A Comprehensive List Of Table Tennis Rules You Should Know

Rules are like terms and conditions of a contract and seeing that it is difficult to win without a comprehensive knowledge of the rules, I have decided to compile a comprehensive list of the rules of table tennis. This list promises to be as explanatory and interesting as such document could possibly be.

A Comprehensive List Of Table Tennis Rules

General Rules :

  • The choice of playing position is made by tossing a coin. While the winner gets to pick the preferred side of the table, the opponent gets to choose who the first server is.
  • The total match point (as recently reviewed by the ITTF in 2001), is 11 points (instead of the previous 21) and a change of service occurs after two serves during which the server becomes the receiver and vice versa, till the end of the game.
  • At the start of a new game, the player who had the first serve in the previous game becomes the first receiver, and vice versa alternating after each game.
  • The players exchange playing sides or ends after the end of each game. If the match consists of more than one game, the players change ends again in the deciding game of the match when one of the players reach a score of 10 points.
  • A game is won by the first player to score 11 points with a margin of two points.
  • A full match normally consists of the best of two or three games at the most.


Service Rules :

  • A good service must start with the ball projected from a freehand above the playing surface. The idea of projecting the ball from a freehand ensures that you don’t launch it with a spin, since that service type has been discredited by the ITTF.
  • During the serve, the ball must be thrown vertically to at least 6 inches’ high. This is to prevent you from surprising your opponent with the service and save the game from too many “lets” and bad press from controversial refereeing.
  • As the ball starts to descend towards the table, it has to be struck so that it touches the server’s half first, passing over the net (making no contact with it), and then delivered within the receiver’s half. It doesn’t have to be diagonal like in badminton or lawn tennis, except in doubles.
  • If it touches the net and crosses over, the server gets to repeat the serve once more. If the same incident repeats itself, it’s a point for the receiver. However, if the ball touches the net and stays on the server’s half, then there won’t be another chance. It is automatically a point for the receiver as well.
  • The ball must be lifted above and behind the table for the serve so that the receiver gets a fair chance at returning it.
  • After launching the ball at least 6 inches high for the service, the server’s free arm must be out of the way before the paddle touches the ball so that the receiver sees the ball as it comes.

See Also : 10 Table Tennis Tips You Should Know

Points :

A game point is awarded under the following conditions ;

  • If the server fails to make a good serve unless a “let” is declared, a point is awarded to the receiver.
  • Failure to return a good service or match ball made by the opponent to the other half of the table.
  • A point is awarded to the opponent if a player’s paddle or wearing apparel moves the playing surface while the ball in is play. The same counts for contact with the net or its supports.
  • A point is awarded to an opponent if the player’s freehand touches the playing surface while the ball is in play.
  • A point is awarded to the opponent if a player returns a ball without it touching his/her side of the table, unless during a service when a “let” is called.


Let :

A let ball means that a certain play is restarted under the following conditions ;

  • If a served ball while passing over the net, touches it or its supports. However, it has to be a good ball (otherwise) or returned by the receiver for this to count.
  • If a service was delivered without the receiver being ready.
  • If either player loses control over a service or a return due to an accident beyond his or her control.
  • If either player gives up a point due to an accident beyond his or her control such as the third listed rule under the “Points” category listed above.

See Also : 5 Table Tennis Mistakes You’re Probably Making

Ball in Play :

The ball is said to be in play from the moment a service occurs without a let until any of the following circumstances; then a game point is recorded.

  • If the ball touches a player’s side of the court twice consecutively, then a point is awarded to the opponent.
  • If the ball touches each side of the court without being struck by either player – except during a service.
  • If the ball has been struck by one player more than once consecutively and deliberately during a play.
  • If the ball touches a player or his/her wearing apparels while in play.
  • If the ball touches any object apart from the table, paddle, the net and its supports.



Doubles Play :

Some of these rules are altered for a doubles game as explained thus;

  • Unlike in the singles game where the service can be diagonal or not, for doubles, the ball must touch the right side of the server’s court or at least the center line of the server’s half, and then pass over to the right side of the receiver’s half of the court. In this case, a diagonal serve is the rule. This is to ensure that the designated receiver is the one that receives the ball and there are no surprises.
  • The order of serves in a doubles game is also complicated. Given four players, two on each side of the table, say player 1 and 2 on one side, player 3 and 4 on the other side.

The first two serves have to come from player one on the right side of the table and consequently received by player 3 on the right side of the other half of the table.

The second two serves come from the opponents and must be delivered by player 3, the receiver of the first two serves, and received by player 2, the partner of the first server.

Then, the third two serves must be delivered by player 2, the partner of the first server, and received by the partner of the first receiver. Likewise, the fourth two serves must be delivered by player 4, the partner of the first receiver and received by Player 2, the partner of the first receiver.

The remaining serves go on like that.



Other standard rules such as the prohibition of performance enhancement drug use before the game also stands for table tennis. Also, the interpretation of these rules by the match officials will be reviewed after every game.

Have a look at our Table Tennis Blog for more tips and useful information.

Hey! , I am Roland Campbell , a table tennis player for over 5 years and counting. I do a lot of research on table tennis (Ping Pong) and publish my findings here at Pingthatpong.

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