table tennis rule problems

Rule Problems during Table tennis serve

We have already mentioned what you have to remember to perform a correct serve. We would like to refer to the international table tennis rules. With so many restrictions and rules you might ask yourself what is actually allowed with the serve. 

table tennis serve

Correct serve

Of course – the ball should be hit with the racket and transported over the net. 

Edge balls

Edge balls are probably the most problematic chapter in terms of table tennis rules. Only the upper edges of the table still count to the playing surface. So it is again up to the referee to decide whether the ball was “good” or whether it touched the outside of the table and therefore counts as a mistake. Often the decision can only be made by following the trajectory of the bounced ball and drawing conclusions from this. And in some cases such a problem ball can only be judged by ear, because a touch on the edge of the table is no longer perceptible with the eyes.

Forgetting to change serve in ping pong

What happens if, at 15:14, you suddenly realize that you have already served four serves, which would have been allowed to the opponent? Start again from the beginning? In such a case the score remains the same. However, the remaining serves (in our example it’s only one) will be given to the player whose turn it would actually be.

Forgetting to change side

It’s similar with the change of sides: It has happened that players were so concentrated that they forgot to “walk around” after the set. The change is made as soon as the mistake is noticed.

External events

In contrast, a rally is repeated “if a player loses a point due to an event over which he has no influence”. This is the case, for example, if the ball breaks during the rally, but with one exception: The point is counted if “the faulty ball breaks on its way out and does not hinder the opponent’s return in any way. Obviously, there are a lot of cases of doubt (and therefore annoyance); but in these cases of doubt the referee can have the ball repeated at his discretion.

It is interesting, by the way, that in competitions a moving spectator, a player of the neighbouring table, a sudden loud noise can be considered as an “event” which the player “has no influence on”. Strangely enough (or fortunately), this rule is almost never applied in practice.

Stopping flying balls

A topspin that the opponent does not reach, a serve that he cannot return, a shot that has been transformed – all these are of course “countable points”. But this category also includes something that is not necessarily obvious to the untrained eye: A player loses a point if he touches the playing surface with his free hand. The situation is different with the racket hand: it is allowed to come into contact with the table. But under no circumstances should the table be moved.

One point that is always counted is the so-called “flying ball”, i.e. a ball that comes into contact with the racket or racket hand without touching the playing surface. We mention this in case there is still the wrong assumption that only a ball accepted over the table is a flying ball. If you have the bad habit of stopping balls bouncing over the table with the racket, you should not take part in official competitions – or you have to get used to your vice quickly.

Serve and serve acceptance in doubles

In doubles there are always difficulties with serve and serve acceptance. Of course, this does not mean the dangerous service and its return, but rather the question of who serves and accepts the serve.

According to the rule, it has to be done like this: “In each set, a couple serving the first five serves decides which of the two players serves first. In the first set of a game, the opposing pair then also determines which of its two players is the first to serve back. In the following sets, the serving pair determines the first serve, and the first receiver is then automatically determined.

Needless to say, this is also important from a tactical point of view, because which player plays better on a certain player of the opposing pair has to be taken into account in the case that one may determine the receiver. By the way, here again the rule applies that the game is continued with the current score, if the “wrong” player has accidentally accepted.

You can read more about other use cases where there are some doubts.