Official Table Tennis Serving Rules Explained 2019

If you are interested in playing table tennis in the official leagues, you will have to obey the rules put forward by the International Table Tennis Federation (ITTF). Whether if you are a beginner or an intermediate table tennis player, it is good to be aware of the rules. In this article, I’m going to demonstrate the basic table tennis serving rules by ITTF.  In addition to that, I’m going to tell you some tips that will help you to improve your serve and prevent aggressive return from your opponent.

So, let’s take a look at some of the service rules and clear up all the confusions that you may have.

01. Have your hand flat

The first table tennis service rule I want you to know about when you serve is that you must have a flat hand. A lot of beginner players make that mistake. They often hold the ball with their fingers. But it is illegal on table tennis, and you are not allowed to hold the ball with your fingers. So, make sure you get a flat hand when you are serving.

have your hand flat

02. Place the ball on the palm of your hand

The next rule you need to learn is to place the ball on the palm of your hand when you are serving. So, you must have a flat hand, and the ball must be placed on the palm of your hand. The reason for this rule came about is that you can’t spin the ball when you are throwing it up. And if you do that when you serve, this would make it much harder for the receiver.

Place the ball on the palm of your hand

03. Serve behind the end line

When you are serving, you have to be behind the end line of the table. You can’t hit the ball in front of the end line. This is illegal on table tennis. Also, you can’t throw the ball up from in front of the end line even if you hit the ball behind the table. So, you need to make sure; you always toss the ball behind the end line. You also can’t throw the ball up from the below of the table, because the opponent has to see it whole time throughout the serve.

Now, maybe you are wondering, can you serve the ball from wider than the sideline of the table? The answer is yes; you can serve from wider than the sideline as long as you are behind the extension.

Serving behind the end line

04. Throw the ball up at least 6 inches

You have to throw the ball at least 16 centimeters or 6 inches high when you are serving. It is about the width of your bat or the height of the net. A lot of players when they first start, they serve the ball straight out of their hand. It is also illegal on table tennis. So, you need to make sure; you throw the ball at least 6 inches up when you serve.

Throw the ball at least 6 inches up

05. Throw the ball straight

When you are tossing the ball up, you must throw it near vertical. You can’t throw it back in towards yourself or backward to the side. Sometimes most of the players will throw the ball up, and it can move a little bit. But the rule is there to stop you from throwing the ball straight into your back. In order to play safe, try and practice to throw the ball up as close to the vertical as you can.

Throwing the ball straight

06. Don’t hide the ball

The next rule is a bit contentious. The main principle behind this rule is that your opponent must be able to see the ball clearly throughout the serve. You can’t just throw the ball up and get your arm in the way when you are hitting the ball. So, all you need to do is throw the ball up and get your arm out of the way so that the opposing player can see the ball whole time.

Do not hide the ball

Common Question

A common question that I get from many of you is where can we serve from and where can we serve to?

Then answer to this question is in singles you can serve from anywhere to anywhere. The line down the middle of the table is used only when you play doubles. In doubles, you must serve from your right-hand box to your opponent’s right-hand box diagonally. You can’t serve from your left-hand box across the other way when you play doubles.

So, it is always from your right-hand box diagonally to your opponent’s right-hand box in doubles, and you can serve from anywhere in singles.

table tennis serve

3 Serving tips to prevent aggressive return from your opponents

Keep the ball low: One of the most important thing that you have to keep in mind is to keep the ball as low as possible when you serve. A lot of beginner players make this mistake; they often hit the ball higher than the net. If the serve goes higher than the net, the bounce on your opponent’s side is also going to be higher. And this allows your opponent to play aggressive strokes.

So, you need to keep the ball as low as possible when you hit it. Then the bounce on your opponent’s side will also go low. And this will put your opponent into a critical situation and they won’t be able to play an aggressive stroke. Because when the ball is lower, it is really difficult to move the racket forward. So, they have to move their racket upwards. Then the ball will be slower and give you more time.

Do not serve too short: If you are so close to the net, the peak of the bounce on your opponent’s side will also be so close. And this makes it is easier for your opponent to play aggressive stroke from this position. But if you serve a little bit longer, then the peak of the bounce will go a little further then the net.

Now your opponent will attack from a lot further away from the net. Which will make it harder for your opponent to attack and play an aggressive stroke.

Vary the spin: Generally, backspin is the better serve that prevents your opponent from being aggressive. Because it drags the ball down into the net. But if your opponent is clever enough and can adapt, they can predict your backspin serve. So, it is crucial to vary the spin so that they need to make the change to get the ball on the table.

Conclusion

Sometimes, the service rules of table tennis can be a bit confusing. This is primarily in the case when you start to get into the professional games. To become a qualified table tennis player, you have to meet the rules and regulations of ITTF. We hope, we could clear some confusions and misconceptions by this article. Now, you can play official leagues and able to put your focus on the skills rather than worrying about the rules.

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