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The rules of table tennis


Table tennis is a lightning quick game between two players (singles), or two pairs (doubles) standing at a table hitting a light, plastic ball back and forth with small racquets known as bats.


The object of the game is to keep the ball in play and each return must be made after the ball has bounced on the defender's side of the table once. The last successful team or player to successfully return the ball during a rally scores a point.

The first team or player to reach 11 points wins the game. However, as in tennis a game must be won by two clear points, so should the score reach 10-10 play continues until a two-point margin is established.

Prior to 1 September 2001 international games were played on a first to 21 basis but the International Board decided to adapt the rules in order to introduce more "crisis points" and make table tennis more attractive to spectators.

Each rally begins with a serve. The ball and racquet must remain behind the end line and above table level. The player rests the ball on the open palm of their free hand, throws it up at least 16 centimetres into the air and serves as it descends. The ball then must bounce on the server's side of the table before crossing the net and bouncing once more. If the ball touches the net on the way but otherwise is a good service, it is ruled a net serve, and another serve is allowed.

A serve can be directed to and from any part of the table in singles, but in doubles the ball must always travel from right half court to right half court. After the receiver returns it, the server's partner must hit it next, followed by the receiver's partner. This order must continue throughout the course of the point with any side breaking the sequence losing the rally.

After every two points the service is handed over to the receiving player and the process is repeated.

General rules
  • A return touching the net and then landing on the other side of the table is good.
  • A fortunate shot that hits the edge of the table and flies off at an unpredictable angle on the opponent's side is deemed good.
  • The point is lost if any player touches the table with the free hand or touches the net or net post during play.
  • If the ball hits any part of a player's body or clothing while over the table, it is ruled an obstruction, and the offending player loses that point.
  • Players may not volley the ball. The ball must bounce once before a return can be made.
  • A double hit results in a loss of the point.
  • A player who bumps the table heavily enough to move it automatically loses the point.
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