Despite being fundamentally important to the game, table tennis balls are often overlooked and seldom given the same attention as the table or paddle. Unfortunately many players don’t understand that the quality and construction of the ball you play with can have a huge affect on your game.
The International Table Tennis Federation (ITTF) requires that competition-level table tennis balls should be made of celluloid or other similar plastic materials. The inside of each ball is hollow.
The color of the ball is either white or orange with a matte, non-glossy, finish. Though there isn’t any difference in their performance, the colors are used merely to make the ball easier to distinguish against the table background.
In terms of dimensions, the ITTF requires the ball to be 40mm in diameter and weigh 2.7 grams.
Not all balls are ITTF approved, however. Table tennis balls usually have a star rating, ranging from 3 to 0 stars. The more stars, the better the ball quality.
A 3 star ball is one that has been approved by the ITTF and adheres to all its guidelines in terms of weight, dimensions, construction material, bounce, etc. When you buy a 3 star ball, you can be sure that it will offer the highest quality gameplay. These balls, of course, will also cost you a lot more than 1 or 0 star balls.
1 and 2 star balls are good too and will typically offer consistent, quality gameplay. These are generally the balls with slight defects discarded from a 3 star ball manufacturing process. These defects are very, very minor and will usually not affect your gameplay at all (unless you are playing at a high level).
1 or 2 star balls are perfect for families and those who want to have some fun without unpredictability due to equipment failures. They offer a good compromise of affordability and quality.
A 0 star rated ping pong ball isn’t manufactured to the same standard a higher rate one. If you are serious about playing the game and improving as a player then you would do well to avoid these. They are fine for having a knock-about with the kids, however, and can be bought very cheaply.
A single crack or fracture in the ball’s surface will allow the air inside to escape, making it worthless for future use. While there is little you can do to prolong the life of a ball (other than playing softly, which defeats the entire purpose of the game), 3 star table tennis balls typically tend to last longer than others.
Table Tennis Balls – Summary
The ping pong ball is vital to your game. Investing in higher quality balls means that not only will you have a better, more enjoyable game, but you will also save yourself the trouble of having to buy a bucket load of balls that won’t last very long.
Experiment with different brands until you find a make that fits your gameplay. And remember to look for the star ratings to ensure that you’re buying the best balls you can afford.