How to Serve in Ping Pong

Last modified: November 20, 2021

The serve in a game of ping pong is one of the most important plays in a game. With the server you can set the pace of the point and a good serve can win you it easily, even if the other player can return the first shot. So how do you serve in ping pong legally?

Legal Aspects of the Serve in Ping Pong

The first thing to do is to get the serve legal. Here are several points to ensure that you know how to serve in ping pong with a legal service.

Flat Hand with the Ball in your Palm

The first step of any service that you’re doing in a game is to hold the ball in an open flat hand with the ball placed in the palm of the hand. You’re not allowed to grip the ball, hiding it from view with the palm or fingers. This prevents players from spinning the ball when they throw the ball into the air.

Striking the Ball

When you serve, you must throw the ball up behind the white end line of the table. You’ve also got to make contact with the ball behind the line. You’re not allowed to lean forward and hit the ball closer to the net or if the ball is over the table. You’re also not allowed to start with a hit on the ball when the ball is below the top of the table. The ball must be, at all times, visible to the opponent in the serve.

Tossing the Ball

For the serve, to be legal in ping pong, you must throw the ball into the air at least 6 inches. You’re not allowed to hit the ball straight from your hand. This is a common thing that beginners do and it is an illegal serve.

To demonstrate how high six inches is, it is the rough width of your ping pong racket.

The ball must also be thrown straight up in the air. You’re not allowed to throw the ball forward, backwards or to one side. The ball must be visible to the other player at all times. You cannot hide any part of the ball during the service.

Ball Placement

During a table tennis serve, you’re allowed to hit the ball from either side of the table and any place on the opposing side of the table. That is unless you’re playing a game of doubles where you have to serve from one side to the diagonal side.

When the ball is struck, it must then make contact with both your side and the opponent’s side of the table. It is only on the serve that the player’s own side should be struck. The ball should also clear the net on the table. It cannot touch the net or it will be a let and the serve must be taken again.

However, you do not have to go over the net, technically. With a good spin, the ball is allowed to go around the net. But this is a very hard shot to achieve.

Final Word: How to Serve in Ping Pong

Above are the official rules of how you can serve legally in ping pong. It is important that you practice. A good serve is essential to winning your point as it is the only shot that you have complete control over.

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