Ping pong rules and regulations

table tennis rules

Table tennis or ping pong: the words are different, but the rules are the same.

With one difference: ping pong, as we understand it, is free practice, so it’s up to you to decide if the ping pong rules on this page are the ones you will be playing with.

Ping pong is a sport that reinvents itself with each game! Are you hitting the little white ball for the first time?

 Here are the rules to know so that you don’t spend more time talking about it than playing. And if you don’t play in a club, then adapt them to create a game that suits you. Reinvent them, as long as all the players follow the same.

Where do you play?

At school

ping pong at school

First academic place to learn table tennis. At school, your teacher will teach you the exact ping pong rules, how to hold your racket, the first techniques and the first steps …

In a club

ping pong club

The next steps after school will be in a club, a place where you learn all your ping pong skills. You will develop your precision, technique, agility and, above all, your mental.

In the garden

ping pong in the garden

More often, the first meeting with the ball takes place in the garden. Here, the rules don’t matter as long as all the players are happy.

At home

ping pong at home

Always for the pleasure of hitting the ball, but when it rains or when space is lacking, you will play indoors, on a smaller table or with an adaptable net  installed on a table in the house.

Ping pong rules: How to win a match?

You win if you are the first to win 3 games of 11 points or 4 games of 11 points.

The service

The ball must bounce on each side. If it touches the net, there is “let” and you serve again. Diagonal service is only mandatory in double. In singles, you serve wherever you want.

Each player has 2 consecutive services. At 10/10, each player has only one serve.

The paddle and the ball must be above the table level and behind the baseline.

Throw the ball with the hand open, flat, facing up, and the ball reaches at least 16 cm. The throw must be vertical. The ball should always be visible.

You will lose the point if you don’t respect any of these rules.

After the service

After service, the receiver must let the ball bounce once on his side.

He must return the ball directly to the opponent’s court, avoiding the net.

Touching the net does not change the course of play as long as the ball bounces back into the opponent’s court.

Touching a table edge doesn’t change the game either; as in the case of a touchdown, the ball must be played by the person who receives it.

These rules will apply during all rallies until the end of the point.

Double

We can add 3 rules to the ones explained above:

– The service is always done diagonally, from the right square of the server to the right square of the receiver,

– The ball must be played in turn by the 2 members of a team,

All players must serve twice, in turn. Player A1 serves 2 times over player B1. Player B1 serves 2 times over player A2. Player A2 serves two times on player B2. Player B2 serves twice on player A1, and so on.

Ping pong rules: What not to do.

Throughout the game you will lose the point in the following cases:

– You let the ball bounce more than once in your own court,

– Your racket touches the ball several times in the same stroke,

– The ball does not touch the opponent’s court,

– You move the table while playing,

– You touches the table with your free hand,

– You play a ball on the volley,

– You throw the ball which bounces on the side (the edge) of the table.

One last piece of advice before grabbing your racket: keep your cool!

When you start, it will sometimes be difficult to return the ball to the table. During your first 2 or 3 sessions, therefore favor rallies, without trying to score. “Keep it in play”, as we often say. Do not try smashes, top-spins and other spins too quickly, or you risk getting upset or annoying your ping pong partner.

 Your first objective: remain calm to return the ball. You will progress very (very) quickly and, the day you cross the doors of a club, you will discover that this coolness will often allow you to make a difference in matches.

Until this day, don’t forget that all the rules on this page are the academic ping pong rules; if you play in an unofficial environment, do not hesitate to adapt them to create your own ping pong rules!

The grip in table tennis

When you face your opponent in table tennis, the attacking technique often decides who wins. Players have the choice between different grips. Two styles predominate:

The Shakehand

The Penholder

The “Shakehand” grip is the most widespread in Europe. As the name suggests, we hold the racket as if we were giving someone a handshake: the middle finger, the ring finger and the little finger surround the handle, the thumb is located on the forehand side, the index on the reverse side. It is then possible to better control the striking angle with the thumb and forefinger, to better hold the racket in hand and to better understand the contact of the ball than when the handle is held with the five fingers.

table tennis grip

In Asia, the “Penholder” or pen holder is more common. It consists of holding the racket like a pen: the thumb and forefinger surround the handle, the other fingers are used to support the other side. The style of the pen holder offers greater wrist mobility, but backhands  are very difficult and reserved for professional players.

table tennis penhold

Attack in table tennis

 There are different offensive and defensive shots that use different “spins”. The spin corresponds to the rotation of the ping-pong ball around its own axis. Here are some offensive shots:

Topspin

Sidespin

Smash

Flip/ Flick

One of the most important attacking shots in table tennis is topspin. You need to hit the ball with a very fast forward movement. It rotates forward and causes the ball to drop very quickly.

For the sidespin, the ball is hit to the side, with an oblique forward movement. During the bounce, the ball goes to the side. The sidespin is mostly used for serving, but experienced players also use it to create a surprise effect during the rally.

Smashing involves hitting the ball to give it the highest possible speed. This technique therefore requires great power: to succeed, the whole body is stressed and the movement of the arm is very fast. The ball is struck at its highest point to be sent to the opposite side.

The flip is a technically demanding offense on a short ball. It is played long, to put pressure on the opponent. It is characterized by a tilting movement of the wrist which makes it possible to execute the flip.

Defense in table tennis

There are also various defensive techniques  in table tennis. For example:

Backspin / chop

Lob

Block

Push

Counter

The backspin rotation or chop cut is when the ball is struck in its lower part. The ball is cut with a brief and very fast forward movement to give it a backward rotation. Use chop against spinned balls and slows the game down a bit.

The lob is the perfect stroke to receive smashes. For this, the player is far from the table and hits the ball very high with a topspin or sidespin so that it arrives as far as possible in the opposing zone.

The block allows the attacking balls to be returned as soon as possible while being close to the table. The block is especially suitable for returning topspin balls. The player only lets the ball bounce against his racket, without hitting. The ball is slowed down and its rotation is reversed.

With the push, play the ball from below, but very low, sometimes just before the bounce. The ball is close to the net.

The counter looks like a block, except that the first stroke gives the ball extra speed with a short movement. This puts more pressure on the opponent. Experienced players often use this technique.

Main strokes in ping pong

Forehand drive

The forehand drive is the basis for all topspin strokes. It is the most powerful stroke in ping pong, so is the main attacking weapon. Use it when the ball lands nearer the end of the table or bounce high enough to attack.

Backhand drive

The backhand drive topspin is another of the main offensive strokes in ping pong. Usually slightly less powerful than the forehand, but the wrist can be used to good effect to increase the spin and speed on the ball, so that it can be very difficult to play against. Use it when the ball either lands nearer the end of the table or bounces high enough to play the shot.

 Backhand push

To play the backhand push

  • Start with the racket in front of the stomach
  • Use an open paddle angle to impart backspin
  • Move the racket forward and down, brushing underneath the ball
  • The paddle finishes close to the table and the palm down

Forehand push

To play forehand push

  • Paddle starts beside the body at approx waist height
  • Use an open bat angle to impart backspin
  • Move the paddle forward and down and brush underneath the ball
  • Finish with the paddle close to the table, with the palm facing upwards.

Use the push strokes when the ball has some backspin on it, and lands close to the net, or bounces too low to attack with a topspin drive.

As the players become more skilled, try to only use the forehand push against a shorter ball. If the ball bounces deeper, try to drive it with some topspin.

Forehand  / Backhand block

The block is used predominantly as defensive technique against topspin and fast attacking strokes and uses the speed and spin imparted by the opponent. Generally contact is soon after the bounce.

The bat is positioned close to the bounce of the ball.

Close and adjust the paddle angle according to the amount of spin. More spin or speed the more close the bat angle.

The ball hits a stationary bat and its own spin and speed returns the ball back over the net

Forehand chop

The forehand backspin or chop is the main weapon of the defensive player and mostly played well back from the table with backspin. Defensive players change the contact point to introduce varying spin from heavy backspin to no spin.

  • The left foot is slightly forward and the defender is in balanced position to move in any direction
  • The right leg moves back as the elbow is bent and paddle brought to head height
  • The forearm and wrist move forwards and downwards brushing the bottom part of the ball
  • Contact point should be when the ball is between knee and waist height
  • The paddle continues in its forward path and is moved into neutral position ready for the next stroke

Backhand chop

To play the backhand chop:

  • The right foot is slightly forward and the defender is in balanced position to move in any direction
  • The left foot moves back as the elbow is bent and paddle brought to head height
  • The forearm and wrist move forwards and downwards brushing the bottom part of the ball
  • The racket continues in its forward path and is moved into neutral position ready for the next stroke

Forehand Smash

A powerful stroke used to try to finish the rally, usually from a high ball. Ideally, the smash is performed at shoulder height at the top of the bounce. The smash can also be taken early to give the opponent less time, though this is a higher risk stroke.

  • Side on and away from the table with the right foot back and the racket at hip-high in preparation for forehand stroke.
  • The body rotates back with weight on the back foot. When the height of the ball is known, the paddle is moved directly behind and slightly above the ball making a line between paddle, ball and the opponent’s side of the table
  • The weight moves forward as contact is made slightly in front of the head or body depending on the height of the ball
  • The ball is hit downwards as the paddle arm moves forward in an exaggerated forehand drive action
  • The body weight shifts completely to the left foot, with the stroke finishing head height.

Forehand lob

The lob is a defensive technique played well back from the table in response to a smash or fast topspin using a topspin action to hit the ball high in the air. The aim is to land the ball deep on the table with maximum topspin so the ball bounce moves the opponent well back from the table. Use the lob when you are out of position to give you time to position yourself to play a stronger stroke.

  • The player is in the forehand topspin position with the left foot forward, right shoulder rotates backwards and downwards and bat at knee height
  • A relatively vertical brushing topspin action is used with contact ideally at waist height
  • The bat follows through in an upward direction finishing above head height

Backhand lob

  • The player is in backhand position with the right shoulder forward and downward
  • The starting position is below the ball as for backhand topspin anywhere from between the legs to the outside of the left leg
  • A relatively vertical brushing topspin action is used with contact ideally at waist height
  • The paddle follows through in an upward direction finishing above head height

You don’t have enough space for a ping pong table? You can find our review of the best foldable ping pong table here.

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