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The Top 10 Rules Of Table Tennis

What is table tennis?

Table tennis which is also commonly known as ping-pong in which players hit a very light ball back and forth across a table. It began in 1880 when lawn tennis players adapted to play their game inside during the winter months. It was later trademarked by the Parker Brothers board game company in the United States. Popularity of the sport began to grow and in 1926, the International Table Tennis Federation was founded as a governing body for the sport. The first time it was featured as part of the Olympic Games was in 1988 games in Seoul. The World Table Tennis Champions is one the biggest tournaments in the world for table tennis. There are seven different medals handed out at the end of the tournament, one is awarded winner of the men's single, one for women's single, one for each men's doubles, women's doubles, and mixed doubles. Lastly the final two awarded to the overall winner of the men's team and women's team. Some of the countries who have dominated the sport of table tennis are China, Germany Japan, Korea, Chinese Taipei (Taiwan), Sweden, and Brazil. Some of top players in the world include:

  • Ma Long (China), currently the number one ranked male player in the world in the sport of table tennis. In 2004 he became the top junior player in the world and since then his career has skyrocketed.
  • Wang Liqin (China), was ranked number one prior to the emergence of Ma Long. He won a gold medal in doubles competition in 2000 Sydney Olympic games
  • Guo Yue (China) is the best female player in the world for the sport. She has won a total of 2 Olympic gold medals and two bronze medals throughout her career. Yue is left-handed.
  • Jan Ove Waldner (Sweden) is one of the best non-Chinese ping pong players of all time. He had a long and prestigious career and when table tennis was first introduced in the Olympic games he played in the first five championships.

What are the top 10 rules of table tennis?

  1. Games are played to 11
  2. A match is played best of 3, 5 or 7 games
  3. Point is scored on every play
  4. Serve must bounce on server's side then opponents
  5. Ball must be tossed at least 6 inches in the air prior to serve
  6. If the ball touches the net on a serve, it is a let serve
  7. Service changes every two points
  8. Table regulations
  9. In doubles, serve must bounce in the box diagonally to server
  10. In doubles, players must hit the ball in turn

1. Games are played to 11

Games are played to 11 points, and must win by two points. This means can last for longer, but only until one player gains a two point advantage. This reflects a rule change made in 2000 after the Sydney games in a reduction of the length games from 21 down to 11. This was initiated in order to increase the speed of games and allowing spectators to watch more games during a tournament. While playing recreationally rules can vary, but these rules are what the professional leagues abide by.

2. A match is played best of 3, 5 or 7 games

In order to win the match an individual must win either the best of 3, 5 or 7 seven games. This number will vary on the style of tournament or competition and how many players are competing in that event. After each individual game players switch sides of the table. This format gives players multiple chances to play each opponent and determines a clear victor.

3. Point is scored on every play

A point is scored on every play regardless of who is serving. A point is lossed if:

  • The serve does not go over the net or misses the table
  • The serve is not returned
  • A shot goes into the net
  • A shot misses the table or does not touch the opponent's side of the table
  • Hitting the ball twice in a row

If the ball hits the opponent without touching the table prior, that is a point lost for not hitting the table. The ball can also be hit around the net for point as long as it still touches the opponent's side of the table, however this is highly skilled.

4. Serve must bounce on server's side then the opponents

When serving the ball, it must first bounce on the server's side and then over the net completely before bouncing again on the opponent's side of the table. There is no required action of serving diagonally, only bounce on the server's side prior. This is only with serving during play if a ball you hit lands on your side first, that it immediately a point for the other team.

5. Ball must be tossed at least 6 inches in the air prior to serve

The server must with an open palm toss the ping pong ball at least 6 inches or about 16 cm in the air prior to serving. The open palm prevents serving the ball with a lot of spin and by tossing it the air at this height prevents servers from serving straight out of their hand and catching their opponent off guard. After tossing the ball in the air the server must lower their free hand out of the way to ensure the opponent can see the ball to return it.

6. If the ball touches the net on a serve, it is a let serve

A let serve occurs on a serve that hits the net, but still goes over to the opponent's side. This results in no point for either player,and essentially functions as a do over for the server. This was established to ensure the returner has a chance to return the ball. This can only occur during a serve, not during actual play.

7. Service changes every two points

Players switch off which one serves every two points. This was changed at the same time games stopped being played to 21, but instead 11. This rule was made to reflect the new shortness of the games. This also places a heavy emphasis on being able to serve effectively, but still maintaining a strong range of other skills involved in the sport.

8. Table and paddle regulations

The International Table Tennis Federation (ITTF) has regulations that all tables and paddles must abide by including:

  • Table must be rectangular, 2.74 m long and 1.525 m wide
  • Table must lie perfectly flat at a height of 76 cm
  • The table can be made of any material as long as the ping pong ball bounces 23 cm after being dropped from 30 cm
  • The net should be 15.25 cm above the table
  • Paddles must have natural wood for at least 85% of their thickness
  • Average size of a paddle is 17 cm tall and 15 cm wide which is optimal for competition

9. In doubles, serve must bounce in the box diagonal to the server

Unlike in one on one competition the server must hit the ball in the box diagonally from where he is serving. From the servers right hand side to the receivers right hand side. This rule was implemented so that the doubles team receiving the ball does not have any confusion as to who is going to hit the ball. Doubles tend to be faster paced overall, as the addition of players means more hits.

10. In doubles, players hit the ball in turn

Unlike in tennis there is no frontcourt, backcourt dynamic instead the 4 players in the game must hit the ball in turn. This makes doubles very challenging to play and requires great chemistry between you and your partner. For example if player 1 and player 2 were partners, and player 3 and 4 were partners the hitting order would go: 1, 3, 2, 4. Teammates must also alternate which one serves after each two points, meaning it takes 8 points to go through the cycle for 4 players.