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Ping pong is an indoor sport played on a table with a ball and paddles. Also known as table tennis, it began as a recreational game but developed into a worldwide sport. It is played on a scaled down tennis-like court, on top of a table with a short net crossing the middle. Players, either one or two per team, stand at the ends of the table and volley the ball over the net. The name came from a brand of equipment made for the sport in the mid-1900s, and has been used interchangeably ever since with its official designation.
A small, wooden paddle with a handle is used to serve the hollow ping pong ball across the net on one bounce. The ball, golf-ball sized but very light weight, has to be returned in the air or after one bounce over the net. A point is gained when the opponent fails to return the ball on the table, and games are played up to 11. If the game is within one point at that time, it continues until one side gains a two point advantage. In doubles and singles table tennis, the rules are the same.
The paddle may be one of many different styles and held many different ways. It may be held with a hand around only the handle, like a baseball bat. Alternately, it can be held with three fingers around the handle and the index finger extended behind the face of the paddle, for control and support. The paddle is often colored differently on each side, and it may have different textures as well, with different types of rubber. The rubber may include different degrees of stickiness or tiny bumps called pimples for different levels of ball spin.
The ping pong table is 9 ft. (2.7 m) long, 5 ft. (1.53 m) wide, and 2.5 ft. (.76 m) high. The net divides the table across the width and is 6 in. (15.3 cm) high. The table usually has a smooth coating, and official ones are either green or blue in color. The ball is allowed to hit anywhere on the table, though there is a line dividing the table lengthwise for serving in doubles play. In doubles, the serve must come from the right side of the table and land over the net on the other side of the line.
Ping pong was invented in England near the end of the 19th century as a recreational activity for families or friends to play at home. It was played with simple equipment and could be a fun, fast paced activity for those without high athletic skills, strength, or endurance. Table tennis has become an international game since the 1950s, dominated by many Asian countries. The game in professional competitions becomes a quick sport for those with extremely good reflexes and precise hand-eye coordination. It reached the level of Olympic competition in 1988 and has been played during the Games ever since.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is ping pong and how is it played?
Ping pong, also known as table tennis, is a fast-paced sport where players hit a lightweight ball back and forth across a table using small rackets. The game can be played with two (singles) or four players (doubles), and points are scored when a player fails to return the ball within the rules. It's governed internationally by the International Table Tennis Federation (ITTF), which was founded in 1926.
What equipment is needed to play ping pong?
To play ping pong, you need a regulation-size table (9 feet long, 5 feet wide, and 2.5 feet high), a net (6 inches high), a ping pong ball (40mm in diameter), and paddles (also called bats or rackets). The ball should weigh 2.7 grams and have a matte finish to meet ITTF standards.
Are there different types of ping pong balls?
Yes, ping pong balls vary in quality and are rated with a star system, typically from one to three stars. Three-star balls are the highest quality, used in professional competitions, and offer the best bounce and durability. One and two-star balls are more suitable for recreational play or practice.
What are the basic rules of ping pong?
The basic rules of ping pong include serving diagonally across the table, allowing the ball to bounce once on each side, and returning the ball before it bounces a second time. A match is typically played best out of five or seven games, with each game played to 11 points and a player must win by two points.
How do you score a point in ping pong?
A point is scored in ping pong when an opponent fails to make a legal return, the ball bounces more than once on their side, they hit the ball before it bounces on their side, they fail to serve correctly, or the ball touches anything other than the net assembly before being struck by the opponent.
Can ping pong be played professionally?
Yes, ping pong is played professionally around the world. Professional players compete in international tournaments, including the World Championships, the Olympics, and the ITTF World Tour. These athletes often train rigorously and are highly skilled, showcasing incredible reflexes, precision, and strategic gameplay at the highest levels of the sport.