Do You Have To Serve Diagonally In Ping Pong

Do You Have To Serve Diagonally In Ping Pong

Last modified: September 26, 2023

Do you have to serve diagonally in ping pong?

One of the fundamental rules in ping pong is that the serve must be diagonal. In other words, when you serve the ball, it must first bounce on your side of the table and then cross the net to land on your opponent’s side of the table diagonally. This rule applies to both singles and doubles matches.

Why the diagonal serve?

The diagonal serve is a crucial aspect of the game because it ensures fairness and equal opportunity for both players. It prevents a player from dominating the game by exploiting their advantage in serving from one specific corner of the table. By serving diagonally, the serve will land on different areas of the opponent’s side of the table, creating variation and strategic opportunities.

What happens if you don’t serve diagonally?

If a player fails to serve diagonally, it is considered an illegal serve, resulting in a point for the opponent. The rules state that the ball must be tossed up at least 6 inches and hit from behind the server’s end line. Additionally, the ball must always be struck above the table surface, ensuring fairness and consistency.

Exceptions to the diagonal serve rule

There are a few exceptions to the diagonal serve rule in ping pong. These exceptions are usually found in recreational or informal settings, rather than in professional or competitive matches. Here are a couple of examples:

  • Underarm Serve: In some casual games, players may opt to use an underarm serve, where the serve is hit with an underhand motion. While the ball may still need to cross the net diagonally, the rules regarding the height of the toss and striking above the table surface may be more lenient.
  • Agreed Alterations: In friendly matches, players may agree to alter certain rules, such as serving from different positions or using unconventional serves. However, it is important to note that these alterations should be mutually agreed upon by all players before the start of the game to avoid any confusion or disputes.


The diagonal serve is a fundamental rule in ping pong that ensures fairness and balance in the game. By serving diagonally, players have equal opportunities to strategically position themselves and respond to the serve. While there may be exceptions in casual play, adhering to the diagonal serve rule is crucial in competitive matches to maintain the integrity and spirit of the sport.

Additional Ping-Pong Resources:
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