Mostly ping pong and table tennis are two names for the same game, and they don’t have any significant differences. However, they are perceived differently. The serious game where the competitions are played in leagues and tournaments is officially known as table tennis.
Ping pong is a similar game that is more informal and casual if you want to see a big difference between these two games. People also bring several variations to ping pong as they feel like. While this is the significant difference between ping pong and table tennis, people have coined a list of differences between the two.
Since 2011, ping pong turned into a separately recognized sport when the World Championship of Ping Pong was introduced that year. Since then, this championship is held every year. It has its own rules, and the paddle used for this game is different.
A Little History of the Two Sports
Let us look at the history of ping pong and table tennis to bring some clarity about the topic. According to the ITTF website, table tennis came into being in 1887 and became popular by the 1890s, and many names were being given to this sport.
The name ‘Ping Pong’ was owned by John Jacques and Sons, a sports company that encouraged this name for this sport, and soon after the Table Tennis Association was formed, they made a Ping Pong Association of their own.
In 1926, the International Table Tennis Federation got the name ‘table tennis’ trademarked for official use.
While table tennis is the new and official name for the sport, people in the United States of America commonly use the name ping pong, which is highly encouraged over here.
Where did the Name Ping Pong come from?
Table tennis came into being in the year 1885. In the year 1891, a sports company in London manufactured its supplies and called them Gossima. They produced both rubber balls and cork balls. However, the sales for this sport were pretty low, and the game itself was not as fun.
In the year 1900, some members from the London club presented a ball made up of celluloid to Gossima. This ball proved to be effective. The racquets were made of sheepskin and had long-handled. When the ball bounced from racquets, it made a sound like a ping pong depending on how tight the sheepskin was in the racquet.
The owner Jaques changed the name of the game to Gossima or Ping Pong. In a matter of a few months, the name was again changed to ping pong and Gossima. And finally, the name was changed back to only ping pong. This catchy name became very popular in 1901 and 1902 in the United Kingdom, and then it got famous in the U.S and then across the world.
Table Tennis vs. Ping Pong: The Differences
Earlier, the terms table tennis and ping pong referred to the same game and were used interchangeably. But, when the rules and regulations were being listed by the International Table Tennis Federation (ITTF), it selected table tennis as its official name to avoid any trademark disputes for the title of ping pong.
Serious players get offended when their game is referred to as ping pong in front of them. In their opinion, the name ping pong makes this game sound like something childish and frivolous.
Still, there is a whole community of recreational gamers that embraces the informal name of ping pong. Ping pong players don’t focus on the competition, but their emphasis is on the fun and the bonding this game brings. They play it more freely, letting go of some table tennis rules here and there.
Coming to the game of table tennis, it is a highly popular game. It is played at the Olympics, having around three hundred million players across the world. It can be called the world’s second most popular sport.
Ping pong has almost everything same to same as table tennis, except for the bat. In official ping pong, the players use a blue sandpaper bat. Other than, the table needs to be flat, there should be a net in the middle of the table, and the ball should be free from any cracks.
Whereas in table tennis, there are specified requirements by the ITTF about the size of the ball, the thickness of the rubber in the paddle, the amount of wood to be used in the blade of the paddle, the size and finishing of the table tennis table, etc.
So we can say that ping pong and table tennis have more differences in terms of playing skills than playing equipment. The game of ping pong is also played on the standard tennis table if you look for similarities.
If you make a ping pong player with a sandpaper bat play against a table tennis player with the racket designed to perform, it is evident that a player with the table tennis racket will beat the daylights out of the ping pong guy.
Ping pong is played using sandpaper bats, which means it is not as speed or spin oriented as table tennis. This game decidedly has a slow pace. But that doesn’t take away any of its fun.
Ping pong players can play attacking or defensive game whenever they wish to; they don’t have to label themselves as only offensive or defensive style player.
In table tennis, a player is either an attacking player or a defensive one.
The attacking player hits smashes, top-spins and drives. Their hits are not supposed to be clean all the time. But they make their opponent quiver with their shots.
The defensive player blocks the opponent’s shots and chop their strokes and display a very patient game. They dodge the attacks of their opponents and tire them out slowly. They wait for their moment and then attack the opponent and take them down by surprise.
Playing style is one significant difference in ping pong and table tennis. Table tennis players have to live up to their playing style, and ping pong players are free to pick their form as they wish and switch styles in an ongoing game if they feel like it.
When it is a game of table tennis, it is required to serve the ball; you have to throw it upwards up to more than 6 inches using your open hand and then hit it from behind the baseline of the table.
Whereas, when it is a ping pong game, you are allowed to serve straight out of your hand or after a bounce from the ping pong table.
In a game of table tennis, the game can have a total of 11 points where each player gets two serves at a time.
Whereas in ping pong, most of the time, there are 21 points in a match, and every player is allowed five serves alternatively.
Like the regular singles and doubles games, there are several variations in ping pong worldwide. One such modification is Rundlauf, which means round the table. The Rundlauf originated in Germany. In this game, more prominent groups of people can enjoy the game simultaneously. In Rundlauf, two teams make two lines or queues running anti-clockwise across the ping pong table.
Each player gets to play one shot, and then they go back to the end of the queue. If a team loses one point, that member of the team is eliminated from the game, and hence the team loses one life.
Although it started in Germany, Rundlauf has gained worldwide popularity, and groups of ten to sixteen ping pong players can play it easily.
The official game of table tennis has no such variation where groups of people could play it.
We have established that ping pong and table tennis are quite similar and practically the same sport with different names. However, because of trademark issues and slight cosmetic changes, these are supposed to be different from one and another.
Table tennis is an internationally recognized game with proper standards and a huge fan base. It is played in Olympics as well. We have listed the different significant points of differences. However, in the U.S, people used the names interchangeably and might be referring to table tennis when they are saying the word ping pong.
With ping pong, the game is more of a relaxed and recreational type. The rules are modified to make them more casual and comfortable going. Since the significant rules of the game are almost all pretty much the same, you definitely can use both the terms simultaneously. Just remember table tennis is a severe game and ping pong has a more casual nature. Players often bring their variations to ping pong to make the game even more enjoyable.
But since table tennis is more of serious business, there are no variations in the official games.
Mark is a Bloomberg BusinessWeek-based digital entrepreneur, blogger, and table tennis enthusiast. He is a former professional table tennis player with the career-best USATT ranking of 2689. He is also an ITTF Level 3 certified coach and conducts weekend coaching programs in and around the New York area. Mark is also a pool player by passion. He was first introduced to the game of pool at a very early age by his granddad. He had a natural knack for the game and quickly learned the ropes, and by the time he was 15, he was already participating in local leagues. He aims to make it into the APA league someday! Mark started his own blog by starting Indoor Games Zone, where he loves to share his years of experience with the audience. He covers ping pong, pool, air hockey, shuffleboard, and foosball.
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