Title:
Tennis table and a net structure therefor
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
Table tennis has a long history. It began as a parlor game played on the dining table. Since any table could be used, the dimensions of tennis tables remained unfixed until years later when a standard size was established for tournament play. There was no apparent need or reason since to change the standard size of a table tennis table. Lately, the game of tennis has evolved from a game of soft strokes to a game of flat, hard, drives with low trajectories. In addition tennis professionals on tour began playing table tennis between matches in the professional player's lounges in order to relax and to warm up before games. Hence there have been attempts to carry the same strokes over into table tennis. However regular tennis strokes are difficult if not impossible to execute on conventional tennis tables. We have now found that such low trajectory drives are possible if the tennis table is a scaled down form of a standard tennis courts. In addition, the net structure herein is a scaled down reproduction of a regulation tennis net, and the net structure is so fabricated that the ball interacts with its top portion on contact as does a tennis ball with a tennis net during tennis play.



Inventors:
Hatfalvi, Steven B. (St. Louis, MO, US)
Application Number:
11/210504
Publication Date:
03/01/2007
Filing Date:
08/25/2005
Primary Class:
International Classes:
A63B67/04
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Primary Examiner:
CHIU, RALEIGH W
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
Norman L. Wilson, Jr. (Louisville, KY, US)
Claims:
What is claimed is:

1. A table tennis table enhancing a player's reflexes and visual acuteness so that they carry over to a standard tennis court thereby improving the player's tennis game, the tennis table having a top face comprising a rigid rectangular playing surface fabricated as a scale form of the standard tennis court, the scale of the fabrication being a ratio in the range of one-ninth to one-sixteenth thereby permitting players using the table tennis table to utilize the regular tennis strokes and to improve hand-to-eye coordination.

2. The table tennis table of claim 1 wherein the playing surface is fabricated with lines forming back courts, right and left service courts and alleys, reduced in size by scaling each in the same ratio as that selected within the one-ninth to one-sixteenth scale for the playing surface, the lines assisting teaching tennis rules and scoring.

3. The table tennis table of claim 2 wherein the playing surface is a high impact plastic.

4. The table tennis table of claim 3 wherein the high impact plastic is an acrylic resin.

5. The table tennis table of claim 3 in combination with a conventional mesh tennis net.

6. A table tennis net comprising a scaled fabrication of a regular tennis net from a solid piece of high impact plastic panel to form a net structure, the scale ratio being in the range of one-ninth to one-sixteenth relative to the regular tennis net, the net structure having both of its top edges machined to form truncated radii enabling a table tennis ball to duplicate the travel of let chord shots across the net as in conventional tennis.

7. The table tennis net structure of claim 6 wherein the high impact plastic is an acrylic resin.

8. The combination of the table tennis table of claim 1 with the net structure of claim 6.

9. The combination of claim 8 wherein the table tennis table and the net structure are each fabricated as clear plastics treated with a neon color process which provides a frame of reference for balls crossing the net structure.

10. The combination of claim 8 wherein the table tennis table scale is one-ninth and the net structure scale is one ninth.

11. The combination of claim 8 wherein the table tennis table scale is one-twelfth and the net structure scale is one twelfth.

12. The combination of claim 8 wherein the table tennis table scale is one-sixteenth and the net structure scale is one-sixteenth.

Description:

FIELD OF THE INVENTION

The present invention relates generally to table tennis tables.

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

This invention, in one of its aspects, pertains to a new approach to table tennis which includes a family of unique table tennis tables differing from conventional table tennis tables now in use. In another of its aspects the invention is directed to an improved table tennis net. In still another aspect the invention pertains to the unique tennis table in combination with the improved net.

For a better understanding of the novel features of the table tennis table herein a brief history of table tennis will be helpful. No one knows, historically, exactly how the game of table tennis began. It is known, however that in the late 1800s table tennis was already a parlor game, especially for invited dinner guests. After their evening meal the host cleared off the dining table and, by using two wine bottles, or two other articles found around the home, along with a muslin net, prepared the dining table for play. The game of table tennis became a parlor activity enjoyed by the entire family. Keeping score as they did in tennis, fashionably dressed guests awkwardly played a usually stilted game while other guests visited and waited for their turns. By the turn of the century the growing popularity of the game even led to printed invitations. Since the pastime was a healthy form of relaxation, and somewhat athletic, it soon flourished, spreading to Paris, Hungary, Buenos Aires and Egypt. And it seems to have been imported early on by the United States. The game appears to have taken off in the United States as it had in England, leading to the sale in the United States of table tennis kits. These kits consisted of a net, cork-covered rackets and net posts adapted for use on family tables In fact, in 1901 the term “Ping-Pong”was registered as a trademark in the United States Patent Office (Reg. No. 36854 Jun. 8, 1901).

The use of table tennis kits, and whatever table was available, meant, of course, that the size of tennis tables was not a consideration. Whatever the original dimensions of table tennis tables were, they remained as established at the turn of the century in England. A standard size was not considered until a 9 feet by 5 feet table was established for tournament play when table tennis became an international sport.

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

The Table

It is evident in the light of its genesis that there has been no need or reason to change the standard size of a table tennis table. As a mater of fact no one could tell whether a tennis table should be larger or smaller than the agreed upon 9 by 5 foot table. We have, however, now found that rectangular playing surface fabricated as a scale form of the standard tennis court permits players using the table tennis table to utilize the regular tennis strokes and allows harder hitting. Intermediate to advanced players can enjoy full-out play, and novices and children will be able to play longer and more consistently with more emphasis on shot making. Such play on a conventional 9 ft by 5 ft tennis table is difficult, and, frequently, not possible.

Through repetitious testing using, hard, low trajectory, drives, scale ratios for a family of tennis table tables have now been found. The resulting tennis tables are scaled down forms of standard tennis courts, even including service courts, back courts, and alleys. They are fabricated in exact scale sizes in the range of one-ninth to one-sixteenth of the size of regulation tennis courts. Although these may appear to be a minor differences it will be shown hereinafter that they are not.

The Net Structure

Referring now to the table tennis nets knotted, loosely knitted, or mesh table tennis nets are not completely satisfactory. It is difficult to keep them taut and to keep them from tearing. Often the table tennis ball is able to roll beneath them. Herein the net, rather than being a loosely woven or knitted fabric, is an article derived from a solid piece of high impact plastic. The net herein is sculpted from a high impact plastic sheet. In actuality then, the table tennis net herein is a net structure which functions as a net. As such, it is unique. In keeping with the tennis table as a scaled down tennis court, the net structure herein is fabricated as a scaled down reproduction of a regulation tennis net. It is scaled down within same range of ratios relative to the tennis net as is the tennis table herein relative to the tennis court. In addition the net structure is so fabricated that the ball interacts with its top portion on contact as does a tennis ball with a tennis net during tennis play. The table tennis net structure thus emulates the performance characteristics of a regulation tennis net.

THE DRAWINGS

The features of the embodiments of this invention can, perhaps, best be explained by the use of drawings. In the drawings

FIG. 1 is an isometric view of the table tennis table of this invention.

FIG. 2 is a front view illustrating the table tennis net structure of the invention.

FIG. 3 is an end view of the top edge of the net structure, showing its adaption which causes a ball hitting net structure top edge to bounce as does a regular tennis ball hitting the top edge of a regulation tennis net.

FIG. 4 is an isometric view illustrating a preferred form the table tennis table of this invention.

DESCRIPTION OF THE INVENTION

Turning now to the drawings, the table tennis table, 2, of this invention is shown as an isometric drawing FIG. 1. Table tennis table 2 includes a playing surface 4, net posts 10 and legs 6. If a mesh net is used in combination with table 2 conventional net posts 10 will be used. If the net is not a mesh net but the is a net structure 8 of this invention net posts 10 can be fabricated with facing grooves adapted to receive the net structure in a slidable fit as shown in FIG. 4. Supporting legs 6, usually of wood or metal, are braced or otherwise attached to the underside of table 2 by means well known in the art. Various materials have been used for playing surfaces, including wood, particle board, light metals, and some plastics. To promote the shot making contemplated on the tennis tables herein, preferred playing surfaces are high impact, and preferably transparent, plastics, for example, high impact copolymers of acrylics, that is, acrylic resins such as acrylates, as well as high impact acrylic multipolymers, urethanes, epoxy resins, polyvinylidene fluoride, and some types of polyesters such as polycarbonates.

Unique to table 2 herein is the size of its playing surface, and the inclusion on that playing surface of service courts S1, S2, S3 and S4, back courts B1 and B2, and alleys A1 and A2. The tennis tables herein are constructed with playing surfaces which are surfaces scaled down in proportion to those of a regulation tennis court. Stated differently, they are fabricated as scale forms of tennis courts. The scale of these table tennis courts is a ratio in the range of one-ninth to one-sixteenth of the regulation tennis court, desired ratios being one-ninth, one-twelfth, and one-sixteenth. As such the table tennis tables of this invention are only slightly shorter, but narrower than 9×5 ft tables approved for tournament play. Their narrower dimension allows less need for traversing, and more emphasis on shot making and the net structure promotes harder hitting and causes fewer unforced errors.

The net structure 8 of the invention is illustrated in FIG. 2. As can be seen from its configuration in that figure, the net structure is a scaled fabrication of a regular tennis net. The scale of the net structure is also a ratio in the range of one-ninth to one-sixteenth relative to the regulation tennis net. When used instead of a conventional table tennis net on the table tennis table of FIG. 1 the ratio will be the same as the ratio used in scaling down the tennis table relative to the tennis court. Net structures 8 are sculpted pieces of high impact plastics, particularly those described in paragraph [0013] in conjunction with the playing surface of the tennis table. As can be seen by referring to FIG. 2, to fabricate the net structure as a scaled down regulation tennis net, the net structure is bowed in its center at E. The dimensions c and d, then, are, for example, one-ninth, one-twelfth, or one-sixteenth of those dimensions of the standard tennis net. By virtue of the scaling, depression E is formed allowing the net to function like the regulation tennis net pulled down by a strap. The shape of the net structure thus better authenticates tennis playing than conventional table tennis nets.

An additional feature of the net structure herein is illustrated in FIG. 3. This feature is included for replicating, in table tennis, let chord winners as in tennis. These shots occur in tennis where the ball hits the net and trickles over the net, or flies high in the air, still landing in the court. It was found that a flat surface along the top of net structure 8 caused the ball to bounce back toward the player who hit it. By trial and error it was discovered that if the flat surface 13 (FIG. 3) of net 8 is machined to form a truncated radius along both of its top edges 12 the ball duplicates the travel of let chord shots across the net as in conventional tennis, thereby permitting the use of regular tennis strokes in table tennis.

Net assembly 8 can be mounted on table 2 by any means known. As one example the net can be drilled to provide small cavities matching the diameters if net posts 10 (FIG. 1). Other mountings can also be affixed to the bottom of the net structure. The thickness of the net structure is unimportant except that a thickness above one-fourth inch adds weight to the unit. With this in mind a thickness greater than one-half inch would be impractical.

Testing Procedure

The game of tennis has now evolved from a game of soft strokes to a game of flat, hard, drives with low trajectories. This is true in both the men's and the women's games. For example the Williams sisters smash the ball with low, high velocity. drives. There have been attempts to carry the same strokes over into table tennis. This is especially true now that tennis professionals on tour play table tennis between matches in the professional player's lounges in order to relax and to warm up before games. However tennis strokes are difficult if not impossible to execute on conventional 9 ft by 5 ft tennis tables. Yet, no other size has become apparent, which accounts for the fact that table tennis tables have been the same size for years. No advantages were envisioned as a result of a size change. Since more and more professional tennis players are now becoming table tennis players we chose to determine whether a change in tennis table size would make the transition easier.

To this end we fabricated variously sized table tennis tables, and, because of high ball velocities, employed audio timing off the bounce as in regular tennis to check timing. We succeeded in getting them tested over the last few years at such locations as the Winter Championship sponsored by the United States Tennis Association, the Easter Bowl sponsored by Seena Hamilton Associates, the RCA Tennis Championships in Indianapolis, and the Dwight Davis Tennis Center in St. Louis where tennis professionals (Association of Tennis Professionals members) played on them between matches. Our tables were also tested by students of both tennis coaches and teachers at such locations as Pepperdine University, tennis camps such as the Malibu Tennis Camp, and at Country Clubs in the St. Louis area. This ultimately led to scaling tennis tables relative to a regulation tennis court. One of our earlier models included back courts, right and left service courts and alleys, each fabricated on a scale of one-eighth of a regulation tennis court. However this unit was not completely satisfactory. That realization led to scale sizes in the range of one-ninth to one-sixteenth of the regulation tennis court, and to preferred scales of one-ninth, one-twelfth, and one-sixteenth of the size of a tennis court.

Testing Results

As an early test, a three-year old boy, with the table adjusted lower, quickly learned to hit tennis strokes like an adult. This led us to believe that regular tennis strokes could, indeed, be used when playing table tennis on the tables provided. Those in charge of the Malibu Tennis Camp began starting their students at younger ages, not unlike little league baseball players, and juvenile basketball players at summer basketball camps. Results at Malibu convinced those operating the camp that the scaled down table herein accelerated the learning curve for children, enabling them to play regulation tennis at an earlier age.

Tennis professionals using one of our tennis tables placed at a tournament site as described in our testing procedure found that the tennis table of this invention with service courts and back courts delineated not only enabled them to use their accustomed tennis strokes, but increased ball speed leading to improved hand-to-eye coordination compared to the standard tennis table.

Tennis professionals at country clubs also found that the tennis table scaled to a conventional tennis court could be used as a tennis teaching tool whereas the 9 by 5 foot tennis table did not lend itself to such usage. The new size did make it possible even for learners to use ordinary tennis strokes.

Summarizing, the table tennis tables of this invention are proportional to the size of a regulation tennis court, and the net structure is proportional to the size of a conventional tennis net. By our preferred embodiment the invention herein provides table tennis tables fabricated on scales of one-ninth, one-twelfth, and one-sixteenth of a tennis court in combination with a net structure fabricated on an equivalent scale of one-ninth, one-twelfth, and one-sixteenth of a tennis net. Tennis professionals have tested the table tennis tables of this invention and found that because of that added length they could indeed employ tennis strokes. The extra inches of the scaled table permit such strokes, and the new size markedly improves hand-to-eye coordination. Further, not only does the narrower tennis table make it easier to play the game, but the provision of back courts and service courts provides an easy method for tennis teachers to teach tennis rules and scoring.

It can be appreciated, of course, that in the light of the disclosure herein, modifications will occur to those in the art. Thus the selection of the particular plastic for the playing surface and the net structure may well depend upon their end use. To illustrate, the plastics discussed hereinbefore include both thermoplastic and thermosetting resins. If the tennis table is for outdoor use where temperatures may be high a thermosetting resin rather that a thermoplastic resin will be preferred as is known in the art. Similarly in sun exposure environments resins or additives affording ultra violet protection will be desirable. Variations are also possible in the selection in the colors of the plastics preferred for the table and net structure. As an example some colors will blend better in certain backgrounds than others. As another example a clear plastic table, especially a clear plastic net structure, treated with a neon color process each provide a frame of reference for balls crossing the net. Various tennis table legs and leg support structures are also well known in the art. Likewise various means are available for connecting the net structure to the table. For example one or more set screws can embedded in the bottom of net structure 8 to secure it to table 2. Finally, as indicated hereinbefore, conventional nets can be used on the unique tables of the invention. Further, the net structures herein, because of their inclusion of truncated radii will improve play on conventional table tennis tables. Such ramifications and variations are deemed to be within the scope of this invention.