Saving the Ball: A Guide to Table Tennis

By: Francesca Fiori

Table tennis appears to have started during the late Victorian era as an after dinner amusement for upper-class British people. Modern lawn tennis had already been popular for a few years in England, but table tennis offered a fun alternative that did not require a court for playing. Instead, players could play indoors using their dining room tables and whatever objects they had on hand. For instance, instead of using a net for sides, a row of books could be placed in the middle of the table. The interest in the new sport was high, and commercialization quickly led to equipment improvements. Balls, which had previously just been balls of strings or corks from champagne bottles, were now made from celluloid, an early synthetic plastic.

As table tennis gained popularity throughout Europe the International Table Tennis Federation (ITTF), the sport’s governing body, was formed in 1926. During that year, the ITFF also held the first World Championships. Table tennis continued to grow in popularity throughout the 20th century with associations and organizations springing up all around the world to support competitive and recreational players. By 1988, table tennis had become an Olympic sport.

Today table tennis is one of the most popular sports in the world. The sport is often compared to chess because players use strategy and quick decision making skills when playing. As an aerobic activity, table tennis engages the whole body and can improve cardiovascular health. As the sport is not a contact sport, however, it is adaptable and safe for youth, seniors, families, and those with disabilities.

American Youth Table Tennis

This New York City based organization helps urban boys and girls experience table tennis.

Beginner's Guide To Table Tennis

Novices to table tennis will appreciate this guide which explains the paddles used, the size of the table, and the scoring system.

European Table Tennis Union

Europe’s table tennis authority organizes all level of competitive tennis play in Europe including senior and youth games. Games rules, event information, and player rankings can be viewed online.


A look at some of the most popular footwork and handgrips used by table tennis players are discussed here.

Important Moments In Table Tennis

Origins, the start of the sport in America and England, and the first table tennis world championship are covered in this historical article.

Rules of Table Tennis

At the competition level, table tennis games usually start with a coin toss. Rules on serving, hitting the ball, how points are awarded, and differences in single and double play are also discussed.


Since 1926, the ITTF has been the international foundation setting the rules and regulations of the sport.

National Collegiate

This national non-profit association is responsible for implementing table tennis programs at the college level in North America.

Ratings Central

This table tennis ranking and rating site lists the top professional table tennis players. Information on country, events, and point changes in rating from one event to another are provided.

Rules & Regulations

The North American Table Tennis regulations guide explains everything from correct net assembly to how players can get a point.

Opening Volley

This Sports Illustrated story takes an intimate look at how the 1971 World Table Tennis Championships. The actions of a Chinese and American player would set in motion positive interaction between these two countries for the first time in over 20 years.

Para Table Tennis Rules (PDF)

Para Table Tennis is designed for abilities with some type of physical disability. These table tennis facts and rules cover timing between matches, equipment rules, and rules for wheelchair players.

Special Olympics Table Tennis Rules (PDF)

The official table tennis rules from the Special Olympics cover singles, doubles, wheelchair competitions, and individual skill events.

Styles Of Play

This article covers the various grips and footwork commonly found in table tennis and includes tips on defending against various styles.

Table Tennis Anyone?

Take a look at the history of table tennis from Victorians to the Cold War.

Table Tennis Australia

For Australian table tennis athletes, everything they need to know about table tennis can be found here. The national body has player profiles, rankings, officiating information, and details for players with disabilities.

Table Tennis Canada

The Canadian Table Tennis Association website provides information on school programs, athlete rankings, championship rules, and the latest news concerning Canadian table tennis.

Table Tennis Canadian History

This encyclopedia article provides essential background information on Canadian table tennis including some early stars and when the Canadian Table Tennis Association was formed.

Table Tennis Diplomacy

Table tennis played an important part in easing tensions between the United States and China in the 1970s. Read on to find out how table tennis managed this feat.

Table Tennis Equipment & History

The official Olympics website provides information on the typical equipment used in table tennis including the net, the type of ball, court, and racket. A history section details how the sport with a humble start has become one of the most popular games played today.

Table Tennis Glossary

This glossary lists some of the popular terms used to describe table tennis equipment, serves, and all other aspects of the sport.

Table Tennis An Introduction

From the USA Table Tennis (USATT) Association, this look at the history of table tennis focuses on table tennis from the late 1920s till the late 1930s.

Table Tennis Rules

The USATT rules on table tennis are lengthy. This guide simplifies and explains the order of service, a let, order of play, and other rules of the game.

Table Tennis Terminology

Confused by the terms “bat,” “drive,” or “flick” as it relates to table tennis? This simple guide explains what these terms mean.

The Rules Of Table Tennis

Read on for better understanding of the standard ITTF and USATT rules used in competition.

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