Ping Pong Serving Rules (Table Tennis Serving Explained)

If you’re just getting into the game of table tennis, then you may need some tips on proper serving during a game of ping pong.

As a hobbyist, it can be difficult to keep track of all the rules, so we’ve compiled them for you below for easy reference.

Keep reading to learn what you should know about ping pong serving rules.

Do You Have to Serve Diagonally In Ping Pong?

If you have experience playing regular tennis, then you are likely familiar with having to serve the ball diagonally.

But you do you have to serve diagonally in table tennis?

Yes and no.

If you are playing singles ping pong (one versus one player), then you do not need to serve diagonally.

However, if you are playing doubles ping pong (two versus two player), then you do need to serve diagonally.

And keep in mind that the ping pong ball does need to bounce once off the table on the server’s side before crossing the table tennis table net.

What Is A Legal Serve In Table Tennis?

In order to be considered a legal table tennis serve, there are three components that must be met.

  • Serve must be behind the baseline and above the table height
  • The ball must stay visible
  • The ball toss

Serve behind baseline

When you are serving the ball during a game of ping pong, you must remain behind the baseline when serving.

The baseline is the back line on the table.

tabe tennis table baseline

And, the ball must remain and above the table height when you serve it.

Keep the ball visible

As you can see in the baseline image above, when you serve the ball it should be in an open palm so that it remains visible to all players.

You cannot grip or hold the ball in a way that conceals it from the opponent.

For a fair and legal service, always keep the table tennis ball visible when serving.

Ball toss rules

As a hobbyist you, may serve the ball by bouncing it down toward the table, but that is not a legal serve in table tennis.

For a serve to be legal, you must toss the ball up into the air at least 16 cm (6-inches) before hitting it across to your opponent.

If you fail to do this, then it is considered an illegal serve.

And that means that your opponent get the point due to your illegal move.

Additionally, your ball toss must be “near vertically upward”, not heavily sideways or backward.

After the ball toss, you also must wait until the ball is on the way down before you hit it.

Hitting the ball while it is on the way up is considered illegal as well.

How Many Serves Does Each Player Get In Ping Pong?

In a game of table tennis, each player gets a total of  two serves.

The way that is works is that the serve alternates until one of the players scores 11 points, unless there is a deuce (10:10).

In the scenario of a deuce, each table tennis player gets just one serve and it alternates until one of the players ends up with a two point lead.

Where Do I Need To Stand During A Serve In Table Tennis?

If you are the person serving the ball, then you must stand behind the end line of the table.

The receiver on the other end of the table can stand wherever they want to stand on that side of the table.

This means that it is perfectly legal for you to serve from way outside the sidelines of the table, assuming the ball remains behind the end line at the start of the serve.

In practice, this is not done very often since it can put the server out of position for the rest of the rally.

Can The Ball Hit The Net During A Serve In Table Tennis?

No, the ball cannot hit the net during a serve in ping pong.

If you hit the net when you serve the ball, you have to re-do the serve because it is what is called a “let serve.”

A let serve is not considered to be an illegal serve though.

That’s why you get to do it over.

Can I Serve A Game/Match Point (or does my opponent need to serve if it’s my game/match point)?

Yes, you can serve a game/match point.

What Happens If You Serve The Ball And It Bounces Back To Your Side Of The Table (due to spin)?

Assuming that the ball did bounce off your opponent’s side of the table before spinning back and bouncing on your side of the table, you are awarded the point.

Your opponent must hit the ball before it cross the net back to your side of the table, and that doesn’t happen in this scenario, which is why you get the point.

If a player reaches across the net assembly and makes a contact with ball, he loses the point immediately.

And if the player hits the ball in his own court, by definition it’s an invalid return so he loses point again.

Final Word

As you can see, there are some specific requirements when it comes to dishing out a legal serve in a game of table tennis.

By following our guide above, you’ll be able to make sure that you’re not doing any illegal ping pong serves when playing against your opponents.

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