44 Interesting Facts About Table Tennis

First, Ping-Pong, commonly known as Table tennis, is the most popular racket sports globally, and overall it’s ranked second when it comes to participation. 

It must be noted that the game made its name in the London Olympics in 1926, but due to some sport-related queries, it had to wait longer to participate, and that was in Seoul Olympics in 1988. With all the tribulations the game has undergone to be recognized worldwide, it deserves respect.

Below are 44 interesting facts about table tennis:

1. Table tennis has a British origin. In as much the table tennis’ origin is still murky, historians link it to Victorian England. During the early ages, Great Britain was much interested in lawn events such as tennis. Later, they brought the sport indoors in the name of table tennis.

2. According to the Olympic world library, over 10 million players participate in various table tennis tournaments each year.

Table tennis with tennis rackets and a ball
Table tennis with tennis rackets and a ball. Image credit – 3DMAVR/shutterstock

3. The sport has had three eras.

The first era is called the hard bat era, and that was from the 1920s to the 1950s. In this era, rubber rackets with pimples were used. In addition, the tables were often repainted, and the net was 6.75 inches high. These unfriendly features slowed down the game, and hence, it once took more than an hour to decide a single point at the world championship in Prague in 1936. This led ITTF to decrease the net’s size to 6 inches in 1938, and in the same period, the finger-spin service that was popular among the USA players was banned.

The next era was the sponge bat era; in this period, a wooden racket coated with thick foam sponge rubber was invented.

And the last one is the speed glue and tennis technology era. Using bicycles’ tires repair glue proved to be an important aspect of the game. It dramatically increased the paddle’s spin and speed. The invention was done by Tibor of Klampar of Hungary and Dragutin Surbek of Yugoslavia, and it was called speed glue. Fast forward, the innovation has been revitalized in many ways, and it has been adopted in all table tennis events.

Ashland Table Tennis Club
Players in Ashland Table Tennis Club. Image credit – Joseph Hunkins. Interesting facts about table tennis.

4. The first paddle was the back of a cigar box, and the first net was a stack of books. Surprisingly, the first ball was a champagne cork.

5. The sport is the third largest sport in terms of participation after soccer and cricket.

6. The Guinness Book of World’s Record longest rally holder is Peter Ives and his son Daniel from England. Their rally took 32,000 total hits. The father and son who played for an incredible 8 hours, 40 minutes and 5 seconds, didn’t even stop for a bathroom break. 

7. The longest table tennis point was played for 2 hours and 12 minutes, and it happened in the hard bat era.

8. The first country to dominate the sport was Hungary, and also it was in the hard bat era.

9. Table-tennis was first debuted in the Olympics in the year 1988.

10. China leads when it comes to the number of table tennis players. It has 100 million table tennis players. That is why, at the moment, Asia is considered as the leading sphere for the sports’ popularity.

11. The world’s recognized body for the sport is known as the International Table Tennis Federation (ITTF), and it was created in 1926. The body has 226 member countries.

12. The sport initiated the US and China peacemaking deal during the cold war. In 1971, when the cold war between China and the US was at a peak, the sport was used to bridge the two countries’ frozen relationship. Two sportsmen from the two countries were so kind to each other, and instead of treating each other with the expected suspicion, the players exchanged gifts. That led to Chinese Mao to invite the US table tennis team to China, and he paid all the expenses of the trip. A series of exhibition ping-pong matches were held under the slogan “Friendship First and Competition Second.” Hence, the United States and China were able to heal after so many years of unrelenting conflict. 

U.S. President Nixon shakes hands with Chinese Premier Zhou Enlai during his 1972 visit to China. Image: Public domain

13. Janove Walder is considered the best player of the sport. He is from Sweden. He has won more medals than any other player. And he’s commonly referred to as “Mozart of table tennis.”

14. China is the most dominant force when it comes to table tennis. Sweden and South Korea has also produced plenty of world class table tennis players. 

15. A modern table tennis table is 76 cm high, 1.525 m wide, and 2.74 m long. On the other hand, the net is 15.25 cm high while the ball’s diameter is 40 mm.

16. From 1930 to 1950, the Soviet Union banned the sport because the authorities related it to various eye conditions. But after 1950, the ban was rebuffed.

17. According to the game rules, when the ball is dropped from a height of 30.5 cm, it should bounce within 24-26 cm.

18. From 2015, the table tennis ball is made from plastic instead of celluloid, and the colors of the ball are either orange or white, along with a matte finish. The table’s color determines the choice of the ball.

19. At elite levels, the table tennis match lasts for 30 minutes. Professional players can smash the ball at a speed that exceeds 160 km per hour.

 

20. The most ball hammering record is 173 times in 60 seconds, and this was done by Jack Bellinger and Lisa Lomas in 1993.

21. It takes serious practice to be considered a potential Olympic medalist or a world-class player; that’s 10,000 hours (21 hours/week for at least ten years).

22. The ITTF must approve the ball for any elite level tournament. The organization prints the ball; this means that it meets the required standards for any official competitions.

23. There are various table tennis racket coverings (rubber); the number is estimated to be at around 1600. Each rubber comes along with unique characteristics that suit different styles of play. The choice of the rubber affects the speed and the spin that can be imparted on the ball. 

24. The international regulations state that the game’s sphere (ball) should have a mass of 2.7 grams.

25. In 2008, the sport launched team events. Team events mean a one-sided team that comprises both men and women.

26. Until 2000, the table tennis sport was played for 21 points; from 2000, the points were reduced to 11.

An elderly man plays the game of table tennis.
An elderly man plays table tennis. Amazing facts about table tennis. Image credit – Aigars Mahinovs

27. This is everyone’s sport. It can be played for the entire life and has no biases towards gender, age, or disabilities. Also, it’s easier to master the art of the sport.

28. In most cases, coin tossing is used to start the game. The coin determines which sides the players will be, the player who serves the ball, and which one should be receiving. Once the ball is served, the game officially starts.

29. The game is won when the player attains 11 points before the opponent. But when there’s a tie of 10 points, any player who leads by two points becomes the match-winner.

30. The table tennis ball can be shot using four different tactics, these includes: Forehand drive; Backhand drive; Forehand push and Backhand push.

31. Short swings are the most preferred by the professional players. This is because mostly they make it difficult for opponent players to attack back.

32. Players involve the entire body to produces powerful shots.

33. The art of footwork is one of the vital components for the table tennis players. Placing the body in a better position enables the player to strike back correctly.

34. Concerning coaching, ITTF states that it will take 15 years of serious training to attain the levels of the North American Olympic Team’s and 20 years to be top on the planet.

35. The table tennis European championship takes place yearly.

36. To excel in this sport, one needs two things, a combination of first reaction and body coordination. The game demands not only hand-eye coordination but overall body coordination. This means a player has to be alert and aware of the surrounding.

table tennis balls
Table tennis balls with names. Interesting facts about table tennis. Image credit – Patrik Tschudin

37. Table tennis balls are not that hollow as many think; they are slightly pressurized with some gas.

38. Some governments, especially China and Sweden, pay their top players to train.

39. The sport has more than 30 companies globally, and they make a full line of accessories, from tracksuits to bats.

40. Do you know that once the table tennis balls break, they cannot be reused? The balls cannot be reused because the bouncing rate, which is the major factor in table tennis, is hampered once they break.

41. Are you aware that everyone, regardless of age, can play table tennis at the Olympics? In fact, in the recent Olympics in Rio Brazil, the oldest player was 54 years while the youngest was 15 years.

42. Table tennis is one of the best business opportunities. Since many people in the world are table tennis fans, bars and restaurants in big cities offer their customers’ friendly table tennis match. This enables businesses to create a loyal customer base in the name of table tennis.

players playing table tennis indoors. Interesting facts table tennis
Players playing table tennis. Image credit – Ming-yen Hsu

43. Table tennis is a calorie cutter and a brain enhancer. The game involves lots of movement that facilitates the burning of fats. Besides, it’s a quick game; this means it needs high brain coordination to make the right decision. This enhances the brain’s abilities.

44. Don’t be surprised; the game has a robot. Forpheus, the table tennis robot, was made by Omron, the Japanese company. Beginners through to advanced players can enjoy table tennis rallies with this robot. Forpheus was certified as the “first robot table tennis tutor” in the world by Guinness World Records®.