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Rules and how to play

Learn the basic rules of the game, how to score and the tricky doubles rotation!

Just Starting Out In Table Tennis?

The aim of the game is simple; hit the ball over the net onto your opponent’s side. The ball should bounce once on the opponent’s side of the table. A point is won by you if your opponent is unable to return the ball or if they hit the ball before it bounces on their side of the table (unless the ball has already cleared the table).


  • Service must be diagonal, from the right half court (marked by a white line) to the opponent’s right half court.
  • The right to choose the initial order of serving, receiving and ends shall be decided by lot and the winner may choose to serve or to receive first or to start at a particular end.
  • When one player or pair has chosen to serve or to receive first or to start at a particular end, the other player or pair shall have the other choice.

  • After each 2 points have been scored the receiving player or pair shall become the serving player or pair and so on until the end of the game, unless both players or pairs score 10 points or the expedite system is in operation, when the sequences of serving and receiving shall be the same but each player shall serve for only 1 point in turn

  • In each game of a doubles match, the pair having the right to serve first shall choose which of them will do so and in the first game of a match the receiving pair shall decide which of them will receive first; in subsequent games of the match, the first server having been chosen, the first receiver shall be the player who served to him or her in the preceding game.

  • In doubles, at each change of service the previous receiver shall become the server and the partner of the previous server shall become the receiver.

  • The player or pair serving first in a game shall receive first in the next game of the match and in the last possible game of a doubles match the pair due to receive next shall change their order of receiving when first one pair scores 5 points.

  • The player or pair starting at one end in a game shall start at the other end in the next game of the match and in the last possible game of a match the players or pairs shall change ends when first one player or pair scores 5 points

  • Service changeover in doubles is as follows:
    • At the start of a game, the serving team will decide which player will serve first. The first player to serve is A1 and;
    • A1 serves to B1 (2 services)
    • B1 then serves to A2 (2 services)
    • A2 then serves to B2 (2 services)
    • B2 serves to A1 2 services)
    • Repeat

Rotation Rules For Doubles

In doubles, you should alternate hitting the ball with your partner. So, for example,

  • A1 serves the ball to B1
  • B1 plays to A2
  • A2 plays to B2
  • B2 plays to A1
  • then this is repeated
  • A1 plays to B1 ….and so on.


  • Winner is the first to 11 points
  • If the score is 10-10, them game continues until one of the players has gained a lead of 2 points
  • Points are won irrespective of who has served
  • Matches can the best of 3, 5 or 7 games – or any odd number you like!


  • The ball must first bounce on your side and then on your opponent’s side of the table
  • If the ball touches the net and goes over, it’s a ‘let’ – retake the serve
  • If the ball hits the net and doesn’t go over, or flies off the table without bouncing on your opponents side, you lose the point
  • There are no second serves
  • The ball should rest freely on the open palm of the server, above the level of the table
  • The ball should be projected vertically (at least 16cm)
  • In singles you can serve from anywhere and to anywhere on the table
  • Change servers every 2 points
  • If the score reaches 10-10 change server every point
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