Basic Table Tennis Rules: Part 2

basic table tennis rules

Learn the basic table tennis rules. Commonly known as ping pong, this fun indoor sport can be fast-paced and challenging or the equipment and rules can be modified to slow the game down. 

See more about the ping pong table, equipment, order of play, length of game, serving, and  change of service.

Basic Table Tennis Rules
Service Return

The ball must be hit directly over the net and touch the opponent's court. If the ball touches the net or its supports and lands in fair territory, it's a good return.

The ball may not bounce twice before returning it. 

table tennis rules

Volleying – Hitting the ball before it has touched the table on the Receiver's side of the court is not allowed, and the Receiver loses a point.

The ball is considered out of play if it touches any object other than the net, supports, playing surface, racket, or racket hand below the wrist.

A strike is good if:

  • the racket hits the ball.
  • the ball hits the racket hand below the wrist.
ping pong paddle

A strike is NOT good if:

  • it's made with the hand.
  • it's made with a racket that has been dropped or thrown.

Basic Table Tennis Rules

A player scores a point when his opponent:

  • fails to make a good serve.
  • fails to make a good return.
  • strikes the ball out of order in a doubles game.
  • touches the playing surface with his free hand while the ball is in play.
  • contacts the ball before it has passed over the end line or side lines without touching the playing surface.
  • touches the net with his racket or any part of his body.
  • moves the playing surface while the ball is in play.
table tennis volley

Let – A let is a rally that results in no points being scored. It occurs when:

  • the ball touches the net or its supports on the serve, provided the serve is otherwise good or has been volleyed by the Receiver.
  • the Server puts the ball in play before the Receiver is ready.
  • the ball is broken during play.

Basic Table Tennis Rules

Sometimes table tennis can be frustrating for little ones or beginners who have a hard time tracking and hitting the ball. There are some easy modifications you can make to the rules of table tennis so that it's more fun for everyone. There are also some that provide fun challenges:

  • Use a bigger paddle.
  • Use a bigger or slower moving ball like these jumbo balls which are great for beginners.
  • Allow the ball to hit on each side more than once.
  • Allow players to return a ball that hits the floor.
  • If players are unevenly matched, have one player hold the racket with his weaker hand.
jumbo ping pong balls

Jumbo ping pong balls

  • Try hitting the ball while one of you is blindfolded.
  • Mark target areas on the table and earn points by hitting the ball into the those areas.
  • Remove the net, and just hit the ball back and forth.
  • Work together to see how many times you can hit the ball back and forth to each other. Try to beat your best score.
  • Get 2, 3, or even 4 balls going at once.
  • Turn any surface into a ping pong table. You can get ping pong table top courts that lay on top of any table or other type of surface.
ping pong table top
  • Get a set you can take anywhere. I got one of these portable table tennis sets for Christmas. We set up a court in the hallway and played right on the floor.
portable table tennis
  • If you are alone, push the table up next to a wall and hit the ball off the wall. Or even better, get a ping pong table that folds in half. We had a table like this when I was a kid, and I spent hours hitting by myself. 
table tennis table

Visit USA Table Tennis to learn about table tennis rules for kids and those with disabilities and search for competitions in your area.

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