How to serve in table tennis – 5 simple steps

How to serve correctly in table tennis? I mean, how to serve legally in table tennis? Many amateurs make an illegal serve. I’m a coach, and I have seen a lot of cases like this: no-toss serve, hidden serve, thrown to the paddle serve, etc. Here is how you can make the legal serve in table tennis. You should show this article to the players who used a lot of illegal serves to gain an advantage. It’s unfair

How to Serve in Table Tennis

There are 5 simple steps to serve in table tennis. This serve is legal, according to the ITTF official serving rules. These serving steps are verified by coach EmRatThich.

  • 1 Hold the ball flat in the palm
  • 2 Keep the ball above the table
  • 3 Throw the ball at least 16 cm nearly vertical
  • 4 Strike the ball at the descending phase
  • 5 Don’t hide the serve

1 Hold the ball flat in the palm

After picking up the ball, keep your hand open and flat. Let the ball rest for a few seconds before launching it into the air. An umpire can call an unlawful serve “fault serve”. Even if you are only warned once throughout a match, any improper serves can lead to your opponent scoring.

Keep the ball above the table, and on an open palm
Keep the ball above the table, and on an open palm

2 Keep the ball above the table

Keep the ball behind the end line of the table. The hand holding the ball (your “freehand”) must be above the table when serving. The ball should remain behind the table (your serve line).

You must learn the rules to perform the legal table tennis serve
You must learn the rules to perform the legal table tennis serve

3 Throw the ball at least 16 cm nearly vertical

Throw the ball at least 16 cm. Officials mandate this minimum height. Any lower and it isn’t a legal serve. The ball must be tossed vertically, not horizontally or diagonally. The height of 16 cm is equivalent to the length of your paddle.

You must throw the ball upward atleast 16 cm
You must throw the ball upward at least 16 cm

Make sure your throw sends the ball almost straight up. You can’t just drop the ball from 6.3 inches (16 cm). This is not a vertical toss, which is not allowed.

16 cm is about the length of your table tennis racket
16 cm is about the length of your table tennis racket

4 Strike the ball at the descending phase

Strike the falling ball. Don’t hit the ball while it’s in the air or at the peak of your throw. Wait until it returns to the table to avoid being called out. If you hit the ball at its rising phase, then your serve is illegal.

You must strike the ball at the descending phase, you are not allowed to hit the ball at it's peak
You must strike the ball at the descending phase, you are not allowed to hit the ball at it’s peak

5 Don’t hide the serve

After serving, remove your free arm from the ball. Once you’ve served, you can’t “hide” the ball from your opponent. So you don’t get accused of doing this, pull your free hand, your shoulder, and your head back. You must let your opponent see the contact point. Otherwise, your serve is not legal.

Don't hide the ball with your arm, shoulder or head
Don’t hide the ball with your arm, shoulder, or head

Table tennis official ITTF service rules

Here are the official ITTF rules for the serve, explained in the ITTF Handbook.

2.6.1 Service begins with the ball freely sitting on the server’s open palm.

2.6.2 It must rise at least 16cm after leaving the palm of the free hand and then fall without contacting anything before being struck.

2.6.4 When serving, the ball must be seen by the receiver at all times.

2.6.5 As soon as the ball is projected, the server’s free arm, shoulder, head, and hand must be removed.

2.6.6 The player must serve so that the umpire or assistant umpire is satisfied that he or she has followed the table tennis rules.

2.6.6.1 If the umpire or assistant umpire is unsure about the legality of a serve, they may warn the server the first time, but any future service by that player or his doubles partner will be judged incorrect.

2.6.7 Exceptionally, the umpire may lower the rules for legal serve where a physical impairment prevents compliance.

For the handicap table tennis event, the serving rule can be modified
For the handicap table tennis event, the serving rule can be modified

 

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