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Table Tennis

World Table Tennis Day: Rules, History at Olympics and Indian milestones

On the occasion of the World Table Tennis Day, we look at the rules of the game, its history at the Olympics and India's achievements in the sport.

World Table Tennis Day: Rules, History at Olympics and Indian milestones

Abhijit Nair

Updated: 6 April 2021 9:00 AM GMT

The World Table Tennis Day is celebrated on 6th April every year. This day was created in the year 2015 by the International Table Tennis Federation (ITTF) to promote and encourage people across the globe to take up the sport.

On the occasion of the World Table Tennis Day, we look at the rules of the game, its history at the Olympics and India's achievements in the sport:

Rules of Table Tennis

  • A match of table tennis is usually consists of either five or seven games.
  • Each game is of 11 points. To win a game, the players need to win by 2 points.
  • Both the players serve alternately after two points are scored. But if the match is stuck at a 'deuce' the players serve alternately at every point scored.
  • While serving in table tennis, the ball should be thrown up straight at least 6 inches, from a straight palm.
  • While serving, the player's contact with the ball must be behind the table and not above it.
  • The player cannot hide the ball from any part of the body once it is tossed in the air before serving.
  • The player losses the point if he/she fails to hit the ball once it is tossed in the air for serving.
  • If the ball hits the net during a serve, it is called 'Let' and the point is replayed. There are no point deductions or limitations on a let serve.
  • While serving, the ball should first land on your side of the table before landing on the opponent's side.
  • In singles there is no restrictions on as to where the ball lands on the oppositions side during a serve, while in doubles the serve has to first land on serve's right side and then the opponents right side of the table.
  • In doubles, both the partners should hit the ball alternately no matter where the ball lands on the table.
  • No player can hit the ball before it bouncing once on his or her side of the table.
  • The player can touch the ball with the hand he/she is holding the paddle, but touching the ball with the other hand results in a point for the opponent.
  • The table tennis paddle has to be compulsorily coloured black on one side.
  • The ball used in a table tennis match has to be 40mm+ made of plastic.
  • 9ft long, 5ft wide, 2.5ft high – This is the officially approved dimensions of a table.
  • The approved height of a table tennis net is 6 inches.

History of Table Tennis at the Olympics

Table Tennis at 1988 Olympics

Table Tennis was played at the Olympics for the first time during the 1988 Seoul Games with singles and doubles events for both men and women. It was never played as a demonstration sport at the Olympics.

Since the 2008 Beijing Olympics, table tennis was held in men's and women's singles and team category. The upcoming 2020 Tokyo Olympics will witness the mixed doubles event in the sport of table tennis for the first time.

Ever since the inception of table tennis at the Olympics, China has dominated it. Over the years, the Asian country has won a total of 53 medals at the Olympics in the sport. South Korea is the second best table tennis nation at the Olympics with 18 medals, while Germany completes the top three with 7 medals.

Indian Milestones

2006 CWG: Sensational Sharath

A 6-feet 2-inch lanky paddler from Tamil Nadu announced his arrival at the international circuit in the early 2000s and soon the world witnessed glimpses of the skills acquired by India's then 'legend in the making'. Achanta Sharath Kamal clinched gold at the 2004 Commonwealth TT Championship and also made his maiden Olympics appearance the same year. Two years later, Sharath etched his name into history books and scripted a new chapter in Indian TT when he outclassed local favourite William Henzell in Melbourne to become the first Indian paddler to win a gold medal at the Commonwealth Games. India's current top-ranked paddler Sharath, who has a record nine senior national titles to his name, has been preparing with gusto to produce a memorable show in his fourth Olympics at the Tokyo Games.

UTT and TTFI scripting a new era

Table Tennis Federation of India's (TTFI) strong domestic initiatives received a further boost as Vita Dani and Niraj Bajaj founded Ultimate Table Tennis (UTT) in 2017. UTT heralded a new era for the sport, boosting its ecosystem with a well-connected bottom-up approach that links the grassroots to the existing TTFI initiatives, while introducing a world-class annual league tournament. UTT has also provided a much-needed global platform where Indian players get maximum international exposure, rubbing shoulders with some of the world's best. The inaugural edition of the league saw current Indian stars Manika Batra and Gnanasekaran Sathiyan announcing their arrival at the big stage with some breathtaking performances while the next two seasons also witnessed the rise of young and upcoming players like Sutirtha Mukherjee, Manav Thakkar and Archana Kamath. The league has documented some of the world's best players in action and how India has become a TT destination for these players. Working alongside TTFI, UTT is also focused on grassroots development which includes support to academies, organising school nationals and becoming a strong stakeholder for all major TT events.

2018 CWG: Manika's magical show

The 2018 Commonwealth Games was the most successful edition in the history of Indian TT as the contingent concluded its campaign at No. 1 position with three gold, two silver and three bronze medals. However, the key highlight of the team was the emergence of star paddler Manika Batra who produced a magical show in Gold Coast. With a victory against Yu Mengyu from Singapore, Batra became the first Indian woman paddler to clinch the gold medal at CWG. She also led the women's team to a historic gold medal triumph and bagged silver and bronze in the women's and mixed doubles category respectively to end her campaign on a high.

History in Jakarta

Fresh from the heroics at Gold Coast CWG, a few months later Indian TT saw one more glittering chapter being added at the 2018 Asian Games in Jakarta, Indonesia. This time a team comprising Achanta Sharath Kamal, G Sathiyan and Anthony Amalraj gave the country its first-ever TT medal at the second biggest sporting event in the world after the Olympics. Though the three-men Indian team lost to South Korea in the semi-final, they secured a bronze medal. Later, Sharath partnered with Manika Batra as the duo added one more bronze into the country's medals tally with a semi-final finish in mixed-doubles.

4 paddlers at the Tokyo Olympics

The 2020 Tokyo Olympics would have four Indians – Achanta Sharath Kamal, Sathiyan Gnanasekaran, Manika Batra and Sutirtha Mukherjee fighting it out for the top honours. While all four of them would be competing in the singles category, the duo of Sharath and Manika would also be seen in the mixed doubles event.

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