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PLAYING EQUIPMENTS & METHODS

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The Ball

 

The international rules specify that the game is played with a light 2.7 gram, 40 mm (formerly 38 mm) diameter ball. The ball is required to have a coefficient of restitution of 0.94. The 40 mm ball was introduced at the 2003 World Table Tennis Championship. However, this created some controversy as the Chinese National Team argued that this was merely to give non-Chinese players a better chance of winning. A 40 mm table tennis ball is slower and less "spinny" than a 38 mm one. The ball is made of a high-bouncing gas-filled celluloid ball, colored white or orange, with a matte finish. The choice of ball color is made according to the table color and its surroundings. For example, a white ball is easier to see on a green or blue table than it is on a grey table.

The Table

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The table is 2.74 m (9 ft) long, 1.525 m (5 feet) wide, and 76 cm (30 inches) high with a masonite or similarly manufactured timber, layered with a smooth, low-friction coating. The table or playing surface is divided into two halves by a 15.25 cm (6 inch) high net

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The bat

Players are equipped with a bat composed of a wooden blade covered with rubber on one or two sides depending on the grip of the player.

Table tennis regulations allow different surfaces on each side of the bat. The different types of surfaces provide various levels of spin or speed, or in some cases, nullifies spin. For example, a player may have a rubber that provides much spin on one side of his bat, and no spin on the other side of the bat. By flipping the bat in play, different types of returns were possible. To help a player distinguish between different types of rubber used by his opposing player, international rules declared that one side must be red while the other side must be black. The player has the right to inspect his opponent's bat before a match to see the type of rubber used and what color it is. Despite high speed play and rapid exchanges, a player can see clearly what side of the bat was used to hit the ball.

Recent years have seen an advancement in technology of table tennis blades. Materials of different properties may be combined with the wood in the blade to enhance its playing performance. Many blades today feature one or more carbon layers within them to enhance their 'sweet spot', and to give the player a greater margin of error when playing powerful shots. Materials incorporated into table tennis blades today include kevlar, titanium, arylate, aramid, and aluminium.

The rubber coating may be of pimpled rubber, with the pimples outward, or it may be a rubber that is composed of two materials, a sponge layer, covered by a pimpled rubber, with the pimples pointed inwards or outwards. Some bats are not covered with rubber at all, because a "naked" bat is believed to be more resistant to a spin. However, it is illegal to use these types of bats in competition as they are not approved by the ITTF. Some types of rubbers are also not approved. Approved rubbers have the ITTF emblem on the base of the rubber.

Players have many choices and variations in rubber sheets on their bat. Although bats may be purchased with rubber by the manufacturer, most serious tournament players will create a customized bat. A player selects a blank blade (i.e. a bat without rubber), based on his playing style. The type of wood and synthetic layers used to make up the blade will provide a slower or faster blade. The player can choose from different types of rubber sheets which will provide a certain level of spin, speed and specific playing characteristics.

Normally, a sheet of rubber is glued to a blade using rubber cement and not removed until the rubber wears out or becomes damaged. In the 1980s, a new technique was developed where the player would use a special glue called speed glue to apply the rubber every time he played. The glue would help provide more spin and speed by providing a "catapult" effect. This technique is known as "regluing" and has become a standard technique for top players.

The surface of a bat will develop a smooth glossy patina with use. The blade surface needs to be regularly cleaned to ensure it retains a high friction surface to impart spin to the ball. Players use a commercial cleaner, or just water and detergent as cleaning agents.

Different types of rubber sheets

  • Inverted (non-Chinese): This is the most widely used rubber type. The surface is smooth, with the pimpled side facing inwards toward the blade. This enables the player to generate high levels of spin and speed. Spin is mainly generated not by the action of the topsheet alone, but also by the ball sinking into the sponge and allowing greater surface area to contact the ball.
  • Inverted (Chinese): Chinese rubbers typically have stickier (or "tackier") topsheets. Spin is generated mainly by the topsheet, as opposed to the sponge, which is relatively more condensed and firmer. The result is usually a far better short game and potential power capabilities than normal inverted.
  • Short pimples (or "pips"): Short pimples-out rubbers are usually used by close-to-the-table hitters (for example, Liu Guoliang). They do not generate as much spin as inverted rubbers, but also make the user less susceptible to the opponent's spin. Speed generated from a short pip rubber is generally faster than the inverted with the same sponge. Depending on the thickness of the sponge it is also possible to play a chopping game with short pimples (an exponent of this style would be Ding Song) by varying the spin of the return. Whilst blocking and attacking a "dead ball" effect is often noticed.
  • Long pimples (or "pips"): Long pimples-out rubbers carry relatively long and soft pips. They do not have the ability to generate any real spin of their own, but feed off the opponent's spin, to allow the user to confuse the opponent and upset their rhythm. Long pips are not very susceptible to the opponent's incoming spin, and tends to "return" the opponent's spin back upon impact, as the pips bend and slide. They are usually used by close-to-the-table blockers, or choppers. They are usually only used on the backhand side, as they offer very limited attacking capabilities. Depending on the grip of the sides of the pimples and the thickness of the sponge it is also possible to play an aggressive game with long pips, though with not much spin capability.
  • Anti-spin: Anti-spin, like long pimples, cannot generate any real spin, but just allows the user to produce a no-spin ball. Anti-spin is also not very susceptible to the opponents incoming spin, due to the low coefficient of friction of the rubber's surface. This is also used to confuse the opponent, and is not widely used at international level.

 

SPONGE THICKNESS VS RUBBER SPEED GUIDELINE

 

 

Slow
Medium
Fast
Very Fast

OX - 1.4mm

1.5mm - 1.9.mm

2.0mm - 2.2mm

2.3mm - 2.6mm

Defence

Allround

Topspin Attack

Speed Attack

Game play

Starting a game

In top-flight competition, service is decided by a coin toss. At lower levels it is common for one player (or the umpire/scorer) to hide the ball in one or the other hand (usually hidden under the table), allowing the other player to guess which hand the ball is in. The correct or incorrect guess gives the "winner" the option to choose to serve, or to choose which side of the table to use. In recreational games, the players may have a rally for a minimum set number of 10 hits, after which the rally is played out, with the winner either choosing to serve or choosing the table side. Others use the "P-O-N-G" method rallying back and forth spelling a letter of P-O-N-G after every hit. After P-O-N-G is spelled the person to win the rally also wins the serve.

Service

In game play, the player serving the ball commences a point. Standing behind the end of the table, with the ball in the palm of one hand - over the table's height - and the bat in the other, the server tosses the ball without spin, upward, at least sixteen centimeters (approximately 6 inches).

He or she then must hit the ball such that it bounces once on his or her half of the table, and then bounces at least one time on the opponent's half. If the ball strikes the net but does not strike the opponent's half of the table, then a point is awarded to the opponent. However, if the ball hits the net, but nevertheless goes over and bounces on the other side, it is called a let (or net-in). Play stops, and the ball must be served again with no penalty. Unlike the old service rules, where a player may only commit three lets, now a player may commit any number of lets without penalty.

If the service is "good", then the opponent must then make a "good" return — by returning the ball before it bounces on his or her side of the table a second time. Returning the serve is one of the most difficult parts of the game, as the server's first move is often the least predictable.

Hitting the Ball

Any hitting of the ball must be done such that the ball passes over or around the net. If the ball is struck such that it travels around the net, but still lands on the opponent's side of the table, the hit is legal and play should be continued. If the opponent cannot return it over (or around) the net and make it bounce on your side, then you win the point.

Scoring

Points are awarded to the opponent for any of several errors in play:

  • Allowing the ball to bounce on one's own side twice
  • Not hitting the ball after it has bounced on one's own side
  • Having the ball bounce on one's own side after hitting it
  • Hitting the ball before it has bounced on one's own side of the table, unless it is behind the end line.
  • Double hitting the ball. Note that the hand below the wrist is considered part of the bat and making a good return off one's hand or fingers is allowed, but hitting one's hand or fingers and subsequently hitting the bat is a double strike and an error.
  • Allowing the ball to strike anything other than the bat (see above for definition of the bat)
  • Causing the ball not to bounce on the opponent's half (i.e., not making a "good" return)
  • Placing one's free hand on the playing surface or moving the playing surface
  • Offering and failing to make a good serve (i.e., making a service toss and failing to strike the ball fairly into play)
  • Making an illegal serve: (e.g., one preceded by a player's hiding the ball or his failing to toss the ball at least 16 centimeters (six inches) in the air).
  • Hitting the net with the ball

Alternation of service

Service alternates between opponents every two points (regardless of winner of the rally) until a player reaches 11 points with at least a two-point lead, or until both players have 10 points a piece. If both players reach 10 points, then service alternates after each point, until one player gains a two-point advantage.

In doubles, service alternates every two points between sides, but also rotates between players on the same team. At the end of every two points, the receiving player becomes the server, and the partner of the serving player becomes the receiver.

In the 21-point game system, service would alternate every 5 points. If both players reached a score of 20, then service would alternate each point until one player gains a two-point advantage.

Series of games

After each game, players switch sides of the table and in the fifth or seventh, game "for the match", players switch sides when the first player scores 5 points, regardless of whose turn it is to serve. In competition play, matches are typically best of five or seven games.

Recreational variations

Some recreational players may choose to use a volleyball style system of scoring and play. Such variations include, but are not limited to, allowing the let serve, not requiring the server to hit the ball on his half of the table first (but still allowing it), allowing the volleying of returns, and relaxing other small rules in doubles to make the game easier to play. Common recreational scoring styles include best-of-three-game side out scoring to 15, 21, 25, or 30 points per game with a third game being played rally style to 15; best-of-five-game rally style play with each game, save the fifth (to 15), played to 30 points; and traditional tennis scoring.

Doubles game

In addition to games between individual players, pairs may also play table tennis. In doubles, all the rules of single play apply except for the following. A line painted along the long axis of the table to create doubles courts bisects the table. This line's only purpose is to facilitate the doubles service rule, which is that service, must originate from the right hand "box" in such a way that the first bounce of the serve bounces once in said right hand box and then must bounce at least once in the opponent side's right hand box (far left box for server). Play then continues normally with the exception that players must alternate hitting the ball. For example, after a player serves the receiving player make his or her return, the server's partner returns the ball and then the service receiver's partner would play the ball. In wheelchair doubles side. The point proceeds this way until one side fails to make a legal return and the point is then awarded to the other team. Also, when the game reaches the final set, the teams must switch side and the team that receives the service must switch receiver when one of the teams reach 5 points. Singles and doubles are both played in international competition, including the Olympic Games since 1988 and the Commonwealth Games since 2002. In 2005, the ITTF has announced that doubles table tennis will only be featured as a part of teams events in the 2008 Olympics.

Styles of play

Grip

Competitive table tennis players grip their bats in a variety of ways. The manner in which competitive players grip their bats can be classified into two major families of styles. One is described as penhold, and the other shakehand. The Laws of Table Tennis do not prescribe the manner in which one must grip the bat, and numerous variations on gripping styles exist.

Penhold 

The penhold grip is so-named because one grips the bat similarly to the way one holds a writing instrument. The style of play among penhold players can vary greatly from player to player. The style, usually referred to as the Chinese penhold style, involves curling the middle, ring, and fourth finger back. In contrast, another style, sometimes referred to as the Japanese penhold, involves splaying those three fingers out across the back of the bat. Penhold styles are popular among players originating from Asian nations such as China, Taiwan, Japan, and SouthKorea. Traditionally, penhold players use only one side of the bat to hit the ball during normal play. The side which is in contact with the last three fingers is generally not used. However, the Chinese have developed a new technique in which a penholder utilizes both sides of the bat. This is referred to as the reverse penhold backhand (RPB).

Shakehand 

The shakehand grip is so-named because one grips the bat similarly to the way one performs a handshake. The grip is sometimes colloquially referred to as a "tennis grip" or a "Western grip." The shakehand grip is most popular among players originating in Western nations. Today, though, there are many Asian players using the shakehand grip.

Unusual grips

V-grip - An experimental style being developed in China, it is held by forming a "V for victory" sign and gripping the blade between the forefinger and middle finger, whilst having the other fingers rest under and on top of the handle; it requires a modified blade to grip successfully. A noticeable spin benefit is noticed due to the longer lever and mechanics utilized in the forehand and backhand (much like those found in the Western grip in tennis).

Seemiller grip

A grip that was made famous by Danny Seemiller, an American champion. This grip is a variation of the shakehand grip. In this grip, the forefinger and thumb are placed on the same side of the bat, which allows the backhand and forehand shots to use the same side of the rubber. This grip also has the nickname "windshield wiper" due to the motion of the backhand and forehand.

Types of shots

In table tennis, the strokes break down into generally offensive (producing topspin) and defensive (producing backspin). Spin exceptions are the smash, block, and lob. The types of strokes include backhand and forehand.

Offensive strokes

Speed drive 

In table tennis it is not similar to strokes from racket sports like tennis. The bat is primarily perpendicular to the direction of the stroke, and most of the energy applied to the ball results in speed rather than spin, creating a shot that does not arc much, but is fast enough that it can be difficult to return. A speed drive is used mostly for keeping the ball in play, applying pressure on the opponent and potentially opening up an opportunity for a more powerful attack.

Loop drive 

It is essentially the reverse of the speed drive. The bat is much more parallel to the direction of the stroke ("closed") and the bat thus grazes the ball, resulting in a large amount of topspin. A good loop drive will arc quite a bit, and once striking the opponent's side of the table will jump forward, much like a kick serve in tennis. A loop drive is dangerous because of its topspin — while not as difficult to return as a speed drive, it is more likely to rebound off the opponent's bat at a very high angle, setting up an easy smash on the follow up. As the loop drive requires a lot of topspin, players generally use their entire body to generate the movement required. Variations in spin and speed adds to effectiveness of this shot.

Chinese players categorized loop-drives in 3 variations based on trajectories:

1. The "Loop"

(or is called the "ultra-topspin") Produces a more pronounced loopy arc, with a higher trajectory and extreme topspin, but is typically slower.

2. The "Rush"

Produces a flatter trajectory than a typical "Loop" but carries much stronger topspin than a regular speed-drive. It can be as fast as a speed-drive, particularly when executed by the European players who typically replace speed-drive with it. The ball seems to "rush" forward and downward upon hitting the table, and hence the nickname. (Compared to the "kicking" or "jumping" actions resulted from the high-arc "Loop")

3. The "Hook"

Similar to a regular Loop, but carries a tilted topspin (or is referred as the "top-side" spin), it bounces sideways and downward upon hitting the table. Similar but stronger than the defensive "side-drive" described below.

Counter drive 

Usually a counter attack against drives (normally high loop drives). You have to close the bat and stay close to the ball (try to predict its path). The bat is held closed and near to the ball, which is hit with a short movement "off the bounce" (before reaching the highest point) so that the ball travels faster to the other side. If performed correctly, a well-timed, accurate counter-drive can be as effective as a smash.

Flip (or Flick in) 

When a player tries to attack a ball that has not bounced beyond the edge of the table, he/she does not have the room to wind up in a backswing. The ball may still be attacked, however, and the resulting shot is called flip because the backswing is compressed into a quick wrist action. A flip is not a single stroke and can resemble either a drive or a loop in its characteristics. What identifies the stroke is instead whether the backswing is compressed into a short wrist flick. Also known as 払い "harai" in Japanese.

Smash 

The offensive trump card in table tennis. A player will typically execute a smash when his or her opponent has returned a ball that bounces too high and/or too close to the net. Smashing is essentially self-explanatory — large backswing and rapid acceleration imparting as much speed on the ball as possible. The goal of a smash is to get the ball to move so quickly that the opponent simply cannot return it. Because the ball speed is the main aim of this shot, often the spin on the ball is something other than topspin. Sidespin can be used effectively with a smash to alter the ball's trajectory significantly, although most intermediate players will smash the ball with little or no spin. An offensive table-tennis player will think of a rally as a build-up to a winning smash; only a calculated series of smashes can guarantee a point against a good opponent. However, most players will be able to return at most one or two smashes consistently. Provided that the opponent is not too close to the table or too far away from the ball, a smash can be lobbed, chopped, blocked or even counter-looped, albeit with some difficulty. A player who smashes generally works out a series of smashes (and possibly drop-shots) to rush the opponent out of position, put him off balance, or both. Smashers who fail to do this find it difficult to win a point against an excellent defense.

Defensive strokes

Slice

The slice or is analogous to the speed drive in some respects — it is very simple, usually used for keeping the point alive and creating offensive opportunities. A slice resembles a tennis slice: the bat cuts underneath the ball, imparting backspin and causing the ball to float slowly to the other side of the table. While not obvious, a slice can be difficult to attack because the backspin on the ball causes it to drop toward the table upon striking the opponent's bat – in order to attack a slice, a player must lift the ball back over the net. Often, the best option is to simply slice the ball back again, which repeats and results in slicing rallies. Otherwise, another option is to flip or drive the ball, only when it is far enough away from the net. Slicing can have its advantages, but it's a shot worth avoiding. Players should only slice when their opponent makes easy mistakes. Offensive players should only slice for variation and not for general rallies. A slice can easily be counter-looped into the opposite corner, if it doesn't drop short enough on the table. The goal of most player's slice is to make it too short to be attacked upon, rather than attempting to over-spin the opponent.

Chop 

A chop or cut is the defensive, backspin counterpart to the offensive loop drive. A chop is essentially a bigger, heavier slice, taken well back from the table. The bat face points primarily horizontally, perhaps a little bit upward, and the direction of the stroke is straight down. The object of a defensive chop is to match the topspin of the opponent's shot with your own bat speed. A good chop will float nearly horizontally back to the table, in some cases having so much backspin that the ball actually rises. A chop such as this can be extremely difficult to return due to the enormous amount of backspin. Sometimes a defensive player can impart no spin on the ball during a chop, or frequently add right- or left-hand spin to the ball. This may further confuse his/her opponent. Chops are difficult to execute, but are devastating when completed properly because it takes a tremendous amount of topspin on a loop drive to return the ball back over the net.

Block 

The block or short is a simple shot, barely worthy of being called a "stroke," but nonetheless can be devastating against an attacking opponent. A block is executed by simply putting the bat in front of the ball — the ball rebounds back toward the opponent with nearly as much energy as it came in with. This is not as easy as it sounds, because the ball's spin, speed, and location all influence the correct angle of a block. Disregarding the difficulty of a block, it is very possible for an opponent to execute a perfect loop, drive, or smash, only to have the blocked shot come back at him just as fast. Due to the power involved in offensive strokes, often an opponent simply cannot recover quickly enough, and will be unable to return his own shot blocked back to him/her. Blocks almost always produce the same spin as was received, which is nearly always topspin.

Push-Block 

High level players may use what is called push block or active block, adding speed to the ball (with a small topspin movement). When playing in the Penhold Grip, many players use push blocks when being pressured on the backhand. Chinese pen-hold players refer it as push-block as they literally "push" their backhand forward, instead of simply blocking it.

Side Drive 

This spin is alternately used as a defensive and offensive maneuver. The premise of this move is to put a spin on the ball either to the right or the left of the bat. The execution of this move is similar to a slice, but to the right or left instead of down. This spin will result in the ball curving to the side but bouncing in the opposite direction when the opponent returns it. Do not attempt a right-side spin (moving your arm to the right when hitting the ball) when too close to the left side of the table, and visa versa. To return, simply execute the same sided spin as your opponent just gave you.

Lob 

The defensive lob is possibly the most visually-impressive shot in the sport of table tennis, and it is deceptive in its simplicity. To execute a lob, a defensive player first backs off the table 8-10 feet (2.5 to 3 m, advanced players sometimes go 20 feet or 6 m or more); then, the stroke itself consists of simply lifting the ball to an enormous height before it falls back to the opponent's side of the table. A lob is inherently a creative shot, and can have nearly any kind of spin you can imagine. Talented players use this fact to their advantage in order to control the point. For instance, though the opponent may smash the ball hard and fast, a good defensive lob could quite possibly be even harder to return due to the unpredictability (and heavy amounts) of the spin on the ball. Thus, though backed off the table by tens of feet and apparently running and leaping just to reach the ball, a good defensive player can still win the point using good lobs.

Stop 

Stop (or drop shot) is a high level stroke, used as another variation for close-to-table strokes (like harai and slice). You have to position the body close to the ball and just let the ball touch the bat (without any hand movement) in a way that the ball stays close to the net with almost no speed and spin and touches the other side of the table more than twice if the opponent doesn't reach it. This stroke should be used when opponents are far from the table and not prepared to get close to the table. This technique is most usually done by pen-holders and players who use long or short pimples. A very deceiving technique, this could result in the opponent failing to reach the ball after misjudging the distance of the ball. A perfectly executed stroke after a topspin sequence can win a point.

 

 

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