Ping pong, also known as table tennis, is a fun sport. You don’t really need a ping pong table to play; as long as you have the correct markings on a regular table, you should be good to go. However, you will need a few paddles and a ping pong ball. Speaking of which, do you know how big a ping pong ball is?
According to the official guidebook of the International Table Tennis Federation (ITTF), a ping pong ball should measure precisely 40 millimeters (1.5748 inches) in diameter and weigh 2.7 grams (0.095 ounces).
There is so much more we can learn about this popular rec-room sport. In this guide, I’ll explain the sport of ping pong and the measurements of its equipment.
Ping Pong Equipment and Measurements
The essential equipment you need to play ping pong is a ball, a table, a net assembly, and a few paddles. All of the measurements mentioned below come directly from the ITTF’s digital handbook.
Ping Pong Ball
A ping pong ball is the second-smallest sports ball, just after squash balls. It’s spherical in shape and has a hollow center.
- The diameter of the ping pong ball must be 40 millimeters (1.5748 inches).
- The total weight of the ping pong ball must be 2.7 grams (0.095 ounces).
- The ball must be made of a plastic-like material that’s colored white or orange with a matte finish.
If you got to know a softball size and weight, a ping pong ball is roughly 10 inches smaller in diameter and 6.4 oz lighter in weight than a softball.
The ping-pong table is divided into 2 parts: the top surface, known as the playing surface, and the legs.
- The legs much prop the playing surface up so that its top surface is 76 centimeters (2 feet 6 inches) above the floor.
- The playing surface must measure 2.74 meters (9 feet) long and 1.525 meters (5 feet) wide. It can be made of any hard surface, as long as dropping a standard ping pong ball bounces 23 centimeters (9 inches) high when dropped from 30 centimeters (12 inches) above.
- The center of the playing surface is divided in half by the net.
- A ping pong table includes a 2-centimeter-wide (0.8-inch) line that creates a rectangle along the edge of the table.
- A 3-millimeter-wide (0.1-inch) line is drawn down the middle of the table, perpendicularly to the net, to divide the table into 2 equal halves for doubles matches.
- The vertical sides of the table are foul territory. If the ball strikes the side, it’s an automatic foul. If it strikes any part of the edge lines, including the corners, it’s not an out.
Ping Pong Net Assembly
The ping pong net assembly is divided into two parts: the net and the posts.
- The net assembly is installed at the halfway mark between the 2 ends of the table to establish each player’s side of the table. From the edge of the table to the net, the player’s side should measure 1.37 meters (4.5 feet) long and 1.525 meters (5 feet) wide.
- The posts should have clamps that keep them in place on the edge of the table.
- The net should stand 15.25 centimeters (6 inches) high.
- The bottom of the net should be slightly elevated from the playing surface.
- If the ball hits the net post and lands on the opponent’s side of the table, the ball is still in play.
Ping Pong Paddles
The paddles are tiny rackets that you use to hit the ping pong ball back and forth. They can be broken into 2 parts: the blade and the handle.
- The overall length of the ping pong paddle usually measures 24 to 26 centimeters (9 to 10.25 inches).
- The blade is slightly oblong in shape. It measures around 17 centimeters (6.7 inches) long and 15 centimeters (5.6 inches) wide.
- The length of the handle is around 10 centimeters (3.9 inches). It has a tapered design with a wider bottom (2.6 centimeters or 1.02 inches).
A Quick Look at Ping Pong’s History
The world saw its first ping pong match played in the early 20th century in England. The first ping pong organization was established in 1902 but was dissolved 3 years later. In the 1920s, the organization was revived, and the name Ping-Pong was changed to the more official-sounding table tennis.
The first official table tennis tournament took place in 1926 when Hungarians and Austrians duked it out over the green table to see who would reign supreme. In the end, Hungary would earn its first gold medal of 68, putting it in second place in terms of total gold-medal counts but far behind China’s 149 gold medals.
Table tennis made its debut as an official Olympic sport during the 1988 Summer Games in Seoul, South Korea. During the event, South Korea would score the gold medal in the men’s singles and women’s doubles categories, while China would take home the gold for the women’s singles and men’s doubles events.
How to Play Ping Pong?
Ping pong is a pretty straightforward sport. If you know how tennis and badminton are played, you should have an easy time grasping the concept of playing ping pong.
There are two players who stand on opposite ends of the ping pong table. Each player has a paddle that they use to whack a tiny ping pong ball over a short net. For a hit to count, the ball must strike the surface of the other side of the table. In order to score a point, your opponent must fail to hit the ball over the net and onto your side.
It’s important to note that it’s not 100% mandatory to hit the ball over the net. As long as the ball touches the opponent’s side of the table when hitting it from the side of the net, the ball is still in play.
Each person is given 2 opportunities to serve the ball, after which the roles are reversed. When playing singles matches, the server can serve the ball in any direction of the table. When playing doubles matches, the ball must be served cross-court to the player diagonal from them. Most ping pong sets are played to 15 or 21. However, per ITTF rules, a game is played to 11 or with a score difference of 2 if they are tied at 10.