Table tennis is one of the most popular games around the world with over 300 million players and counting. Whether you’re a casual player or are hoping to compete in an upcoming tournament, there are some basic rules that everyone should know and follow. This guide will help you understand the fundamentals of table tennis and take your game to the next level.
Starting the Game
When starting a game, you should always start with a coin toss. The winner of the coin toss decided if they’d like to serve first or they can decide what side of the table they’d like to be on when they play. If you decide which side of the table you’re on after winning the coin toss, the first serve goes to your opponent.
Unless you’re in a tournament or not in a controlled environment, the side of the table doesn’t particularly matter. Most casual players opt to serve first when they win the coin toss. Getting in the habit of a coin toss before your table tennis games can help you prepare for when you start playing competitively.
There are some specific rules and guidelines that you should always follow when you’re serving the ball to your opponent. Some tips for a proper serve are tossing the ball in the air with your free hand, striking the ball so that it bounces once on your side of the table, striking the ball so it clears the net after bouncing on your side of the table, and striking it so that it also bounces once on your opponent’s side of the table.
After you serve twice, your opponent gets the chance to serve twice regardless of who scored points during the previous serves. Serves are rotated after every two serves.
The first player to score 11 points wins the game, unless both players reach 10 points. If both players are at 10 points, you need to win by two points to win the game. After serving the ball, you hit the ball back and forth until someone is no longer able to keep the ball in play. Whoever keeps the ball in play longest scores the point, and the next serve takes place to play for the next point.
There are a few ways to score a point in table tennis. You score a point if:
- Your opponent serves incorrectly.
- The ball bounces more than once on your opponent’s side of the table.
- Your opponent fails to hit the ball back to your side of the table.
- Your opponent hits the ball twice on their side of the table.
- Your opponent touches the ball with anything other than their racket other than when they are serving.
The ball also must go over the net when returned for it to count as a successful return.
Aside from family rules, there are a few variations to the game that are popular in tournament play. The most popular variation is playing doubles. You and a partner take on another pair in a game of table tennis. When serving while playing doubles, you must stand behind the right side of your table, have the ball bounce on the right side of your table and it must be served to and bounce in the opposite half of your opponent’s side of the table. Additionally, you must take turns serving and returning, and hitting out of turn results in a point for your opponent. This popular variation adds a lot of fun and excitement to the table.