Table tennis, also known as ping-pong, is a ball game similar in principle to lawn tennis and played on a flat table divided into two equal courts by a net fixed wide in the center. It is one of the most popular indoor sports in the world, and originated in England. Nowadays, almost every country in the world plays table tennis, and the Chinese have dominated the sport for the past two decades. Table tennis is the second most popular game in the world, and is also the newest of the world's major sports.
The official name of the sport in China is ping-pong ball. It includes individual and team events, with singles, doubles, mixed doubles and team disciplines. According to some estimates, more than 300 million people play table tennis around the world, with a large fraction of that number residing in East Asia, particularly China. The rules of table tennis are quite simple.
The player serving the ball starts one point by dropping it (behind and above the edge of the table) with their palm facing up and throwing it at least six inches before hitting it so that it bounces off the half of the court closest to them and then on their opponent's half. The International Table Tennis Federation (ITTF) sponsored the first official world table tennis championship in 1926, which was won by individuals or teams from Hungary. Since then, various recreational scoring styles have been developed, such as best-of-three team that scores 15, 21, 25 or 30 points per game; best-of-five match rally style; best-of-five game game; best-of-five game game with each match except for the fifth (to 1), which is played with 30 points; and traditional tennis scoring. Penalty points are imposed for various offenses such as hitting the ball with any part of the racket that is not covered by rubber, touching the table with your hand without holding the racket, hitting the ball twice in a row or obstructing the ball with your body or clothing. Table tennis is usually played on a nine-by-five-foot hard rectangular table with its surface usually painted green or dark blue.
Points are awarded to a player when their opponent cannot return the ball to the middle of their table. The most common playing style involves using a flat blade that is optimal for most playing styles due to its flatness and stiffness. This hit differs from speed boosters in other racquet sports such as tennis because the racket is mainly perpendicular to the direction of the blow and most of the energy applied to the ball is translated into speed rather than a turn, creating a shot that doesn't arch much but is fast enough to make it difficult to return it. After each game, players switch sides of the table and in fifth or seventh game of a match they switch sides when first player scores five points regardless of whose turn it is to serve. Returning service is one of most difficult parts of game since server's first move is usually least predictable. Table tennis, also known as ping-pong and whiff-whaff, is a racquet sport derived from tennis but which is distinguished because its playing surface is above a fixed table rather than court where players are. Variations include allowing left serve, not requiring server to hit ball first in their middle of table (but still allowing it), allowing return volley and relaxing other small rules in doubles to facilitate play.