Reading the official ITTF rulebook is rather uninteresting. These are the most common questions and explications about confusing situations in table tennis. If you don’t have time, just check 3 minutes quick main rules in table tennis. So today, let’s review quickly some basic rules of table tennis that every player should understand! Have you mastered the rules in table tennis? Check the FAQ Ping Pong Rules for Dummy here. Have any question about legal table tennis serve: Check the serving rules demystified.
∎ Page Contents ∎
Some Useful Terms in table tennis
Some player, even after playing table tennis for 3 years, still asked me:
Does it count the point? The ball is bounced back!
Or there are still some confuse at the small tournament:
Is it the edge ball? The net ball or the “let ball”?
These are the basic table tennis terminologies that new player should know:
- Server: The player who serve. After two services, we change the server.
- Receiver: The player not serving. In general, the “server” has a slight advantage over the “receiver” because he has the first control of the ball.
- Rally: the exchange during the game. Rally consists of several hits from each player. Normally rally is the topspin shots.
- Let: When a play ends in no point being awarded, it’s known as a ‘let’. Don’t call it a “net”. Even when you serve, the ball touches the “net”, but please call it as a “let serve”.
- Obstruction: If a player touches the ball illegally with their hand or anything they may be wearing.
- Double hit: The ball bounces on the table two times before touching your racket.
- Shakehand: A way of holding the paddle that’s similar to the shake hand gesture.
- Penhold: The way that you hold your racket is called as a grip. Penhold grip is the Asian type, hold like a pen. There are 2 principal grips in table tennis: shakehand grip and penhold grip.
A – Singles Play
Basic Rules in table tennis is not complicated. Simple step! Basic table tennis rules that every player should understand! Master the rule! It’s simple! Sometimes you are not satisfied with the umpire, so learn the rules! What is the “let ball”? How to serve in the double game? Can I volley in ping pong? what is a legal service in table tennis? Here you are!
I. Who Serve First?
- Umpire tosses the coin. Winner of the toss chooses to serve first or playing side.
- Each player has to serve 2 points and then switch.
- If you serve first in the 1st set, then your opponent will serve first in the next set.
- A game is won by the player who first scores 11 points or with a 2-point margin after 11 points.
- A match consists of the best two (5) of three (7) sets.
II. What is a good serve?
I’ve explained the official rules for the legal serve here. But here is the uncomplicated recap. A legal serve is a serve that follows all of these conditions:
- Toss the ball from the free hand. Start above the table. The ball in the palm, and tossed at least 16 cm.
- As it starts to descend, the ball is struck so that it touches the server’s court first and then, passing directly over or around the net, touches the receiver’s court. At the instant of contact of the racquet on the ball in service, both handle and the ball must be behind the end line of the server’s court.
- A good return of a served ball must be struck by the receiver on the first bounce so that it passes directly over or around the net and touches directly on top of the opponent’s court.
III. How to win a point?
- A point is awarded to the opponent in the following circumstances:
- Failure to make a good service, unless a let is declared
- Failure to make a good return of a good service or a good return made by the opponent, unless a let is declared
- If the player, the racquet, or anything that the player wears or carries touches the net or its supports while the ball is in play.
- If the player, the racquet, or any wearing apparel moves the playing surface while the ball is in play or touches the net or its supports
- And if the player’s free hand touches the playing surface while the ball is in play
- If, after being struck by the opponent, the ball comes in contact with the player or anything the player wears or carries before it has passed over the end lines or sidelines, not yet having touched the playing surface on the player’s side of the table.
- If at any time the player volleys the ball – that is before the ball hits the table top – except as provided in Rule A under “Let” (below).
IV. What is let ball?
A let ball, which is then replayed, is called in the following cases:
- If the served ball, in passing over the net, touches it or its supports, if the service would otherwise have been good or volleyed by the receiver.
- If a service is delivered when the receiver is not ready
- And if either player is prevented by an accident not under his/her control from serving a good service or making a good return
- If either player gives up a point, as provided in Rules C-G under “Points”, owing to an accident not within his/her control
V. Scoring rules
- A point is scored by the side that makes the last successful return prior to the end of a rally. An unsuccessful return occurs whenever the ball is missed, is hit off the table, sent into the net, or hit onto the player’s own half of the court on the return. Failure to make a good service also scores a point for the opponent unless it is a let.
VI. Ball in play
The ball is in play from the moment it is projected from the hand in service until one of the following has occurred:
- It has touched one court twice consecutively.
- It has, except in service, touched each court alternately without having been struck by the racquet immediately
- And has been struck by either player more than once consecutively.
- It has touched either player or anything that the player wears or carries.
- It has touched any object other than the net and supports.
B – Doubles Play
I. Good Service in double
The service is delivered (as described in Singles), except that it must touch first the right half of the server’s court or the centerline on the server’s side of the net and then, passing directly over or around the net, touch the right half of the receiver’s court or the center line on the receiver’s side of the table.
II. Choice of Order of Play
The team winning a coin toss has the option of choosing:
- The choice of ends
- The right to receive or serve first
- And the right to require the losing team to make the first choice
- After choice A & B have been made, the other team makes the remaining choice.
III. Order of service in double
- The first two services must be delivered by the serving partner (Player 1) of the pair who has the right to do so. The service must be received by the receiving partner (Player 3) of the opposing pair.
- You are Player 1, your teammate is Player 2. The opponent team is Player 3 and Player 4.
- You serve to the Player 3 (2 services).
- Player 3 serves to your teammate Player 2 (next 2 services).
- Your partner (Player 2) serves to Player 4 (next 2 services).
- And finally, Player 4 serves the next 2 services to you (Player 1).
- The next two services start over.
©PINGSUNDAY. Unauthorized use, translation or duplication of this material is strictly prohibited. Link and excerpt may be used, provided that clear credit is given to PingSunday with the specific link to the original content.
Sign up and join +65k readers. Get free coaching ebooks and coaching advice every week