When you were a little kid and first laid your eyes on a ping pong table, you probably just ran over to the table, grabbed a ball and started hitting it along with your hand. While that might make for a fun way of playing, the real table tennis game has rules that need to be followed. In this section, we cover the rules of this very popular indoor table game. There are many things to consider in this game and here we include a list of in-depth rules to make you clear on how to play the game the right way.
This list is perfect for the novice who has no idea what they’re doing, or for the established professional who needs a reminder.
The home tennis table is usually a place for some good old fashioned leisurely fun, but it can be the scene of some heated disputes as well. A common understanding of some basic rules is a good way to make sure your ping pong table is the site of more jovial sounds than irate ones.
First and foremost: This is by no means a comprehensive list of the Rules of Table Tennis as established and updated by the International Table Tennis Federation. For the complete Laws of Table Tennis handbook, consult the ITTF’s official website.
Serving and Volley Rules
The entire table area is in play, including the edges.
Serves may land anywhere on the opponents side of the table in singles play. Lines are for doubles play, during which the ball must land in the opposite quadrant of service.
Paddles must be standard size, weight, and shape for table tennis.
Serves must touch the server’s paddle, the server’s court, and then the opponent’s court.
If a ball touches the net and lands in the opponent’s court, a “let” is called and the serve is repeated.
Players serve five points and then the serve is given to the opponent for the next five.
If the ball touches the net during play and falls into the opponent’s territory, the shot is good.
Points are awarded when:
-Server serves fails to serve the ping pong ball into playable territory (i.e. the opponent’s court).
Either player fails to make a successful return.
If the ball is hit before it bounces on your side (unlike tennis).
If the ball bounces in a player’s court twice before she/he can successfully return it.
If you hit the ball twice without returning it to your opponent’s court.
If either player touches the net.
If either player touches the table with her/his free hand during play.
If either player moves the playing surface, even inadvertently, during play.
Starting and Finishing
Determine opening serve by volleying or a coin toss. In successive games, you may choose if serve goes to the winner or loser of the previous game.
The winner is the first player to reach 21 points. Player must win by 2 points. A match usually is a best of three or best of five series. Players decide this beforehand.
Official matches are played to 11 points in a best of seven format.
Service is automatically given to the trailing opponent when a player reaches 20 points.
Players switch sides after each game.
Remember, these table tennis rules are hardly set in stone. They simply provide a good place to start for beginning players. Feel free to add a few rules of your own or dismiss some of these suggested ones. The important thing with ping pong house rules is that both players understand and agree to them before the match begins.
If you want to know more, you can get the table tennis handbooks at ITTF office website. The site also provide Olympic and international table tennis rules in PDF format which you can download and print out for easy reading.
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