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Letters about 40 mm ball



New 40 mm table tennis ball will be used in international ITTF events from October 1, 2000. Below is an e-mail from a Ph.D. scientist, Gerald D. Williams, sent to ITTF president Adham Sharara and Sharara's reply to this message.

Dear Mr. President:

I am a Ph.D. scientist from the United States. I feel that I understand the problems of table tennis in the U.S. very well.

I am strongly against your decision on the 40 mm ball. First of all, there is no point in changing the game this radically to hopefully gain popularity, if it no longer is the same sport. I don't think you understood how drastic a change the larger ball has - the ball deforms, sounding like it is cracked. This is a basic physics issue and can't be solved without allowing the ball to be much over 2.77 gms. The ball is too slow, thus reducing athleticism. Spectators, especially in the U.S. like to see speed and athleticism. The ball is less spinny, thus reducing skill. Table Tennis is currently unique because of the combination of quickness and skill. This uniqueness should not be reduced. The ball is so slow that most serves will have to be returned from over the table, causing more errors. The bigger surface area slows the effectiveness of the athletic loopers so drastically that they can be returned with a smash. The effects of the big ball are different for the top players and the mid level players.

The U.S. may have more tables than any other part of the world, but it is usually played in basements with inferior racquets. Americans don't consider table tennis to be too fast or too spinny because 99% of basement players are unable to generate spin or speed with their knowledge and equipment. They also don't know how it should be played since few have seen it on TV. Recently I saw a rebroadcast of the 99 Worlds on TV. There didn't seem to be any problem with the game. There were very few points lost off of the service. However coverage could have been much better. It was covered like a Tennis match at a distance from the court. We need to make the viewer feel that he is on the court, next to the action.

I understand that the players will reject use of the 40 mm ball. When that happens, I hope you will consider two other proposals:

  1. Experiment with marked balls, such as the soccer ball pattern. Americans especially are unaware of how fast the ball is spinning. It will also reduce service errors due to dead balls and decrease use of deceptive rubber.

  2. Experiment with making reglueing illegal at some ITTF tournament Open events. Let only the top players be affected by this change. If this results in longer rallies and possible improvement in spectator viewing, then consider making the change effective for 1/2 of all tournaments. That way it won't give the Asians or Europeans dominance of the game.

Gerald D. Williams, Ph.D.

Pennsylvania, USA


Sent: Saturday, March 04, 2000 7:19 AM

Subject: Re: 40 mm ball

Dear Dr. Williams,

Our extensive scientific resaerch indicates that the 40mm ball is slightly slower (3%-8%) depending on initial velocity, and slightly less spinny (3%-6%) depending on the initial force producing the angular velocity, and a little more visible (11% to 16%) depending on the distance from the ball. All in all these are great indicators suggesting a major improvement to the game.

However, you are right, it is most important to test the ball with Real Players at all levels. We did extensive "analytical" research. The top players found that they could adjust very fast to the new ball. Recreation and lower level players had more difficulty adjusting but found it to be easier to return spin and felt that they had more time. Both are good indicators making the game easier to play and more accessible.

Although I respect your opinions, I have to disagree with you on two of your assessments. If the ball is less spinny it will actually increase skill. In order to produce more spin you would have to be more skillfull.

The same applies if you wish to produce more speed, you would have to be more athletic. These are both positive characteristics of the new 40mm ball.

Regarding your other suggestions, I thank you very much for your input and we will take your advice seriously in our future research and development activities.

Please get some new 40mm ball of the 2.75 gm weight and I am sure that you will enjoy it and you will not get the hollow breaking sound that the lighter balls produce. If you are not happy, then stock-up on a large quantity of 38mm ball. The ITTF has indicated that the 38mm ball can continue as long as the demand exists. The ITTF decision for the 40mm ball is for ITTF international events, each national association, club and individual is free to continue to use the 38mm ball.


Adham Sharara

ITTF President & CEO

Courtesy of About.com - TT 


Last Update : 06 November, 2002

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