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Table tennis combines quick reflexes, strategy and precision. With a history that began at the end of the 19th century, table tennis has evolved from a social pastime in British salons to one of the most practiced and competitive sports in the world. As a result, a series of table tennis rules had to be created.

Today, the sport has a set of detailed rules that guarantee fairness and consistency in all competitions, from local events to world championships.

In this article, we’ve organized the rules of table tennis into an easy-to-understand guide, complete with everything you need to know about the rules of the sport. So read on and get your questions answered!

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Table Tennis Rules: The Complete Guide

Table tennis is a fast and strategic game that requires precision and agility. However, there are rules that need to be followed. That’s what we’re going to talk about next.

We’ve divided this guide to the rules of table tennis into categories, with the aim of making it easier for you to understand the subject and also to consult whenever you need to.

So let’s get straight to the point. Understand everything about the rules of table tennis.

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All sports equipment has to follow certain rules regarding size and use.

For example, a tennis racket must have a smooth surface and a rubber surface.

There are some alternatives where the material can vary, but it must comply with the rules of the ITTF, the International Table Tennis Federation.

Other table tennis rules involve information about the table tennis ball:

  • the material must be celluloid or plastic;
  • the diameter must be 40 mm;
  • the weight is 2.7 grams;
  • it must be white or orange.

As for the official table, its measurements are: 2.74 meters long, 1.525 meters wide and 76cm high, divided by a 15.25 cm high net.

Rules for the start of the game

The game begins with a draw to decide who serves, or serves, first. The winner of the draw can choose to serve first or choose one side of the table. Their opponent is left with the remaining alternative.

It’s worth pointing out that the player who started serving in the 1st set will start receiving in the 2nd set, and so on.

Read also: Table tennis glossary: topspin, loop, backhand and more

Table tennis rules on the winner of the match

An official match is played to a best of five (the player who wins three sets first wins) or seven sets (the player who wins four sets first wins).

Each set is played to 11 points, with players needing to win by at least two points. In other words, according to table tennis rules, when a match reaches 10-10, it must be played to at least 12 points for the winner to win by two points, i.e. 12-10.

Read also: How to bet on table tennis at Betano: Complete Guide

Serving rules

The serve must be made with the ball above the table and must first touch the server’s side and then the receiver’s side.

The movement must be carried out behind the back line or on an imaginary extension of it.

Each athlete is entitled to 2 serves, always changing when the sum of the points is 2 (two) or multiples thereof. E.g.: 2 to 2 = 4 = 6 to 6 = 12

The serve must be visible to the opponent and cannot be hidden by the body or hand.

The serve alternates every two points. In the event of a 10-10 tie, the service alternates every point.

Scoring rules

A point is scored when

  • the opposing player misses the serve or the response to it;
  • touching the ball twice in succession;
  • touch the table with the free hand;
  • hit the ball with the wooden side of the racket.

A point is won if the opponent fails to return the ball correctly.

In addition, a point is lost if

  • the ball touches the player’s side twice;
  • the ball does not pass through the net;
  • the player touches the table with his free hand during the point.

Rules on breaks

There is a break of up to 1 minute between sets. Another possible time-out is at the request of one of the players. Each player is entitled to a one-minute time-out per match.

Interrupting or pausing the match

According to table tennis rules, a match must be interrupted in certain situations that do not count for points, such as:

  • the serve “burns” the net;
  • the opponent is not ready to receive the serve (and as long as they haven’t tried to hit the ball back);
  • there is an error in the order of the serve, reception or side;
  • the playing conditions are disturbed, e.g. excessive noise.

Rules on clothing

Athletes are free to choose the type of clothing they want, including shirts, shorts and skirts. They can all be any color. There is only one exception: when a white ball is in use, only the collar and sleeves of the shirt can be white. Similarly, when an orange ball is in use, only the collar and sleeves can be orange.

Table tennis rules for doubles play

In general, the rules of table tennis in doubles are the same, however, some differences need to be highlighted, among them:

  • the serve must be made from the right side of the server to the right side of the receiver;
  • each player can only hit the ball once;
  • the order of the serve is established at the start of the game and the sequence will be natural, for example, Athlete A serves to X Athlete X serves to B Athlete B serves to Y Athlete Y serves to A who then serves to X and so on.
  • In a 10-10 draw, each player only serves once;
  • if the service ball touches the net (burns), and lands on the receiver’s left side – beyond the center line – the server must lose the point.

Read more: 7 paralympic table tennis rules to master the sport

Now you have a practical guide to the rules of table tennis, with information on everything from the basics of equipment and scoring to rules of conduct and specifications for tournaments. We hope this comprehensive guide will help you cheer on table tennis players and even, perhaps, practice it.

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