The history and evolution of table tennis

Table tennis, both a recreational activity and an Olympic sport since 1988, is also commonly referred to as "ping-pong." Although not officially recognized in terminology, this name has gained significant popularity. It originates from an onomatopoeia inspired by the sound of the ball, which emerged in the Far East in 1884: "ping" for the sound of the ball hitting the racket and "pong" for the sound of it bouncing off the table. Interested in the history of table tennis? Explore its development and widespread appeal over time.


Table tennis emerged in England at the end of the 19th century. Inspired by lawn tennis, the early players belonged to Victorian bourgeois society. The first games were played with a champagne cork as a ball, cigar boxes as rackets, and books as a net. Table tennis was initially seen as a simple pastime for the wealthy classes. In 1890, Englishman David Foster, drawn to its growing popularity, introduced the first table tennis game. In 1897, the first national championships were organized in Hungary. Following a trip to the United States, James Gibb brought back the first celluloid ball in 1901, much lighter than rubber balls. A year later, in 1902, E.C. Gould, a British enthusiast of the game, introduced the first rackets covered with rubber and rubber pips. And thus, the history of table tennis began!


With the success of the first public tournaments at the Queen’s Hall in London, the first official World Championship took place in 1902. The sport saw increasing popularity, leading to the establishment of the British Table Tennis Federation. The first European Championships were subsequently organized in 1907. Things accelerated in the 1920s. The Table Tennis Association was formed in England in 1921, followed by the International Federation in 1926. World Championships were held among different countries in London in 1926, and the French Table Tennis Federation was established in 1927. The French participated for the first time in Budapest in 1929. The history of table tennis is marked by numerous champions, such as the Austro-British Richard Bergmann, the Franco-Polish Aloizy Ehrilich, and the Romanian Angelica Rozeanu.


In the 1950s, table tennis became an integral discipline in Asian countries. The Japanese made their mark on the team world championships between 1954 and 1959. This dominance was reinforced by the introduction of foam, transforming traditional rackets. The Japanese produced several world champions such as Hiroji Sato and stood out with impressive results in 1956 in Tokyo. The 1960s marked the arrival of Chinese supremacy, including Zhuand Zedong, a triple world champion in 1961, 1963, and 1965. It was during this time that ping pong diplomacy was developed, contributing to the improvement of Sino-American relations. In 1977, during the World Championships in Birmingham, the first launched service, also known as the "Chinese service," was used. The service became a strategic element whereas previously it had been perceived as a simple start of play. The role of Asia in the history of table tennis has been truly decisive in the progression of this international sport.

It is in this context that the Cornilleau brand launched its first tables and quickly became a leader in the sector. Discover more about our history here.


Table tennis has been an Olympic sport since 1988 in Seoul. The first gold medals were awarded to Chinese player Chen Jing and Korean player Yoo Nam-kyu. The sport gradually professionalized with the introduction of the Pro Tour in 1996. Since 1995, the sport has been dominated by Asians, such as Wang Liqin, a triple world champion and former world number one for many years. Today, table tennis is the most practiced sport in Asia. In Europe, table tennis boasts champions like Belgian Jean-Michel Saive, German Timo Boll, and Danish Michael Maze. In 2016, Chinese players Ma Long, Fan Zhendong, Xu Xin, Zhang Jike, and German Dimitrij Ovtcharov topped the world rankings. In 2005, the number of players worldwide was estimated at over 260 million. The International Table Tennis Federation comprises more than 200 nations and 33 million license holders. Competitions, club tournaments, and championships are organized worldwide. As of June 2020, France had 201,548 registered players. The history of table tennis is characterized today by a constantly growing enthusiasm, marked by the numerous benefits of regular practice.


Table tennis relies on simple equipment: a table, rackets, and balls. Indoor tables are preferred for gentle indoor play. Outdoor tables, much sturdier and resistant, are ideal for outdoor play without the risk of damage. Cornilleau protective covers provide additional protection. For professionals, competition tables ensure unwavering solidity. Rubber foam-covered rackets provide precision and control. Whether you're a beginner, intermediate, or professional, numerous ball models exist to suit all games.

The history of table tennis is rich in its developments. Today, as the most popular sport in the world, it continues to bring together players from all walks of life.