The Origin of Table Tennis:
The First World Table Tennis Championships

Table tennis was originated from ‘lawn tennis’ that was popular in England in the late 19th century. On the International Table Tennis Federation (ITTF) website, the names of inventors such as James Devonshire (1885) and David Foster (1890) can be found at www.ittf.com/history/museum. They obtained patent by developing indoor tennis games for the times of bad weather condition. The table tennis back then still looked a lot closer to ‘indoor tennis’ that smacked a ball made out of weaved textiles and corks with a wooden racket over a net laid on the floor or table.

▲ Net and racket in early stages.

Table tennis is known to be developed into its modern form after employing celluloid ball and rubber. It is estimated that the modern form of table tennis rose with James Give from England and it is told that he used a ball toy from his trip to America around 1900. However, it is clear that the advent and utilization of a celluloid ball differentiated table tennis from tennis. The nickname ‘ping-pong’ was originated from the sound made when a racket made by cow skin hits a ball.

▲ Paintings depicting the early stage of table tennis. ITTF museum

Table tennis continued its advancement along with the tool development and changes in technology. In 1901, the Table Tennis Association and Ping Pong Association were formed in England and the two were integrated after two years. ITTF museum noted that table tennis was introduced to Asian region through trades with China around the time.

One interesting thing is that the popularity of the sport in the European region diminished in Western Europe after 1904 whilst it maintained its popularity for 20 more years in Eastern Europe. There seems to be a correlation in that the Eastern European countries such as Hungary, Czech, Rumania, etc. excelled in table tennis in the early editions of WTTCs.

In 1920, Eastern Europe’s Bratislava of Slovakia hosted a large-scale event that became the foundation of the WTTC. It was around this time when the name table tennis was commonly used as the official name for the sport. The first WTTC was held in December 1926 in London, England. Nine National Associations including Hungary, Austria, England, Wales, India, Czechoslovakia, Germany, Sweden and Denmark participated and the Championships included 5 events of men’s team, men’s doubles, women’s singles and mixed doubles.

The first hosting of the WTTC is also connected to the establishment of the ITTF. The inaugural assembly was held during the first WTTC and a 22-year-old British Ivor Montagu was elected as the first President. The ITTF’s duty began with setting the competition rules and regulations for supplies while table tennis has grown as a sport that is enjoyed by the world’s population. About more than a year after the first WTTC, the second WTTC was hosted in Stockholm, Sweden and the scoring system of earning 21 points ahead was adopted.

Written by_Han In-su | Photo by_Table Tennis Monthly Database & ITTF Museum