table tennis

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table tennis

table tennis, game played, usually indoors, by two or four players; it is more or less a miniature form of lawn tennis. It is also called Ping-Pong, after the trade name that a manufacturer adopted (c.1900) for the equipment.

The regulation game is played on a table that measures 9 ft by 5 ft (2.74 m by 1.52 m) and stands 2.5 ft (76 cm) from the floor. A transverse net 6 in. (15.25 cm) high divides the surface, which is generally dark in color, edged with white stripes, and halved longitudinally (for doubles play) by another white stripe. The celluloid ball is hollow, seamless, and about 1.5 in. (3.81 cm) in diameter, with a weight of .1 oz (2.8 grams); the racket, or bat, is a wooden paddle with a handle 3 in. (7.62 cm) long and a round blade about 6.5 in. (16.5 cm) long, covered with rubber.

In the service (unlike tennis) the ball must bounce once before clearing the net and again bounce before being struck by the receiver. After the service (only one is allowed, not two as in tennis), the returns should go over the net without bouncing on the near surface. A point is scored when a service does not land properly in play or when a player fails to return the ball properly. Each player in turn serves consecutively five times until the winning score of 21 is reached. (If the score is tied at 20-all, play must continue until a 2-point margin is won.) In doubles matches partners rotate in units of five consecutive services, and the server must deliver the ball into the diagonally opposite box.

Table tennis originated in the late 19th cent. with cork or rubber balls. First popular in England, it spread to several European countries and to the United States in the early 20th cent. The International Table Tennis Federation was founded (1926) to standardize the rules and equipment. The U.S. Table Tennis Association was founded in 1933.

Primarily a recreational sport in the United States, table tennis is a major competitive sport in Asia and parts of Europe. In 1971 the sport achieved a great measure of publicity when, while touring Japan, a U.S. table tennis team was invited to play in China, thereby initiating the first officially sanctioned Sino-American cultural exchange in almost twenty years. Table tennis took its place on the Olympic program in 1988.


See D. Parker and D. Hewitt, Table Tennis (1989).

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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Table Tennis


a game played with a ball on a table. It is generally accepted that table tennis originated in Great Britain in the late 19th century. In the 1920’s the game gained wide popularity in many countries, first as an amusement and later as a sport. It did not have a universally accepted name in its early years; in the beginning of the 1920’s, the name Ping-Pong was widely used, probably because of the characteristic sound the ball makes when it strikes the wooden table. The game acquired its present name in 1926, when the International Table Tennis Federation (ITTF) was established.

Required equipment for table tennis includes a table, usually dark green (274 × 152.5 cm and 76 cm high); a net (183 × 15.25 cm); rackets (paddles) of any shape, usually faced with special dark-colored rubber; and a ball made of white celluloid or plastic (37.2–38.2 mm in diameter and weighing 2.4—2.53 g). In official competition, the playing area measures 6–7 m by 12–14 m. Men’s and women’s singles matches and men’s, women’s, and mixed doubles matches are held. In the team events, placings are determined according to the results of both singles and doubles matches.

The ITTF was founded by the English public figure I. Montagu, who served as its first president. In 1973 the ITTF included the national associations of 107 countries. By the early 1970’s, there were 22.5 million table tennis players in the world, making it the sixth most popular sport. The European Table Tennis Union, established in 1957, includes 30 countries (1973). Thirty-two world championships were held between 1926 and 1973, and eight European championships between 1958 and 1972. Since 1957 world championships have been held in odd-numbered years, and European championships in even-numbered years. In world and European championships, players compete in two team events and five individual events, the latter including the singles and doubles categories.

The greatest success in world championships have been achieved by players from Hungary (65 victories), Japan (44), Czechoslovakia (28), Rumania (17), the People’s Republic of China (19), and England (14). In the European championships, the most victories have been won by players from Hungary, Sweden, the USSR, Yugoslavia, and Czechoslovakia. Among the best players in the history of table tennis have been V. Barna (Hungary and England); F. Sido and Z. Berczik (Hungary); I. Andreadis and B. Váńa (Czechoslovakia); R. Bergmann (Austria and England); I. Ogimura (Japan); Chuang Tse-tung (People’s Republic of China); and K. Johansson, H. Alser, and S. Bengtsson (Sweden). Among women, outstanding players have included M. Mednyanszky, G. Farkas, and E. Koczian (Hungary); A. Rozeanu, E. Zeller, and M. Alexandru (Rumania); and K. Matsuzaki and N. Fakazu (Japan).

In the USSR, table tennis was widely played in the late 1920’s and early 1930’s, then lost its popularity; in the 1960’s it again became a widely played sport. As of Jan. 1, 1973, there were more than 3 million table tennis players, organized in 108,800 sections within physical culture groups. There were 604,500 players with official ratings, 228 masters of sports, 18 international masters, and two Honored Masters of Sports. The first all-Union table tennis tournament took place in 1950 in Moscow. Twenty-two individual and 17 team competitions were held in the USSR between 1951 and 1972. The game received its greatest development within voluntary sports associations, such as Trud, Spartak, Trudovye Reservy, and Dinamo. In 1950 an all-Union section for table tennis was created; it joined the ITTF in 1954 and was reorganized into a federation in 1959.

Soviet players have participated in the European championships since 1958, in the world championships since 1961, in the European junior championships since 1959, and in the championship of the European league since 1967–68. Soviet players gained first place at the world championships in the women’s team event and women’s doubles competition in 1969, and at the European championships in the mixed doubles competition in 1968, 1970, 1972, and 1974, in the women’s doubles competition in 1970, and in the women’s team event in 1970 and 1974. Between 1967 and 1973 the USSR team won the championship of the European Table Tennis Union three times. In junior competition, Soviet players are the strongest in Europe. In 1971 they won 14 medals, including seven gold, and in 1972 they won 11, including six gold. The greatest successes in the world and European championships have been achieved by Z. N. Rudnova (numerous times champion of the world, Europe, and many individual countries), S. G. Fedorova-Grinberg (two-time world and European champion), and S. N. Gomozkov (three-time European champion and five-time junior champion).


Ivanov, V. S., and Kollegorskii, V. V. Tennis na stole, 2nd ed. Moscow, 1963.
Ivanov, V. S. Nastol’nyi tennis, 3rd ed. Moscow, 1970.
Nastol’nyi tennis: Pravila sorevnovanii. Moscow, 1971.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.

table tennis

a miniature form of tennis played on a table with small bats and a light hollow ball
Collins Discovery Encyclopedia, 1st edition © HarperCollins Publishers 2005