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How Many Serves In Table Tennis

By admin May18,2024
Table Tennis


Table tennis, also known as ping pong, is a dynamic and fast-paced sport that requires not only physical agility but also strategic thinking. One of the fundamental aspects of the game is the serve. Understanding the rules surrounding serves in table tennis is crucial for both players and enthusiasts. This guide will delve into the intricacies of serves in table tennis, including the number of serves, the rules governing serves, and the strategies involved. By the end of this guide, you will have a comprehensive understanding of how serves function in table tennis, enhancing both your gameplay and appreciation of the sport.

The Basics of Serving in Table Tennis

What is a Serve?

In table tennis, the serve is the stroke that initiates the rally. A player must serve the ball from their side of the table so that it bounces once on their side and then on the opponent’s side.

Importance of the Serve

The serve is crucial because it can set the tone for the rally. A well-executed serve can give the server a significant advantage, while a poor serve can put them on the defensive immediately.

Number of Serves in a Game

Standard Rules

Alternating Serves: In a standard table tennis match, each player serves two points in a row, after which the serve switches to the opponent.

Deuce Rule: If the score reaches 10-10, also known as deuce, the serve alternates after each point until one player achieves a two-point lead to win the game.

Variations by Format

Singles Play: The standard rule of alternating serves every two points applies.

Doubles Play: In doubles, the serve rotates between the four players in a specific sequence, but still follows the two-point serve rule.

Exceptions and Special Cases

Expedite System: If a game lasts too long (typically more than 10 minutes), the expedite system is introduced. Under this system, each player serves only once per point until the game concludes.

Table Tennis

Detailed Serving Rules

Service Sequence

Deciding Server: At the start of a match, the choice of server is decided by a coin toss or another form of lot.

Service Rotation: After every two points, the serve rotates to the opponent. In doubles, the rotation follows a specific order involving all four players.

Legal Service

Ball Placement: The ball must rest freely on the open palm of the server’s stationary free hand.

Toss and Hit: The ball must be tossed vertically at least 16 centimeters and struck so that it first bounces on the server’s side and then on the receiver’s side.

Visibility: The serve must be visible to the opponent; hiding the serve with any part of the body or clothing is illegal.

Service Faults

Missed Toss: If the server fails to hit the ball after tossing it, it counts as a fault.

Net Touch: If the ball touches the net and lands on the server’s side, it is a fault unless it goes over and lands correctly, in which case it is a let.

Incorrect Bounce: If the ball doesn’t bounce once on each side of the table, it’s a fault.

Strategic Serving in Table Tennis

Types of Serves

Topspin Serve: Imparts forward spin, making the ball bounce higher.

Backspin Serve: Adds backward spin, causing the ball to stay low and slow down.

Sidespin Serve: Causes the ball to curve to the left or right, making it harder for the opponent to predict the ball’s trajectory.

No-Spin Serve: Deceives the opponent with minimal spin, often causing errors in return.

Serve Placement

Wide Serves: Aim towards the edges of the table to force the opponent to move and stretch.

Short Serves: Keep the ball close to the net, making it difficult for the opponent to attack.

Deep Serves: Send the ball towards the back of the table to push the opponent away from the table.

Serve Variability

Changing Spin: Varying the spin on serves to keep the opponent guessing.

Mixing Up Placements: Alternating the placement of serves to disrupt the opponent’s rhythm.

Psychological Aspects of Serving


Body Movement: Using subtle body movements to mislead the opponent about the type of serve.

Racket Angle: Changing the angle of the racket at the last moment to alter the spin.

Pressure Management

Maintaining Focus: Staying mentally composed during serves, especially in critical points.

Routine Development: Developing a consistent serving routine to enhance focus and reduce anxiety.

Serving in Doubles

Serving Order in Doubles

Initial Serve: The pair winning the toss decides who serves first, and the other pair chooses the initial receiver.

Rotation: After every two points, the serve switches between pairs, and within each pair, the server alternates.

Diagonal Serving

Rule: In doubles, the serve must be diagonal, from the right half of the server’s side to the right half of the receiver’s side.

Strategic Placement: Using diagonal serves to exploit weaknesses in the opponents’ positioning.

Common Mistakes and How to Avoid Them

Technical Errors

Poor Toss: Practicing the toss to ensure it meets the required height and trajectory.

Racket Contact: Ensuring proper contact with the ball to avoid faults.

Strategic Errors

Predictability: Avoiding repetitive serves by varying spin, speed, and placement.

Lack of Variation: Incorporating different types of serves to keep the opponent off balance.

Table Tennis

Training and Improving Your Serve

Drills and Exercises

Repetition Drills: Repeatedly practicing different serves to develop muscle memory.

Target Practice: Aiming serves at specific targets on the table to improve accuracy.

Analyzing Opponents

Observing Reactions: Watching how opponents react to different serves to tailor your strategy.

Video Analysis: Reviewing match footage to identify patterns and areas for improvement.

Advanced Serve Techniques

Pendulum Serve

Technique: Swinging the racket like a pendulum to generate spin variations.

Effectiveness: Difficult for opponents to read, making it a popular serve among advanced players.

Reverse Pendulum Serve

Technique: Similar to the pendulum serve but with the racket moving in the opposite direction.

Advantages: Adds another layer of deception and variation.

Tomahawk Serve

Technique: Striking the ball with a motion similar to throwing a tomahawk.

Usage: Effective for generating sidespin and surprising opponents.


The serve is a fundamental aspect of table tennis that can significantly influence the outcome of a match. Understanding the rules governing the number of serves, the techniques for effective serving, and the strategies for maximizing serve effectiveness are essential for any player looking to improve their game. This comprehensive guide has explored the various facets of serving in table tennis, providing valuable insights into both the basic and advanced elements of this critical skill.

Whether you are a beginner or an experienced player, mastering the serve will enhance your overall gameplay and increase your chances of success on the table. Remember, practice and consistency are key to developing a powerful and unpredictable serve. Embrace the challenge, keep experimenting with different serves, and enjoy the exciting journey of table tennis.

By admin

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