Table Tennis Rules and Myths

Here are the basic rules (given by the ITTF) that you may or may not have known about playing table tennis, and some of the myths that people are still abiding by. This is not a complete set of rules, but simply an explanation of the rules most often broken.

  1. Games (or Sets) up to 11 Points, 2 Serves each.

    Before 2000, games were played up to 21 points, and each player served 5 times in a row. The game has changed and now each set is played up to 11 points, and each player serves twice before switching.

  2. Serve: You cannot hide the ball as you are serving.

    After tossing the ball up for a serve, many players still leave their other arm out, covering the opponent's view of the ball during service. This allows the server to use different spins and trick the opponent, and with the contact point covered up it becomes incredibly hard to properly return these serves. This used to be allowed before the year 2000, but a rule change has since been put in place to make it easier for the receiver to see the service clearly.

    You must remove your arm so the opponent can clearly see the contact point of the serve.

    Illegal Serve

    Notice the serves labelled "Unclear",
    Ma Lin covers the contact point with his arm.

    Legal Serve

    Werner Schlager's serves are never hidden
    from the receiver's view.

  3. Serve: You must toss the ball at least 16cm.

    A lot of players don't toss high enough, or simply don't toss at all and simply let go of the ball and hit it immediately. You must toss the ball at least 16cm, then hit the ball on the way down (not on the way up!).

  4. Serve: Toss the Ball Vertically.

    You must toss the ball nearly vertically, within a few degrees. You cannot toss it at a sharp angle (like diagonally at 45


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