Last Updated on April 8, 2021
What is the brief history of table tennis?
Where and when did it all start, and who invented table tennis?
How has table tennis progressed to this day?
Find out everything below…
When did table tennis start to be played?
Table tennis originated in Victorian England, where the upper class played after dinner. They did not have table tennis nets at that time, so they used books as racquets and as the net in the middle of the table instead.
This happened at the beginning of the 20th century. Before that, an improvised table tennis-like game was attempted in the 1870s by British military officers. The name ping pong was in wide use until table tennis finally got a trademark in 1901.
That same year, a British enthusiast discovered celluloid balls on a trip to the United States. As the popularity of this sport grew, E.C. Goode invented the modern racket by gluing pimple rubber to a wooden blade.
The first table tennis association was founded in 1921, and the International Table Tennis Federation ITTF only in 1926. USA table tennis association that still exists today was founded in 1933.
So, people played table tennis until the 50s, when the first evolutionary step was to use rackets with sponge rubbers, leading to higher speeds in the game. Later, fast glues were used, and then it started to play faster and faster, but also for the sport to get real meaning and beauty. As an Olympic sport, table tennis was first introduced at the Olympic Games in Seoul in 1988.
Who invented table tennis?
The first man to make a table tennis game to play on the table was David Foster. The ball was 30mm rubber and covered with cloth. Foster also introduced rules that were later found by Steve Grant (USA).
He is considered the first inventor of table tennis because he filed his first patent. To clarify, he did not invent the game but took the first real step towards this game’s existence.
The game was created by John Jaques & Son and registered a variant of this sport, “gossima.” This is most similar to table tennis except that they used other equipment. The earliest game of David Foster’s Parlor Table Games took place in England in 1890.
How has the game progressed throughout history?
There are several important periods in which table tennis abruptly changed the direction and style of play. Here we will show those evolutionary periods. Before that, take a look at what the early history of table tennis looked like.
Adaptation period (1880-1920)
In the beginning, people played it on a dining table with improvised equipment. With the introduction of celluloid balls, the game progressed greatly, and this happened in 1900.
The following year, a table tennis association was creating and a special Ping Pong association in England. The game was also presented in China, and in Europe, it has progressed significantly and become more popular. One important step was the establishment of the International Federation of ITTF in Berlin in 1926. Then, Ivor Montagu became president.
European domination and hard bat era (1920-1950)
The difference between the “hardbat” and the later racket is in the racket itself, making a big difference in its dynamics and strategy. Classic “hardbat” rackets are slower and use external “pips” without sponges. It is harder to turn, and it is harder to perform the ball’s rotation. Table tennis players played more on clean balls and strong shots.
Europeans dominated both men’s and women’s competition. Victor Barna from Hungary was a five-time world champion and has recorded 22 gold medals at all world competitions. Angelica Rozeanu-Adelstein from Romania achieved the world champion’s success 6 times in a row in the women’s competition. Later, the Asians took complete dominance in women’s table tennis.
During that period, more precisely in 1937, there was a change in the rules. The net dropped to 15 inches (15.24 cm), which encouraged a more aggressive game.
Thus, the players became more focused on attacking instead of keeping the ball on the table and waiting for the opponent’s mistake. Then the time limits for the duration of matches were introduced by the ITTF.
The beginning of Asian domination and the sponge era (1950-1985)
The beginning of the Asian era is also reflected in the fact that the first World Cup was held in Bombay in India. This world championship was the 19th in a row and only the first in Asian territory.
It so happened that the first non-European winner was Hiroji Satoh from Japan. Japan began to make significant progress when Ichiro Ogimura developed physical training and technological development.
In 1956, the first Asian player won the World Cup, Tomie Okada-Okawa of Japan. Another important event in this era is the first Paralympics in 1960. Throughout history, table tennis starts to be included.
When it comes to rules, a law on racket standardization has been passed. However, in addition to Asians, we should not forget the Swedes, who were the best in the 70s and 80s, side by side with China.
See the best points from the period of Jan-Ove Waldner (Mozart of table tennis)
In 1981, the first world championship was in my country in Novi Sad, where the Chinese won all seven gold medals. Next year was the first world championship for veterans. During this period we can say that table tennis has finally become a popular and world sport.
Modern Olympics era (1985-till today)
The size of the ball, in fact, the diameter has been increased from 38 to 40 mm. It happened because of the speed of the game. Players worldwide have increased the speed of their shots so much. Due to the popularity of sports and television, the diameter of the ball is increasing in order to slow down the game and make table tennis more beautiful for the audience.
That happened in 2000, and the following year another rule appeared. The winning set moves from 21 points to 11. Since then, 3 sets won, even in big competitions, and 4 sets up to 11 points won are needed to win.
China’s national table tennis team completely dominates in the coming period. In 2005 they won all 5 gold medals in Shanghai. 2006 in Bremen two gold medals. 2007 in Zagreb again all 5 gold medals as well as 2010 and 2012 in London and 2016. Out of a total of 32 Olympic gold medals starting in 1988, China has won 28!
Another important rule that applies today is to replace the celluloid ball with a plastic one. Since 2016, plastic balls have been used at both world championships and the Olympics.
Summary – Rules through the history of table tennis
There are a few more important rules that I will single out, and that is why they are briefly written here. As a reminder for all today’s players, I hope it will help in further play and enjoyment in this beautiful sport.
Introduction of two-color rackets
This means that each racket must have one red and one black rubber for the opponent to distinguish the rubber type with which you hit the ball.
For example, if a player has an anti-spin rubber on one side that slows down the game and gives a completely different effect of the ball when hitting, you can see that. While the rubbers on both sides were the same color, you couldn’t recognize the difference.
The number of winning sets
This has changed during the history of table tennis. The first being in 2001 when the number of sets to win and the number of points to one set changed.
Many years ago, table tennis players played to 21 points and 5 consecutive serves from one player. At the tie break (20:20), each player had one serve until someone won by two points. Then it was necessary to win 2 sets to win (best 2 of 3 games).
The ITTF changed the rules in 2001 and introduced a set of up to 11 points, with each player having 2 serves in a row with the tie break now being at 10:10. The games are played as best 3 of 5 (with 3 sets won) and best 4 of 7 (with 4 sets won for bigger competitions).
Serve rules have also changed
In 2003, ITTF adopted rules to remove the non-racquet-holding hand to unblock the opponent from seeing the entire wrist movement.
Before that, players could “hide” the serve by covering the racquet-holding hand during the ball’s contact. The ball must also be thrown straight up a minimum of 16cm with an open hand.
With these rules, a lot has changed in general in most players’ games. And somehow, players achieved a greater fair play because the players who had excellent serves and who managed to hide the service had a huge advantage even though they were equal to their opponents.