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How to Play Table Tennis

Published: August 14, 2023

Table Tennis equipment includes:

  • Table tennis ball.
  • Table tennis table
  • Table tennis net
  • Table tennis bat or paddle

Games of Table Tennis
During normal gameplay, serve alternates every two points (regardless of the winner) until a player wins with a two-point lead or until a ‘deuce’ game is required — then serve alternates after each point.

Typically, games are played very much like a tiebreak in tennis, but the target is 11 points and a player must win by at least a two point difference. Should both players reach 10 points, a “deuce” game comes into effect, with serve alternating after each point and the game is won by the player who eventually gains a lead of two points. However, there is an exception — many people may still play the old 21 point game, where service alternates after every five points.

In table tennis doubles, service alternates every two points between sides, but also rotates between players on the same team. All the rules of singles apply, but players have to serve to opposite sides of the court (as in a game of tennis) whereas in singles they do not.

A match usually consists of the best of seven games (the first to win four), but in competition this can also be best out of five or even nine.

Who serves first in Table Tennis?
In top flight table tennis competition, service is decided by the toss of a coin. People playing just for fun often decide the right to serve by having a short rally — whoever does not make an error is the one to serve.

How to serve in Table Tennis
The player releases the ball behind the edge of the table and hits it so that it bounces on his/her side of the table and then strikes the ball, it then bounces once in the opponent’s court. If a serve goes straight into the net and does not pass over into the court on the other side, then it is a point for the opponent. If a serve hits the net, but goes over, it is considered a ‘let’, and can be taken again with no penalty.

The opponent has to return by returning the ball before it bounces twice and must hit it directly over the net into the opposing court — it should not be bounced in the player’s own court by themselves as in the serve. The players then alternate playing the ball and having it bounce on the opponent’s side of the table until a player makes an error.

Scoring at Table Tennis
Players earn points regardless of who served the ball and points are awarded to the opponent during play for the following:

  • Failing to reach the ball or not hitting it back before it bounces twice.
  • Having the ball bounce on one’s own side after hitting it.
  • Double hitting the table tennis ball.
  • Failing to allow the ball to bounce once in one’s own side — you are not allowed to volley the ball like players do in tennis.
  • Failing to get the service correctly into play (unless it is a ‘let’).

Article Modified: August 14, 2023 10:33 am

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