What Is A Legal Serve In Ping Pong

What Is A Legal Serve In Ping Pong

Last modified: October 15, 2023

Well, hello there! Gather round as I’m going to share some super essential knowledge that’s going to level up your ping pong game. I bet you’re extra excited to learn about the integral part of the game that often gets semi-ignored – The legal serve. It’s no secret that serving is an art in ping pong and knowing the correct way, the “legal” way, is going to give you the upper hand before the ball even gets rolling. Let’s make that ace serve!

Understanding the Basics of a Legal Serve

In every sports game, knowledge reigns. Same goes for ping pong, and in this part, we’re going to grasp the basic concept and rules for scoring that legal serve.

The Toss

A legal serve starts with a toss. The ball should stay on the flat open palm of your hand and at least 6 inches above your hand. Oh, and keep those wild spins at bay! The ball should rise straight up without a spin.

The Swing

Once the ball reaches its peak and starts descending, that’s your time to shine with a solid swing. The first bounce of the serve should land on the server’s side. After that, it either goes straight or diagonally bounce on the opponent’s side. The choice is yours, make it wisely! Remember, it’s illegal if your serve directly lands on your opponent’s side without the initial bounce on your own side.

The Position

The position of the server and the receiver is critical too. It largely depends on the type of the game — singles or doubles. In singles, you’re free to serve anywhere, but in doubles, diagonal cross serves are mandatory. The ball must bounce once on the right half of your side and then on the right half of your opponent’s side.

The Common Misconceptions

As you dive deeper into the world of ping pong, you’ll find many myths and misconceptions spreading like a viral YouTube video. Here are the popular ones that you should steer clear of.

Hitting the Side

You might hear some claiming the ball hitting the side of the table is a legal serve. Be aware, folks! It’s a myth. The ball hitting the sides in a serve is considered out. No arguments there!

The Height of the Toss

Many casual players assume that there’s no regulation on the height of the toss. Well, they couldn’t be more wrong! As mentioned above, the ball must rise at least 6 inches above the palm in a toss for it to be considered legal.

The Net Rule

There’s also confusion regarding the net. If the serve touches the net but still lands in the right place, it’s a “let” serve, not a fault. You can serve again without any point lost. Just remember: the rally doesn’t begin until you manage a clean serve over the net.

How to Improve Your Legal Serve

The key to mastering the legal serve is practice; the more you sweat in training, the less you bleed in battle. Here are a few simple, yet effective tips to improve your serve.

Experiment with Spin

When it comes to a serving technique, spinning can be your ally. Backspin, topspin, sidespin, or a combination: All these spins can add unpredictability to your serve.

Switching Up Your Serve

Keep your opponent guessing. Try different styles, switch between long and short serves, play with different angles. This will make your serve unpredictable and harder to anticipate.

Practicing Regularly

There’s no alternative to practice. Dedicate a certain portion of your practice session solely to the serve. Consistent effort will result in a serve that your opponents will fear.


Now you’re all equipped with the knowledge and tips to perfect your serve in ping pong. The legal serve can be a mighty weapon in your arsenal when used with precision and tact. Just remember, it’s as much about the rulebook as it is about skill. So, be patient, keep practicing and you’re sure to ace that serve. See you at the table!

Additional Ping-Pong Resources:
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