The official table tennis rules are a comprehensive collection of guidelines created to address any situation that might occur during a match. The International Table Tennis Federation (ITTF) reviews these rules every year, and unless otherwise stated, any modifications are typically effective as of the first of the next year on January 1. To play a game of table tennis with your pals, however, you just need to be familiar with a handful of the fundamental rules if you're a novice. Therefore, we have outlined the basic table tennis rules on this page.
Basic Table Tennis Rules
- It takes 11 points to win a game. Two points are required to win a game. The top three games out of a possible five make up a match.
- Serving two points at a time is rotated between either side of the table.
EXCEPTION: Service changes each time the score is tied 10-10 ("deuce"). In ping pong, can you lose on a serve? Yes! Serving on Game Points is not subject to a specific rule.
- How is the ball served in ping pong? Behind the end of the table, hold the ball in your open palm. Throw it at least six inches straight up, striking it as it descends. It must first hit your side of the table before moving to the other.
NOTE: If the ball is missed or mishit, it counts as the receiver's point because it is in play once it has left the server's hand.
- The ball can land wherever either your or your opponent's side of the table. It may hit the edge, bounce over the side, or bounce twice or more on your opponent's side (if so, that is your argument).
- The serve must land in the right court of both the server and the receiver. Following two serves from each side, doubles partners trade places.
- In ping pong, can the ball cross the net? Yes, if it contacts the top of the net and otherwise lands as a legal hit during a RALLY. HOWEVER, not when serving. A served ball is considered a "let" serve and is redone if it strikes the net on the way over but otherwise lawfully bounces in play. There is no restriction on how frequently this may occur.
- Regardless of where the ball lands on the table, doubles partners are required to alternate hitting balls throughout a rally.
- Is it possible to hit the ball before it bounces in ping pong? No. You can "volley" the ball in normal tennis (hitting the ball before it bounces on your side of the net). However, this awards your opponent a point in table tennis.
NOTE: It is still your point if an opponent's ball strikes you or your paddle after flying over your end of the table without hitting it.
- It is your point if you serve or smash the ball during a rally, and it returns over the net without being touched by your opponent after striking your opponent's side of the table (owing to extreme spin).
- What happens if you get hit by the ball while playing ping pong? There is no rule infringement, and play may continue as usual if the ball hits your PADDLE hand while still resulting in a lawful hit. All of your fingers and the hand's lower portion are included in your paddle hand. But what if the ball makes any other contact with a player's body during a ping pong rally? For any reason, you are not permitted to contact the ball with your non-paddle hand. It will give your adversary a point. But even if your opponent's hit misses your side of the table entirely and touches you or your paddle in any way, you still win the point.
- When returning a short serve, you might reach in with your paddle hand and touch the ball or the table.
NOTE: If you touch the table during a rally and it moves in any way, your opponent wins the point.
- Even if a serve or hit bounces sideways, it may still strike the top edge of the horizontal tabletop surface and be considered valid. The playing surface DOES NOT include the table's vertical sides.
- The "honour system" is in effect if there is no referee present during a game and the players cannot agree on a particular call. In this case, the point must be retaken. There is a history of competitive but fair play in ping pong. Keep it that way by helping us!
Table Tennis Singles Rules
Unless both players have 20 points, in which case the winner must establish a two-point advantage to win, the player who scores 21 points first in a match is declared the winner. A coin toss shall be used to determine the ends and service for each game.
The ball must be released without imparting any spin and struck with the paddle outside the court's perimeter, close to the server's end, to deliver the service. Using finger spins and brushing the ball against the racket face is forbidden. Any spin that is applied to the ball must result from the racket's action when it collides with the ball. The ball must be struck so that it first travels directly over or around the net and into the server's court.
The Change of Service
After every five points scored, the service in singles and doubles is passed from one player to the next.
A Good Return
A ball that has been served or returned in play must be struck by the player so that it travels over or around the net with no detours and landing in the opponent's court; however, if the ball returns over the net on its own during play, it may be played just like a returned ball.
A let is a rally that results in a scoreless outcome. It happens when:
- If the service is otherwise good or the recipient has volleyed, the ball contacts the net or its supports during service;
- When the recipient or his partner is not prepared, a service is provided as long as no attempt has been made to return the ball;
- A player makes a poor serve or return due to an unavoidable event outside of his control, like a spectator's movement or an unexpected noise;
- During play, the ball is broken;
- A rally either concludes or is interrupted to fix a playing order error.
Either player must side out or lose a point:
- If he or she does not perform well until a let is declared.
- if the opponent provides a solid service or good return, but the player does not provide a good return.
- If a player's clothes, racket, or other accessory hits the net while the ball is in play.
- If the person playing the ball moves the table in any way.
- If a player touches the table with their free hand while the ball is in play.
- If at any point the player volleys the ball, it must be struck before it has bounced.
Table Tennis Doubles Rules
Draw a white 1-inch line down the middle of the table, parallel to the sidelines. The service line will be used to refer to this.
A Good Service
The service must be rendered as previously described, touching the right half-court or centre line on the server's side of the net first and then the receiver's right half-court or centre line on his side of the net after passing directly over or around the net.
The Choice of Order of Play
In any game, the couple with the right to serve the first five services will choose which partner will do so, and the opposing pair will choose who will be the receiver initially using a similar process.
The Order of Service
Five points will be served by each server. The person receiving becomes the server at the end of each period of service, and the partner of the primary server becomes the receiver. The game ends with a score of 20, all after this pattern of the receiver switching roles as the server and the partner of the previous server as the receiver. Except for each player serving only one point in turn and the serve switching after each point until the completion of the match, the sequence of serving and receiving must continue unbroken at a score of 20 all.
The Order of Play
First, the server must perform a good service, then the recipient must make a good return, followed by the partner of the receiver, and last, alternatively, in that order, the recipient must make a good return.
Table Tennis Serve Rules
- Throughout the service, the ball cannot be hidden from the receiver; it must always be visible.
- The ball must always be above the playing surface level and behind the table's end line.
- The ball must be thrown nearly vertically, at least 16 cm above the ground (about the height of the net), and it must be struck on the way down, not the way up.
- The umpire may caution the player if he has any doubts about whether a service is legitimate. If the player continues to make questionably legal serves, the umpire will penalise him and give the point to his opponent.
- The umpire will criticise the player and award the point to his rival if a service is obviously outside the rules.
Table Tennis Match Point Rules
- When the other player is unable to hit the ball with a racket over the net and onto the opposite side of the table, the player wins the point.
- A player wins a game if he or she scores 21 points first and is at least 2 points ahead of the opposition. The first player to gain a 2-point lead wins the game if both players have 20 points won.
- In the Men's Singles and Women's Singles events, a match is determined by the best of two out of three games.
- The server will serve first with a score of 0-0. The opposite player then serves after each player has served for five consecutive points.
- The ball must be served so that it first touches the server's side of the table, then bounces over or around the net, and finally touches the server of the other team. The term "let serve" (or "simply let") refers to a serve that touches the net assembly (the net, net posts, and net clamps) on the way but still contacts the player's side first and the opponent's side on the second bounce. This service must be replayed with no effect on the score. The number of consecutive lets the server can serve is unrestricted.
- For the ball to land first on the server's side of the table, the receiver will then try to return it over or around the net. If he is unable to, the server scores a point. If the server accomplishes this, he or she must hit the ball over or around the net so that it lands first on the side of the table opposite of his or her own. The receiver scores the point if the server is unable to. This pattern of play continues until one of the players cannot legally return the ball, at which point the other player wins the point.
- A player's score is increased by one whenever they score a point. Both players will only serve one serve apiece when a score of 20 all is reached till the game is over. The server's score is called out first when the total is announced.
We know that we have just covered the basics of table tennis rules and that they can occasionally be confusing. To aid our fellow ping-pong fans better understand the game, we created this blog that lists the basic table tennis rules. Keep playing and have fun!!
Frequently Asked Questions
How many players are in table tennis?
There is either a single aside game in table tennis or a double aside. So, either 2 players are playing the game or 4.
How many rounds are in Olympic table tennis?
A match is played best in 3 of 5 games. For each game, the first player to reach 11 points wins that game, however, a game must be won by at least a two-point margin.