What Are The Rules Of Serving In Ping Pong

What Are The Rules Of Serving In Ping Pong

Last modified: October 14, 2023

Let’s talk about serving in ping pong or table tennis as it is also known. The serve in ping pong is one of the most important aspects of the game. It sets the tone for the rest of the rally, and if done right, it can put your opponent on the defensive from the get-go. Serving rules might seem complex for beginners but once you get the hang of it, it becomes second nature.

A Deep Dive into Ping Pong Serving Rules

In this part of the post, we will detail out the official regulations set by the International Table Tennis Federation (ITTF) which governs all professional ping pong games. We’ll look at some of the key rules around serving and explain them in easy-to-understand language.

Serving from Behind the End Line

The first rule that you need to know is that the serve must start with the ball resting freely in the server’s open palm. The server should stand behind the end of the table, with the ball above and behind the table surface. When the server pushes the ball into the air, it must rise at least 16cm before being struck.

Serving Diagonally

In doubles ping pong, the server must serve the ball so that it bounces once in the right half part of his side of the table, and then bounces in the right half of the opponent’s side of the table. Essentially, the serve goes diagonally from the server’s right-half court to the receiver’s right-half court.

Ball Visibility

Throughout the serve, the ball needs to be visible to the receiver. It means that the server cannot use his paddle or body to hide the ball. Not only that, but the ball also has to remain behind the table’s end line and above the level of the playing surface throughout the serve.

Common Misconceptions about Serving Rules

Now that we’ve gone through the basic serving rules, let’s tackle some common misconceptions and myths related to ping pong serves.

No Bouncing on Your Side

Many beginners think that it’s okay to serve the ball directly to the opponent’s court without having it bounce on their side first. However, according to the official ITTF rules, the serve must always bounce on the server side first before bouncing on the opponent side.

Scoring Direct Points

Another common misunderstanding is that if the server hits the ball and it touches the opponent’s side without the receiver touching it, the server is awarded a point. But the truth is, serves need to land on the opponent’s side of the table to count. If the serve goes straight to the net, the floor, or anywhere outside the table area, the server loses a point.

No Spin on Serves

Many believe that serving the ball with spin is illegal. That’s not true. The player is allowed to impart any amount of spin to the ball using their paddle. The controversy arises from the visibility rule, the server cannot use his body or paddle to hide his serving action, which may include the spin imparted, from the receiver.

The Art of Mastering Ping Pong Serves

Now you know the rules! But understanding the rules is just the first half of the equation. Implementing these rules and mastering your serve is an art in itself.

Practicing the Basics

Mastering good serving technique takes hours of practice. Start by following all the rules to mind, and keep practicing until the serve becomes a second nature. With enough practice, you’ll be able to serve legally without much thought.

Experimenting Different Serves

Once you’ve got the basics down, start experimenting with different types of serves. Try adding spin or varying the speed and direction to keep your opponent guessing. The element of surprise is key in ping pong serve.

Watching and Learning

A great way to improve your serving skills is by watching professional ping pong players play. There is so much to learn from their serving techniques and tactics. YouTube is a great platform to find matches of top players.


Serving is indeed a vital part of ping pong. Understanding and mastering the serving rules can make a real difference in your game. Keep practicing and don’t be afraid to experiment once you have the basics nailed down. Remember, this is a game after all. So don’t forget to have fun while you’re at it!

Additional Ping-Pong Resources:
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