Ping Pong vs Table Tennis: Differences & Similarities

Ping pong vs table tennis is an issue that confuses almost everyone. Some say that the sport is given two names, others argue over the seriousness of the game decides the name, and some point out the differences in the way both of the games are played.

What are the many different definitions of table tennis and ping pong and what are the differences between the two? Let us explore!

What is Table Tennis?

Before we go into detail, we should explain what table tennis, in its simplest form, is. As Merriam-Webster defines table tennis, a game resembling tennis that is played on a tabletop with wooden paddles and a small hollow plastic ball.

Table tennis began in the late-1800s when upper-class Victorians played it as an after-dinner amusement.

Later, it got combined with the attempts of bringing lawn tennis, indoors, and, due to a surge in the popularity of lawn tennis, table tennis also became highly popular. Table tennis is mostly played indoors but also played outdoors, recreationally.

Table Tennis versus Ping Pong

What is Ping Pong?

Ping-pong is a game identical to table tennis, as defined, that is played in a much more informal and social setting (although there are various variations, including the well-known game of beer pong, of course).

While not everyone will agree with these distinctions, individuals who like to play the more social game of ping pong may make some minor alterations.

Is Ping Pong a Sport?

There are many conflicting views on whether or not ping pong, the so-called informal version of table tennis, is a sport. Some believe that it is, indeed, a sport, as it has an International Ping Pong Championship Event, which is hosted in England.

Others believe that the difference is only in the name and table tennis is the continuation of the game, ping pong.

Why is it Called Ping Pong?

This is quite an interesting story and a case of typical European revisionism. Most table tennis professionals now think that the name ping pong is insulting. When, in fact, the truth is quite hard to determine, so you decide!

Ping pong is most certainly not an offensive term for the sport, as per, Nic Hautaumki. It is derived from ‘ping pang qiu’ in Mandarin Chinese (same pronunciation) which translates literally to “ping pong ball.”

In other words, Ping Pong is the correct, Mandarin Chinese name for the sport. If any term should be considered offensive or dismissive, it’s table tennis!”

However, others believe that this is completely untrue because the name ‘ping pong’ is an onomatope, derived from the sound the ball makes after getting in contact with the paddle and tabletop.

Considering that the sport originated from England, and, it was more common in England, and was later imported to China, showcases that this might be true and ping pong cannot be offensive.

Whether you believe the first story, or you believe the second one, it is completely up to you!

Table Tennis Ping Pong Comparison

Ping Pong Vs Table Tennis

There are lots of differences between ping pong and table tennis. Luckily for you, we have divided these all, to help you understand them in better detail.

Points Per Match

The number of points per match differs from ping pong to table tennis. According to the official table tennis regulations, a player needs to accumulate 11 points with a gap of at least two points to win a game.

This is different from the required amount of 15 points, which wins you a game in a ping pong match and even a score of 15-14 will result in a win.

World Championship

Contrary to popular belief, ping pong also has a world championship, every year. We all know that the ITTF hosts the championship of table tennis, so it is a surprise to know that there is no difference in this particular point.

Flexible Rules

Table tennis does not have flexible rules as it has a governing body that oversees the rules. On the other hand, ping pong has flexible rules, which can be changed if more and more people think it’s a good idea.

Playing Style

Due to the difference in the equipment being used, the playing style of each game differs from the other. For instance, due to the sandpaper bat, the amount of spin being generated in ping pong is a lot lesser than in table tennis.

The same is the case for the speed and also variations being attempted on serve are fewer when compared to table tennis.

Difference Between Ping Pong and Table Tennis

History

There are two historical beliefs regarding the beginning of our beautiful sport. One version says that table tennis became popular after the rise of lawn tennis and people adopted it as an after-dinner, indoor activity.

The second version claims that this became popular in India and British military officers brought it back with them.

Either way, it was a popular game that people played in England around the 1860s. Ping pong, the word, was used commonly to describe the game before British manufacturer J. Jaques & Son Ltd trademarked it in 1901.

So, the term “ping-pong” came to refer to the game played with the very expensive Jaques’ equipment, while other manufacturers referred to it as table tennis.

This was similar to what happened in the U.S as J. Jaques & Son Ltd sold the rights of the name to American manufacturer Parker Brothers.

Organizations & Governing Bodies

Although both a “Table Tennis Association” and a “Ping Pong Association” both existed by 1910, a new Table Tennis Association was created in 1921 and renamed the English Table Tennis Association in 1926.

In the same year, the International Table Tennis Federation (ITTF) was founded and the first official World Championships were held in London, too. The United States Table Tennis Association, today is known as USA Table Tennis, was established in 1933.

As of today, the ITTF heads every single event and is responsible for the creation and application of rules and regulations in table tennis. However, there isn’t a governing body similar to ITTF that overlooks ping pong. They do host the World Championships of Ping Pong, every year, in London.

Equipment

Equipment used in table tennis and ping pong is the same, but the major difference is in the paddles.

The variety of paddles used in table tennis is quite high. From wood to rubber, there are a lot of mechanics used in the manufacturing of a table tennis paddle. In comparison, to play ping pong, only one kind of paddle is used.

This paddle is a sandpaper bat, and everyone uses the same kind of bat to play.

Rules of Ping Pong vs Table Tennis

The biggest difference between ping pong and table tennis is in the rulebook. Table tennis has a lot of rules and regulations that are written and updated every year in the ITTF handbook.

In comparison, ping pong is a lot more flexible with different rules. Recreationally, too, the rules change for both games. For example, these are some of the basic rules of table tennis, according to the ITTF:

  • Ping pong is played over a pre-agreed number of games and the first to 11 points wins each game.
  • The toss of a coin or another form of lot-drawing determines which of the players shall serve first.
  • As Each table tennis player serves twice in turn and serves must be made from an open palm, the ball tossed six inches then struck so it bounces on the service side, clears the net, then bounces on the receiver’s side.
  • Points are decided as described above and games must be won by two clear points. At 10-10, each player serves once only, in turn, until one player established a two-point lead and wins the game.
  • After each game, the players rotate both the end of the table from which they are playing as well as who serves and receives the ball first.
  • In the deciding game of a match, the players swap ends after either player reaches five points.

When we compare these rules to ping pong, there are a lot of differences. The scoring in ping pong is done to 15 points and you do not need a two-point advantage to win the game, even a score of 15-14 will be sufficient for you to win, unlike table tennis.

There’s also a rule of the double-point ball in ping pong, which grants the serving player 2 points if won and 1 to the receiving player. No such rule exists in table tennis.

Table Tennis and Ping Pong

Top Players

We take a look at some of the best players in each sport and talk about their achievements, so you can know, who to follow and learn from!

Table Tennis: Champions

In table tennis, many players have redefined the game over the decades. Some have legacies and records that might never get broken. Talking about the last few decades, the world of table tennis has been completely dominated by Asian players, in particular, Chinese players.

Ma Long, hailing from China, has won the last three World Table Tennis Championships, consecutively. He has a winning record against every player he has ever played against. Ma Long also has the longest unbeaten streak in the history of the game.

Wang Liqin is another great from China who has a wonderful legacy in the world of table tennis. Jan-Ove Valdner is considered by many to be the GOAT of table tennis and was nicknamed Mozart of Table Tennis.

Still, we have no authority to make anyone the greatest, so this is a title that changes according to everyone’s likenesses.

Ping Pong: Top Players

As the Ping Pong Championships have only been around for the last decade or so, it is much easier to cover the famous names and top players in the sport. There are three main players considered to be the best in the sport of ping pong and we take a look at them.

Maxim Shmyrev, of Russia, is considered to be one of the best players of ping pong and his record speaks for itself. He won the Championships thrice in a row, a feat that is yet to be repeated.

Andrew Baggaley, of England, is another player often considered to be the best. He has won the Championships four times, but not thrice in a row. No one has ever won more and he achieved this feat in 2020 as he beat Alexander Flemming to make it twice in a row.

Alexander Flemming has a fantastic record, too, but lost three finals before finally getting his revenge against Andrew Baggaley, as he beat the Englishman in 2021 to lift the Ping Pong Championship, for the first time.

Yan Weihao and Wang Shibo of China are also one-time winners of the Championships.

Conclusion

So, you decide, is ping pong a sport? Are both of these sports the same or not?

We think, yes, in terms of playing style, game speed, scoring, service, and equipment, they are distinct. However, without a thorough understanding of the regulations, it is impossible to distinguish between the two sports.

The style of play is similar. As a result, the term “ping pong” can refer to both table tennis and ping pong. It’s easy to dismiss ping pong as little more than a game of back-and-forth movement and something that we play recreationally, only.

Few people are aware of how serious and professional the table tennis game is, which is governed by professional sports organizations such as table tennis federations and worldwide laws.

Even the World Ping Pong Championships attract a large audience and are telecasted live on channels like Sky Sports and DAZN.

Photo of author

Wajeeh Khan