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There's a red and a black side on a table tennis raquet.

Does the color of the side have any significance? E.g. is the black side suppose to be used for the forehand and the red side used for the back hand?

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3 Answers 3

up vote 9 down vote accepted

According to the official rules (referenced here):

Rule 2.04.06

The surface of the covering material on a side of the blade, or of a side of the blade if it is left uncovered, shall be matt, bright red on one side and black on the other.

The reasons for this rule are described here:

The Two Colour Rule

Since 1 July 1986 the rules of table tennis state that one side of the racket shall be bright red and the other side black.

This rule was introduced because of the increased use of "combination" rackets in the late 70s and early 80s.

Players were using the same colour rubber on each side of their racket - but each side was a different type of rubber - and this made it very difficult for the opponent to know what type of spin was being imparted onto the ball.

So if you're planning on taking part in authorised table tennis events, make sure that you buy the correct colours.

Another article suggests that:

In table tennis the two color rule is used to ensure that the opponent has a fair chance of telling which side of the bat has been used to hit the ball. Before the two color rule was introduced, any color could be used for table tennis rubbers, and players were using combination bats with the same color on both sides and twiddling the bat, making it very difficult to tell which side was hitting the ball.

This was considered to produce table tennis which was not spectator friendly, since it was difficult for uninformed spectators to understand why players were making seemingly simple mistakes.

It seems that the rule was made to make competition more fair - it would give opponents a chance to determine the type of spin that was being imparted and also to make the game more fun to watch.

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As a table tennis palyer, the stuff about it being difficult for the opponent to know what type of spin was being imparted because of the same color makes no sense to me. You tell what kind of spin is being applied by the kind of motion the other player makes to hit the ball, not by the rubber color. I guess there's something there I don't know about. :-\ –  jamauss Mar 9 '12 at 17:10
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The other fact that makes me scratch my head is that the red and black rubber could have all of the qualities exactly the same as the other color (thickness, pip direction & height, etc), which would make knowing which side was used to hit the ball meaningless. Now I have questions of my own! :) –  jamauss Mar 9 '12 at 17:13
    
@jamauss, detecting the color/spin type might matter when Olympic/national team level players compete. At my skill level, not so much - I'm too slow. :) –  JW8 Mar 9 '12 at 17:25
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@jamauss: I'm guessing the word spin was absused there. The key idea though being that each side of the paddle could have very different properties, so which side was used is an important factor in predicting the trajectory of the ball. Unlike factors like speed, location, and angles which are visible to the other player, which side was used is not visisble if both sides were the same color, so they added the rule to make it possible to distinguish the two sides. ... –  Kevin Cathcart Mar 9 '12 at 18:44
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.. Of course when the two sides are the same knowing that is useless, but it was easier to apply the rule to all paddles, then to come up with some way of distinguishing combination and non-combination paddles, and then having questions about if a paddle with the same color on both sides were a legal non-combo paddle, or an illegal non-colored combo paddle. –  Kevin Cathcart Mar 9 '12 at 18:48

I couldn't find anything in the official rules, but unofficially it looks like it's for your opponent to be able to tell which side of the bat is used so you know the type of spin put on the ball. Not sure what stops people from flipping it around as they play though...

http://tabletennis.about.com/od/glossary/g/twocolorrule.htm

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You are allowed to flip it around during play - the key factor is that your opponent will be able to see that you have done so, so if you are using two different rubbers they will be able to guess the effect on spin. –  Rory Alsop Mar 9 '12 at 19:33

The color does not have any significance. The thickness of the rubber and whether it has the dimples (called "pips") facing outwards or inward does have some significance though in terms of the surface playing more offensive (imparting more topspin - pips out) or defensive (pips in). The height of the pips plays a role also. See the section titled "Table Tennis rubbers - are they all the same?" on this page.

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