June 22 (Reuters) - Focus on table tennis at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics:
THE ABSOLUTE BASICS
* There are five events - singles and team tournaments for both men and women and a newly introduced mixed doubles competition.
* Paddlers compete in a knockout format. Each match consists of a best-of-seven playoff for singles and mixed doubles, while players play over a best-of-five set format for the team event. Every game is played to 11 points.
* Team tournament consists of four singles matches and one doubles contest, and ends when a team wins three individual games.
HOW MANY MEDALS?
Five gold medals are up for grabs.
WHAT HAPPENED IN RIO?
China dominated table tennis in Rio with a clean sweep of golds, grabbing six out of 12 medals on offer, the maximum they were allowed by the rules to win. Of the remaining medals, Japan took three and Germany took two.
The Asian powerhouse China currently possesses 28 out of 32 golds awarded since table tennis became an Olympic sport in 1988.
WHAT CAN WE EXPECT IN TOKYO?
The focus will be on whether China will once again dominate the event. The world’s top-ranked players including three-time Olympic medallist Ma Long and women’s world number one Chen Meng will be joining the Chinese squad this summer.
But China may face stiff competition, as ace paddlers from other countries, especially Japan which has home advantage, are eager to prove their own table tennis credentials.
A mixed doubles event will make its debut in Tokyo, kicking off the table tennis programme on July 24. A total of 16 teams - with only one pair per country - will be battling for the first gold in table tennis to get off to a good start.
Up until Rio, teams events had been held in the order of: two singles games, a doubles match, and a maximum of another two singles. But in Tokyo, a doubles will be the first teams match.
WHEN IS IT HAPPENING?
July 24 to Aug.6.
WHERE IS IT HAPPENING?
Tokyo Metropolitan Gymnasium in Shibuya ward, Tokyo.
HOW DID WE GET HERE?
Table tennis - also known as ping pong - was played in England in the late 1800s as an indoor, after-dinner game alternative to lawn tennis. It later spread to Europe and took root in Asia.
While the first world championship was held in 1926, table tennis became a medal sport decades later in the 1988 Seoul Olympic Games.
WELL FANCY THAT
In host country Japan, table tennis is a popular recreational sport at hot spring resorts. The country also birthed its own unique table tennis championships - slipper table tennis - where players use hotel slippers as paddles. (Reporting by Eimi Yamamitsu Editing by Christian Radnedge)