Hong Kong has built up a reputation for producing some of the world's best table tennis players. Many of us have played on a table, bat in hand observing the simple rules of the game. It hardly requires much effort played at this basic level. The rules are probably the most simple of all racquet sports. A singles or doubles game is played across a table 75 centimetres high, 2.75 metres long and 1.5 metres wide which is divided in the middle by a 15cm-high net. The game begins with one player serving the ball by tossing it up from the open palm and hitting it so that it strikes the server's side of the table and then the opposite end. After the serve, the ball is hit so that it strikes the table only on the far side of the net and play continues until one side fails to make a good return. Each side serves five consecutive points and the game is played until one side scores 21 points. Table tennis has become extremely popular because the territory has limited space and it is easy and not too expensive to set up a table. That is one of the reasons most schools in the territory have access to a table-tennis table. The game took off many years ago and is popular because not only is it a fun and relaxing form of recreation, but also it can be tension-filled and exciting when played at a higher level. It's the least expensive of all bat-and-ball sports to take up and there is little chance of getting hurt playing the game. Hong Kong women's national coach Cheung Sau-ying said the game requires brilliant tactics, endurance and skill when played at the highest level, but played at its most basic it can be very enjoyable. 'Everybody seems to know the rules of the game because everyone played it at some point in their life. Table tennis has been around for so long and the reason it has become so popular is because you don't have to be a special height or size to be good at it,' she said. In fact, the world's best women's player barely stands 1.5 metres tall! China's Deng Yaping is small in frame but huge in stature. She has dominated the women's game this decade and has been the undisputed world number one for more than four years. She has won back-to-back Olympic gold medals and is generally accepted as among the all-time greats of table tennis. 'So you just have to look at Deng Yaping to see that being good in the sport doesn't mean you have to be tall. In fact, quick reflexes and a strong mind are probably the most important aspects of the game,' said coach Cheung. Hong Kong has always done well in the sport and the territory boasts two women players who are ranked among the world's top 15. Chai Po-wa and Chan Tan-lui are probably the most famous Hong Kong athletes after local windsurfing Olympic gold medallist Lee Lai-shan. Chai and Chan, who were both born in China, have won numerous international titles together. They reached the quarter-finals of the women's doubles at the Atlanta Games. Chai has been slightly more successful in singles and is ranked seventh in the world while Chan has slipped below the world's top 10 rankings. If you saw the world's top players in action at the FILA women's World Cup in Hong Kong recently you would know what the players can do with the bat and ball. They can return the ball even when it is being 'smashed' at them at high speed. They play the ball with a lot of top-spin but they always seem able to recover the ball and play it back on the table. Coach Cheung said players attack and defend. 'They play forehand and backhand, smashes and defensive play. It is a thinking game. The player always has to be alert. 'A high level of skill can only come through many years of training,' she said. If you want to improve your game call the HKTTA on 2575-5330.