Table tennis is a popular indoor game of tennis played with rackets and a celluloid or plastic ball, bounced on a table being divided by net.
It is an Olympic sport identical to ping-pong outside the level of competition though their rules keep diverging in recent times. In table tennis, there is a serious competition in leagues around the world as well as in international championships.
On the other hand, ping-pong originated from the early twentieth century and it’s the trademarked name given to the table tennis game. Ping-pong is considered as the less competitive, household form of table tennis.
Though there are several variations from table tennis, they are almost identical and ping-pong is played in a much more informal and social manner.
The terms ‘table tennis’ and ‘ping-pong’ were both used interchangeably in the early days of the sport, but due to trademark disputes, the International Table Tennis Federation (ITTF), choose table tennis over ping-pong when writing the standard rules of the sport.
Nevertheless, the community of ping-pong lovers have embraced the more casual name since its focus is more of fun and making friends than competition.
The differentiation of table tennis and ping-pong has brought about so much debate and a large number of individuals, companies, and players believe they are actually the same sport.
The name “table tennis” appeared in early 1887 and it was the original name for the sport before being trademarked by some companies and was nicknamed “Ping-pong”. Table tennis was chosen because it sounds more official and it was difficult to use ping-pong due to legal reasons.
This means that originally, there was no known difference between table tennis and ping-pong other than branding, and today, they are evolving into different sports but closely related.
Paddle: Ping pong uses only one type of paddle known as sandpaper paddle. They tend to last much longer than the table tennis paddles which comes in different design, blades and surface. The table tennis paddle needs regular replacement otherwise, spinning may be difficult.
Ball: Table tennis ball have a small diameter of 3.4mm while ping-pong ball has a diameter of 3.7mm but some players often use the same type of ball during gameplay.
Spin and Hit
Table tennis: The level and type of spin can be used to differentiate the two sports as players practically spin the ball in different ways to confuse their opponent and make their hit very hard to predict. Players also use their footwork and a very fast-paced to reach and spin the ball perfectly.
Ping-pong: Hit, not spin is used in ping-pong because the sandpaper paddle is not designed to spin, but to hit a ball. Hand-eye coordination is also utilized in this case instead of footwork.
Table tennis: Here, the ball is thrown up and above the palm up to six-inches and it is being hit from behind the line.
Ping-pong: Service is done according to the rules of the game. Some players will drop the ball and hit, while others will allow the ball to bounce once before serving. This means that, in ball serving, ping-pong doesn’t have a standard hard and fast rule.
In table tennis, players are given 2-serves each, and matches end at 11-points.
But in ping-pong, players are given 5-serves each before switching servers and the match uses either 11-point or 21-point format. This is why ping-pong games have longer rallies than table tennis games.
Competition and Formality
Table tennis: Table tennis is a highly technical and competitive game than ping-pong. It is also an Olympic sport with leagues and championship levels. It can be played by anyone regardless of age, but some players believe that table tennis is a competitive sport while ping-pong is a hobby.
Ping-pong: There are also serious players in the ping-pong game with national and global championship titles though it is not recognized as an Olympic sport.
Table tennis and ping-pong players who indulge in the sport as one of their hobbies are seen as ping-pong players regardless of the rules used. Ping-pong game tends to have less-strict rules because of its less-formal history than table tennis.
Different variations of ping-pong is available worldwide as well as the usual singles and doubles match. One of the many variations is “Round the Table or Rundlauf” originated from Germany.
Rundlauf is an ideal way for a large group of players to play ping-pong at the same time. Here, two team of players form two separate queues going anti-clockwise around the table tennis table.
When ball is served by the first member of one of the two teams, each of the players takes turn to hit the ball and then retrieve to the back of the queue. Losing a point means you are eliminated from the game. Rundlauf is a very popular version of ping pong which can be played by 10 to 16 players. But in table tennis, no such group form of play exist.