Downloadable books

Table Tennis Rules Explained

Lines, net and edges ... in or out?

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

Table tennis rules

How well do you know your table tennis rules?

If the ball hits the white lines or the edge of the table, or the side of the table, is it in or out?

What if the ball hits the net?

What do the rules say?

Well it's all fairly straightforward.

The playing surface

The answers to these questions can be found within rule 2.01 which defines the size of the table and the playing surface.

So let's first take a look at what that rules says.

It states that a table tennis table must be...

2.74m (9 feet) long,
1.525m (5 feet) wide and
76cm (2 feet 6 inches) high

Additionally, it must have...

  • a white side line, 2cm wide, along each 2.74m edge and
  • a white end line, 2cm wide, along each 1.525m edge

And for doubles play...

  • each court must be divided into 2 equal half-courts by a white centre line, 3mm wide, running parallel with the side lines.

The playing surface is defined as the upper surface of the table which includes the 2cm white line along the sides and ends, the 3mm white line down the middle, plus the top edges.

However, the vertical sides are NOT part of the playing surface.

Table tennis rules

Therefore, if the ball hits a white line or a top edge of the playing surface it is "in" (good). But if the ball hits a vertical side it is "out" (not good).

Additionally, when playing doubles, the centre line is regarded as part of each right half-court, so if the ball hits the centre line when serving, it is "in" (good).

RECOMMENDED  TABLE  TENNIS  BOOK

The Table Tennis Rules and Regulations Explained

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

Click here for more details

RECOMMENDED TABLE TENNIS BOOK

The Table Tennis Rules and Regulations Explained

Rules of table tennis

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

Click here for more details


^ Top of page ^


The problem...

So now that we know that the white lines are part of the playing surface, they do not usually cause any problems.

The main problem comes when you need to decide whether the ball has hit a top edge of the playing surface.

You see, whilst it's easy to say that the top edges are part of the playing surface and the vertical sides are not, it can sometimes be very difficult to decide whether the ball actually touched the top edge of the table or whether it touched the vertical side.


^ Top of page ^


The solution...

Well, the only way you can decide whether the ball touched the top edge or the vertical side is to watch the flight path of the ball before and after it touched the table.

If you think about it logically, the laws of gravity and common sense will help you determine what happened in most cases.

Edge = a good return

If the ball passed over the playing surface before hitting the edge of the table, then the ball must have hit the top edge and therefore the return must be good.

After all, it would be physically impossible for the ball to pass over the playing surface and then hit the vertical side.

Ball hitting the top edge of the table = in Ball hitting the top edge of the table = in

 

Side = not a good return

But if the ball was played from below the level of the playing surface and did not pass over the playing surface before it touched the table, it will almost certainly have touched the vertical side and be out/not good.

Ball hitting the side of the table = out Ball hitting the side of the table = out/not good

 

Other scenarios...

However, there are other situations where it's not so easy to decide whether the ball has hit the top edge or the vertical side. For example, when a player hits his shot from a wide position and from above the height of the playing surface.

In that situation the best way to decide whether the ball actually touched the top edge or the vertical side is to watch the flight path of the ball after it hit the table.

If the ball travelled in an upward direction after touching the table, then it's reasonable to assume that the ball must have touched the top edge and therefore be a good return. But if it travelled in a downwards direction it's more likely that it touched the side of the table and therefore not be a good return.

 

Here's a video clip from the 2008 Olympic Games

Here's a video clip from the 2008 Olympic Games

 

This video clip shows a disputed point during the 2008 Olympic Games Men's Singles semi-final between Wang Hao of China and Jorgen Persson of Sweden.

Wang Hao hits the ball from a wide forehand position above the height of the playing surface, but you can clearly see the flight of the ball going in a downwards direction after striking the vertical side of the table, so the point was correctly awarded to Persson because the vertical side of the table is "out".

 

RECOMMENDED  TABLE  TENNIS  BOOK

The Table Tennis Rules and Regulations Explained

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

Click here for more details

RECOMMENDED TABLE TENNIS BOOK

The Table Tennis Rules and Regulations Explained

Rules of table tennis

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

Click here for more details

 

Here's a video clip showing a "good" edge

Here's a video clip showing a "good" edge

 

This video clip shows a point during the 2008 Olympic Games Men's Singles semi-final between Ma Lin and Wang Liqin of China.

Ma Lin (blue shirt) hits the ball from a forehand position and you can clearly see the flight of the ball going in an upwards direction after striking the top edge of the table, so the point was correctly awarded to Ma Lin because the top edge of the table is "in".


^ Top of page ^


The ball hitting the net

What happens if the ball hits the net or goes around the net?

Well, rule 2.07.01 states that for a good return...

"The ball, having been served or returned, shall be struck so that it touches the opponent's court, either directly or after touching the net assembly"

Table tennis rules

This means that during a rally the ball remains in play if it hits the net or travels over or around the net and still bounces on your opponent's side.

However, the rules are different if the ball hits the net during the service action.

If the ball touches the net and still bounces on your opponent's side of the table, the service must be replayed.

However, if the ball touches the net and does not bounce on your opponent's side of the table, the server loses the point.


^ Top of page ^


Demonstration of ball hitting the net and edge of the playing surface

Take a look at this short video clip between Yin Na (far end) and Tania Hain-Hofmann.

Yin Na serves and Tania Hain-Hofmann returns the serve.

As Yin plays her next shot, the ball hits the top of the net and the top edge of the table (good) ... but Tania still manages to make a good return by playing the ball from a wide position around the net and back over the playing surface onto the top edge.

(We can tell that the ball passed over the playing surface because we can clearly see the ball through the net).

Point to Tania Hain-Hofmann! Incredible!

 

 

RECOMMENDED  TABLE  TENNIS  BOOK

The Table Tennis Rules and Regulations Explained

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

Click here for more details

RECOMMENDED TABLE TENNIS BOOK

The Table Tennis Rules and Regulations Explained

Rules of table tennis

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

Click here for more details


^ Top of page ^


 

Great deals at Amazon.com
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


^ Top of page ^


Claim Your FREE Membership

and Join Me at the TOP TABLE

Claim Your FREE Membership

And get Exclusive Information via Email from
AllAboutTableTennis.com

Tips •  Strategies •  Techniques •  Tactics
Rules •  Equipment •  Coaching •  News & much more

Enter your details here

First Name

Email address

We respect your privacy

Join me at the Top Table Join me at the Top Table

Claim Your FREE Membership and Join Me at the TOP TABLE

And get Exclusive Information via Email AllAboutTableTennis

Tips
Strategies
Techniques
Tactics
Rules
Equipment
Coaching
News & much more

Enter your details here

First Name

Email address

We respect your privacy