While badminton and table tennis are worlds apart to those who are familiar with the two, to someone who’s new to racket sports, it can be confusing to try to distinguish them.
While badminton and table tennis are both racket sports, they differ in a few main ways. These include the equipment used by players, the rules, the playing areas, and the international competitions.
We’ll dig into the details of these differences later on in this article. But for now, allow me to surprise you with a list of qualities that badminton and table tennis share. Believe me, you’ll be shocked at how alike these two racket sports are!
What are the Similarities?
Badminton and table tennis are more alike than you may think. Sure, the rackets, rules, and projectiles are different, but here are some of the characteristics that join these two sports together.
Badminton and table tennis, first off, are both played indoors. Besides where these sports are played, they’re both also racket sports. Most importantly, you’ll find both sports in the Olympics!
Let’s talk about these similarities in greater detail.
Both Indoor Sports
Badminton and table tennis are both sports you play indoors. Badminton is played on a court measuring 13.41 meters in length and 6.1 meters from one side to the other. When you play table tennis, on the other hand, you’ll be smashing a small plastic ball on a table measuring 2.74 meters in length and 1.525 meters from one side to the other.
While the Badminton World Federation (BWF) and the International Table Tennis Federation (ITTF) don’t mention anything involving the playing environment, badminton and table tennis are both played indoors, for the most part — both recreationally and at the highest levels of the game.
In short, both badminton and table tennis are indoor sports. And, yes, this is so even if it’s not in either rule book to play indoors!
Both Racket Sports
You’ll also notice that you need a racket to play both badminton and table tennis. Right off the bat, you’ll notice vast differences in the material of the rackets and measurements, but we’ll get into this later.
The badminton racket is an elongated shaft measuring 680 mm, per the BWF’s equipment guidelines. It consists of a handle, a shaft, and a stringed area known as the head. The badminton racket head can be isometric or oval.
In table tennis, you’ll be using a racket, too. According to the ITTF’s equipment guidelines, the table tennis racket can be any shape or size. The racket can be of any length as long as the head or “blade” is not more than 0.35 mm thick.
Both rackets, despite the differences, have heads that make up the bulk of the racket diameters. Whichever sport you choose, a racket is a must.
Both Olympic Sports
Badminton and table tennis require a lot of technical skills and physical exertion. On top of that, both badminton and table tennis are competitive, making them sports in every sense. For this reason, badminton and table tennis are serious events in the Olympic games.
Badminton made its first appearance in the Olympics in 1972 as a demonstration sport. It didn’t become an official addition until 1992 in the Barcelona Olympics. Since then, badminton has been as much a mainstay in the Olympics as track and field and weightlifting. If you want to go down the rabbit hole of how the sport became part of the Olympic games, here’s an article I wrote on the topic.
Table tennis has been an Olympic sport for a bit longer than badminton has. While badminton’s inclusion as an Olympic sport occurred in 1992, table tennis became part of the Olympics in 1988. According to the ITTF’s timeline, table tennis debuted as an official Olympic sport in the aforementioned year in Seoul, South Korea.
So, yes, badminton and tennis are both found in the most prestigious sporting event in the world!
What are the Differences?
Now that we’ve covered the surprising similarities between badminton and table tennis, let’s talk about the other side of things. Despite their similarities, these two highly competitive racket sports differ in many ways.
Badminton and table tennis are played on different playing surfaces. While badminton is played on a court, table tennis is played, well, on a table. Besides where you play these sports, you’ll also be playing with different equipment and rules. Since they’re under different international governing bodies, badminton and table tennis also have different international competitions.
A Badminton game takes place on an indoor court that’s about 69.49 square meters. This is the playing area for singles games. For doubles games, the playing area is 81.75 square meters since the alleys become legal areas for play.
When it comes to table tennis, you’ll be playing on a table with much less space to work with. According to the ITTF’s table standards, the table needs to be 2.74 meters long and 1.525 meters wide. Besides the dimensions of the table, the ITTF also requires it to be 76 centimeters above the ground. In case you prefer this in feet, this is about 2.493 feet off the ground.
The playing areas are the same for both singles and doubles games for table tennis. In doubles games, a three-millimeter center line that runs from one end of the table to the other divides the playing area. Players play within the halves they choose to occupy.
The most salient differences in the rules of both sports lie in the score caps and order of service.
In badminton, players win games by being the first ones to score 21 points. Of course, a game can become a race far past the 21-point cap if both players manage to score 20 points each.
Table tennis has a far lower score cap, with 11 points being the winning number. If both players score 10 points, the game continues. The first player to establish a two-point lead wins the game.
Badminton and table tennis also differ in the order of service. In badminton, the initial right to service is determined with a coin toss. Following the first service is the rally. Whoever scores a point in the rally retains the right to service until the opposing player scores a point.
In table tennis, the right to service isn’t retained by winning a rally. Rather, the right to serve changes after one pair or player serves twice. The order changes consistently regardless of who scores in a rally.
Badminton is played with a racket and shuttlecock. The racket is a metallic frame measuring no more than 680 mm in length. The head containing the stringed area must measure no more than 280 mm. The racket is meant to hit the shuttlecock, which is the projectile for badminton.
The shuttlecock needs to be 62 mm to 70 mm in length with the feathers or plastic skirt forming a circle measuring 58 mm to 68 mm in diameter. It should also weigh between 4.74 – 5.50 grams. As long as these measurements are followed, the BWF will allow it for official games. The shuttlecock may be plastic or feathered, as long as the BWF’s other shuttlecock standards are followed. For more on what badminton is played with, check out my article on the subject!
To play table tennis, you’ll need a racket and a ball. The racket consists of a handle and what’s called a blade, which is the area that makes contact with the ball. The racket, based on the ITTF’s equipment standards, can have any shape and be of any size as long as the 85% of the blade’s thickness is wood. The remaining 15% can be sandwich or pimpled rubber.
The ball in table tennis is made of plastic and measures 40 mm in diameter. It should also weigh 2.7 grams. The ball should be white or orange, as these colors provide visual contrast from the table to allow players to see the ball.
The only international event you’d ever see both badminton and table tennis in is the Olympics. Beyond that, the international events for both sports are different.
International events in badminton are overseen and organized by the BWF. Besides the BWF World Championships, the BWF holds international team events like the Thomas Cup and Sudirman Cup. The Yonex All England Open is an international badminton event for both singles and team categories. For more on these international badminton events, check out my post on the topic!
Table tennis international events are under the organization and supervision of the ITTF. Some noteworthy table tennis international events include the World Table Tennis Championships. An interesting point of contrast is how the singles and doubles events are held.
Unlike badminton, singles and doubles events take place alternately. In other words, if the World Table Tennis Championships for singles events take place one year, the World Championships for doubles take place in the next.
Racket Fun Indoors
Badminton and table tennis are very different racket sports, but whichever sport you’re a fan of, you’ll agree that both sports offer players a smashing time indoors.
And if you’re good enough at either, who knows? Maybe you’ll find yourself representing your country in the Olympics one day!
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