A singles or doubles game played across a 2 ½ -foot-high table that is 9 feet long and 5 feet wide and divided by a 6-inch-high net across the middle.
It is commonly called ping-pong.
The players alternately hit a small hollow lightweight plastic ball back and forth across the net with a small rubber-faced wooden paddles.
The game is started with one player serving the ball by tossing it up from the open palm and hitting it so that it strikes the table only on the far side of the net, and play continues until one side fails to make a good return. Either the receiving or the serving side can score points.
Each side serves five consecutive serves, and the game is played until one side scores 21 points. The game must be won by a margin of at least 2 points, so if the game is tied at 20, each side alternates serves until one side has a 2-point margin. The table is marked into service courts by a white line around the op edge of the table and one dividing the table lengthwise, but these are not used for singles play. In doubles play, all serves are made from the right-hand court of the receiver, and all players alternate returning the ball in a definite sequence.
The game takes place on a hard table divided by a net. Except for the initial serve, the rules are generally as follows: players must allow a ball played toward them to bounce one time on their side of the table, and must return it so that it bounces on the opposite side at least once.
A point is scored when a player fails to return the ball within the rules.
Play is fast and demands quick reactions. Spinning the ball alters its trajectory and limits an opponent's options, giving the hitter a great advantage.
Table tennis is governed by the worldwide organization International Table Tennis Federation (ITTF) which was founded in 1926.
ITTF currently includes 226 member associations. The table tennis official rules are specified in the ITTF handbook.
Table tennis has been an Olympic sport since 1988, with several event categories. From 1988 until 2004, these were men's singles, women's singles, men's doubles and women's doubles.
Since 2008, a team event has been played instead of the doubles.