Which Do You Think Is The Biggest Change?
One of the best things about table tennis is that there is always more to learn.
Your game, my game, everyone's game can use an adjustment every now and then, even Ma Long's!
But the sport itself has undergone many adjustments in recent years.
Some good. Some not so.
Here are some of the things that impacted the game of table tennis.
While the very first table tennis balls were actually wine corks used in British parlour games, things have changed a lot regarding table tennis balls. In 2000, for the first time since 1937, the ITTF decided to increase the diameter of the ball from 38mm to 40mm.
Then in 2014/2015 balls were changed from celluloid to plastic. Prior to 2014 balls were either yellow or white. While the rules allow white or yellow balls, for the last few years, manufacturers have only supplied white balls. A new proposal is on the table (sorry, pun intended!) to bring back yellow balls after the Tokyo 2020 Olympics.
The rubbers on a table tennis bat used in competition are nowadays black and red. It wasn't always this way, in the late seventies and early eighties Paul Uttley from the Cairns Table Tennis Club remembers players were not only playing with different colours, but also the same colour on both sides.
But after the Tokyo 2020 Olympics, this restriction is set to lift. ITTF President Thomas Weikert said different colours other than red may be used in one side, while the other should remain in black. Obviously, to play table tennis you need a racquet.
The Brisbane Table Tennis club pro-shop offers table tennis bats that suit beginners in the Bronze Bat and intermediate players in the Silver Bat. They also can create a bespoke bat for you with a blade and rubbers and they will assemble it for you.
Perhaps the biggest change in table tennis in history was the change to the scoring system. Prior to 2001 games were scored up to 21 with service changing every 5 points. Since then game has been scored up to 11 with service changing every 2 points. If both players (or both pairs in doubles) score 10 points, then the game shall be won by the first player or pair who subsequently gained a lead of 2 points.
There are some leagues, like the T2 Diamond which has an even faster format. This new format sees games played on a first to 11 format with no deuce under the pressure of a 25-minute clock. Once the close counts down to zero then the game are only to 5. Big prize money and huge media audiences ensure that this format will remain popular.
One of many changes over the years, back in 2002 the rules regarding how to serve in table tennis meant that a player was no longer allowed to hide the ball with their arm during service. How to serve properly in Table Tennis is actually pretty complicated. In the past players tried to impart spin onto the ball with his fingers as he or she throws the ball up.
Nowadays players must start the table tennis serve with the ball resting freely on an open palm of a stationary free hand. A player must toss the ball up near vertically at least 16 cm (6 inches). The server must strike the ball as it is falling. In the past, the ball toss could be on an angle. I've seen some players throw the ball towards the bat, up to 45 degrees. To make the service a bit more complicated the rules state from the start of service until the ball is struck, the ball shall be above the level of the table tennis table and behind the server’s end line, and it shall not be hidden from the receiver by the service or his or her doubles partner or by anything they wear or carry. In other words, the receiver must be able the see the ball.
There are always new coaching techniques such as “power from the ground”. As French-Vietnamese coach EmRatThich says “Hit the Ball by your Leg.” In other words, he is saying that a player should use the power of the legs to support the shot. There are many new coaching techniques. But the rules regarding coaching during a game has recently changed. Since 2016 Coaches are able to provide advice in between points (but not during a rally) provided the flow of play is not disrupted. There can only be one corner coach. Previously corner coach relegated the break between each game. Likewise, most Australians would be familiar with Lleyton Hewett’s “Come ON!” shout. While many players exclaim out-loud after they have hit a good shot, often your inner voice is your most formidable opponent. If you feel yourself succumbing to negative self-talk create a simple phrase to block it out, such as "Start Now," or "Cho-lay!," or "Play your game."
Whatever the changes to table tennis, the game has continued to evolve. And there is sure more to come, such as the possibility of changes to the height of the net. Which changes do you think have had the biggest impact on the sport?