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Table Tennis/Ping-Pong

by Ron Kurtus (4 November 2001)

Table tennis or ping-pong is an enjoyable sport, that can be highly competitive, where each player tries to outscore his opponent through the use of skill, strength, speed, stamina and strategy.

The game is vaguely similar to tennis, in that opponents hit the ball back and forth over a net. The game is played on a table surface and paddles and a ping-pong ball are used.

The objective in the game is score 21 points before your opponent does. The sport is popular around the world.

Questions you may have include:

This lesson will answer those questions.


The equipment required to play table tennis are a ping-pong table, a net, paddles and ping-pong balls. Following is a summary of official table tennis rules on the equipment used.


The table should be 274 cm. x 152.5 cm. (9 ft x 5 ft) in size and 76 cm. (2 ft. 6 in.) above the floor. It is usually painted with a dark green matt finish and has a white 2 cm. (3/4 inch) line along each edge. There is also a white 3 mm. (1/8 in.) line down the center of the table for use in doubles games.


The net divides the playing surface into two courts of equal size. The net should be 15.25 cm. (6 in.) high, with the post being at most 15.25 cm. (6 in.) outside the side lines. The bottom of the net should be as close as possible to the playing surface.


The ball should have a diameter of 40 mm., weigh 2.7 gm. and be made of celluloid or similar plastic material. It can be white or orange.


The paddle or racquet may be of any size, shape, or weight but the blade shall be flat and rigid. A side of the blade used for striking the ball shall be covered with either pimpled rubber or sandwich rubber having a total thickness including adhesive of not more than 4 mm. The surface should be flat and pimples distributed evenly to avoid unusual returns.

How the game is played

The game is won when one person scores 21 or more points and is 2 points ahead of his or her opponent. In other words, you can win with a score of 21-19 but not 21-20. If there is less than 2 points difference, the game continues until one player is ahead by 2 points.

Scoring points

The server must be able to serve the ball to the other side of the table or lose a point to the opponent. Once the ball is in play, either player can score a point, if the other is unable to return the ball to the other side of the table.

Serving the ball

The server must throw the ball up at least 6 inches without spin before hitting the ball. Flicking the ball to the paddle with the thumb or holding the ball and hitting it are illegal services.

Must hit table

The served ball must hit the table on the server's side before bouncing over the net. It must then hit the table on the other side. If it hits the net or goes off an edge without hitting the table on the other side, it is a lost point.

If the ball hits the net and goes over the the other side, it is a let serve. The ball can be served over.

Doubles game

If it is a doubles game, the ball must be served across to the opposite court. If it does not hit the table on the opposite court, the opponent gets the point.

Serve five times

In common play, each player serves the ball--resulting in a score--five times. Then the other player serves. There are various methods to determine who serves first.

Returning the ball

The second player then tries to return the served ball to the opponent's side. the ball not hit his or her side of the table before going over the net, and it must strike the table on the other side. If it flies off the table, the opponent scores a point.

The players hit the ball back and forth until one misses a shot, giving the other player the point.

Basic strategies

There are a number of strategies used to win a game of table tennis.

Hit to weak side

One of the most basic strategy in the game is to hit the ball to your opponent's weak side--usually the left side. Some will only serve to the weak side. In "gentlemen's" games, the service is alternated between the left and right sides.

Put spin on the ball

A top spin is most often used, because it curves the ball downward to the table and allows more power on the hit.

Backspins can confuse an opponent, but the ball often bounces up and allows the player to "kill" the return.

Side spins can cause the ball to go off the opponent's paddle in unexpected directions.

Set-up opponent

Getting the opponent to run is good to wear him down, as well as to set him up for a shot he cannot return. There are numerous other strategies concerning how the ball is hit and how to get an advantage on your opponent.


Table tennis is a sport that is popular around the world. Equipment required is an official table, net, paddle and ball. Either player can score and the game is decided when one player reaches 21 points or more and is 2 point ahead.

Stretch your abilities

Resources and references

Ron Kurtus' Credentials


USA Table Tennis Association

Official Table Tennis Rules

Sports Resources


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Top-rated books on Table Tennis

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