Table Tennis emerged around 1880 in England, as a game played after dinner by wealthy families as an alternative to lawn tennis. The equipment was improvised: piles of books formed the net, the ball could be the round part of a champagne cork, and the lids of cigar cases could serve as rackets.
In 1926, the International Table Tennis Federation (ITTF) was established in Berlin. The first World Championships were held in the same year in London.
The sport only joined the Olympic programme at the Seoul 1988 Games, in South Korea, with events for both men and women. For the 2008 edition in Beijing, the doubles matches were replaced by team events, alongside individual competitions.
Table Tennis’ rules are very similar to those of Tennis, but the sport has its own scoring and serving system. Games end in 11 points or whenever one of the participants becomes two points up if there is a 10-10 tie.
While in Tennis the same player serves throughout an entire game, in Table Tennis service alternates every two points. If the score is 10-10, service alternates for every point played. In doubles, the players take turns not just to serve, but also to hit the ball during play.
Single matches are played as the best of seven games – whoever wins four games first takes the match –, while in team events – with no more than three participants in each team – there are four single matches and one doubles match, all playing for the best of five games. When one team wins three matches, the fixture is over.
A single elimination system is used on Olympic competition, and the losers of the semi-finals compete for bronze medals. The player’s position at the draw, either in singles or teams, is defined by their world ranking position.