The ITTF Rules For Table Tennis Playing Equipment

Table tennis is a very intense game that requires a high level of concentration. In order to keep the game from becoming chaotic and unfair, it is imperative to establish a set of rules for the type of table tennis equipment to be played on, and for the game play itself.

People may use the name “ping pong” to refer to table tennis and vis versa, but ping pong and table tennis are also their own similar but separate games. That also means they both each have a separate set of rules for playing the game. Note that in this article we will be exclusively talking about Table Tennis equipment by the ITTF standard.

What are the Rules for Table Tennis Equipment by the ITTF Standard?

Given that table tennis is a global sport, there is a standard set of equipment measurements and types used in order to ensure that no matter where you are in the world, you can compete with other national player in a fair manner. The standard for table tennis equipment is established by the International Table Tennis Federation (ITTF), which is the organization that makes sure that national table tennis competitions are fair.

table tennis table dimension

Anyways, here are the national standards for competition quality table tennis equipment:

Table Tennis Table Dimension (Table Measurements)

When you searching table tennis equipment than first to think table tennis table. The table tennis dimensions has to be a rectangle that is 2.74 meters (9 feet) in length and 1.525 meters (5 feet) in width. The table has to be horizontally parallel to the floor, exactly 76 (2.5 feet) centimeters above from the floor.

Another interesting standard is the quality/density/material that the table is made of. Although the table can be made of almost any material, it is required that the material returns a uniform ball bounce of approximately 23 centimeters (9.1 inches) when a standard table tennis ball is dropped from a height of 30cm (11.8 inches) from the table surface- that is 77% of the initial ball height. Additionally, the surface of the table should be a uniform dark matte color.

Another detail is that the table’s surface should have a white lines outlining the border of the table and a straight line dividing the two courts into equal left and right half-courts. Note that the white line marking up the table may be 2 centimeters thick.

The table is divided into 2 equal courts, separated in the middle with a 15.25 centimeter (6 inch) high net running in between.

For doubles play style (2 v 2), each court is divided into 2 equal half-courts by a 3 millimeter white center line.

Net Measurements

The net in the middle that divides the table into two equal courts also has specifications. The net assembly is composed of the net itself, the clamps that hold the net onto the table, and the supporting posts and suspensions that keep the net stretched out straight- given that the bottom and top ends of the net attaches to the supporting posts.

Note that the suspension is a cord that goes through the top part of the net and attaches to the two supporting posts. To make the net stretch tighter, you can usually pull the cord tighter with a net tensioner or by manually pulling on the cord and retying.

The official height for table tennis nets is designated at 15.25 centimeters or 6 inches. This net may also hang over the table 15.25 centimeters (6 inches) on both sides.

Finally, the net should be just barely touching the playing surface; making sure that the top part of the net is 15.25 centimeters (6 inches) above the table surface.

Ball Characteristics

Although the table tennis ball seems simple enough, there are many specifications for it. Obviously, the ball must be a sphere. Also, the ping pong ball must be made up of a plastic-like material called celluloid, which is the same material that photographic film is made up of.

The ball must have a mass of 2.7 grams or 0.095 ounces. And the ball must have a diameter of 40 millimeters or 1.57 inches. Note that this diameter used to be different; it was only from the Summer Olympics of 2000 that the standard ball size was made to 40 millimeters. Before that, the balls were originally 38 millimeters, meaning that returns made with this smaller ball were significantly faster and spun more.

Another standard for official table tennis balls is that it must bounce approximately 24 to 26 centimeters in the air when dropped from a height of 30.5 centimeters on a standard steel block. Meeting this criterion means that the ball has a coefficient of restitution of 0.89 to 0.92. The coefficient of restitution is referring to how much elastic energy is left over after a single bounce. So a value of .92 would mean that from the initial height, the ball falls and bounces back up to 92% of the initial height. Perfect elasticity, a value of 1, would mean that the ball bounces back to the initial height value.

The ball must be made of celluloid plastic, colored white or orange, with a matte finish. The choice of ball color was made to make the ball more visible during game play, given that white and orange are the colors that most stand out from the other colors in the game play environment.

The number of stars on a table tennis ball indicates the quality, where 3 stars indicate the best quality. But this is an arbitrary standard developed by manufacturers. In an official competition, ITTF use their own approved balls with “ITTF” printed on the ball itself.

Paddle/Racket Characteristics

Laminated wooden rackets are used, covered with rubber on one or both sides depending on the grip style that the player uses.

The wooden part of the racket is often referred to as the “blade”. By ITTF standards, at least 85% of the blade by thickness must be made of natural wood. Table tennis blades are commonly made out of balsa, limba, and cypress (hinoki) woods.

The average size of a paddle blade is 17 centimeters (6.7 inches) long and 15 centimeters (5.9 inches) wide.

parts of ping pong paddle

The ITTF allows paddles to have different types of surfaces for each side of the paddle. This allows for table tennis enthusiasts to customize the paddle surface for an advantage based on their play style. The type of surface dictates the amount of spin, speed, and spin nullification that a table tennis racket is able to influence on the ball during the game.

So in theory, you could have one side of the paddle that is very spongy, and another side of the paddle that is significantly less spongy; just a rubber cover. This setup allows you to switch between returning a ball that has a high amount of spin but is slower vs. a ball that has less amount of spin but is significantly faster.

There is a couple of things to note about these facts. First of all, the reason why a sponge-based surface returns a ball with more spin is because the ball doesn’t immediately bounce off of this type of surface. Instead, the ball digs into the cushion-like surface for a brief moment before bouncing off of the racket. That “dig in” allows more kinetic energy to transfer into the spin, meaning that the ball is slower as a result. This also explains why a surface that isn’t spongy returns a faster ball- less kinetic energy goes into spinning the ball. Usually a surface that returns low-spin fast balls are composed of hard rubber with “pips” or rubber dots that return the ball straight.

So, now you know that the ITTF allows for different types of surfaces on each side of the paddle, allowing for more in depth play style tactics. But one thing that the ITTF requires for this customization is to indicate that the surfaces are different on each side of the paddle. In order to do this, the colors black and red are used to designate that the two surfaces of the paddle.

Otherwise, without different colors showing that the paddle had different surfaces, it resulted in games where the opposing player was almost constantly confused as for the type of ball that he would receive, making the game a lot more difficult and less competitive to play. You may also want to see common table tennis injuries and how to avoid them.

Final Thoughts

When you are looking for the best table tennis tables, you want to keep things in mind like ping pong table dimensions, the material that it is made out of and its overall durability. If you really want to stick to the rules, make sure that you buy an official ping pong table that is sized correctly.This will give you all the correct dimensions when it comes to length, width and height. In most cases, you can purchase one that comes with a net so you are not forced to buy that separately. You will have to buy your paddles and the ping pong balls separately. You can also buy official versions of those items, as well.

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