The Olympic Games provides the greatest stage on the international table tennis scene with high-stakes drama guaranteed right from the off. Contested on a knock-out tournament basis, there’s no margin for error once the action gets underway.
A sport rich with history, China is the team to beat since table tennis’s inception into the Olympic Games in 1988, with 28 gold medals won across multiple disciplines.
What’s happening? The 2020 Olympic Games, will take place from 24th July to 6th August 2021 at Tokyo Metropolitan Gymnasium, Japan, 12 months later than originally scheduled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
What’s at stake? Five Olympic Champion titles
Who’s competing? 86 male and 86 female athletes, totalling 172 athletes from 57 National Olympic Committees.
What’s the story? 33 years on from its introduction to the 1988 Olympic Games in Seoul, table tennis is offering five highly coveted gold medals including one for the newly established mixed doubles event. China took home all four gold medals at the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro. Following a stop-start year on the international calendar, can the powerhouse nation sweep the titles again in Tokyo?
What’s new? Mixed Doubles is debuting for the first time with 5 gold medals to be won in table tennis. The Teams event has been formatted differently in this Olympic edition with doubles taking place first.
- Men’s Singles: Ma Long, China
- Women’s Singles: Ding Ning, China (not competing)
- Men’s Team: China
- Women’s Team: China
China’s efforts at Rio 2016 ensured another gold medal lockout for the country on the Olympic stage, achieving the feat for the fifth time.
- Saturday 24th July – Men’s and Women’s Singles round one and Mixed Doubles round of 16
- Sunday 25th July – Men’s and Women’s Singles round two and Mixed Doubles semi-finals
- Monday 26th July – Men’s and Women’s Singles round three and Mixed Doubles final
- Tuesday 27th July – Men’s and Women’s Singles round three and round of 16
- Wednesday 28th July – Men’s and Women’s Singles quarter-finals
- Thursday 29th July – Men’s Singles semi-final and Women’s Singles final
- Friday 30th July – Men’s Singles final
- Sunday 1st August – Men’s and Women’s Team round of 16
- Monday 2nd August – Men’s and Women’s Team quarter-finals
- Tuesday 3rd August – Men’s Team quarter-finals and Women’s Team semi-finals
- Wednesday 4th August – Men’s and Women’s Team semi-finals
- Thursday 5th August – Women’s Team final
- Friday 6th August – Men’s Team final
Equipment and technical information
The racket must have a red and a black side. The ball must be white and 40 mm in diameter. The table is 2.74 meters long, 1.525 m wide, and 0.76 m high.
A player’s racket is tested randomly before each match, and opponents have the right to look at each other’s rackets.
The edges of the table are part of the legal table surface, but not the sides.
If a player strikes the ball below the wrist of the hand that is holding the racket, the point is legal. Additionally, if a player hits the ball around the net and it still lands legally on the table, the shot is valid.
When serving, the ball must rest on an open hand palm. It must be thrown vertically at least sixteen centimetres and struck as the ball falls. The ball must bounce on the server’s side and then the opponent’s side of the table. If the serve is legal except that it touches the net, it is called a let serve and the server must serve again.
The table can’t be touched.
Table Tennis at the Olympic Games features five disciplines ranging from individuals, teams to mixed doubles events. A team is made up of three players from the same National Olympic Committee (NOC).and the same gender, while mixed doubles pairings feature one man and one woman from the same NOC.
The Mixed Doubles, Men’s Team and Women’s Team events commence from the round of 16 on a knock-out tournament basis. A team match consists of a doubles match followed by two singles matches, followed, if necessary, by one or two singles matches, until a team wins three matches.
Men’s Singles and Women’s Singles will follow a knockout (single elimination) format, consisting of a preliminary round, round one (16 matches), round two (16 matches), round three (16 matches), round four (eight matches), quarterfinals (four matches), semi-finals (two matches) and medal matches (two matches).
An individual match is played following the best of seven games format with two players standing opposite one another.
Each match in the Mixed Doubles event is also contested on a best-of-seven structure, with two players lining up alongside one another at each end of the table, whilst any match format within the Men’s Team and Women’s Team events is decided in a best-of-five games fashion.
Games are decided on a first to 11 points basis, with a two-point winning margin required if the score sits at 10 points apiece.
In an individual match, players hold service for two consecutive points before the right to serve is passed over to the other. If the scores are locked at 10 points apiece, the players alternate service after each point.
The service rules are similar in a mixed doubles match with a slight twist. Each serve must be taken from the right-hand half of the table and must travel diagonally across the table, landing in the corresponding half on the opponent’s side of the table.
Details for the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games can also be accessed here.