Table Tennis Rules for Beginners

A close up of a ball

A table tennis match begins with the umpire conducting a coin-toss. The winner has the options to serve the ball first, receive it, or choose the side of the table they’d like to play from.

The server has to hold the ball with an open palm, toss it up and strike it in a manner that the ball bounces first on the server’s side of the table before bouncing over the net to the other side.

Table Tennis: How to spin serve

A knife sitting on top of a table

The receiver, however, can return it by hitting it over the net and into the opponent’s half of the table. If the player attempts to return the ball before it bounces, a foul is called.

In singles competition, while the service rule allows the server to serve to any part of the table on the opposite end, in doubles, the service has to travel diagonally across the table. Here, the serving player plays from the right side of the table.

How table tennis points are scored

A close up of some grass

The aim in table tennis is to strike the ball in a manner that the opponent fails to make contact with the ball, which earns the player a point. This can either be by sheer power, spin or other deceptive means.

However, if the ball hits the net and it fails to bounce over into the opponent’s half, or hits it over the net and out of bounds without coming into contact with the table, the opponent gets a point.

In doubles, the rule gets a bit more tricky. Here, the server and the partner have to alternate while attempting to push the ball on to the opponent’s side of the table. Here the service alternates as well.

The opponent can also be awarded a point if you hit the ball outside the playing surface or if the ball comes in contact with any part of your body while attempting a shot.

How to win in table tennis

According to the laws of table tennis, a player can win a game of table tennis by scoring 11 points – with one point awarded for every infringement. Every player gets to serve twice in a row. The first to 11 points is declared the winner.

If the points are tied at 10-10, a player then has to strive for a two-point lead to win the game.

A match is won by winning games. The number of games per match varies across competitions and categories.

While singles matches are usually a best-of-seven event, doubles are a best-of-five affair.

Table tennis shots

By changing pace and angle, players can extend their range and variation of shots. This helps improve their game significantly.

Some of the widely used shots are as follows.


It’s one of the commonly used attacking shots in the game. Here, the player glides the bottom side of the paddle, while holding it in a 45-degree angle, over the ball to push it ahead. The ball spins after bouncing, making it relatively difficult for the opponent to execute a timely return.


It’s one of the first shots that a table tennis player is taught while being introduced to the game. Standing square of the table, the player holds the paddle with an open face, returning the ball using the paddle side facing the table.


It’s a defensive shot that many players resort to when trying to negotiate spin. Staying away from the table, here, the player uses the top side of the paddle, pushing it downwards at a 45-degree angle while making contact with the bottom half of the ball.

A chop can be played with both forehand and backhand, depending on the player’s position while receiving the ball.

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