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Scoring Types of shot
Serving Equipment
Rallying Glossary

Table tennis table

The table tennis table


History of the game

Objective: Two players hit the ball between them across the net, bouncing it once on the opponents half of the table, and hitting it back in the same way when the opponent returns it to them. A player scores a point when the opponent does not return the ball. The first player to reach 11 points wins.


Although a full game is to 11 points, a practice match, which is played for the purposes of practising and warming up, can be played to less points.

Points can be scored if the opponent:

- Misses the ball and it falls off the table

- Hits ball into the net

- Fails to serve properly

A match must be won by 2 points. If one player reaches 11 and they are not two points ahead, (if the score is 10-10) then the match continues until one player has a two point lead, when the game will finish.

So a game may finish 11-9, or it could be something like 14-12 or any other score above 11. The basic rule is that the winning player must have at least 11 points, and be ahead by two points.

A game is a single game played to 11 points. A match is a set of games. Table tennis matches are played to the best of five games, or the best of seven.

Players change ends at the end of each game.


To start a game a coin is flipped, or one player holds a ball underneath the table, and the other player guesses which hand it is in. If they guess correctly, it is like winning the coin toss, and the opposite applies if they guess incorrectly.

The winner of the toss/ball hold can decide either which side of the table to play on, or whether to serve or receive.

The ball is held in an uncupped hand, with fingers together and thumbs free. The ball is tossed up in the air at least 15 centimetres (6 inches), and is struck before it hits the table.

Players serve twice each before the serve alternates, and at deuce, when the score is 10-10, and then it alternates on every point.

The ball must be hit when the point of contact is level with or above the height of the table. So if a player hits the ball when it is falling towards the floor, it counts as a miss.

Let serves

If a serve touches the net and stays on the side of the server, it is a miss, and a point goes to the opponent, but if the ball hits the net and does go across onto the other side of the table, it is called a let serve. This does not count. A player will not lose or gain points by making let serves, no matter how many take place.


At some point in a game, the ball will probably be rallied. This means that the ball is being hit backwards and forwards between the two players until one of them misses it or makes a mistake.

The mistakes that would cause a rally to be lost are detailed below:

- The ball must not be hit until it bounces on your side of the table. (If the opponent hits the ball straight off the table, you would get a point).

- Players must not move the table, or touch it with the hand which is not holding the bat.

- If a player, for whatever reason, does not return the ball (usually because they missed it) the rally ends and the point goes to the other player.


Players can use either hand, or change hands to hold the bat and hit the ball. The ball can also be hit with the bat handle.

Players can play far back from the table to return a ball. In fact they can go back as far as space allows, but they still have to get the ball before it touches the floor.


Table tennis can be played with men's, women's, or mixed doubles, with two players. All rules relating to the singles game apply, with the addition of these:

The service must be made from the server's right hand side of the table, and must land on the receiver's right hand side of the table, so the ball is served diagonally. This is why many tables will have a line dividing each side of the table into two.

The players on each pair must hit the ball alternately. If the ball is hit out of turn, the offending team lose the point.

After one player has made five serves, they will change places and their partner will receive five serves from the opponent, then they will have five serves of their own.

At the start of a new game, the server/receiver should be different.

Types of shot

Backspin - a type of spin which makes the ball spin anti-clockwise as it leaves the bat

Block - rebound shot which is played as soon as the ball bounces, when the player lets the ball hit the bat rather than the other way round

Chop - another term for backspin, from the chopping action of the player used to cause backspin

Counterhit - also known as 'flat hitting', hitting the ball hard with no spin, used against attacking shots

Drive - a fast stroke which gives the ball speed and a little spin

Dropshot - when the ball is played just after bouncing when it is close to the net

Flick - stroke played from the wrist, used to return a short serve

Float - a shot with little or no spin on the ball, although it can look like it does have spin

Half volley - also known as a block, a ball played soon after bouncing

Kill - also known as a smash, the ball is hit as hard as possible

Lob - the ball is returned high with topspin so it land near the edge of the opponent's half

Loop - a type of heavy topspin when the ball dips in the air

Push - a short basic stroke, used to contain or control a rally

Topspin - a type of spin which makes the ball spin clockwise as it leaves the bat


A full size table measures 2.74 metres (9 feet) long by 1.52 metres (5 feet) wide, and 76 centimetres (2 feet 6 inches) high. They are usually about 2 centimetres (three quarters of an inch) thick. The room the game takes place in should be at least 6 metres (20 feet) by 12 metres (40 feet), and the ceiling should be at least 3.6 metres high (12 feet).

The net is 15.25 centimetres (6 inches) high, and extends across the table, and also another 15.25 centimetres (6 inches) off the edge at either side.

White clothing is not allowed.

The ball used is small, plastic, usually white, although it can be any colour. Balls are graded in quality from one star and two star, with to three star being the best.

The bat sides are covered in rubber. International Laws specify that one side of the bat should be bright red, and the other should be black, whether or not both sides are used for hitting the ball.

These regulations apply only to 'serious' table tennis. For more casual games, the clothing, bats, and dimensions of the room do not have to be specific.


Combination - a bat with different rubbers on either side, each giving different levels of speed and spin

Deuce - When the scores are equal (for example, 10-10)

Game - One game, usually played to 11 points

Match - A set of games, consisting of best of five, or best of seven

Rally - when the ball is hit backwards and forwards between the two players until one of them misses it or makes a mistake

Receive - To have the ball hit to you at the start of the game

Serve - To make the first hit of the match, and the term used to describe hitting the ball to an opponent when not in a rally

Twiddle - turning the bat in the hand to use both sides during a rally. Often used with combination bats


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