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Table tennis service rules – all you need to know

Last Updated on 2 months by Shadman

The service rules of table tennis are very easy to understand, but there are several reasons why it’s good to know the service rules inside out.

You see, in table tennis, you have to bounce the ball on your side of the table before hitting it over the net, or else you lose your point: that’s one aspect of service rules. The other is that when returning a serve, you can only hit the ball upwards, not sideways or downwards.

The table tennis service rules are definitely worth learning and knowing about if you are a table tennis player.

Read the complete table tennis rules here.

The ball must bounce at least once on the server’s side

The ball must bounce at least once on the server’s side of the table. A ball that bounces twice on the server’s side is considered a fault.

If you hit the ball and it bounced on your side only, it will count as a fault. Even if the ball bounce from your racket to another part of the table before bouncing on your opponent’s side, this will still be considered as a fault.

The ball must bounce at least once on the receiver’s side

A ball that hits directly off of one player’s paddle and goes straight to another player or comes right back over to their own net is not yet in play (only in doubles). The players may touch the ball with any part of their body or paddle for service; however, they are prohibited from holding it for more than one second.

Read the paddle rules.

For doubles, the server must serve so that both players have a chance to return it. The server may not intentionally hit the ball in such a way that his or her partner cannot reach it (only applies for right-handed players). The player who served shall be the first to receive a stroke after returning it; therefore, they should not return the ball hard enough for their partner to get deprived of an opportunity to go back and serve again if they failed to return properly. If there was a fault on either side, then you can resume from where your team left off with service until one team reaches 11 points or has two faults.

The ball should be resting freely on the palm of the hand.

The ball should be resting freely on the palm of the hand. If the player holds onto it with a finger or two, then it would be regarded as illegal. However, if for any reason that the ball was touching your body at any spot (excluding racket) and you managed to move it away before hitting the ball over to your opponent’s side of the table; then this will not count as a fault.

Toss the ball up.

Toss the ball up. The ball should be tossed at least 6 inches high in the air. If it was thrown less than that, then you must try again by tossing it over this height.

One time before hitting the ball  with your racket  is permitted

You are allowed to hit the ball one time before hitting it with your racket. So, if you accidentally hit the ball twice or more than that before hitting it with your racket, this will count as a fault and your opponent can get a point.

Before you catch the ball on your side of the table after returning it from an attempt (stroke), you must make sure that you had touched it at least once before knocking into any part of the table. If you failed to do so, then this will be regarded as a fault and your opponent team can gain a point.

One second is enough for touching the ball only

As stated in the Rule above, players are prohibited from holding onto the ball for more than one second before hitting it. If you are having problems in returning the ball properly because your opponent is holding onto the ball, then have him or her let go of it immediately. Unfortunately, if they continued to hold onto it, you will be penalized with a fault and get no point.

Ball must stay above the table when in play

The ball should not touch anything that is below the table level at any time unless it was deliberately bounced off of your bottom or waist before hitting it on your opponent’s side of the table. If something other than your racket hit the ball underneath, then there was no contact with anything that comes under the table before touching your opponent’s side; consequently, this will be regarded as a fault and you won’t gain a point.

The ball shall come to rest on the receiving side of the table before being struck by the receiving player.

This is probably one of the most important rules in Table Tennis and it is very useful when judging whether or not a play has been made illegally. In order for a ball to be legitimate, it must touch anything that comes under the table or at least coming close enough from touching part of it before going out onto your opponent’s side of the table.

This means that if you hit back a serve and did not let it bounce on your opponent’s side, there was no contact with any part of his/her body or racket before hitting him/her on their own side, then it is considered as a fault. It will also be considered as a fault if you hit the ball before it bounces even once on your opponent’s side of the table, regardless of how many times it bounced on yours. The same rule applies for doubles; however, the server does not need to let the ball bounce on their receiver’s side first (only applies to right-handed players).

One finger must be above and touching  the table at all times

When playing in singles or doubles, it is illegal to put more than one hand under the table at any time unless both hands are holding onto the racket(s). If there were two arms or more in contact with another person’s body, then this would be regarded as a foul (fault) and the opposing team will get a point.

Never lunge  or reach across the net while hitting the ball

While returning service, it is illegal to lean forward and hit from a distance so far away that there is no need to touch your opponent’s side of the table with your hand or foot; therefore, causing interference to their movement in trying to return it properly.

It is also prohibited for your body part (e.g., foot) to cross over an imaginary line drawn vertically immediately above the net on either side of the table when hitting any ball back after receiving service or opening play in an attempt to get into a better position to hit the ball.

If someone were to bend over and use their hand(s) or foot (however, not both together) to push the ball gently onto your side of the table; then this would not be considered as an illegal play.

Player must maintain a steady position

While hitting the ball, you can’t move away from the spot that you started with until after hitting it completely. You are also not allowed to stop still and reach back for a shot after starting a motion with your arm or hand; this is against the rules and it will be considered as an illegal play.

While your foot is on the ground, there should never be any part of your body touching any surface below the table level (e.g., chair). The only exception to this rule is if something comes under discussion between players or officials regarding whose fault it was, and then they have to stand up so as not to accidentally influence their decision by remaining seated at any given time during such situations.

Serve rules in Doubles.

It is worth mentioning that the rule above doesn’t apply to doubles because it is played in a much wider court than singles with an additional imaginary line across it called the partner’s service end line. This means that you are allowed to go near your own partner’s side of the table and bounce the ball off any part of his body, which includes arm, hand, or foot so as long as he/she manages to return it properly before it bounces more than once on your opponent’s side of the table.

The player who served must receive a stroke first  after returning it (Double’s only)

The server is not allowed to return the ball hard enough so that his/her partner cannot reach it after hitting it off of their side of the table. This is also applied when there was a fault on either side; therefore, the serving team can resume from where they left off on service until one team reaches 11 points or has two faults.

Final words on table tennis service rules

To conclude, the table tennis service rules are very easy to follow as they are straightforward and there aren’t any exceptions or loopholes for anything. Be sure to keep them in mind when playing competitively; otherwise, it could cost you a point.

In addition to this, if you want further information on the rules of table tennis, then please check out this site: https://Ittf.com.

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