How To Serve In Ping Pong

Serving rules in ping pong – Learn how to serve In Ping Pong

Last Updated on January 2, 2024

Every rally in ping pong starts with a service. It is one of the most crucial elements of this game, something that you need to master if you want to defeat your opponent. According to the rules, if you throw the ball in the air but miss your serve, then your opponent gets a point. But this isn’t the only rule in table tennis when it comes to the serving. From holding the ball to throwing it in the air before serving, there are several things you need to keep in mind. Let’s take an in-depth look at the various aspects of service in table tennis.

How To Serve In Ping Pong

The ball should rest freely on your open palm before the start of every service. Remember, you should open your palm fully and keep your thumb at a 90-degree angle from all the other fingers. You shouldn’t keep the ball on the cusp of your fingers while keeping the palm open. Neither should you hold the ball with your fingers before throwing it in the air. Also, your free hand should be stationary before serving. Don’t just pick up the ball and serve. Pause for a couple of seconds while you adjust the ball on your palm.

The main motive of this rule is to make sure that the ball doesn’t spin when you throw it in the air. The ball shouldn’t grip on the bat while serving. It is the technique of how you bring the bat down and hit the ball that should decide the spin. If you spin the ball while serving, the umpire will call it a fault.

Ball toss


You need to toss the ball after holding it on your palm. It’s important to toss the ball vertically at least 16 cm (6.3 inches) from your palm. You must ensure you don’t put any spin on the ball. The ball should go up nearly 16 cm (6.3 inches) and you must strike it when it comes down. If you don’t, your opponent gets a point. There are two reasons why there is a rule to throw the ball up at least 16 cm. Firstly, it prevents you from taking your free hand up by 16 cm and dropping the ball from there. That’s an illegal serve.

Secondly, it gives you a chance to hit the ball before it reaches your free hand position. There is a rule to throw the ball up by at least 16 cm but nothing regarding when you hit it. If you throw the ball at the required distance, you can hit it as it starts falling.

Another important aspect of the ball toss is “near vertical.” Many players argue that a ball toss at 45-degrees is “near vertical” because they are still following the 16 cm rule. However, it’s not a legal service in table tennis. “Near vertical” means the ball can waver only by a few degrees after throwing it up. It shouldn’t be at a 45-degree angle. Throwing the ball up diagonally gives you an edge while serving as it allows you to spin the ball more while striking.

Ball Toss 2

You should strike the ball as it comes down after you toss it at least 16 cm vertically. It should touch your side of the court and then the side of your opponent’s court. Now here’s the tricky part. You need to ensure you serve in such a way that the ball drops on your side of the court and then lands on any part of your opponent’s court. When it comes to playing doubles, the ball should touch the right half of your court and then on the right side of your opponent. If it touches your opponent’s left side, it’s a fault and your opponent will get the point.

It is important that you don’t hit the ball while it’s still rising. The umpire will first warn you not to serve like that. If you continue with the same action, he will call a fault. If the umpire has doubts about the legality of your service, he may first warn you, or declare a let. Declaring a let means you can serve again but your opponent won’t get any point.

But when it comes to calling a fault, the umpire can do so without warning you. If he is confident that there is a clear violation of the rules of ping pong, he can call a fault straightaway.

Serving in singles

<em> Singapore 2010 Youth Olympic Games<em> <em>CC BY NC 20<em>

The ball must face the opponent while you serve. As a table tennis player, you shouldn’t hide the ball in your palm or guard it with your body. It is part of the ping pong rules to hit the ball while it’s coming down after you toss it in the air. After striking the ball, the ball should drop on your side of the court before dropping on your opponent’s side. You should ensure the ball doesn’t touch the net on its way to the opponent. In that case, the umpire will ask you to serve again.

It is technically possible to serve around the side of the net. But you should ensure that the ball curves enough so that it lands on your opponent’s court. This is one of the hardest serves ever and requires years of practice. Since the net projects 15.25 cm (6 inches) from the side of the table, it would take a lot of spin on the ball to curve back and hit the opponent’s court. If you are not confident to pull this serve off, don’t try it in tournaments. You may lose a point unnecessarily.

Serving in doubles

<em>Singapore 2010 Youth Olympic Games<em> <em>CC BY NC 20<em>

Serving in doubles is slightly different compared to serving in singles. In this case, the ball should hit the right side of your court and drop on the right side of your opponent’s court after you strike the ball. All the other rules related to serving remains the same. You need to place the ball on your open palm, toss it at least 16 cm (6 inches) before hitting the ball, and follow the “near vertical” rule.

In doubles also it is technically legal to serve around the net. But in practice, it’s impossible. There is hardly anyone who can curve the ball so much that it hits the right side of the server’s court, goes around the net, and then drops on the right side of the opponent’s court.

Ball location

The ball should always be above the table tennis playing surface from the start of the service until you strike it. You cannot toss the ball from underneath the playing surface and hit it while serving. That’s a fault. Make sure you are behind the service line. There are two essential things you need to remember in regards to ball location: first, you should serve from behind the service line. Hitting the ball while serving from the top of the playing surface should not be done. Secondly, you can’t touch the table tennis table with your bat or any part of your body while serving. In fact, you can’t touch the table while a game is in play; one of the many rules of ping pong.

Your free hand should always be above the playing surface while serving. You should hold the ball in your palm slightly above the table tennis table and behind the service line. Toss it in the air and hit it before it lands on the playing surface or the ground. There are no specific rules for ping pong regarding the position of the server. You can stand either on the right side or on the left side while serving. But when it comes to serving in doubles, you should stand on the right side. Otherwise, it may become difficult to serve with your partner on alongside.

Mastering the art of serving in ping pong takes some time. Once you know all these rules by heart, you can serve without making a fault and gain an edge over your opponent.

author avatar
Ashton Brown
Ashton Brown spent a lot of time in after school programs as a child. In a local community-run recreation center in Boston, they had a ping pong table, and since then he has always played. He had a ping pong table in his college dorm, and a mini one in his office for giggles. After playing for years, Ashton wants to show you how to get started with ping pong, learn the tricks of the trade, and equip yourself with everything you need to be better at the game.

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