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Table Tennis Ball Maximum Speed

By June 21, 2007

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Everybody knows that table tennis is one of the fastest ball sports in the world, but have you ever wondered just how fast can a top player hit a ping-pong ball? I've heard estimates of over 100mph for a ball coming off the racket face, but with the lightness of the ball (2.7g) and air resistance slowing the ball down quickly, just how fast is the ball travelling when a professional smashes the ball past an opponent?

Jay Turberville wondered about this question as well, and has written an exhaustive analysis of the subject of table tennis ball maximum speed. By using still photos, video study and even sound analysis, Jay has managed to come up with a pretty definitive answer to just how fast that little white sphere can be banged around!

Just how fast is Bence Csaba Hitting the Ball? Photo © 2007 Gerry Chua

Comments

June 21, 2007 at 12:57 am
(1) mihkel says:

good analysis.

But I understand that competition was held with 38mm ball and analysis were based on 40mm ball.

July 10, 2007 at 8:05 pm
(2) Jay Turberville says:

Yes, the competition was held using a 38mm ball. Presumably the speed was recorded very shortly after contact, but who really knows since it was recorded using a radar gun?

The calculations used in the analysis use ball size and weight to estimate the ball’s velocity directly after impact. Of course, it is a simple calculation that relies on some assumptions about air friction. But it is interesting to find that the analysis gives us a speed very similar to the fastest ball smash. I don’t think that is from chance alone. I suspect the speed off of the racket for a 38mm and a 40mm ball aren’t that much different – though their flight afterwards probably is.

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