Table tennis is an Olympic racket sport where two players, or two teams of two players, hit the table tennis ball back and forth, across the net on a table, with wooden paddles. The manner of play is similar to that of tennis, hence the name.
The playing surface is a table, 30 inches above the ground that is approximately 9 feet long and five feet wide. A six-inch high net divides the table in half. The table tennis ball has a diameter of 40 mm, is made of celluloid, and is hollow. This article will discuss a few basic elements of table tennis, scoring, rules, and basic strokes.
Official table tennis rules mandate table tennis matches consist of either a best of five or a best of seven series of games played to 11 points. The first player to reach 11 points with a margin of two wins the game.
In a best-of-five match, the first player to win three games wins the match. In a best-of-seven match, the first player to win four games wins the match. In the 11-point game format, players alternate serves every two points. If the game reaches a score of 10-10, players alternate serve every point until one player achieves a margin of two points.
Historically, a standard game of table tennis was played to 21 points with players alternating serve every five points. This method remains the preferred method for recreational table tennis players.
To start each point, the server tosses the ball, from an open palm, at least 6 inches into the air. The server strikes the ball with the paddle so that the ball bounces on his side of the table before bouncing on his opponent’s side. A table tennis player wins a point by hitting a shot that strikes the table and is not returned by the opponent.
A table tennis player loses a point if he fails to return his opponent’s shot, allows the ball to bounce more than once on his side of the net, fails to hit the table with his shot, hits the ball twice, places his hand on the table, hits the ball before it bounces on his side of the table, or fails to execute a legal table tennis serve.
Table tennis players have many strokes at their disposal. Offensive table tennis strokes include the speed drive, loop drive, and smash.
A speed drive is a shot hit with a square racket face swung parallel to the table that results in a hard, flat shot.
A loop drive is a shot hit with a closed racket face swung nearly perpendicular to the table. The loop drive in table tennis is comparable to a groundstroke in tennis hit with a large amount of topspin.
The smash is an extremely offensive shot that involves swinging the racket down on a high bouncing ball to generate a large amount of speed.
Defensive table tennis strokes include the chop and the block.
The chop is table tennis’s version of the slice. Table tennis players execute the chop by swinging the paddle from high to low with an open racket face imparting backspin.
Finally, the block is a simple stroke used to counter attacking shots. To execute the block, table tennis players simply place the paddle behind the approaching ball and allow the ball to hit the paddle.
Players must strategically employ a mixture of offensive and defensive shots to win a game of table tennis.
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