Table tennis at the Olympics: what you need to know for the Tokyo Games


The Tokyo Olympics have finally arrived after being postponed for a year due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Athletes from around the world will gather in Tokyo for the Olympics from July 23 to August 8.

Table tennis is one of 28 sports taking place at the Olympic Games this summer. Table tennis does not have the same type of history as other Olympic sports, as it was added to the games in 1988 with 12 different countries medaling over the past 32 years.

Here’s everything you need to know about table tennis in 2021:

What are the rules of table tennis?

You may be familiar with table tennis, also known as ping-pong, a popular recreational game in the United States. Table tennis at the Olympics is a bit more complicated, however.

Table tennis matches at the Olympics all begin with a draw by the referee. The winner can decide whether to serve the ball, receive the ball, or choose which side of the table to start on. The match begins when the server throws the ball in the air and hits it so that it first bounces from the server’s side and then bounces from the opponent’s side. In singles competition, the server may serve the ball to any part of the table. In doubles, the serve must cross the table diagonally.

The player who does not correctly return the ball to the opponent’s side loses the point. Once a player reaches 11 points, that player wins a game. If a game is tied at 10 points each, play continues until one player advances by two points. To win the match, a player must win four matches, making each match a series of seven matches. Doubles matches are a best-of-five series, with the winner only needing to win three matches.

Who plays table tennis at the 2021 Olympics?

Here is a list of the male table tennis players who have qualified for the 2021 Olympics:

Australia: David Powell, Chris Yan

Brazil: Hugo Calderano, Gustavo Tsuboi, Vitor Ishiy

China: Ma Long, Fan Zhendong, Xu Xin

Chinese Taipei: Lin Yun-Ju, Chuang Chih-Yuan, Chen Chien-An

Croatia: Andrej Gacina, Tomislav Pucar, Frane Kojic

Egypt: Omar Assar, Ahmed Saleh, Khalid Assar

France: Simon Gauzy, Emmanuel Lebesson, Alexandre Cassin

Germany: Dimitrij Ovtcharov, Timo Boll, Patrick Franziska

Hong Kong: Wong Chun Ting, Lam Siu Hang, Ho Kwan Kit

Japan: Tomokazu Harimoto, Koki Niwa, Jun Mizutani

Republic of Korea: Youngsik Jeong, Woojin Jang, Sangsu Lee

Portugal: Marcos Freitas, Tiago Apolonia, João Monteiro

Serbia: Aleksandar Karakasevic, Zsolt Peto, Marko Jevtovic

Slovenia: Jorgic Darko, Tokic Bojan, Kozul Deni

Sweden: Mattias Falck, Anton Kallberg, Kristian Karlsson

United States: Kanak Jha, Nikhil Kumar, Zhou Xin

Here is a list of table tennis players who have qualified for the Tokyo Olympics:

Australia: Michelle Bromley, Stéphanie Sang

Austria: Sofia Polcanova, Liu Jia, Liu Yuan

Brazil: Bruna Takahashi, Jessica Yamada, Caroline Kumahara

China: Chen Meng, Sun Yingsha, Liu Shiwen

Chinese Taipei: Cheng I-Ching, Chen Szu-Yu, Cheng Hsien-Tzu

Egypt: Dina Meshref, Yousra Helmy, Farah Abdel-Aziz

Germany: Petrissa Solja, Han Ying, Shan Xiaona

Hong Kong: Doo Hoi Kem, Soo Wai Yam Minnie, Lee Ho Ching

Hungary: Dora Madarasz, Georgina Pota, Szandra Pergel

Japan: Mima Ito, Kasumi Ishikawa, Miu Hirano

Republic of Korea: Jeon Jihee, Shin Yubin, Choi Hyojoo

Poland: Li Qian, Natalia Partyka, Natalia Bajor

Romania: Elizabeta Samara, Bernadette Szocs, Daniela Dodean Monteiro

Singapore: Feng Tianwei, Yu Mengyu, Lin Ye

United States: Lily Zhang, Liu Juan, Wang Huijing

When will the Olympic table tennis tournaments for men and women take place?

Each table tennis match will be played at Tokyo Metropolitan Gymnasium from July 24 to August 6. The Tokyo Metropolitan Gymnasium was used for the 1964 Tokyo Olympics for gymnastics and water polo, but table tennis is the only sport that will be played at the stadium this summer.

The men’s singles table tennis tournament will take place July 24-30. Eight players will advance to the round of 16, which ends with the bronze and gold matches on July 30.

The women’s singles table tennis tournament runs July 24-29. As in the men’s tournament, eight players will advance to the round of 16 with the semi-finals, the bronze and gold medal matches that will all be played on July 29.

The men’s team table tennis tournament will take place August 1-6. Eight teams will advance to the round of 16 on August 3. The bronze and gold medal matches will end on August 6, the last Friday of the Olympics.

The women’s team table tennis tournament will take place August 1-5. Eight teams will advance to the round of 16, with the bronze and gold medal matches taking place on August 5.

Finally, the mixed doubles table tennis tournament is scheduled for July 24-26. Mixed doubles is a new event for the Olympics this year and it was added after years of work. There were two failed attempts to add mixed doubles to the Olympics before it was finally adopted in 2017 for the Tokyo Olympics.

Who are the best table tennis players in the world?

Chinese Fan Zhendong has never participated in the Olympics but is the No. 1 in men’s singles World table tennis player on his way to Tokyo after winning the Men’s Table Tennis World Cup in Men’s Singles in 2016, 2018 and 2019.

Chen Meng of China is the No. 1 in women’s singles table tennis player in the world. She has won four consecutive major finals of the ITTF World Tour since 2017 and will compete in her first Olympics for China.

South Korean duo Lee Sang-Su and Jeoung Young-Sik are the No. 1 in men’s doubles world table tennis team. Sang-Su and Young-Sik have both qualified for the 2021 Olympics, so the duo could team up in Tokyo for South Korea.

The Japanese duo of Miu Hirano and Kasumi Ishikawa is the No. 1 in women’s doubles world table tennis team. Hirano, 21, became the youngest woman to win the Table Tennis World Cup in 2016 when she was just 16. Ishikawa won a silver medal at the 2012 Olympics and a bronze medal at the 2016 Olympics.


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