Ping pong was introduced to the United States when Parker Brothers bought the trademarked name from English manufacturer J. Jaques & Son Ltd. after 1901. The name ‘Ping Pong’ was used to describe the English game of table tennis when it was played with high-end, Jaques-branded equipment.
Today, however, the sport is officially recognized as table tennis; only those who play at the hobby-level use the term ‘ping pong.’ The sport of table tennis is governed by the International Table Tennis Federation (ITTF).
Ping Pong Table and Balls
Ping pong is played on a table that measures 9′ long x 5′ wide x 30′ high. A net measuring 6 inches high divides the table into two halves and extends over each edge of the table by 6 inches. Two or four players use paddles to hit a ball back and forth to each other, also known as a ‘rally.’
The balls used for official tournaments now measure 40mm in diameter, are made of celluloid and weigh 2.7 grams. 38mm balls were once the standard, but that changed after the 2000 Olympics. 40mm balls are slower and spin less. It has been suggested that the move to the larger ball was due, in part, to being able to market table tennis matches for television. 40mm balls show up better onscreen, and the slower balls encourage a longer rally, which keeps the viewer interested in the game play.
The highest quality ping pong balls have a three-star rating, which represents consistency in relation to their bounce and roundness. A quality 40mm ball, when dropped from a height of 30cm (roughly 12′), will bounce 23cm high.
Ping Pong Paddles
The sport of table tennis uses paddles to hit the ball. In Europe they are called bats, and the ITTF refers to them as rackets. Although there are no official rules governing a paddle’s size, shape or weight, it must be flat, rigid and covered in an approved rubber. The thickness of the rubber and adhesive must not exceed 2mm, and the paddle must be colored black on one side and red on the other.
The rubber’s surface may be ‘pimpled’ (pimples facing out) or ‘sandwiched’ (pimples facing inward), but the pimples’ density may not be less than 10 per square centimeter or more than 30 per square centimeter.
Most of the paddle (85%) must be made of natural wood. However, the paddle can be reinforced with a layer of carbon fiber, glass fiber or compressed paper as long as that layer is between the blade and the rubber surface. Some newer paddles may even be reinforced with aluminum or titanium.
With different rubbers on a paddle, the types and speed of spins can be changed during game play. Often a player will use a paddle that will produce great spin on the ball on one side, and the other side will create little to no spin.
Typically, the forehand side Best 3 Star Ping Pong Balls of a paddle is the attacking side, and the rubber used here creates a lot of spin. It is common to find sandwiched rubber on the attacking side because the inward-facing pimples, coupled with a smooth striking surface, allows the ball to sink more into the paddle, thus creating a larger area of contact and more spin.
The backhand side of the paddle is the defensive side, and the rubber used here should nullify the ball’s spin coming from an opponent’s hit. Pimpled rubber, with longer outward-facing ‘pips’, is commonly used for backhand, defensive strokes or chops.
Ping pong is a fast game. Skilled players with good equipment can serve a ball 70 mph. Table tennis officially became part of the Summer Olympics in 1988, and since then the game has seen some interesting technological advances, especially for training purposes.
Robots for Ping Pong Practice
Table tennis robots are available for the serious player. Typically ranging from $600-$5,000 in price, a robot can shoot balls over the net with various degrees of spin and at different frequencies. Some table tennis robots attach directly to the table; while others are freestanding. Balls can be delivered in a ‘line drive’ or with a ‘looping topspin.’ The robot can shoot table tennis balls at varying intervals, and even oscillate during practice sessions.
Although a table tennis robot can readily improve one’s game, it is no substitute for live play against an opponent. For this reason, it is important to seek out local ping pong clubs. Most universities host clubs or have their own teams. USA Table Tennis, the national governing body for the Olympic sport of table tennis in the United States, provides a directory of its officially affiliated clubs nationwide (www.usatt.org).