Who Serves First In Ping Pong

Who Serves First In Ping Pong

Last modified: October 24, 2023

Imagine picking up your ping pong paddle, your sweat slightly dampening the handle, leaving it familiar in your grip. You spot your opponent across the table, their anticipation mirroring yours. The ball rests in your hand with a potential energy unmatched. The only question remaining is, who serves first in ping pong? This article aims to answer that and more as we delve into the world of ping pong serves.

The Toss Up: Determining the First Serve

A crucial aspect of any ping pong match is determining which player will serve the ball first. Unsurprisingly, the process isn’t as complicated as you might think, but it does require an understanding of the basic rules of ping pong.

The Coin Flip or Paddle Play

Traditionally, a simple coin flip is used to decide who will serve first. This provides a 50-50 chance for each player and is one of the most common methods used in amateur and professional games alike. Alternatively, some players prefer the paddle play method where one player randomly spins the paddle, and the opponent guesses which side will land – another fair way to determine the first server.

Player Preference

Occasionally, some players might prefer giving away the serve to their opponents, especially if they are strong in receiving serves. This is often a strategic decision and can impact the rhythm of the match.

In Doubles Play

In doubles play, the pair winning the toss can decide whether to serve, receive, or select the end of the table. Unlike singles, where players serve for two consecutive points, in doubles, the players serve for one point each in a cycle.

Rules for Serving in Ping Pong

Understanding the rules of a serve in ping pong is as important as knowing who serves first. Here, we present a few critical parameters that govern a lawful serve in ping pong.

The Serving Motion

The serve must begin with the ball placed freely on the flat, open palm of the server’s stationary free hand. The server then tosses the ball upwards without spin and hits it as it’s descending so it first bounces in the server’s court and then the opponent’s court.

Contact Point

During the serve, the ball should be struck when it’s behind the endline and above the table surface level. Striking the ball when it has crossed over the endline or moved beyond the sideline on the server’s side would result in a fault.

Avoiding the Net

A well-performed serve should go over the net assembly (the net and its supports) without touching it. If the ball hits the net but then still lands on the opponent’s side, it’s considered a ‘let’ serve and needs to be replayed.

Aces Up Your Sleeve: Techniques for Serves

While knowing the rules of serving is invaluable, having a few key techniques in your arsenal could turn the tide in your favor in any ping pong match.

The Backspin Serve

A backspin serve demands striking the ball in such a way that it spins backward towards the server after it’s been hit. It can disrupt the opponent’s rhythm, making it a powerful serve in any table tennis player’s toolbox.

The Topspin Serve

In comparison to a backspin serve, a topspin serve requires striking the ball so it spins forward. This serve can be highly aggressive, often pushing the receiver further back, giving the server an advantage.

The Sidespin Serve

A sidespin serve, as its name suggests, spins to the side when struck. It can be tricky to return due to its unpredictable bounce, which can earn the server some valuable points.


Ping pong, like any other sport, comes with its unique set of rules and strategies, and the serve is no different. Whether you’re flipping a coin to decide who serves first or working on executing a perfect backspin serve, understanding the intricate art of serving in ping pong will undoubtedly enrich your gaming experience and perhaps place you one step ahead of your opponent.

Additional Ping-Pong Resources:
Table Tennis Girl is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program that helps website admins earn advertising fees by linking to Amazon.com. We only earn a commission if you purchase an item from amazon.com. The prices on Amazon do not change (either way) if you reach them via our links.