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5 essential table tennis rules described

Table Tennis Rules Made Simple: A Beginner’s Guide

Like every sport, table tennis is governed by certain specified rules, the knowledge of which is essential to play the game. If you don’t know the rules properly, you may be penalized by a point or there may be uncompromised disputes that will spoil the match’s taste and excitement. There are numerous rules and regulations in table tennis and for beginner’s level, it is not needed to know all these rules. So to approach the game with a clear picture in mind, this article presents the basic table tennis rules in a simplified approach for easy understanding.

Hit the Ball Only After the 1st Bounce

In table tennis, only one bounce is permitted to hit a ball. You must hit the ball after the 1st bounce on your side. Neither you are allowed to hit the ball after it bounces more than once nor you can volley the ball. Wait for the first bounce on your side and then strike the ball to place it on the other side after crossing over the net.

Serve and Rally

In table tennis, a game starts with a service and ends with a rally. A rally is an exchange of shots between two players. A rally ends when either of the players fails to land the ball on the other side of the table.

For a valid serve, take the ball on the open palm of your non-playing hand and throw it vertically. While falling, hit the ball so that the first bounce is on your side and after crossing over the net, the second bounce is on your opponent’s side of the table.

Let in Service

While serving, if the ball touches the top of the net and lands on the other side, the service is not counted. It is a let serve and you have to serve again. There is no limitation on the number of “let serves”.

Point System in a Game

A table tennis set starts with a game of 11 points. The player who wins the rally earns one point. If both players score 10 points each, it is a “Deuce” and the game continues until there is a difference of two points.

A game starts with a serve which is decided by a toss. The server has the opportunity to serve twice in a row except when there is “Deuce”. In this situation, the service alternates after the first service.

A match consists of the best of 3, or 5 sets.


2-11, 12-10, 11-9 (3 sets)

11-6, 11-4, 15-17, 9-11, 11-9 (5 sets)

Rules in Table Tennis for Doubles

Table tennis doubles

All the rules mentioned above are the same for singles and doubles except for the following exceptions.

In doubles, the match is contested between two teams and each team consists of 2 players. All serves are taken diagonally, i.e. from the server’s right side to the receiver’s right side.

After the server has completed two consecutive serves, the receiver becomes the next server, and the server’s partner be the next receiver.

In the above picture, first A serves diagonally to C. After A delivers 2 consecutive serves to C, the turn for service goes to the opponent’s side. Now the previous receiver C becomes the new server and B is the receiver (A & B exchange their respective positions). This turn continues till the set ends.

Each player in a team must hit the ball alternately. 

All these are the fundamental rules in table tennis, the knowledge of which is essential for beginners to start playing the game.

For more information, check the updated handbook released by ITTF (International Table Tennis Federation) every year.

Related Post: “5 Table Tennis Serve Rules You Need To Know

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