To help you settle those garage or office disputes, we’ve gathered the essential ping pong rules from USA Table Tennis right here. It is not an exhaustive list, but these are common points of contention among many players. The official table tennis rules should help you keep things straight, whether you call it ping pong, table tennis, or whiff whaff.
- ALL GAMES ARE TO 11 POINTS
There are 11 points won win in a game. Two points are required to win. There are usually three best of five games in a match.
- A CHANGE OF SERVERS EVERY TWO POINTS
Two points are served by each side of the table alternately. At every point after a 10-10 tie (“deuce”), service alternates. In ping pong, can you lose by serving? Certainly! Serving on a Game Point is not different from serving on another Game Point.
- PLACE THE BALL DIRECTLY UPWARDS WHEN SERVING
Ping pong ball serving – how to do it? Place the ball behind your back, in your open palm. Strike it on the way down after throwing at least 6″ straight up. Make sure it hits your side and the other side. When the ball leaves the server’s hand, it becomes in play, and counts as the receiver’s point if it is missed or mishit.
- THE SERVE CAN LAND ANYWHERE IN SINGLES
There is no restriction on where the ball may land on your side or your opponent’s side. If it bounces twice on your opponent’s side, that is your point. If it bounces over the edge, that is your point as well.
- ALL DOUBLES SERVES MUST GO TO THE RIGHT COURT
A serve must land on the centre line to be fair (NOTE: landing on the server’s right court is not fair). After each team serves twice, the partners switch places.
- A “LET” IS A SERVICE THAT TOUCHES THE NET WHILE TRAVELLING
Is it possible to hit the net in ping pong? The ball is considered a legitimate hit during a RALLY if the net touches it and it otherwise lands as such. However, during serving this is not the case. The ball is done over if it hits the net on the way over and otherwise bounces in play. The ball can be done over an unlimited number of times.
- DOUBLES RALLY ALTERNATE HITTING
It does not matter where the ball lands on the table, doubles partners must alternate hitting balls in a rally.
- VELOCIES ARE NOT ALLOWED
In ping pong, is it possible to hit the ball before it bounces? Not at all. You can “volley” the ball (hit ball before it bounces on your side of net) in regular tennis. However, in table tennis this results in the opponent getting a point. The point is still yours if your opponent’s ball sails over your end of the table without touching it and then hits you or your paddle.
- YOUR HIT IS A POINT IF IT BOUNCES OVER THE NET BY ITSELF
Your point is earned if you hit the ball in a rally or on a serve and it bounces back over the net after hitting the opponent’s side of the table (due to extreme spin), without opponent touching it.
- THE PADDLE HAND MAY TOUCH THE BALL
When the ball hits your finger or hand during a ping pong rally, what happens? There is no rule violation if the ball touches your PADDLE hand and otherwise results in a legal hit. The game will continue as normal. All fingers on the paddle hand are counted as part of your paddle hand. Is the ball allowed to contact a player’s body anywhere else during a ping pong match? Any non-paddle hand touching the ball is prohibited. IF, however, your opponent’s hit sails over your side of the table without touching it, and hits any part of you or your paddle, you still win.
- THE NON-PADDLE HAND MAY NOT TOUCH THE TABLE
If you reach in to return a short serve, for example, you may touch the ball or the table with your paddle hand, or with another part of your body. When you touch the table during a rally, if the table moves at all, that is your opponent’s point.
- EDGE BALLS BOUNCING OFF THE TOP OF THE TABLE SURFACE ARE GOOD
Even if the serve or hit bounces sideways, it is valid if it makes contact with the top edge of the tabletop. It is illegal to play on the vertical sides of the table.
- DISAGREEMENTS ARE AFFECTED BY THE HONOR SYSTEM
During a match, if no referee is present and the players differ on a certain call, the players should find a way to agree, or play the point over, according to the honour system. Playing ping pong is fierce and fair. Make sure it stays that way!
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