It’s time to settle this once and also for all. That game you play in your basement — is it called ping-pong or table tennis? What room the actual rules? just how do you keep score? Is “sucker’s serve” only for suckers?

All these questions and more may come up together competition starts at the 2021 Tokyo Olympics, still officially referred to as the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games. American Kanak Jha, now 21, is heading come his 2nd Olympics and also looking to medal.

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We"ve answered her most-googled questions in’s ultimate guide to the ultimate Olympic sport: ping-pong! Or is it table tennis? Let’s find out.

Is table tennis the very same as ping-pong?

Ping-pong and also table tennis it seems ~ to get used interchangeably. Are they the same video game with the very same rules? Is one better than the other? will certainly calling the “ping-pong” in prior of a team of professional players bring about horrified gasps and also you gift politely escorted the end of the building?

To know why the video game has two names, we should an initial understand the beginnings of the sport.


Given that ping-pong is so well-known in Asia, many people think it source there. However, ping-pong to be actually developed in London. Near the finish of the 19th century, the Victorian video game of Lawn Tennis (what we now know as tennis) was becoming quite famous across good Britain. Ping-pong evolved as a way to store the rally going throughout the winter months without having to go outside.

The video game was a hit, so numerous companies began selling the paddles, balls, nets, and tables compelled to beat the game. Every of these companies referred to as it other different. The international Table Tennis Federation (ITTF) lists all of the complying with as former names that the sport:

Gossima, whiff Whaff, Parlour Tennis, at home Tennis, Pom-Pom, Pim-Pim, Clip-Clap, Netto, The imperial Game, Tennis de Salon, Ping Pong, Table Tennis.

Only the last 2 stuck, which explains why no one knows what i’m referring to as soon as I ask if anyone would like to spar in a bout of “The royal Game.”


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One of this British manufacturers, Jaques & Sons, trademarked their onomatopoetic name — “Ping-Pong.” The trademark to be so heavily applied that it caused two different professional associations because that the very same sport: The Ping-Pong Association and also its rival, the Table Tennis Association. In 1926, these two organizations combined to form the global Table Tennis Federation, which continues to theorem all skilled tournaments approximately the world.

So, the official name the the professional sport is table tennis. But, ping-pong is still supplied colloquially. Complicating matters is the reality that the Chinese translate in of table tennis is “ping-pang.”

It comes under to a distinction in connotation. When the games are the same, playing ping-pong is choose playing football with your family members on Thanksgiving, while play Table Tennis is choose playing in the NFL. Thus, if you desire to it is in taken seriously together a racket sports athlete (and are willing to risk your friend making fun of you) contact it table tennis.

Is ping-pong an Olympic sport?

Yes, table tennis came to be an Olympic sports in 1988 with its debut in ~ the games in Seoul, southern Korea. Table tennis player Yoo Nam Kyu won the first ever yellow medal for his home country.

The reigning Olympic champion is Ma long of China. He is a three-time Olympic gold medalist. The will contend in the 2021 gamings in Tokyo whereby he has the opportunity to end up being the many decorated Olympic Table Tennis player of all the time. That is indisputably one of the ideal (if no the best) player of every time, earning that the nickname: "The Dragon."

Olympic Table Tennis starts at the Tokyo Summer games on July 24 (with the time difference, that"s July 23 in the unified States) and continues through Aug. 6, 2021.

Why do expert players stand so far back from the table?

The most usual association world have with expert table tennis is that the players stand very far ago from the table. This is true, and very exciting to watch.

However, the a misconception that “the better you are, the further ago from the table friend stand.” In a expert setting, when a player is much away indigenous the table during a rally, that means they room on the defensive. The not where you want to be! lot like playing at the network in continuous tennis, standing closer come the table is the an ext offensive, more dominant stance to take.

The Table Tennis table supplied at the London Olympics in 2012Feng Li / Getty Images

Is experienced table tennis equipment the same as what you have in her basement?

Like any kind of sport, expert table tennis equipment is leagues above the conventional recreational fare. It can additionally get rather expensive! The most elite paddles sell for thousands of dollars. The biggest distinction in the paddles is that expert ones have a layer of thick, sticky, smooth rubber top top either side (compared to an extremely thin, frequently bumpy piece of rubbery plastic the you find on many basement paddles). The rubber surface allows the football player to maximize the amount of turn they placed on the ball. This reflects the biggest difference between professional and recreational table tennis: It’s not the speed. The the spin.

Table tennis athletes additionally wear distinct shoes v a unique, rubberized grip underneath the shoe. This prevents slipping and ankle injuries once performing the quick directional alters necessary because that high-level compete play.

If you have a son at house who loves to play ping-pong, part high-level table tennis equipment makes because that a an excellent gift: Butterfly is a great brand for all things Table Tennis. Illustration / Getty Images

Is it dubbed a racket or a paddle?

This one is a little easier to clean up. It"s a paddle. A piece of sporting equipment is only a racket (or racquet) if it has actually strings (i.e. Tennis, badminton, squash, etc...). However, if you really desire to talk favor a Table Tennis pro, girlfriend can speak to it a "bat."

What is a ping-pong ball made of?

Table Tennis balls supplied to be made that a celluloid material. Together of January 2014, the ITTF officially made the move to a plastic compound. Lock have exceptionally strict requirements about the kind of plastic, the size, and also the roundness of the ball. If you desire to play Olympic-style Table Tennis in ~ home, make sure the balls you buy to speak "ITTF Approved."

What space the rules of table tennis? just how is it scored?

Now that you recognize the surname of the game, let"s talk around how come win!

A professional or Olympic table tennis enhance is play in gamings to 11 (not 21!). Much like how a tennis complement is a best of 5 sets, a table tennis complement will it is in a finest of 7 that these games to 11. Company alternates 2 serves every (not 5!). If the score will 10-10, this is a deuce. In deuce, service alternates 1 serve each till someone has actually a two point lead. This kind of scoring is well-known simply together “win through 2.”

“Sucker’s Serve," typical in recreational games — in which the player ~ above the verge of losing a game gets to offer as plenty of times together they want — does not exist in expert table tennis. If you desire your home complement to count together regulation, this need to be eliminated from your ping-pong rulebook.

When play doubles, the rules space all the same except for the reality that team members must alternate who access time the ball, switching turn off every shot.

Can girlfriend touch the table in ping-pong?

Another important rule in Table Tennis is the it is illegal to touch the table. If girlfriend touch the table surface ar with your complimentary hand (the one that’s not holding a paddle, or with any component of her body), your adversary gets the suggest automatically. That is also illegal to move the table during a point.

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Now the you know the background of the game and more of the rules, practice up in time for The Tokyo Olympics! come see how it’s yes, really done, ns can’t recommend watching Olympic Table Tennis sufficient – the absolutely thrilling! track in come NBC’s Olympics coverage this summer, beginning July 2021.