Score in Table Tennis

Last Updated on August 10, 2023 by Sorin Petroj

Table tennis, often referred to as ping pong, is a fast-paced and exciting sport that has captivated players and spectators alike for decades. One of the essential aspects of this game is scoring, which adds an extra layer of strategy and intensity to every match. In this article, we’ll delve into the intricacies of scoring in table tennis, exploring the rules, techniques, and common scenarios that players encounter on the table.

How Long is a Game?

Table tennis is played in a series of games, and each game is played to a specific number of points. Traditionally, games were played to 21 points, but in recent years, the rules have been modified to make the game more dynamic and streamlined. Currently, games are played to 11 points, a change that has contributed to shorter and more intense matches.

Games are Played to 11 Points

Each game begins with the server, who serves the ball to their opponent diagonally across the table. The server aims to execute a skillful serve that will make it difficult for the receiver to return. A point is awarded to the player who successfully wins a rally by making the ball bounce twice on the opponent’s side, or if the opponent fails to make a legal return.

Alternate Serves Every Two Points

To ensure fairness, the server alternates every two points. This rule prevents a single player from gaining a significant advantage due to serving consecutively.

Table Tennis: How to Spin Serve

Mastering the art of spin serves can give you a distinct advantage in table tennis. Spin serves involve imparting spin on the ball during the serve, making it challenging for your opponent to predict its trajectory and respond effectively. Different types of spins include topspin, backspin, and sidespin, each of which can be used strategically to gain an upper hand in the game.

Do I Need to Serve Diagonally (Like in a Regular Tennis Game)?

Yes, serving diagonally is a fundamental rule in table tennis, similar to tennis. The serve must cross over the net, hit the opponent’s side of the table diagonally, and bounce once before being returned.

Returning the Serve

Returning the serve is a crucial skill in table tennis. Players must react quickly to the spin, speed, and placement of the served ball. The receiver’s goal is to return the ball over the net and make it bounce once on the opponent’s side while adhering to the rules of legal play.

Doubles Serves Must Go Right Court to Right Court

In doubles matches, specific rules apply to serving. The serve must go from the right court of the server to the right court of the receiver, ensuring proper rotation and fairness.

A Serve that Touches the Net on the Way Over is a “Let”

If a served ball touches the net but still lands in the correct diagonal court on the opponent’s side, it is called a “let.” In this case, the serve is retaken without any points being awarded.

What Happens if the Ball Hits the Net or Goes Around the Net?

If the ball hits the net and still manages to land on the opponent’s side within the boundaries, the rally continues. However, if the ball goes around the net and lands on the opponent’s side, the point is awarded to the player who hit the shot.

Start a Game

To start a game, a coin toss or another fair method is typically used to determine the initial server. The winner of the toss can choose to serve first or choose their side of the table.

How Long is a Match?

A table tennis match can vary in length depending on the number of games played. In casual matches, players might agree to play a certain number of games, while official matches often follow a best-of-five or best-of-seven games format.

What Happens When a Player Serves or Scores Illegally, But There is No Qualified Umpire to Call It?

In situations where there is no qualified umpire to make a call, players should strive to uphold the spirit of fair play and sportsmanship. It is recommended to resolve disputes amicably, with the players themselves making honest judgments.

Alternate Hitting in a Doubles Rally

In doubles matches, players on the same team must alternate hitting the ball during a rally. This rule promotes teamwork and ensures that both players contribute to the game.

If Your Hit Bounces Back Over the Net by Itself, It is Your Point

If the ball, due to spin or an unusual bounce, bounces back over the net to the side of the player who hit it, it is considered a point in their favor.

What Happens if You Hit the Ball and It Bounces Back to Your Side?

If you hit the ball, and it bounces back to your side after crossing the net due to spin or an unpredictable bounce, it is still in play. Your opponent’s objective is to return the ball legally, and the rally continues.

Volleys are Not Allowed

Unlike in other racket sports like tennis, volleys—hitting the ball before it bounces—are not allowed in table tennis. The ball must bounce on your side before you hit it.

Score a Point

A point is scored when the opponent fails to return the ball within the boundaries of the table, either by missing it completely or by hitting it out of bounds.

If the Ball Touches the Opponent but Not the Opponent’s Side, Whose Point Is It?

If the ball touches the opponent without landing on their side of the table, the point is awarded to the player who hit the ball.

What Happens if You Touch the Table?

Touching the table during play is considered a foul. The point is awarded to your opponent if you touch the table while the ball is in play.

Touching the Ball with Your Paddle Hand is Allowed

You are allowed to touch the ball with your free hand that holds the paddle. This can be used to stabilize the paddle while executing shots or to prevent accidentally touching the table.

In conclusion, scoring in table tennis adds a layer of excitement and strategy to the game. By understanding the rules and nuances of scoring, players can engage in thrilling matches that showcase their skills and competitive spirit. Whether you’re serving up spin serves, returning tricky shots, or maintaining proper table etiquette, mastering the art of scoring will undoubtedly elevate your table tennis prowess. So, pick up that paddle, step onto the table, and let the games begin!


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