Before 2011, you could consider “Ping Pong” and “Table Tennis” as the same sport. Most people would consider Table Tennis to played competitively, with Ping Pong being a more casual, social game. However, in 2011 the World Championship of Ping Pong introduced a new format to make the game more exciting.
With this article, we’ll look into the types of game that people call Table Tennis and Ping Pong before discovering the new Wold Championship of Ping Pong format. I’m confident this will give you the most comprehensive guide to the difference between Table Tennis and Ping Pong.
We need to start with a short history lesson.
Table of Contents
- The History of Table Tennis and Ping Pong
- Why do people call Table Tennis, Ping Pong?
- Are Ping Pong and Table Tennis the same sport?
- Reinventing Ping Pong as a new sport
- Comparing Ping Pong and Table Tennis
- Conclusion: Table Tennis vs Ping Pong
The History of Table Tennis and Ping Pong
The sport we now recognise as Table Tennis (or Ping Pong) has been called many names in its history, including Whiff-Whaff, Parlour Tennis, Indoor Tennis and Gossima (source: ITTF).
When exploring the Table Tennis vs Ping Pong divide, it’s the name Gossima that we need to be interested in. Gossima was the name given by a parlour game manufacturer, Jacques. They had been trying to popularise Gossima for over 15 years before the celluloid ball was introduced to the game in 1901.
With the sounds “ping” and “pong” clearly heard from the rudimentary rackets used back then, they quickly bought the trademark to call their game “Ping Pong”. Not long after, they sold this trademark to the American company Parker Brothers.
So, when does Table Tennis come into the picture? Well, that was a decision made in 1926 by the newly founded International Table Tennis federation. They didn’t want to name their sport something already owned by a large corporation, who they would have to pay money! So, they opted for the more generic “Table Tennis”.
So, the sport is conclusively called Table Tennis. Discover more about the history of table tennis through our detailed research.
I guess you can stop reading now… apart from a slight twist in the tale. The Ping Pong name has been revived! More on that shortly.
Why do people call Table Tennis, Ping Pong?
I can answer this question with another question: why do people call vacuum cleaners, Hoovers?
Some of you may be confused by that. The implement you use to clean your house is definitely a vacuum cleaner, however the name Hoover has been popularised so widely that many people call it “Hoovering”.
The exact same scenario happened in Table Tennis. We know the sport is called Table Tennis, however the Ping Pong name has been popular around the world for over 100 years. People refer to the sport as Ping Pong with their kids and a new generation is raised using that name.
Isn’t Ping Pong such a catchy, descriptive name as well? It’s really fun to say and sounds just like the ball as it’s being hit between two friends. It’s no wonder people like to use the Ping Pong name.
Ultimately, it doesn’t matter which name you use. People around the world will understand what you mean if you use either Table Tennis or Ping Pong!
Are Ping Pong and Table Tennis the same sport?
Over the last 100 years, equipment has become standardised and most people would recognise Ping Pong and Table Tennis as the same sport.
People tend to refer to Ping Pong when talking about “garage play” or a more casual style of playing. If you’re playing at a bar, or your mate’s house, or at your workplace, then it’s likely people will use the name Ping Pong. This more casual approach is what helps make Table Tennis one of the most played sports in the world!
Most people who take the sport seriously, such as training and playing competitions, will use the term “Table Tennis”. This is the way it’s described at all major national and international tournaments, including the Olympics.
It’s rare to find a competitive player who refers to the sport as Ping Pong. In fact, I used to hate the term “Ping Pong” because it makes the sport sound ‘easy’ and that it shouldn’t be taken seriously. I’m much more relaxed nowadays, just happy that people are talking about the sport I love.
Remember that twist I was talking about?
A new sport was ‘invented’ in 2011 and named Ping Pong. Let’s explore this sport and why the new Ping Pong is different to Table Tennis.
Reinventing Ping Pong as a new sport
In 2011, there was a grand unveiling of the ‘World Championships of Ping Pong’. A new sport designed to make Table Tennis more accessible to spectators and more exciting to watch.
The new sport was backed by a promotion company, Matchroom Sports. If that sounds familiar to you, that’s because it’s a company owned by Barry Hearn. He’s a globally renowned promoter who has worked with the biggest stars in Boxing, Darts and Snooker amongst many other sporting business ventures.
The last 20 years have seen sports like Darts and Snooker grow in popularity across the globe thanks to the Matchroom influence, so you couldn’t find anyone better to try and launch a new Ping Pong sport.
Comparing Ping Pong and Table Tennis
Now we have a new sport involved, we can easily say that Ping Pong and Table Tennis are not the same. As part of the new Ping Pong format, lots of changes were made to suit the TV audience. These differences are enough to ensure that Ping Pong world champions struggle when playing against top Table Tennis players (and the same the other way round).
I’m going to take a look at some of the key differences (and similarities).
Are Table Tennis and Ping Pong tables the same size?
The main similarity between Ping Pong and Table Tennis is the table. The tables are made of the same material, with the same height, width and length. The net is the same height in both sports, so the setup for both Ping Pong and Table Tennis is exactly the same. Discover more about the size of a Table Tennis table.
The advantage of this is that you can easily switch between the two formats, as long as you have the right rackets.
Are Table Tennis and Ping Pong rackets the same?
No, the rackets are quite different between the two sports. Even though they may look similar to people unfamiliar with both sports, they are very different to play with.
Table Tennis rackets have a wooden blade with a layer of sponge/rubber on either side. The rubber can have many different properties, such as thickness and tackiness that impact how much spin and speed can be imparted onto the ball. There are even variations of rubber with pimples in or out.
In contrast, Ping Pong rackets are exactly the same for every player. They are made from a wooden blade with a layer of sandpaper glued to each side. Yes, I’m not joking about the sandpaper! This means it’s much more difficult to put a lot of spin or speed onto the ball, whilst also levelling the playing field with everyone using the same equipment.
The idea of these new sandpaper rackets is to make the sport easier for a beginner to pick up, as well as making it easier to watch for television audiences because the ball moves more slowly and predictably.
|Table Tennis||Ping Pong|
|Blade||Normally wooden or carbon fibre||Wooden|
|Rubber||Pimples-in or pimples-out with sponge||Sandpaper|
|Different Types||Unlimited different variations||Single Type|
Are Table Tennis and Ping Pong scored in the same way?
The differences keep coming when we look at the scoring method for each sport.
Competitive Table Tennis matches are played as ‘best of’ an odd number of sets, with each set lasting until the first player gets 11 points. If the players are tied at 10-10, the winner must get 2 points ahead.
With Ping Pong, things are a little different. Each set is played up to 15 points, with the most common formats being played best-of-3 or best-of-5 sets. Just like Table Tennis, the winner needs to get 2 points ahead of their opponent. However, the massive difference is the introduction of the Double Point Ball.
The double point ball can be called by the server twice in each match (once if best-of-3 sets). Once called, the server earns 2 points if they win the next point. If the opponent wins that point, they still only get 1 point. This brings a fascinating tactical element to the sport, with players needing to think carefully about when their serve will be most effective to win the double point ball.
Conclusion: Table Tennis vs Ping Pong
So there we have it, now you know the difference between table tennis and ping pong. It’s more complicated than you thought, right?
We know that the original name Ping Pong was trademarked when the sport was invented, so the ITTF renamed their sport to Table Tennis. Since then, people have continued to call the sport both names. Ping Pong is most commonly used for the “garage-style” casual sport, whilst Table Tennis is the competitive, Olympic sport.
In 2011, Ping Pong was used again by a new sport. This was designed to make Table Tennis more exciting and accessible to a wider audience. The sport has been growing since 2011, with yearly world championships held at Alexandra Palace in London. After 100 years, it’s definitely time for Ping Pong to make a comeback!
Featured Image – Daniel Schwen
David's been playing Table Tennis since he was 12, earning his first coaching license in 2012. He's played in national team & individual competitions, although he prefers the more relaxed nature of a local league match! After earning his umpiring qualification in England, David moved to Australia and started Racket Insight to share information about the sport he loves.
Blade: Stiga WRB Offensive Classic | Forehand: Calibra LT | Backhand: Xiom Musa
Playstyle: All-Round Attacker