How to Play Table Tennis?

The game usually starts by deciding who is going to serve first and who is going to receive. The game begins after deciding which player will serve first.

Service and Return

The game is commenced by the player who serves. The ball is raised at least 16 centimeters in air without any spin and is hit by the racquet in such a way that it hits the server’s side of court once before going on to the receiver’s court without touching the net.


A rally of unscored results is referred to as Let. This could occur because of many reasons, but a few are −

  • When the receiver is not ready and the ball is served.

  • The ball is concealed and either the umpire or the opponent player is in doubt of the serve.


There are many scenarios where one player gets points. A few are −

  • If the ball touches anything, not the net, before reaching the opponent.

  • If the opponent fails to return or service.

  • If the player hits the ball with wooden part of racquet, not the rubber part, then the opponent gets a point.

  • When the receiver completes 13 returns in a rally, under expedite system.

  • Player gets a point when the opponent obstructs the ball.

Alternation of Services

Service can change depending on game point of the match. Regardless of the winner of rally, service keeps changing between opponents. A Deuce is played, when both the players have ten points each and each player serves for one more point. The service and receiving doesn’t change in Deuce.

Players change sides of the table at the end of each game. When one of the players scores five points first, players change the ends regardless of serving turn. If players miss changing sides or if are serving out of turn, the points are still calculated and game is resumed from there.

Types of Strokes

Usually strokes in table tennis are divided into two categories − offensive and defensive strokes.

Offensive Strokes

Hit − This is a very powerful stroke with more speed and less or no spin at all. It is hard to return this kind of stroke, but is usually played to keep the ball in the game. The paddle is perpendicular to the direction of stroke.

Smash − As the name itself, it is a stroke which is very powerful. Usually played to return a serve that’s either too high or too close to the net. A lot of acceleration and accuracy is needed to deliver this stroke. It is a combination of backswing and high-speed. The ball’s trajectory is changed with sidespin. The main objective of smash is high speed and bounce, so that the opponent is unable to hit the ball.

Loop − This attack gives the ball more spin than speed. The racquet is parallel to direction of stroke. This kind of stroke results in topspin and jumps a bit forward after hitting the opponent’s side of the table.

Counter-hit − This hit, if delivered with correct accuracy, could be as good as a smash. When the ball is hit immediately after it bounces on the table, it results in counter-hit. To achieve this stroke, bat should be very close to the ball.

Flick − When the backswing is compressed to a short wrist swing, it gives a flick. Usually, played by participants, when the ball has not bounced beyond table’s edge. This stroke is usually played to return a serve and when there is no much room for backswing. This could resemble loop in the way it is played.

Offensive Strokes

Defensive Strokes

Push − This stroke causes a backspin and makes the ball float slowly in air to the opponent’s side. This attack is popular by name slice in Asia. This stroke can be difficult to return because of the back spin action. This serve might land very close to the net and is difficult for amateurs to play. However, experienced players could return this serve with a loop and could put the opponent in a tough spot.

Block − This stroke might look easy, but could destroy the opponent. One doesn’t hit the ball, but simply puts the racquet so close to the ball, that it hits the racquet right after its bounce. Block could change the side of ball landing on the table, which can be highly advantageous as the opponent wouldn’t be able to judge the ball. Usually in block, the ball is returned with the same energy and angle with which it was served. This stroke can have a topspin and can make the opponent defenseless. Experienced players tend to return this serve with a loop or a smash

Chop − This is the backspin counterpart of loop. This strike is made when the ball lands almost at the end of the table. Hence, the strike is very heavy, and requires more energy. This backspin is usually a return to the opponent’s topspin. If played well, the ball is horizontal to the table while in air with a little rise. Chop is extremely difficult to return. Only certain players can demonstrate variations in chop like no-spin impact or side spin.

Lob − This strike propels the ball to a height of about 5 meters, to land on opponent’s table with highest spin. A good defense lob is so effective that it can be used as a return to smash. To make a return to this strike, players usually back off from the table for about a few meter and run towards the table to hit the ball with maximum speed and strength. This strike is very powerful because of its unpredictability of spin.

Defensive Strokes

A Game − When either one of the players scores 11 points then, he / she is declared as winner of that particular game. In case both the players reach 10 points, then the player who achieves two points before the other one is declared as winner of the game.

A Match − According to ITTF, a match is the best of odd number of games. Usually a match consists of 3, 5 or 7 games.