Is this a legal service delivery

Table Tennis Rules

Last updated 10 years ago

MohdShukri MohdSaad

MohdShukri MohdSaad Asked 10 years ago

I have a question, is it a legal service for someone to hold the bat in the right hand, toss the ball up in the air with the left hand, and then switch the bat to the left hand and deliver the service.

Alois Rosario

Alois Rosario Answered 10 years ago

Hi MohdShukri,

This is an interesting question but I feel that you are not allowed to because the  start of the service rule says:

Service shall start with the ball resting freely on the open palm of the server's stationary free hand.
This would mean that you are not allowed to as it isn't on your free hand.

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MohdShukri MohdSaad

MohdShukri MohdSaad Posted 10 years ago

Hi Alois, just address me as Shukri.  I am from Malaysia.  The question here is when is a hand a free hand?  And can you change your free hand?

I was watching a game between Timo Boll and another world player, in the midst of the rally, Timo Boll shift the bat from his left hand to the right hand and smash the ball.  Timo Boll was awarded a point.  Now, the argument is that during the start of the rally, Timo was using his left hand thus this was the playing hand and the right hand as his free hand.  But upon changing the bat to the right hand, his left became the free hang while his right hand holding the bat is his playing hand.  If this is not the case, why would Timo Boll been given the point upon the smash?

Now, if the argument above holds true for the service delivery question, shoulden the service be valid then as the above example shows that the playing hand and the free hand is interchangeable, depending on which hand the bat is at?

Would like to hear your opinion on this......

Thanks in advance Alois. 

Alois Rosario

Alois Rosario from PingSkills Posted 10 years ago

Hi Shukri,

That is why I was a little cautious with my answer.  You are perfectly right with your logic.  I have tried to get a clearer answer from a few umpires but haven't had a clear explanation as yet.  I will keep trying to follow up.

Alois Rosario

Alois Rosario from PingSkills Posted 10 years ago

OK, I have an answer for you.  This is from Graeme Ireland an umpire I admire and trust.  He will be a Technical Delegate at the London Olympics.

The simple answer is “Yes, it is legal”. I will give you a long answer with examples.


Firstly the definitions:


2.5.5              The racket hand is the hand carrying the racket.

2.5.6              The free hand is the hand not carrying the racket;


As you can see there is no mention of “at the start of the rally”, so it means “at the time”. The free hand and racket hand can be interchanged during a rally, and it is possible to have 0, 1 or 2 racket hand(s) at a particular time during a rally, and conversely 2,1,0 free hand(s). This may sound incongruous, but we have seen “two handed” players, the same as in tennis. In this case there is 1 free hand when the ball is projected in service, but no free hand shortly afterwards when he grips the racket with both hands. If a player drops a racket during the rally, until he picks it up again he has 2 free hands and no racket hand. So, in this case, if he put the hand which had been carrying the racket on the table to balance himself whilst he picked up the racket, his opponent would win the point as he has touched the playing surface with his free hand.


To answer your specific question, another rule is relevant:


2.5.2      The ball is in play from the last moment at which it is stationary on the palm of the free hand before being intentionally projected in service until the rally is decided as a let or a point.


Taking my comments above and the rule about “in play”, then it is evident that it is legal for someone to project the ball with his free hand (the ball is then in play), then change hands so that the previous free hand is now the racket hand, and then strike the ball.

MohdShukri MohdSaad

MohdShukri MohdSaad Posted 10 years ago

Alois, thank you very much with a very detailed and careful thought through answer.  Now, I truly believe beyond doubt that it is a valid and legal service delivery.

Cheers and have a nice day.

Alois Rosario

Alois Rosario from PingSkills Posted 10 years ago

The answer came fro Graeme, so a big thanks to him.

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