1949 English Open Final: Victor Barna (GBR) vs Marty Reisman (USA)
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.
1978 European TT Champs Semi Final: Desmond Douglas vs Jaqcues Secretin
Having evolved to better quality bats 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.
1992 Barcelona Olympic Games Final: Jean-Phillipe Gatien (FR) vs Jan-Ove Waldner (SWE)
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.
2008 Supercircuit Event: Oh Sang Eun (KOR) vs. Wang Hao (CHN)
This 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.
2011 Chinese Super League: Ma Lin vs. Ma Long
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!
Hero of our time Jan-Ove Waldner
Image from: http://www.usatt.org/events/2001Worlds/images/waldner_drills1.JPG
Hope you enjoyed the timeline :)