How is Table Tennis different from any other Racquet Sports?
Author: kevin James, Last Updated on: 30/05/2019
Trust me "It's very Different". It is a unique sports with its own set of rules and challenges.
In this article, I'll be comparing Table Tennis (often referred to as Ping Pong) with other racquet sports based on court size, equipment and typical skill requirements.
Other Racquet Sports
There is a section of people who think that Table Tennis is less ‘sporty’ than other racquet sports. They say that the smaller court and lighter ball means the sport requires less physical prowess.
While these observations are certainly factual, the conclusion that Table Tennis is consequently a less challenging or enjoyable sport is far from true.
Let’s take a quick look at how Lawn Tennis, Badminton and Squash compares to Table Tennis, and see why Table Tennis is just as good, or maybe even better…
Table Tennis vs Lawn Tennis
Table Tennis was invented in England at the end of the 19th century as an indoor version of Tennis. It rains a lot in England, so indoor versions of things are important. That is one big advantage of Table Tennis, if you happen to live in colder or wetter climates.
Considering their relationship, it is unsurprising that the games are quite similar. Usually played as singles or doubles, points are scored in the same way: hitting the ball to land somewhere in your opponent’s side of the court where they can’t return it, or they are limited in their return options, giving you an advantage for your next stroke.
The main difference is that Lawn Tennis is played on a large ground court 23.77m long, and 8.2m wide for singles games and 11m wide for doubles. In Tennis, the net is 3ft (0.91cm) at the centre of the court, and 3ft 6in at the posts.
Meanwhile, Table Tennis is played on a platform raised 76cm off the ground that is 274cm long and 152.5cm wide, with a 12.25cm high net.
Table Tennis tables can actually be made of any material as long as it is a uniform material and yields a bounce of 23cm when a standard ball is dropped from 30cm.
Of course, these different courts require different balls. Modern Tennis is played with a hollow ball made from vulcanised rubber with a felt coating. Weighing 56-59.4gm, with a diameter between 65.41 to 68.58mm, they are usually optic yellow for visibility.
Meanwhile, Table Tennis is played with a much smaller ball, weighing just 2.7gm and 40mm in diameter. Prior to the 2000 Olympics, the balls were even smaller, at only 38mm in diameter. Made from celluloid (yes, the same thing as camera film) or ABS, they can be of any colour, but are commonly white for good visibility against a blue/green table.
One area where I think Table Tennis definitely outshines Tennis, is the scoring. Tennis has a notoriously illogical system for counting points. A Tennis game is won by the first player to win at least four points, but also have at least two more points than their opponent. But rather than counting points as 0, 1, 2, 3, in Tennis we have ‘love’, 15, 30 and 40! If both players reach 40 points, then the game is declared ‘deuce’. If a player has one point more than their opponent and they are playing for the win, they are said to have the ‘advantage’.
A set is a sequence of games played with alternating serves. A player wins a set by winning at least 6 games, but again, it’s that simple. If they win six sets, but their opponent has won five, they need to win another set to get a two-point lead and win 7-5. However, if they fail to win their next game and end up at 6-6, the two-point rule no longer applies and the next player to win a game, wins. A match is determined by the best of three or five sets.
In Table Tennis, points are counted as in 1, 2, 3 up to 11, with the first player to reach 11 points winning the game. Table Tennis does also require a two-point lead to win, and players will keep playing after 11 points until one player is two points ahead. Matches are normally the best of five or seven games.
One area of the game where Tennis seems to have the advantage is speed. A Table Tennis ball travels at over 100 kilometres per hour, but a Tennis ball travels twice as fast at 200 kilometres per hour.
However, this does not mean that the game of tennis is faster. A Table Tennis ball only needs to travel about three metres, while a Tennis ball needs to travel more than 20. This means that the ball arrives at your paddle significantly faster in Table Tennis, making it a game of extremely fast reactions.
Consequently, Table Tennis players have fast hands and fast minds, and develop excellent hand-eye coordination. There is also a lot less starting and stopping in a Table Tennis game than a Lawn Tennis game, meaning that it is a surprisingly good workout!
Table Tennis vs Badminton
If you are looking for another fast racquet sport, a Badminton shuttlecock can travel at over 400 kilometres per hour. Badminton is also played on a much smaller court than Tennis, 13.4m long and 5.18m wide for a singles games and 6m wide for doubles games. With the speed of the shuttlecock and the size of the court, Badminton rivals Table Tennis for rapidity.
Badminton is quite a different racquet game from Tennis and Table Tennis, and not just because of its shuttlecock. The net that divides the sides of the court, is much higher, at just over 1.5m, which means that the shuttlecock spends much more time in the air than the ball in Tennis or Table Tennis. That, and of course, shuttlecocks don’t bounce.
The racquets used in Badminton are much lighter than in any other racquet sports. A Badminton racquet, while being 665-675mm long, weighs just 70-95g, excluding grip and string.
In contrast, your typical Tennis racquet, which is similarly a frame the holds a matrix of tightly pulled strings, at 72 cm long will weigh at least 250gm, and can weigh more than 300gm!
A Table Tennis racquet, usually called a paddle, is very different to its Tennis and Badminton counterparts. Usually, 17cm long and 15cm wide, they are made from a laminated wood blade. Rather than using strings, the two faces of the blade are covered with rubber. Uniquely, the rubber coverings on the different sides of the paddle do not need to be the same, but can be different depending on the playing style of the player. One side could be a rubber designed to give the ball more spin, while the other could be designed to reduce spin.
The sides of the paddle must be distinguishable to the player’s opponent, with one side red and one black, and players have the opportunity to examine their opponent’s baton prior to the game. This adds a level of strategy to Table Tennis not seen in other racquet sports.
Badminton counts points in the same way as Table Tennis, but the winner needs to reach 21 points, with a two-point lead. In order to regulate the length of the game, if both players reach 29 points, they play for a golden point to win the game.
Table Tennis vs Squash
Another English invention, Squash was invented in around 1830 by students at Harrow, a posh private school for boys. They discovered that punctured balls used for ‘Rackets’, which squashed on impact with the wall, produced a greater variety of different shots and required more effort from the players. They could no longer simply wait for the ball to bounce off the wall. The school constructed its first Squash courts in 1864, and the sport quickly caught on beyond its walls.
Like Table Tennis, squash is an indoor sport, played in a four-walled room 9.75m by 6.4m with walls 5.64m high. Different from the other racquet sports discussed here, the walls form the greatest part of the playing surface (but they too have an out area).
Players hit the ball against the front wall of the room, and the ball can hit any of the other walls at any time, but cannot hit the floor between the player hitting the ball and the ball hitting the front wall. Also, players are not restricted to sides of the court, but rather both players (or all four players in doubles games) use the whole court. This leads to quite a few collisions, and there are penalties for deliberate collisions or blocking behaviour.
Squash uses the same 11-point scoring system as Table Tennis, and the ball moves around the relatively small court at more than 200 kilometres per hour. So, what gives Table Tennis the edge over Squash?
Anyone who has ever played Squash will know that you need to be fighting fit in order to have a competitive chance on the court, otherwise known as a sweatbox! While still an extremely challenging sport, Table Tennis is also a great community sport, as anyone can play together competitively.
I’ve seen games where a 70-year-old has beat a 20-year-old, and a 10-year-old girl has wiped the floor with a grown man. While a lot of skill is involved, physical strength isn’t so important, so it is a sport where everyone can play, together.
So, Why Table Tennis
All racquet sports are good for your health. They all promote fitness, hand-eye coordination and strategic thinking. They also stimulate the Hippocampus, a part of the brain that regulates emotions and memory, contributing to mental health in general.
Table Tennis can be just as good a cardio workout as Tennis and requires the same strength and agility as Badminton.
One area where Table Tennis may have the edge is its social element. Anyone who learns the skills can play competitively against anyone else. There is no need for age, gender or weight categories.
You can play it with your children, your grandmother, or your weight buddies from the gym. The sociability of Table Tennis is another big tick when it comes to promoting mental health.