Thursday, 28 July 2011

The Evolution of Table Tennis

Table Tennis has been a sport which has had numerous changes over the decades in table and rubber colours, materials, ball sizes and scoring rules. Here is the evolution of table tennis from the early stages.

The Hardbat Era
With hard bats it's quite remarkable to see the speed they managed to produce when attacking, as you can see it was a gentleman's game they even wear trousers and the footwork is very interesting. There were some long rallies and a lot of attack and defence as it was harder to hit through the opposition. Without the sponge and grippy surface we have today, spin was not a major factor and placement and consistency were paramount.

1949 English Open Final: Victor Barna (GBR) vs Marty Reisman (USA)

The Sponge Era
Having evolved to better quality bats with sponge and grippy topsheets the game was a lot more entertaining and more sporty, check out the crowd. What a great rally too, the game was a lot more consistent on the backhand back then, the forehand was always the big weapon, this is a style which lasted well into the 80s and even players today still adopt it. As you can see the service rules don't apply yet and matches are best of 5 to 21 in these world events.

1978 European TT Champs Semi Final: Desmond Douglas vs Jaqcues Secretin

The Service Rules Begin
By now you will have noticed the introduction of a new service rule, the ball toss. The late 80s and 90s had introduced a strong entertainment value to table tennis and rallying was a big part of the game, we can tell this as service is still long on most occasions. Rubber had advanced and looping on the forehand was a big powerplay. Matches still best of 5 to 21 with 5 serves each.

1993 World Championships Final Saive vs. Gatien

End of the Speed Glue Era
2008 marked the end of an era for 'Speed Gluing' you can see the ridiculous amount of speed which the combination of new rubber technology and speed gluing had achieved as opposed to prior decades. Service rules now dictated that there must be a 14cm ball toss and that no part of the body must obstruct the path of the ball from vision of the opponent. This is one of my favourite matches as it is incredible to see Oh absolutely destroying one of China's best players. Matches are now best of 7 to 11 with 2 serves each. Also the ball size had increased from 38mm to 40mm marginally slowing the game down.

2008 Supercircuit Event: Oh Sang Eun (KOR) vs. Wang Hao (CHN)

Chinese Dominance Period Continues
The game now completely dominated by Chinese players has some incredible matches. The speed and footwork and technical aspects of the game are constantly being finetuned. Players have now begun to adapt to the speed glue free environment with new water based glues available. With strong tactical focuses and short serving and short play elemental in the game, looping on both wings is a major element of the game.

It's incredible to see how the game has changed over the last 50-60 years in terms of gameplay, equipment and rules. With plans in the pipeline to change the ball after the 2012 Olympics we can expect to observe more changes in the future!

2011 Chinese Super League: Ma Lin vs. Ma Long

The Plastic Generation
The latest instalment of changes to the game. The plastic ball. The celluloid ball is no more and has been replaced with a marginally larger, harder, plastic alternative. Less spin and speed produced to try and achieve longer rallies. Boosters are banned but undetectable and companies have begun to produce new rubbers with more porous sponges and even grippier topsheets to maximise speed and spin! The changes came into effect in mid 2014.

2015 World Championship Final, Ma Long - Fang Bo


Hope you enjoyed the timeline :)

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