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A Table Tennis Rule Explained
The Volley

One table tennis rule refers to volleying the ball. So is volleying the ball allowed?
No ... and Yes. Let me explain...

Table tennis rule - the volley by courtesy of the ITTF

One of the table tennis rules which you'll need to be familiar with is the rule which deals with volleying the ball.

Volleying means intentionally or unintentionally hitting or touching the ball before it bounces on the table or goes out of play.

Previously, if a player volleyed the ball at any time he lost the point, but the rules were subtly changed in the 1990s, so now it depends on the circumstances.

Volleying the ball is covered by the "obstruction" rule, so we'll examine what the rule says and it's purpose.

So let's take a look at this rule and discover what is allowed and what's not allowed.

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The obstruction rule

Rule 2.05.08 states...

"A player obstructs the ball if he or she, or anything he or she wears or carries, touches it in play when it is above or travelling towards the playing surface, not having touched his or her court since last being struck by his or her opponent."


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The crucial test

The crucial test for whether a player wins a point after his opponent has volleyed the ball is ... was the ball moving towards, or away from, the playing surface when it was volleyed and/or obstructed?

Let me explain with a question and answer...

"If I hit a ball to my opponent, and it doesn't hit their half of the playing surface (table) because it's a bad shot ... but they hit the ball anyway, who gets the point?"

Well, it depends...

If your opponent volleys and/or obstructs the ball whilst it's still travelling over the playing surface, you win the point.

But if the ball has already passed over the playing surface and it's obviously not going to hit the table, your opponent wins the point.

In other words, if there's a chance that the ball might hit the table tennis table because it's still travelling towards it, your opponent would lose the point if he prevented it from doing so by volleying and/or obstructing it.

But...

If the ball has already passed over the table and/or is travelling away from the table, your opponent wins the point whether he volleys and/or obstructs it or not.

Don't forget ... as well as hitting the ball with your racket, if you touch the ball with any part of your body or with anything you carry, the same rule applies.

 

And this isn't tennis or volleyball!

It's also worth noting that, despite all the subtle changes to this rule, it has never been legal to volley the ball in table tennis like you can when playing tennis.

And it has never been legal to "spike" the ball and then play a shot as you can in volleyball either.


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Unfair rule

This rule was changed several times during the 1990s by the International Table Tennis Federation because it was recognised that the original wording of this rule was very unfair.

However, it took several different variations to the wording of this rule before the current version was finally implemented in 2000.

Under the old table tennis rule, a player volleying the ball at any time lost the point - which was particularly unfair in certain situations.

For example, if your opponent played a really bad shot and the ball didn't hit the table but hit you instead (because you were unable to get out of the way in time), you would still lose the point.


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A fairer rule

Under the current rule, the intention now is that a player will only be penalised if he intercepts the ball in a way that is likely to prevent an opponent from making a good return.

A player therefore no longer causes an "obstruction" if the interception occurs when the ball has already passed beyond his end line, or has passed outwards over the sideline or is otherwise moving away from the playing surface.

A much more sensible rule!

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This new book explains SIMPLY and CLEARLY everything you need to know about the rules and regulations of table tennis.

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MORE PAGES ABOUT
THE RULES OF TABLE TENNIS
For more information about the rules of table tennis, take a look at my other articles which explain the Official Laws of Table Tennis and the additional Regulations (for higher level play) in more detail...

The Laws of Table Tennis

  • The basic rules of table tennis
    If you're just starting to play and you need to know the basic rules of table tennis, you'll find them here...

  • The official rules of table tennis
    The official rules of table tennis are known as The Laws of Table Tennis ... so if you need to check the official wording, you can read them here...

  • Table tennis table dimensions
    What size is a table tennis table? Do you know what the official rules say about the size dimensions of a table tennis table?

  • What do the rules say about your racket?
    Do you know what the rules say about your racket? What size can it be? Which colours are allowed? When can you change your racket? Find out here...

  • What do the rules say about the serve?
    The table tennis serve is one of the most controversial aspects of the game. Make sure you know the service rules. Read them here...

  • Frequently asked questions about the serve
    The service rules are very complex, so let's answer some of the most frequently asked questions. Read them here...

  • What is a good return?
    What do the rules say about a good return? Can you use your hand to play a shot? What happens if you touch or move the table? Find out here...

  • When is the ball in or out?
    What do the table tennis rules say about the ball hitting the white lines, net or edges of the table? Is the ball in or out? Find out here...

  • What do the rules say about playing doubles?
    Whether you're playing singles or doubles, the rules of table tennis are essentially the same. However, for doubles play there are a few subtle variations. Read them here...

  • What do the rules say about volleying the ball?
    Do the table tennis rules allow you to volley the ball? Yes and No... Let me explain

  • Expedite system
    How long can a game of table tennis last? If both players keep the ball in play, can they continue playing forever? What do the rules say about this? Find out here...

Regulations (for higher level play)

  • Table tennis room size
    What table tennis room size do you need? It's probably more than you think! Find out here...

  • Racket testing
    In 2008 the ITTF introduced new rules and regulations relating to racket (paddles/bats) testing, and VOC-free glue. You can read them here...

  • Are players allowed to take breaks during matches?
    What time limits are specified in the regulations? What happens if a player is time-wasting? Find out here...

  • Yellow Cards and Red Cards
    Yellow and red cards are a recent addition to table tennis. But what do they mean? Find out here...

General

  • Table tennis terminology
    Do you know your table tennis terminology or are you confused by your chops, pimples and twiddles? Here's a table tennis glossary for you...

Frequently Asked Questions


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