpled, or

that time most Chinese players were playing with fast attack and smashes. A

stippled, rubber to the wooden blade. Table tennis was growing in popularity by

40 mm table tennis ball is slower and spins less than the original 38 mm one. The

1901 to the extent that table tennis tournaments were being organized, books on

ball is made of a high-bouncing air-filled celluloid or similar plastics material,

table tennis were being written.

colored white or orange, with a matte finish. The choice of ball color is made

Founded in 1926, the International Table Tennis Federation (ITTF) is the
worldwide governing body for table tennis, which maintains an international
ranking system in addition to organizing events like the World Table Tennis

according to the table color and its surroundings. For example, a white ball is
easier to see on a green or blue table than it is on a gray table. Stars on the ball
indicate the quality of the ball. Three stars indicate that it is of the highest quality,
and is used in official competition.



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PEFN03G: Individual/ Dual Sports

"blade", commonly features anywhere between one and seven plies of wood,
though cork, glass fiber, carbon fiber, aluminum fiber, and Kevlar are sometimes
used. There are no restrictions on a blade's composition except that it be at least
85% natural wood. Common wood types include Balsa, Limba, and Cypress or
"Hinoki," which is popular in Japan. The average size of the blade is about
16.5 cm long and 15 cm wide. Although there are no official restrictions on the
shape or size of the blade itself, these dimensions are optimal for most play styles.
Table tennis regulations allow different surfaces on each side of the
racket. Various types of surfaces provide various levels of spin or speed, and in
some cases they nullify spin. For example, a player may have a rubber that
provides much spin on one side of his racket, and one that provides no spin on the

The table is 2.74 m long, 1.525 m wide, and 76 cm high with a Masonite

other. By flipping the racket in play, different types of returns are possible. To help

(a type of hardboard) or similarly manufactured timber, layered with a smooth,

a player distinguish between the rubber used by his opposing player, international

low-friction coating. The table or playing surface is divided into two halves by a

rules specify that one side must be red while the other side must be black. The

15.25 cm high net. An ITTF approved table surface must be in a green or blue

player has the right to inspect his opponent's racket before a match to see the type


of rubber used and what color it is. Despite high speed play and rapid exchanges,

a player can see clearly what side of the racket was used to hit the ball. Current


rules state that, unless damaged in play, the racket cannot be exchanged for
Players are equipped with a


another racket at any time during a match.


covered with rubber on one or

two sides depending on the grip

the player. The official ITTF

term is "racket", though "bat" is
common in Britain, and "paddle"




The wooden portion of the

racket, often referred to as the

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Starting a game
Individual/ Dual Sports

If the service is "good", then the receiver must make a "good" return by hitting the

According to ITTF rule 2.13.1, the first service is decided normally a coin toss. It

ball passes the net and touches the opponent's court, either directly or after

is also common for one player (or the umpire/scorer) to hide the ball in one or the

touching the net assembly. Thereafter, the server and receiver must alternately

other hand (usually hidden under the table), allowing the other player to guess

make a return until the rally is over. Returning the serve is one of the most

which hand the ball is in. The correct or incorrect guess gives the "winner" the

difficult parts of the game, as the server's first move is often the least predictable

option to choose to serve, receive, or to choose which side of the table to use. (A

and thus most advantageous shot due to the numerous spin and speed choices at

common but non-sanctioned method is for the players to play the ball back and

his or her disposal.

ball back before it bounces a second time on receiver's side of the table so that the

forth four times and then play out the point. This is commonly referred to as "play
to serve" or "rally to serve".

Service and return

In game play, the player serving the ball commences a play . The server first stands
with the ball held on the open palm of the hand not carrying the racket, called the

A let is a rally of which the result is not scored, and is called in the
following circumstances:

The ball touches the net in service, provided the service is otherwise

freehand, and tosses the ball directly upward without spin, at least 16 centimeters

correct or the ball is obstructed by the player on the receiving side.

(approximately 6 inches) high. The server strikes the ball with the racket on the

Obstruction means a player touches the ball when it is above or

ball's descent so that it touches first his court and then touches directly the

traveling towards the playing surface, not having touched the player's

receiver's court without touching the net assembly. In casual games, many players

court since last being struck by the player.

do not toss the ball upward; however, this is technically illegal and can give the
serving player an unfair advantage.

When the player on the receiving side is not ready and the service is

The ball must remain behind the endline and above the upper surface, known as
the playing surface, of the table at all times during the service. The server cannot

use his body or clothing to obstruct sight of the ball; the opponent and the umpire
must have a clear view of the ball at all times. If the umpire is doubtful of the
legality of a service they may first interrupt play and give a warning to the server.
If the serve is a clear failure or is doubted again by the umpire after the warning,
receiver scores a point.

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Player's failure to make a service or a return or to comply with the

Laws is due to a disturbance outside the control of the player.

Play is interrupted by the umpire or assistant umpire.


A point is scored by the player for any of several results of the rally:
Individual/ Dual Sports

or the team match has not ended, any unused penalty points can be
transferred to the next game of that match.

Opponent fails to make a correct service or return.

A game shall be won by the player first scoring 11 points unless

After making a service or a return, the ball touches anything other

both players score 10 points, when the game shall be won by the first

than the net assembly before being struck by the opponent.

player subsequently gaining a lead of 2 points. A match shall consist of

The ball passes over the player's court or beyond his end line without
touching his court, after being struck by the opponent.

The opponent obstructs the ball.

The opponent strikes the ball twice successively. Note that the hand
that is holding the racket counts as part of the racket and that making
a good return off one's hand or fingers is allowed. It is not a fault if
the ball accidentally hits one's hand or fingers and then subsequently
hits the racket.

The opponent strikes the ball with a side of the racket blade whose
surface is not covered with rubber.

The opponent moves the playing surface or touches the net assembly.

the best of any odd number of games. In competition play, matches are
typically best of five or seven games.


Service alternates between opponents every two points (regardless of
winner of the rally) until the end of the game, unless both players score 10
points or the expedite system is operated, when the sequences of serving and
receiving stay the same but each player serves for only 1 point in turn. Player
serving first in a game shall receive first in the next game of the match.
After each game, players switch sides of the table. In the last possible
game of a match, for example the seventh game in a best of seven match,
players change ends when the first player scores 5 points, regardless of whose
turn it is to serve. If the sequence of serving and receiving is out of turn or the
ends is not changed, points scored in the wrong situation are still calculated

The opponent's free hand touches the playing surface.

and the game shall be resumed with the order at the score that has been

As a receiver under the expedite system, completing 13 returns in a


The opponent has been warned by umpire commits a second offense


in the same individual match or team match. If the third offence

happens, 2 points will be given to the player. If the individual match

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PEFN03G: Individual/ Dual Sports

4. In each game of a doubles match, the pair having the right to serve first
shall choose which of them will do so. The receiving pair, however, can
only choose in the first game of the match. When the first server is chosen
in the second or the latter games of the match, the first receiver of the
game is the player who served to the first server of the game in the
preceding game. For example, if the order of play is A X B Y at
beginning of the first game, the order begins with X A Y B or Y

Service zone in doubles game

In addition to games between individual players, pairs may also play
table tennis. In doubles, all the rules of single play are applied except for the

B X A in the second game depending on either X or Y being

chosen as the first server of the game.
5. When a pair reach 5 points in the final game, the pairs must switch ends
of the table and the team that receives the service must switch receiver.
For example, when the last order of play before a pair score 5 points in the

1. A line painted along the long axis of the table to create doubles courts

final game is A X B Y, the order after change shall be A Y

bisects the table. This line's only purpose is to facilitate the doubles

B X if A still has the second serve. Otherwise, X is the next server and

service rule, which is that service, must originate from the right hand

the order becomes X A Y B.

"box" in such a way that the first bounce of the serve bounces once in said
right hand box and then must bounce at least once in the opponent side's
right hand box (far left box for server), or the receiving pair score a point.
2. Players must alternate hitting the ball. For example, if A is paired with B,
X is paired with Y, A is the server and X is the receiver. The order of play
shall be A X B Y. The rally proceeds this way until one side fails
to make a legal return and the other side scores.
3. At each change of service, the previous receiver shall become the server
and the partner of the previous server shall become the receiver. For
example, if the previous order of play is A X B Y, the order
becomes X B Y A after the change of service.

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Though table tennis players grip their rackets in various ways, their grips
can be classified into two major families of styles, penhold and shakehand. The


Laws of Table Tennis do not prescribe the manner in which one must grip the

PEFN03G: Individual/ Dual Sports

developed a technique in the 1990s in which a penholder utilizes both sides of the

racket, and numerous variations on gripping styles exist in excess of these two

racket to hit the ball, where the player produces a backhand stroke (most often

general categories.

topspin) by turning the traditional side of the racket to face him or herself, and
swinging using the opposite side of the racket.



The penhold grip is so-named because one grips the racket similarly to the
way one holds a writing instrument. The style of play among penhold players can
vary greatly from player to player. The most popular style, usually referred to as
the Chinese penhold style, involves curling the middle, ring, and fourth finger on
the back of the blade with the three fingers always remain touching one another.
Chinese penholders favour a round racket head, for a more over-the-table style of
play. In contrast, another style, sometimes referred to as the Korean penhold grip,
involves splaying those three fingers out across the back of the racket, usually
with all three fingers touching the back of the racket, rather than stacked upon one
another. Sometimes a combination of the two styles occurs, wherein the middle,
ring and fourth fingers are straight, but still stacked, or where all fingers may be
touching the back of the racket, but are also in contact with one another. Korean
penholders will often use a square-headed racket for an away-from-the-table style
of play. Traditionally these square-headed rackets feature a block of cork on top of
the handle, as well as a thin layer of cork on the back of the racket, for increased
grip and comfort. Penhold styles are popular among players originating from East










The shakehand (or shakehands) grip is so-named because the racket is

grasped as if one is performing a handshake. Though it is sometimes referred to as
the "tennis" or "Western" grip, it bears no relation to the Western tennis grip,
popularized on the West Coast of the United States in which the racket is rotated
90, and played with the wrist turned so that on impact the knuckles face the
target. In table tennis, Western refers to Western nations, for this is the grip that
players native to Europe and the Americas have almost exclusively employed.

Traditionally, penhold players use only one side of the racket to hit the ball during
normal play, and the side which is in contact with the last three fingers is generally

The shakehand grips simplicity and versatility, coupled with the

not used. This configuration is sometimes referred to as "traditional penhold" and

acceptance among top-level Chinese trainers that the European style of play

is more commonly found in square-headed racket styles. However, the Chinese

should be emulated and trained against, has established it as a common grip even

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in China. Many world-class Asian players currently use the shakehand grip, and it

PEFN03G: Individual/ Dual Sports

will jump forward, much like a kick serve in tennis. A loop drive might not be as

is generally accepted that shakehands is easier to learn than penholder, allowing a

difficult to return as a speed drive; however, because of its topspin, it is more

broader range of playing styles both offensive and defensive.

likely to rebound off the opponent's racket at a very high angle, setting up an easy

Table tennis strokes generally break down into offensive and defensive

smash on the follow-up. As the loop drive requires a lot of topspin, players
generally use their entire body to generate the movement required. Variations in
spin and speed add to the effectiveness of this shot.

Offensive strokes

Speed drive
A direct hit on the ball propelling it forward back to the opponent. This

stroke differ from speed drives in other racket sports like tennis because the racket
is primarily perpendicular to the direction of the stroke and most of the energy
applied to the ball results in speed rather than spin, creating a shot that does not

The counter-drive is usually a counterattack against drives, normally high

loop drives. The racket is held closed and near to the ball, which is hit with a short
movement "off the bounce" (immediately after hitting the table) so that the ball
travels faster to the other side. A well-timed, accurate counter-drive can be as
effective as a smash.


arc much, but is fast enough that it can be difficult to return. A speed drive is used

When a player tries to attack a ball that has not bounced beyond the edge

mostly for keeping the ball in play, applying pressure on the opponent, and

of the table, the player does not have the room to wind up in a backswing. The ball

potentially opening up an opportunity for a more powerful attack.

may still be attacked, however, and the resulting shot is called a flip (or "flick" in
Europe) because the backswing is compressed into a quick wrist action. A flip is
not a single stroke and can resemble either a drive or a loop in its characteristics.
What identifies the stroke is instead whether the backswing is compressed into a
short wrist flick.



Perfected during the 1960s, the loop is essentially the reverse of the speed
drive. The racket is much more parallel to the direction of the stroke ("closed")

The offensive trump card in table tennis is the smash. A player will

and the racket thus grazes the ball, resulting in a large amount of topspin. A good

typically execute a smash when his or her opponent has returned a ball that

loop drive will arc quite a bit, and once striking the opponent's side of the table

bounces too high or too close to the net. Smashing is essentially self-explanatory

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large backswing and rapid acceleration imparting as much speed on the ball as

PEFN03G: Individual/ Dual Sports

the backspin on the ball causes it to drop toward the table upon striking the

possible. The goal of a smash is to get the ball to move so quickly that the

opponent's racket. In order to attack a push, a player must usually loop the ball

opponent simply cannot return it. Because the ball speed is the main aim of this

back over the net. Often, the best option for beginners is to simply push the ball

shot, often the spin on the ball is something other than topspin. Sidespin can be

back again, resulting in pushing rallies. Against good players, it may be the worst

used effectively with a smash to alter the ball's trajectory significantly, although

option because the opponent will counter with a loop, putting the first player in a

most intermediate players will smash the ball with little or no spin. An offensive

defensive position. Another response to pushing is flipping the ball when it is

table tennis player will think of a rally as a build-up to a winning smash; only a

close to the net. Pushing can have advantages in some circumstances, such as

calculated series of smashes can guarantee a point against a good opponent.

when the opponent makes easy mistakes.

However, most players will be able to return at most one or two smashes
consistently. Provided that the opponent is not too close to the table or too far
away from the ball, a smash can be lobbed, chopped, blocked or even counterlooped, albeit with some difficulty. A player who smashes generally works out a
series of smashes (and possibly drop-shots) to rush the opponent out of position,
put him off balance, or both. Smashers who fail to do this find it difficult to win a
point against an excellent defense.


A chop is the defensive, backspin counterpart to the offensive loop drive. A chop
is essentially a bigger, heavier push, taken well back from the table. The racket
face points primarily horizontally, perhaps a little bit upward, and the direction of
the stroke is straight down. The object of a defensive chop is to match the topspin
of the opponent's shot with backspin. A good chop will float nearly horizontally
back to the table, in some cases having so much backspin that the ball actually
rises. Such a chop can be extremely difficult to return due to its enormous amount
of backspin. Some defensive players can also impart no-spin or sidespin variations
of the chop.

Defensive strokes



The block is a simple shot, but nonetheless can be devastating against an attacking
opponent. A block is executed by simply placing the racket in front of the ball

The push (or "slice" in Asia) is usually used for keeping the point alive and

right after the ball bounces; thus, the ball rebounds back toward the opponent with

creating offensive opportunities. A push resembles a tennis slice: the racket cuts

nearly as much energy as it came in with. This is not as easy as it sounds, because

underneath the ball, imparting backspin and causing the ball to float slowly to the

the ball's spin, speed, and location all influence the correct angle of a block. It is

other side of the table. While not obvious, a push can be difficult to attack because

very possible for an opponent to execute a perfect loop, drive, or smash, only to

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PEFN03G: Individual/ Dual Sports

have the blocked shot come back at him just as fast. Due to the power involved in
offensive strokes, often an opponent simply cannot recover quickly enough, and
will be unable to return the blocked shot. Blocks almost always produce the same
spin as was received, usually topspin.


The defensive lob is possibly the most impressive shot in the sport of table tennis,
since it propels the ball about fifteen feet in the air only to land on the opponent's
4 phases in a backspin curve

side of the table with great amounts of spin. To execute a lob, a defensive player
first backs off the table 46 meters; then, the stroke itself consists of simply lifting
the ball to an enormous height before it falls back to the opponent's side of the


table. A lob is inherently a creative shot, and can have nearly any kind of spin. Top

Backspin is where the bottom half of the ball is rotating away from the

quality players use this to their advantage in order to control the spin of the ball.

player, and is imparted by striking the base of the ball with a downward

For instance, though the opponent may smash the ball hard and fast, a good

movement. At the professional level, backspin is usually used defensively in order

defensive lob could be more difficult to return due to the unpredictability and

to keep the ball low. Backspin is commonly employed in service because it is

heavy amounts of the spin on the ball. Thus, though backed off the table by tens of

harder to produce an offensive return, especially on a short serve. Due to the

feet and running to reach the ball, a good defensive player can still win the point

initial lift of the ball, there is a limit on how much speed with which one can hit

using good lobs. However, at the professional level, lobbers will lose the point

the ball without missing the opponent's side of the table. However, backspin also

most of the time, so the lob is not used unless it is really necessary.

makes it harder for the opponent to return the ball with great speed because of the

Adding spin onto the ball causes major changes in table tennis gameplay.
Although nearly every stroke or serve creates some kind of spin, understanding

required angular precision of the return. Alterations are frequently made to

regulations regarding equipment in an effort to maintain a balance between
defensive and offensive spin choices. [citation


It is actually possible to smash

with backspin offensively, but only on high balls that are close to the net.

the individual types of spin allows players to defend against and use different
spins effectively.

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PEFN03G: Individual/ Dual Sports

behind the table, but only highly skilled players use this stroke with any tactical
efficiency.) Topspin is the least common type of spin to be found in service at the
professional level, simply because it is much easier to attack a top-spun ball that is
not moving at high speed.


This type of spin is predominantly employed during service, wherein the contact
angle of the racket can be more easily varied. Unlike the two aforementioned
4 phases in a topspin curve


techniques, sidespin causes the ball to spin on an axis which is vertical, rather than
horizontal. The axis of rotation is still roughly perpendicular, to the trajectory of
the ball. In this circumstance, the Magnus effect will still dictate the curvature of

The harder-to-learn topspin stroke has a smaller influence on the first part

the ball to some degree. Another difference is that unlike backspin and topspin,

of the ball-curve. Like the backspin stroke, however, the axis of spin remains

sidespin will have relatively very little effect on the bounce of the ball, much in

roughly perpendicular to the trajectory of the ball thus allowing for the Magnus

the same way that a spinning top would not travel left or right if its axis of rotation

effect to dictate the subsequent curvature. After the apex of the curve, the ball

were exactly vertical. This makes sidespin a useful weapon in service, because it

clearly dips downwards as it approaches the opposing side, before bouncing. On

is less easily recognized when bouncing, and the ball "loses" less spin on the

the bounce, the topspin will accelerate the ball, much in the same way that a wheel

bounce. Sidespin can also be employed in offensive rally strokes, often from a

which is already spinning would accelerate upon making contact with the ground.

greater distance, as an adjunct to topspin or backspin. This stroke is sometimes

Again, the most significant change appears when the opponent attempts to return

referred to as a "hook". The hook can even be used in some extreme cases to

the ball (with a smooth, pimples inwards rubber). Due to the topspin, the ball

circumvent the net when away from the table.

jumps upwards and the opponent is forced to compensate for the topspin by
adjusting the angle of his or her racket. This is commonly known as "closing the
racket". The speed limitation of the topspin stroke is minor compared to the
backspin stroke. This stroke is the predominant technique used in professional
competition because it gives the opponent less time to respond. In table tennis
topspin is regarded as an offensive technique due to increased ball speed, lower
bio-mechanical efficiency and the pressure that it puts on the opponent by
reducing reaction time. (It is possible to play defensive topspin-lobs from far

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This type of spin is almost exclusively employed in service, but it is also used
from time to time in the lob at the professional level. Unlike any of the


aforementioned techniques, corkspin (sometimes referred to as "drill-spin")

PEFN03G: Individual/ Dual Sports

backspin stroke, the corkspin stroke has a lower maximum velocity, simply due to

features a unique situation in which the axis of spin is more or less parallel to the

the contact angle of the racket when producing the stroke. In order to impart a spin

trajectory of the ball. This means that the Magnus effect will have little to no

on the ball which is parallel to its trajectory, the racket must be swung more or less

effect on the trajectory of a cork-spun ball. Upon bouncing, the ball will dart right

perpendicular to the trajectory of the ball. This greatly limits the amount of

or left, depending on the direction of the spin, making it very difficult to return.

forward momentum that can be transferred to the ball by the racket. Corkspin is

Although in theory this type of spin produces the most obnoxious effects, it is not

almost always mixed with another variety of spin, as it is less effective and harder

as strategically practical as sidespin or backspin in terms of the limitations that it

to produce on its own.

imposes upon the opponent during their return. Aside from the initial direction
change when bouncing, provided that it does not exceed the reach of the opponent,
a cork-spun ball is easily countered with topspin or backspin. Similar to a

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