So many are confused by the distinction between the two sports, ping pong and table tennis, and whether there even is one.
Some believe that it is the same sport but has two names, just being given different names by different people.
Others contend that the importance of the game determines the name, as one could be considered an ‘official’ sport while the other is not.
To add to the confusion, table tennis is actually also known as ‘ping pong’ in several nations and cultures, despite the fact, its official name is ‘table tennis’.
So, what is the truth? Is there a difference between the two? If so, what is the difference?
That is what we are going to find out.
Continue reading to discover what, exactly, distinguishes table tennis and ping pong from each other.
Are Table Tennis And Ping Pong Basically The Same Sport?
The short answer is no: table tennis and ping pong are not the same sport.
However, since the two sports originated from the same concept, they were once regarded to be the same. In fact, the official differentiation was not made until 2011.
The original game originated in England during the Victorian era.
It has been speculated that the earliest versions of the game were created in India by British military officers in the mid-nineteenth century – around 1880 – and that they brought it back to Britain with them.
This game, known as ‘table tennis’, would later become an after-dinner parlor pastime, popularly played by upper-class households.
Originally, the game was played on a pool table or a dining table, with participants spreading a net across both sides of the table to catch the ball while playing.
As time went on, the sport grew in popularity, and more firms began to produce table tennis equipment.
While it was officially labeled ‘table tennis’, there were several nicknames being given to the game, such as ‘whiff waff’, ‘pim pam’,’pim pom’, and ‘ping pong’.
Many companies began to sell their own versions of the game, and while some of them were given different names, the most popular titles were ‘table tennis’ and ‘ping pong’.
Parker Brothers purchased the trademark ‘Ping-Pong’ in the 1920s, when the game grew mainstream in the United States, and barred other corporations from ever using the phrase.
Table tennis, overall, became increasingly popular worldwide throughout the following decades.
It was only when the Ping Pong World Championship was launched in 2011 that the game was split into two: ping pong and table tennis, separately. Since this moment, they became individual sports in their own rights.
What Is Table Tennis?
Table tennis, in its most basic definition, is a tennis-like game usually played between two participants on a tabletop, using wooden paddles and a little plastic ball.
A thin net is used to divide the tabletop in half, through the center. The two players are positioned at opposite ends of the table, using their wooden paddles to hit the ball back and forth.
The aim of the game is to win points by causing your competitor to miss the ball while it is being hit towards them.
While table tennis is often played between two participants during a single match, it can also be played as a doubles match, in which two people perform on each team, making for four players overall.
The Rules Of Table Tennis
Table tennis is a sport that is taken very seriously and is governed by a set of strict rules.
When the ball is served, it must be hit exactly six inches up from an open palm, and, in turn, hit from behind the baseline, which is the end of the table.
The ball must be served either forehand or backhand and propelled up to either the exact height of the net or above.
Contestants are not allowed to touch the tabletop with their non-bat hand during the game. If they do, the point is disqualified.
The first player – or team – to reach 11 points wins the game.
A player will need to win a game by two clear points if it is tied. Before passing the service to the opposition, each player must serve for two points in a row.
The rules must be strictly followed throughout the entire game in order for the points to be fairly delegated.
What Is Ping Pong?
Ping pong is an activity that is quite similar to table tennis but is, instead, usually played in more casual and sociable environments.
Ping pong is not considered to be as strict and serious as table tennis when it comes to the rules and regulations involved, as a whole.
There are also various versions of ping pong that have been created over the years, such as beer pong: this variation involves bouncing ping pong balls into cups filled with beer.
There have been many differing opinions over the years over whether or not ping pong should be deemed an official sport.
Many will claim that it is an official sport, as there are annual recognized Championship events for the game.
In China, the debate is made more difficult due to the fact that they call table tennis ‘ping pong’, and consider it to be the same game with the same rules.
There are even local ping pong events held in China, yet when Chinese teams compete in international tournaments, they refer to the game as ‘table tennis’.
China is, perhaps, the only country that refers to the two sports as one and the same.
The Rules Of Ping Pong
As we previously mentioned, the rules of ping pong are largely similar to the rules of table tennis.
The largest difference is that table tennis is a much stricter game, with rules that need to be carefully followed, whereas minor adjustments are often made while playing ping pong to improve the quality and entertainment of the game.
The Main Differences Between Table Tennis And Ping Pong
We’ve covered the history of table tennis and ping pong, as well as the rules of each game, so far in this article. However, we haven’t gone into the specific differences between the sports in great detail.
Next, we are going to be looking at the main differences between table tennis and ping pong, and why they are not officially considered to be the exact same game.
The Overall Rules
Table tennis, as previously stated, does not have flexible regulations because it is overseen by a regulatory organization.
The rules remain as they were initially stated, and breaking these rules will result in players losing points or becoming disqualified from the game.
Ping pong, on the other hand, has flexible guidelines that can be amended if enough people agree it’s a worthwhile move. The sport is a lot less ‘serious’ than table tennis, in that sense.
Additionally, in a game of ping pong, a ‘double-point’ ball may be served one time during the match: the player serving the ball will receive two points instead of one while using this ball, and the receiver will obtain one point.
Lastly, we already mentioned that, in table tennis, the ball must be served six inches up from an open palm from behind the baseline.
In Ping Pong, you don’t have to throw the ball six inches high during a service: when the ball is barely a few inches high, you can serve it by striking it directly from your hand.
Some games even allow the player to bounce the ball from the table while serving.
Type Of Equipment Used
In a game of table tennis, several kinds of equipment may be used depending on the game and/or the players. A player may end up using a forehand rubber, a backhand rubber, or a simple paddle with a decent blade.
In official ping pong tournaments, all players are required to use a sharpened sandpaper bat, otherwise known as a sandpaper paddle: these pieces of equipment are made of wood and coated in a fine layer of sandpaper.
Point Scoring System
From ping pong to table tennis, the number of points required to win a match varies.
While playing table tennis, a competitor will need to score 10 points to win or will need to score an additional 2 if the match results in a tie.
There needs to be a gap of, at least, 2 points between players for the leading participant to win.
In a ping pong game, a further 5 points, at least, are needed to be won, meaning a player will need to score 15 points – or, sometimes, up to 21 – to win a game.
There does not need to be a gap between the points, either: a player may win their game only 15-14.
Speed And Style While Playing
Table tennis is a high-speed sport, with the ball being served and hit throughout the game at a high speed and a high spin.
The rubber paddles are used to create less resistance against the ball, causing it to move faster and with more agility while being hit.
Ping pong players use sandpaper paddles as equipment.
These paddles, due to being covered in sandpaper, create more friction against the ball and reduce the speed, meaning the ball will be served at a slower speed compared to while playing table tennis, and a medium spin.
Overall, table tennis games tend to be played at a faster, more intense speed than a ping pong game.
Table tennis requires either an offensive or defensive style of play, whereas ping pong allows players to use both types, depending on the game they wish to play, and even combines both.
The Order Of Playing
The serving order in table tennis is as follows: one player serves first, then the second player serves the second round, then player one serves again, and so on.
They alternate, repeating the pattern in the same order each time. This is seen as the typical, ‘correct’ serving order for most sports.
There is no need for an ‘order’ in ping pong. This sport does not follow a set of rules and instead plays according to the players’ wishes.
This is only one of the many ways that ping pong differs from table tennis in terms of having strict rules to follow.
There are championship events for both sports, although the Ping Pong Championships only began in 2011, while official table tennis tournaments have been taking place since 1926.
Up until 2011, table tennis and ping pong were considered to be the same sport, or, at least, ping pong was seen as the ‘less official’ version of table tennis.
The International Table Tennis Federation (ITTF) hold the World Table Tennis Championships, and they take place in different countries each year, with the most recent event having taken place in Houston, US in 2021*
This piece having been written in January 2022.*
Men’s singles, women’s singles, men’s doubles, women’s doubles, and mixed doubles are the five individual events in the Table Tennis Championships, and these are currently held in odd-numbered years.
Individual events and team events are often held separately, with the last mixed event having taken place in 2001.
The World Championship of Ping Pong (WCPP) takes place annually and has been held in London, UK, since 2013.
The first championship, in 2011, took place in Las Vegas, US, and there was a year gap between the first championship event and the second.
Who Is The World Champion Of Table Tennis?
Fan Zhendong, a 24-year-old athlete from Guangdong, China, won the 2021 World Table Tennis Championships.
He is also currently ranked world No. 1 in men’s singles by the International Table Tennis Federation (ITTF).
Zhendong became the youngest ITTF World Tour Champion and the youngest World Table Tennis Champion after joining the Chinese National Table Tennis Team in 2012, as the team’s youngest member.
With over half a million followers on Chinese social media site Weibo, his steady rise to being among the best table tennis players in the world has earned him a massive, strong fan base throughout the whole world.
He was nominated for the Best Male Star Award every year between 2013 and 2016, and he won the ITTF Star Point Award in 2016.
China has dominated the table tennis world championships since 2013. From 2013 to 2019, China has produced eight table tennis champions.
Who Is The World Champion Of Ping Pong?
Andrew Baggaley, a 38-year-old sportsman from Northampton, England, is currently the World Champion of Ping Pong.
He also held the World Champion title in 2019, 2016, and 2015, having beaten 3 previous champions to the trophy during his run in 2019.
Baggaley is, first and foremost, a professional tennis player, having won several awards over the years, and holding the record for most Commonwealth Games medals won by England in table tennis.
He has won two gold medals in Manchester, England, one silver medal in Melbourne, Australia, one silver and one bronze medal in Delhi, India, and one silver medal in Glasgow, United Kingdom since 2002.
At only 13 years old, Baggaley became Britain’s youngest professional table tennis player when he signed a contract with TTC Logis Auderghem of the Belgian National League in 1996.
England, China, and Russia are currently the three leading countries in the world of ping pong.
So, are table tennis and ping pong the same, exact sport? No.
Are they very similar? Yes.
The biggest difference between the two sports, overall, is that table tennis seems to take itself a lot more seriously, holding strict guidelines that cannot be budged while being played.
Ping pong, on the other hand, is the more casual sport to play, having rules that can be adjusted if the players should want to do so.
Although there are numerous parallels between the two, there are just enough differences to make them wholly separate sports.
We hope you gained all the information you were seeking in this article.
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