An overlooked equipment in table tennis is the net assembly which consists of the net, its suspension, and the posts and clamps associated with holding the net in place. While most table tennis tables come with a standard net assembly set, it often times does meet regulations of the International Table Tennis Federation or ITTF.
According to ITTF, the table tennis net shall be 1.83 meters (6 feet) long and 15.25 cm (6 inches) tall. The color of the net shall be dark green, dark blue, or black with a white strip along the top edge no wider than 15mm thick. The color of the net does not need to match the color of the tabletop.
The table tennis net shall be 15.25 cm tall throughout the entire width of the table’s playing surface and suspended by a cord supported by two posts that are 15.25 cm in height. The supporting posts shall be no more than 15.25 cm away from the edges of the table with the ends of the net as close to the posts as possible. In addition, the bottom of the net is to be as close to the playing surface as possible.
You’ll find some net assemblies provided by table tennis table manufacturers that stretches the net without the use of a suspended cord. While these will do for leisure players, this setup is not allowed in official tournaments. The ITTF does not specify a specific tension for the net, however, it should be tight enough to rebound balls hitting the top portion. If the net is not setup correctly or loose, you’ll find some balls hitting the top net to roll over to the other side, which is unfair.
Besides the net itself, it’s important to note that there are several types of net posts/clamps. While there are no regulations against the type of clamps used, there are three post/clamp generally accepted setups including the permanent affixed type, the spring loaded clamp type, and the hand tightened screw clamp type. Let’s see the pros and cons of each.
Some net posts are permanently affixed to the table tennis table. You’ll find permanently affixed posts in many outdoor tables or rollaway one-piece tables. As these are bolted onto the table, they’re very sturdy but do not offer the convenience of portability. As most fold-up tables require the net assembly to be removed before storage, the more common setups are the spring loaded and hand-tightened screw clamps.
Spring loaded clamps (they’re just large clips) are quick to setup but not as sturdy. This is especially true when the springs within the clamps loosen with age. At this time, the clamps may not even be strong enough to holdup the net and a replacement is required. Another issue once the clamps become loose is it easily scratches the tabletop when the posts shift and twist in place.
I personally like the hand-tightened clamps as they are durable, sturdy, and offer the most adjustability. There are many variations of the hand-tightened clamp and I would suggest finding one that offers an adjustable height function. It would also be wise to invest in a table tennis net gauge, a plastic ruler that helps in measuring the net height throughout the playing surface. It’s also a great tool for measuring the thickness of your table tennis paddle which cannot be thicker than 4mm.