Table Tennis vs. Tennis: Do You Know What Your Better Sport Is?

Table tennis and tennis are two popular racket games played internationally in various capacities and competitive levels.

Although the games are equally exciting to play and both use rackets, there is a ton of differences between these two sports. 

Let’s have a look at the finer details on the two sports to see the differences and similarities.

Let’s dig a little deeper

Table Tennis vs. Tennis

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Brief History

Played initially using books and a golf ball, table tennis or Ping-Pong started in England and was mainly played by the royalties after dinner. However, there are other versions of the sport that were discovered by British soldiers who were on duty in India. Initially, a row of books at the middle of a table played as the net and two books were used as bats to hit a golf ball.

When a powerful British manufacturer trademarked the name ping-pong, it became increasingly difficult for other manufacturers to call the game ping-pong and hence used table tennis. In this regard, the game today is called table tennis in some places while other countries like China adopted ping-pong as the official name of the sport.

Tennis, on the other hand, is believed to be one of the oldest racket sports developed from an early game known as racquets. The origin of tennis goes back to the 12th century and can be traced in northern France. Initially, the game was never played using rackets, but instead, players used their bare hands hence the name jeu de paume which means the game of the palm in French. Like many racket games, it was played by the Royals who are credited for the improvement of the rules, equipment, and court.

Basic Rules

When it comes to the basic rules, both tennis and table tennis somehow have similar rules. The concept of both games is the same and players are required to ensure they can return the service from the opponent at all times. Failure to do this, or hitting the ball out of play, rewards the opponent with a single point. In this regard, in both tennis and table tennis, you are not allowed to hit the ball against the net, send the ball out of the table in table tennis or the markings in a tennis court. In each game, there is a single senior referee who calls all the shots.

Equipment (Racket, Shoes, Ball)

You need a racket and a ball to play either tennis or table tennis. However, there is a huge difference between the rackets used for both sports. When in table tennis you are required to use a small wooden bat, in tennis you are required to use a bigger racket which is approximately 23 inches in length.

In table tennis, a small racket/paddle/bat is used to hit the small ball. The regulations from the International Federation of table tennis (ITTF) allows for a paddle that is at least 85% wood with a blade that is 6.7 inches long and 5.9 inches wide. Although most blades are made of various layers of wood, other materials such as glass, carbon or aluminum fiber can be used to fill the remaining 15% depending on the type of surface the manufacturer wants to achieve. In most cases, paddles have one smooth side and another textured side mainly differentiated by two colors (black and red).

In tennis, larger and heavier rackets are used to hit the rubber ball. The international body that regulates tennis dictates that every racket shouldn’t be more than 29 inches long and 2.5 inches wide. They also dictate that the hitting area of the racket should be made of string and should be flat and uniform. Like the table tennis rackets, tennis rackets used to be made of wood but are now made of various materials such as graphite and titanium.

The two games use two different balls with a table tennis ball is lighter and smaller in size as compared to the tennis ball. The material used to make the balls also differ as a table tennis ball is normally 1.57 inches in diameter, weighs a maximum of 2.7 g and made of celluloid plastic. On the other hand, a tennis ball is made of hollow rubber and has a maximum weight of 59.4 g with a maximum diameter of 2.7 inches.


While table tennis is played on a special flat table, tennis is played on a rectangular court with specific dimensions. The standard tennis court has a length of 78 feet and a width of 27 feet. It is usually marked for doubles and singles. In the middle, there is a 3 ½-feet high net. On the other hand, the average table tennis table has a length of 9 inches, a width of 5 feet and a height of 2.5 feet. The table can be made of any material as long as it achieves the set bounce rate by the international body governing table tennis. The table is separated by a 6-inch net in the middle. It also has a single line in the middle that goes along the table.


Table tennis is a nonrestrictive game and can be played by anyone who can hold a bat. There are two main categories of players; doubles and singles. In this regard, a player can play individually in a singles game or with a partner in a doubles match. Both men and women are allowed to play in table tennis tournaments in the Olympics.

In tennis, apart from special categories, the main games consist of two, three or four players in a single game at a time. In this regard, a player can play individually against an opponent, with a partner against two opponents or alone against two opponents in a special setting. However, the game allows for both women and men to compete in the Olympics.

Obama Playing Table Tennis

Obama Playing Table Tennis. Image:


Serving is pretty easy and similar in both racket sports. However, there is a slight difference while serving in table tennis. You are required to toss the ball at least 60 cm high before hitting it so that it bounces first on your court once before bouncing on the opponent’s court for him/her to return the service. In singles, you are not restricted on what part of the opponents court the ball should bounce. However, in doubles, the service is expected to move from your court to the opponent’s court diagonally and should always be served from the right side. In most cases, each player is allowed to serve twice alternating until the game ends.

In tennis, the ball should first bounce on the opponent’s court that in return should ensure it does not bounce twice. Furthermore, a player should serve the ball diagonally by first tossing it in the sky and hitting it with the racket. Most players use their skills to earn points during the service. In both table tennis and tennis, players are allowed to repeat a serve if the opponent wasn’t ready during the service or wasn’t able to return the ball due to interference by the net or the referee.


Scoring is pretty easy for both games and practically similar. To score a point, you need to put pressure on your opponent by using various skills such as speed, spins, and chops consequently overpowering your opponent leading them to lose control over the ball. In both games, the ball shouldn’t be allowed to bounce twice on a player’s court, bounce on the wrong court during the service, heat the net during a return or go out of play. These are some of the ways you can earn a point in both games. However, in table tennis, you can as well earn a point when your opponent commits a fault after a single warning.

Playing Tennis



In both racket games, there is a host of officials needed to have a complete tournament. There are some officials such as umpires, assistant umpires, assistant referees, timekeepers, rackets testers, stroke counters and technical officers among others. However, there is always the senior referee whose decision is final and monitors all aspects of both games in and out of the court.


Table tennis and tennis are both racket sports with the same concept yet requiring different skill sets altogether. While table tennis may offer an excellent opportunity for exercising, it’s more of a social game given the proximity of the players and the time played. On the other hand, tennis seems like a game that would require lots of energies and may offer very little time for interacting with the players.

    Peter S. Harper

    I am Peter, a 39-year-old friendly being from the United States. I love playing a lot of sports such as tennis, table tennis, volleyball, softball, and badminton... I have created this blog to help you find information on different types of sports equipment and finding the right one to enhance your skills at the game.

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