Catching the ball when serving

Table Tennis Rules

Last updated 11 years ago

Farley Unknown

Farley Unknown Asked 14 years ago

when the ball leaves your hand on a serve and you catch it or let the ball fall to the ground, is that legal?

Jeff Plumb

Jeff Plumb Answered 14 years ago

Hi Mike,

In Table Tennis, once the ball leaves your hand it is in play. If you catch it or let it fall to the ground then that is a fault. This is different from Tennis.

The service rules in Table Tennis are quite complex but here are the main ones you should try and follow:

  • At the start of service the ball must be resting freely on the stationary open palm of the server's free hand, behind the end line and above the level of the playing surface.
  • The server must then throw the ball almost vertically up, without imparting spin, so that it rises at least 16cm after leaving the palm of the free hand and then falls without touching anything before being hit.
  • As the ball is falling the server hits it so that it touches his court first and then, after passing over or around the net assembly, touches the receiver's court.
  • The ball must be above the level of the playing surface and it shall not be hidden from the receiver during the serve.
  • The ball must be hit from behind the server's end line.

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Thoughts on this question

James Goulding

James Goulding Posted 11 years ago


I would like to ask an additional question based on the rules of serve listed in the answer of this question...

When serving, does the server HAVE to hit the ball as the ball is on the downward motion after reaching the height of at least 16cm? Or can the server hit the ball when it is in its upward motion (prior to, or after it has reached the 16cm height limit)? And if they do, would this be classed as a fault, or illegal serve, awarding a point to the receiver? Or would it be a let (re-serve), or would play be allowed to continue with no foul?

Many thanks,


Leslie Yin

Leslie Yin Posted 11 years ago

The ball has to be coming down before you can hit it when serving. If they serve a fault, things get a little hazy regarding the umpire's call. In the professional circuit, many umpires call lets for questionable serves but at other times I've seen them call faults without any prior warning. I guess it just depends on the leniency on the umpire and how dodgy the serve is.

In my experiences at club level, people get away with many questionable serves and if they are called out, they're usually not serious enough and call it a let. 


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