Table tennis, sometimes also called ping pong, is a simple game – once you master it, that is. If you’re a beginner just starting out, the numerous table tennis rules can be perplexing. Can you serve while gripping a ball? Do you need to allow the ball to hit your side of the table before hitting it over to your opponent? And what about your opponent’s table – would you need to allow it to bounce once first before you get your point?
In this blog, we clarify the rules for table tennis and treat you to bits of information, rules and etiquette you may not have previously known about. With these guidelines and a few practice drills, you prevent unnecessary fouls and can start playing competitive table tennis.
Preventing Foul Play By Knowing Table Tennis Rules
1. You cannot hide the ball from your opponent before a serve
While this might seem obvious, sometimes as you get increasingly competitive as you progress through the game – you might unknowingly resort to all sorts of tactics to gain an advantage. This might include hiding the ball with your body so your opponent does not see how you serve or at what angle.
You however, cannot shield the ball with your body, arms or hands. You also cannot use your racket to hide the ball and if you do so, you will incur a penalty.
2. The ball needs to rest on your open palm
You shouldn’t grip the ball with your fingers, cup it or allow it to rest against the sides of your hands. Keep your palm flat and open and allow the ball to rest here freely. This is so that you do not put a spin on the ball – something that isn’t allowed by a professional umpire.
3. Tennis volleys are not allowed
It might be tempting to apply the rules of regular tennis to table tennis, but try to refrain from doing so. Keep in mind that this is a different sport and if you already know tennis, you would still need to relearn the rules of ping pong. In normal tennis, you can throw the ball in the air and hit it across before it hits the ground – this is called a ‘volley’. In ping pong, if you do this, it results in a point for your opponent. Also, if the ball does not hit your opponent’s side of the table and just touches their paddle, you also lose a point.
4. Toss the ball straight upwards
In ping pong, you have to throw the ball straight upwards up to a height of 16cm (or 6 inches), allow it to first hit the table, before whacking it across to your opponent’s side of the table.
5. Partners need to alternate in a doubles rally
In a doubles table tennis match, you have to alternate hitting the ball with your partner. This means one player cannot hit the ball consecutively two times in a row without allowing their partner to first hit it. For instance, if A1 has hit the ball to B1, A2 needs to be the one to hit the ball back across and then B2 back to A1.
6. On some occasions when the ball hits the net, there is no penalty
During a play if you hit the ball across and it touches the net before bouncing off your opponent’s table, the rally restarts and no one is awarded any points – this is known as a ‘let’. However, if the ball touches the net and does not bounce on your opponent’s table, the point goes to them.
Start Playing Competitively When You Know the Rules
As in any other sport, the rules make the game. Knowing the finer details of the table tennis rulebook ensures you can take steps to prevent them and start playing the game well. Round up a few of your khakis and start playing together often at training spots. With a bit of practice, before you know it, you will be a more seasoned player!
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