Table Tennis Serve Rules and What They Mean!

To succeed at the game of table tennis, you need to understand the rules for serving. It is also a good idea to practice different types of serves to improve your game.
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Last updatedLast updated: November 22, 2021
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Table tennis has been around for over a century Trusted Source table tennis | History, Rules, Champions, & Facts | Britannica Table tennis, ball game similar in principle to lawn tennis and played using a lightweight hollow ball and paddles on a flat table divided into two equal courts by a net. Popularly known by the trademarked name Ping-Pong, it is a common recreational activity as well as a competitive Olympic sport. www.britannica.com . In that time, a lot of different skills have been developed. When it comes to becoming a competent table tennis player, nothing is more important than a good paddle and knowing how to serve. After all, if you perform this crucial move correctly, you might not have to hit the ball back to your opponent at all, which will allow you to rack up the points with minimal effort. Of course, you need to have a clear understanding of the table tennis serve rules if you are going to find any success while playing.

There are lots of different serves that you need to practice and several different rules you need to follow so that you are not penalized during a match. While this might seem daunting at first, it isn’t all that bad. In fact, with the information that we will provide you here and a bit of practice, you will be completing even the most complex serves in no time at all.

How to serve in table tennis?

As we mentioned above, there are several different things that you need to keep in mind when you are serving in table tennis. Not only are these proper techniques for a table tennis serve, but they are what is required in the rules as well. In this section, we will guide you through the different steps so that you can start practicing.

Begin with a flat hand

Table Tennis Serve Rules and What They Mean!The very first thing that you need to keep in mind with every serve is that you need to have a completely flat hand. The ball has to be set in the middle of your palm, and your hand has to be straight and flat.

You are not allowed to grip the ball in any fashion. This limits how much you can mask your technique since it allows your opponent to see the ball the entire time. It also limits the amount of spin you can put on the ball when you are tossing it into the air to begin your serve.

Strike the ball

As for striking the ball, you need to be sure to do it behind the white end line of the table. You cannot lean over the table and the ball while close to the net. This is, yet again, to make sure that your opponents have enough time to react to your serve. If you are too close to the net, they can’t see what is coming. You also need to make sure that you never place the ball below the tabletop during a serve. The opposing player needs to be able to see it at all times. Depending on the type of serve you are using, you will need to adjust your grip as well to strike the ball correctly.

Toss the ball

Table Tennis Serve Rules and What They Mean!In order to serve in table tennis correctly, you need to toss the ball into the air before you strike it. The ball needs to go up in the air at least 6 inches from your hand. This is about the width of a ping pong paddle, so getting this amount of height shouldn’t be too terribly difficult once you get some practice. Of course, if you don’t get the desired height on a serve, you could be penalized, so you need to make sure you get to this 6-inch minimum every time you serve.

When tossing the ball, you need to make sure that you do not hide it in any way. You cannot turn your body to shield the ball from the other player, as this would make it too difficult for them to return the ball.

How to place the ball when serving?

During a serve in table tennis, you are allowed to hit the ball from either side of the table to anywhere on your opponent’s side of the table. This is different in a game of doubles, however. If you are playing with a partner, then you can only serve from one side to the other, which is why there is a middle line going down the center of the table.

Illegal serves examples

When serving, there are several key rules that you need to keep in mind. For starters, you cannot throw the ball over the table or at an angle. You need to toss the ball straight up into the air at least 6 inches. When serving, you also need to make sure that you are not concealing the ball in any way. This means that it needs to be flat in the palm of your hand, and you cannot turn your body away when you are serving. As long as you follow these simple rules, you shouldn’t have any issues with making sure that all of your serves are completely legal during a match.

Types of serves

Now that you know the rules for your serves, it’s time to focus on the types of serves. As we have mentioned previously, there are several different variations on serving that you can learn. We advise you to practice them all so that you can have as many tools in your arsenal as possible to use against your opponent.

Forehand serve

Table Tennis Serve Rules and What They Mean!This is the most common serve and, as such, is usually the first one taught to beginners. It is also the easiest serve to complete. For this serve, you start with the palm of your paddle hand facing up and swing it towards your opponent after you have tossed the ball into the air. Depending on the angle that you choose to use, you can alter the spin and trajectory of the ball quite effectively with this basic serve. This is also a great option if you are looking to generate as much power as possible in your serves, which is precisely what this paddle from Killerspin is made for.

Backhand serve

Table Tennis Serve Rules and What They Mean!As the name would suggest, a backhand serve uses the back of the paddle to hit the ball. For this serve, you start with your arm against your body and push it out towards the other player.

The benefit to a backhand serve is that it makes it more difficult for your opponent to figure out the trajectory of the ball once you have hit it. Of course, this does come at the cost of some power as well, so bear that in mind.

Ghost serve

A ghost serves, or backspin serve, is a trickier skill to learn, making it ideal for intermediate or advanced players. It is also nearly impossible to defend against, making it an ideal option in a tight match. For a ghost serve, your paddle needs to be held completely flat. Once you toss the ball into the air, you cut along underneath it with the paddle, which will place a ton of backspin on the ball, making it bounce away from your opponent when they try to return it. If you can master this tricky shot, you are sure to gain lots of easy points. You will also want to make sure that you have a paddle that is built for control, like this offering from STIGA.

Pendulum serve

With the pendulum serve, you keep the paddle close to your body and swing it from side to side. You can either swing it left or right to keep the other players guessing. This also allows you to generate lots of different amounts and types of spin. Much like the ghost serve, however, this option will take a lot of practice, so make sure that you take the time to get comfortable using it before trying it in a match

Advantages of a decent serve

The biggest advantage of a decent serve is that if you do it perfectly, you probably won’t need to have a volley with your opponent. If you serve the ball well, then they will probably make a mistake, which will result in lots of easy points for you. Even if your opponent is able to hit the ball back to you, the odds are that they will only produce a weak shot off of a great serve, which should make it that much easier for your to get some points.

How to know when to change a serve?

During a match, it is best to switch up you’re serve each and every time that you have the opportunity to do so. That way, you will not fall into an easy-to-follow pattern. You want to keep your opponent guessing so that you have the advantage during your serves. Of course, if you notice that the other player is not able to handle a certain type of serve, don’t be afraid to go back to it more often since this should allow you to gain more points in a relatively quick fashion.

Final thoughts

In the game of table tennis, nothing is more important than a quality serve. It allows you to control the flow of the game and possibly get tons of easy points. Just make sure that you carefully follow the table tennis serve rules so that you don’t need to worry about losing points. Also, make sure to practice each of the different serves at your disposal so that you can become a table tennis master.

References

1.
table tennis | History, Rules, Champions, & Facts | Britannica
Table tennis, ball game similar in principle to lawn tennis and played using a lightweight hollow ball and paddles on a flat table divided into two equal courts by a net. Popularly known by the trademarked name Ping-Pong, it is a common recreational activity as well as a competitive Olympic sport.
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