Legal Table Tennis Serve

How to Do a Legal Table Tennis Serve

Wondering how to do a legal Table Tennis serve?

This brief step-by-step guide on Ping Pong serving rules is all you need.

It’s so important to do a Table Tennis serve the right way. Well, if you don’t, you won’t be able to participate in any official ITTF grade competitions.

Legal Table Tennis Serve - The Basics

If you’re a casual player, you may not be aware of all the rules.

Most beginners, and even some intermediate level players don’t play by the rules. In an order to compete in a tournament, you can’t do an illegal serve.

As per International Table Tennis federation, here are the serve rules:

  1. Before the service begins, the ball should rest on the open palm of your free hand. It should be clearly visible to the opponent.
  2. Throw the ball up in the air without imparting any spin (with your fingers). It should rise at least 16 cm and then fall without touching anything.
  3. Strike the ball when it’s still in the air before it touches your court.
  4. It should first touch your court and then your opponent’s court. If it’s a singles game, it can fall on any area of the court.
  5. If it’s a doubles game, the ball should touch the right half court of both the server and receiver.
  6. The ball should be above the playing surface during a service behind the server’s end line (usually colored in white).
  7. Once the ball is projected, remove your free hand from the space so it doesn’t cause a distraction to your opponents.
  8. The space is the area between the upward extended net and the ball.
  9. You’ll receive one warning if you do an illegal Table Tennis serve, and the next one will be deemed incorrect.
  10. The requirements may be relaxed by the umpires if a physical disability prevents compliance.

Ping Pong Serving Rules

There are a few Table Tennis serving rules you need to keep in mind.

Take note of these things, and if you aren’t in a habit, try to abide by the rules, and eventually it will become second nature for you.

Hidden Service

Some players intentionally (or unintentionally) hide the ball while doing a serve in Ping Pong. This is not allowed in National/International tournaments.

They either use their arm or the side of their body to hide the contact with the ball. This way, the opponent may not be able to read spin.

The ball should not be obscured from view while you’re doing a service. Keep the ball in an open palm, toss it up in the air, and don’t use your body to conceal it.

With some time and practice, a legal Ping Pong serve can be just as effective.

Ball Toss

Most players don’t toss the ball up in the air before the ball meets the paddle.

This may be acceptable in local tournaments that don’t follow the rules set by ITTF, but if you intend to compete, you need to change your habit.

16 cm may feel like a lot, but it’s really not. It’s pretty much the same height as the top of your Ping Pong net.

If you wondered, the height of a paddle (exluding the handle) is also 16 cm.

In an ideal world, the ball toss has to be perfectly vertical. However, it may be slightly towards your body or sideways, and that’s acceptable to an extent.

Changing Your Serve Habits

Rome wasn’t built in a day.

There’s no way one can completely transform their habits in a day, but gradual changes/improvements can always be made.

Table Tennis (or Ping Pong) is no exception.

Stick to the basics, and keep practicing because practice makes perfect. Start with the open palm rule, and then eventually try tossing the ball up in the air.

In the beginning, it may be slightly challenging to hit the ball while it’s still in the air (if you’re not used to it), but with practice, it will come.

Timing also plays a crucial role, you just can’t hit the ball as soon as it’s in the air.

With timing, and ball placement, it’s all about your experience with the game. Practice makes perfect, and that will help you get better at serves in Ping Pong!

Wrapping Up

If you’re a casual player who plays with friends at a club or home, then you don’t really have to do a perfectly legal Table Tennis serve.

Most beginners only care about the fun part while playing Table Tennis.

If everyone is okay with the way you serve in a casual environment, you don’t have to follow the serve rules set by ITTF, and can play any way you like.

On the other hand, with a legal serve, you’ll notice you can have a lot more variations and spin compared to a basic service.

A strong deceptional serve can make for a great weapon in your arsenal.

If you’re new to the game, why not learn things the right way, so you don’t have to adapt to a different style of play all of a sudden?