ping pong rules

Here on Recreation tipsy, we are going to learn ping pong rules. ping pong is popularly and preferably known as the table tennis. So, for this article, I will be using table tennis instead of ping pong. So, what exactly is a table tennis sport? The table tennis (or ping pong) is that sport where two to four players hit a ball back and forth across the table using small rackets. The ball being hit is usually lightweight. The whole game takes place on a hard table with a net dividing the table right at the center.

Table tennis (or ping pong) is generally governed by the organization, the International Table Tennis Federation (ITTF) which was founded in the year 1926. The organization, at the moment, includes two hundred and twenty-six (226) member associations that fall under it. You can get the official rules in the ITTF handbook produced by the organization itself – the rules are specified clearly in the handbook. Since 1988, the table tennis sport has been an Olympic sport featuring several event categories. From that time until sixteen years later in 2004, the game featured men’s singles, women’s singles, men’s doubles, and women’s doubles. However, in 2008 until now, only a team event has been played instead of the doubles.

Ping Pong Rules over the Years

The Olympics tournament in 2000 resulted in the ITTF instituting several changes to the rules of the sports to make the table tennis sport more viable as a sport that generates television spectators. First of all, the balls that used to be 38 mm were officially changed to be 40mm in October that same. The ball’s air resistance increased sufficiently there by causing the game to be slowed down. At the time, players had been increasing the thickness of their paddles, the fast sponge layer specifically. This modification caused the game to move at an excessively fast pace hence making it difficult to watch on television. Later in October, some few months after that time, the IITF effected a change from their 21-point to an 11-point scoring system. Then, the serve rotation was simultaneously reduced from 5 points to 2 points. The purpose of doing this was to make the games to move at a faster pace and also much more exciting. The rules on service were also changed by the ITTF in order to prevent a player from hiding the ball when he is serving. Thus, increasing the average length of rallies and also to cause a reduce in the server’s advantage. This change in the rule took effect from 2002.


Players and their Equipment

The game between the singles and the doubles are different in that the singles games consist of two players where one player play against another, and the doubles games consist of four players where two players play against the other two. In some informal situations like family holiday games, however, some may pit two players against one. For the sake of this article, I will be focusing on the singles games.

Very little equipment is needed to play the ping pong game. This is not surprising since it was originally made to be a game which is played on a table with books being used as bats and net. What are the equipment needed?

The Ball: the internationally accepted ball is that which is spherical in shape with a mass of 2.7 grams and a diameter of 40 mm. The rule postulates that the ball must bounce up some 24 to 26 cm when it is dropped from a height of 30.5 cm and it will drop on to a standard steel block. The ball color should tally with the color of the table and the surrounding where the ball is being played. However, it is usually white or, sometimes, orange.

The Table: the acceptable table for playing table tennis should be 9 feet in length and 5 feet in width, 76 cm in height with a continuous material as long as the table is able to cause a uniform bounce of about 9.1 inches when the ball is dropped on it from a height of 30 cm. The surface of the table should be of uniformly dark colored and matte and should be divided into two halves by a net. The division should be at 15.25 cm in height. Wooden tables or something similar are accepted. Sometimes, concrete tables with nets of steel or a solid concrete creating a partition at the center of the table can be found outside in public places.

The Racket or paddle: ever player playing the table tennis must hold a laminated wooden racket which is covered with rubber on either one side or on both sides depending on how the player grips his paddle. The ITTF prefers to use ‘racket’ to identify the equipment, ‘bat’ is commonly used in Britain, and Canada and the US uses ‘paddle’. The wooden part of the racket is usually referred to as the blade. It features anywhere between one and seven wood plies although cork, fiber, carbon fiber, aluminum fiber, and Kevlar can be used and are used sometimes. By ITTF, the blade must be at least 85% of natural wood and must be thick – i.e. the thickness will be caused by natural wood. The average size of the blade shall be about 17 cm in length and 15cm in width. Official restrictions are only concerned with the flatness and rigidity of the blade itself.

Rules Governing the Service of the Ball in Table Tennis

When the game is to start, the player who is to serve the ball is the one to start the game. He stands first with the ball in his open palm and not with the paddle and then tosses the ball upward without a spin. The server then strikes the ball with the racket when it descends such that it touches the court first before it lands on the receiver’s court. Throughout the movement, the ball does not touch the net assembly. Where the game is just a recreational game, players don’t necessarily toss the ball upward. In professional tennis, as far as the ITTF is concerned, this is illegal because it gives the server an unfair advantage over his opponent.

The following rules govern the way by which the ball is served in the sport of table tennis:

  • First of all, the service has to start with the ball placed in the palm and the palm must be open. The reason for this is that it prevents you from throwing the ball up with a spin.
  • The ball has to be thrown in a vertical direction of at least 16 centimeters. When you throw the ball vertically, you are prevented from serving the ball straight out of you hand causing a surprise attack on your opponent.
  • Throughout the entire time your will serve, the ball must be situated above and behind the table. This is to stop you from getting any silly angles. By this, your opponent is given a fair chance at returning the ball.
  • Once you have been able to throw the ball, the server has to move his free arm and hand out of the way so that the sight of the receiver is not obstructed and he can see the ball coming straight at him.


A let, in table tennis game, is a rally in which the goal point is not scored. It is generally referred to as a foul service if the ball has hit the server’s side of the table and it does not go further than the edge. And also, if the ball struck the edge of the table and hit the net. A let is called if;

  • The ball happens to touch any part of the net when it is served as long as the service is right and the player on the receiving side is the one obstructing the player. When a player obstructs, it means he has touched the ball while it is still traveling towards the playing surface when it hasn’t touched the player’s court after being hit by the player.
  • The player who is supposed to receive the ball is not ready to receive and the ball is already served;
  • A player fails to make a serve or return or he fails to comply with the laws of the game as a result of the distraction and disturbance that is beyond the player’s control;
  • The game is interrupted by the umpire or any of the assistant umpire while it is in motion.

Scoring Goal Points

Scoring goal points on the table tennis is rather technical. Goal points are scored under these circumstances:

  • When the opponent was unable to return the serve correctly;
  • When the player has made a service or return and, after that, the ball touches any other thing except from the net assembly before it was struck by the opposing player;
  • The ball has passed over the player’s court and over beyond his or her end line and the ball did not touch the court before the opponent struck it for a return;
  • When the opponent causes an obstruction on the ball;
  • The strikes of the opponent on the ball were two successive strikes. The hand holding the racket counts as part of the racket so, making a good return with either the hand or fingers is allowed in the rules. It is not counted as a fault if the ball hits the player’s hand accidentally or it hits his fingers before it hits the racket;
  • The opponent was able to strike the ball with just a side of the blade of the racket. Don’t forget, the racket is not covered with rubber so successfully striking the ball with the side of the racket is a goal point scored.
  • The opposing player changes the position of the playing surface or he touches the assembly of the net;
  • The free hand of the opposing player touches the surface where the ball is being played;
  • The receiver completes 13 returns in a rally, under the expedite system;
  • The opponent, having been warned by the chair umpire, goes ahead to commit a second offense in that same match (whether team or individual). If he commits the same offense a third time, the other player will be given two points. If it happens that the match is still in play, any unused penalty points of the offending player can and will be transferred to the next game of the match.

Winning the Game

The game is won by a player who has scored 11 points unless both of the players had a tie score of 10-10 points. The leading player has to lead by at least 2 points before he can be declared winner. The match, by the rules, shall consist of the best of any odd number of games. When it comes to competitions, the matches are usually best of five games or best of seven.

How Play, Service, and Reception of the Ball is done in the Doubles Game

There is always a line painted along the long axis of the table to create a doubles courts and bisect the table. The reason the line was put there is so that it can facilitate the doubles service rule which states that the service must originate from the right hand box. And this must be done in such way that the first bounce of the ball is right into the right hand box and it must bounce once in the right hand box of the opponent which is always far left of the server. Either this is done or the other pair of players to receive the ball gets a point.

The rules concerning this are summarized thus:

  • That the players have to hit the ball turn by turn. That means, if A is paired with B and X is paired with Y, then it is expected that A serves while X receives. The order of play therefore is stated as A – X – B – Y. The game continues until pair fails to make the required turn of which the other side scores.
  • When there is a change of service, during the change, the former receiver becomes the server and the partner of the previous server becomes the receiver. That is, A – X – B – Y becomes X – B – Y – A when the service order changes.
  • At the second or end games of the match, the game begins in the reverse order of the game play. This means the first receiver of the game would now be the player who served to the first server of the game in the prior game. Each doubles match games features pairs with each player in the pair having the right to serve. The first person to serve will choose whether he wants to serve or he wants his partner to serve. For the receiving pair, they can choose in the first game of the match alone.
  • When a team has reached 5 points in the last game, the two pairs of players have to switch their ends of the table where the receiver is changed in order to reverse the order of play.

The Stance employed in table tennis

In table tennis, the stance is also known as the ‘ready position’. This position is employed by every player at the initial stage when they receive and return played shots so that they can be ready to make the next shot. A good ready position or stance gives you a great chance of being able to quickly move into position and also to remain balanced even when you are playing powerful strokes. The stance involves your feet being spread and spaced wider than the shoulder width and, also, a partial crouch is adopted. Crouching is an efficient posture in table tennis. It helps you to move quickly from and also preloads the muscles to cause a much more effective and dynamic movement. The torso on the upper part will be positioned to point forward slightly while the player himself is looking forward. The racket is held ready with the arm; the arm is bent. This position must make the player feel balanced and should provide a solid base where by the player can be able to make strikes and quick lateral movement. Each player’s stance is according to their personal preferences and tastes. Although they may be asked to alter their stance based on some specific circumstances.


This is the movement of the racket to hit the ball. In table tennis, or ping pong, the strokes are divided into two categories: the offensive stroke and the defensive stroke.

The Offensive Stroke

Offensive strokes involve:

A Hit – this is also known as a speed drive. It is a direct strike on the ball causing it to go forward and back to the opponent. This stroke is a bit different when compared with speed drives done in other racket sports. This is because the racket is actually perpendicular to the direction of the stroke. And, also, most of the energy being used on the strike is applied to the ball resulting in speed rather than a spin. This creates a shot that, although it is not really arc, it is still fast enough so much that return it can be a difficult feat the player has to achieve. The purpose of a speed drive is mostly to keep the ball in play by applying pressure on the opponent and consequently causing an opportunity for a more powerful attack.

A Loop – a loop is the reverse of the chop. Since the racket is parallel to the direction of the stroke, it therefore grazes the ball and results in a large topspin. If a loop drive is good, it will generally arc a bit and, as soon as it strikes the opponents side of the table, it will jump forward – like the kick serve in tennis. Majority of professional players now use loop for offense.

Counter-hit – a counter hit is a counterattack against drives especially the high loop drives. The racket is usually held very close to the ball and then it hits the ball immediately after it hits the table so that the ball can travel much faster to the other side of the table.

Flip – this is the response given when a player tries to attack a ball that has not bounced beyond the edge of the table. In most cases, the player is unable to wind up in a backswing. A flip resembles a loop drive in its characteristics but it does not a single strike like the loop drive.

Smash – a smash is executed when an opponent has returned a ball that bounced too high or bounced too close to the net on the table. Most of the time, it is done with a forehand stroke.

The Defensive Stroke

Defensive strokes can be push, chop, block or lob.

Push – is done to keep a point alive and to create an offensive atmosphere and opportunities. It can be difficult to attack because of the backspin it causes the ball can make it to drop towards the table after striking the opponent’s racket. The player has to loop or flip the ball over the net to attack a push.

Chop – this is a defensive counterpart of the offensive loop drive – as in the direct opposite. A chop is bigger and heavier in push which is take from a distance from the table. The racket faces horizontally and a little bit upward and then the stroke is directed straight down.

Block – is achieved when the racket is placed in front of the ball as soon as the ball bounces such that the ball rebounds towards the opponent with almost the same energy it came in with.

Lob – a defensive lob is done to cause a ball to be propelled some five meters in height and land on the opponent’s side of the table with a great spin. with this, i humbly sum up the ping pong rules and their effects.