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A Beginners Guide to Ping Pong

The ping pong rules are comparatively simple, and this simplicity is part of the appeal of the game. Almost anyone can pick up a bat and knock the ball over the net, and if your opponent is good enough you get the ball returned to you, bounced back over the net.

I am going to outline some of the basic principles of ping pong, and encourage you to take your game to the next level.

What equipment do you need?

Aside from the two players, the main requirements are two bats, also known as paddles, or rackets, a ball, and a table with a net along the centre.

The official ping pong rules require that the table, or playing surface should be rectangular, 2.74m long, 1.525m wide, and should be located 76cm from the floor.

The paddles can be any shape, size or weight that you like, but they are required to have one black, and one red surface. The ball used for the match must be either white or orange, and needs to have a diameter of 4cm.

Now we have all the right equipment, let’s set out the rules so we can start a simple match.

How the game is played

The players take it in turns to serve two points, the only exceptions to this rule occur if the score reaches the state of 10-10 in any given game. In this case the serve is switched after every point.

If play moves into a fifth game the player must change sides when either of them reaches five points.

How to serve

According to ping pong rules for a serve to be legal the ball needs start in the players open hand, it must then be thrown 16cm into the air, and hit in such a way that it bounces first on the servers side, and then over the net onto the opponents side.

Keeping the game moving

Table tennis is supposed to be a fast moving game, and the ping pong rules actively discourage slow play through the use of the expedite system. This comes into effect when a game has gone on for ten minutes without both players managing to score nine points. Once the expedite system has started it remains in force until the end of the match.

The Expedite system

In simple terms the expedite systems as set out in the ping pong rules speeds up play by rotating the serve after every point, and declaring that a point can be scored by making thirteen good returns on the ball.

Winning the game

The ping pong rules state that a match is played to the best of five games, and that each game is won by the first player to reach eleven points, although this can be extended as the game must be won by two clear points. A point will be scored after each ball is put into play. Players change ends after every game.

That’s it, all you need to know to start playing ping pong. There are many other rules, and stipulations in the game of ping pong, but I did say that this was to be a beginners guide, so these are probably best left for you to discover for yourself as you continue playing, and advance through the sport.