What is an illegal serve in table tennis?

What is an Illegal Serve in Table Tennis?

Table tennis is a popular sport around the world. It’s fast-paced and exciting, and it can be played both competitively and recreationally. It’s also a great way to stay active and have fun. Like most sports, table tennis has rules and regulations, and it’s important to understand these rules in order to play the game properly. One of the most important rules is the serve: it’s the first shot of the game, and it sets the tone for the match. In this article, we’ll discuss what an illegal serve is in table tennis and why it’s important to know the rules.

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Table Tennis Serve Basics

Before we dive into illegal serves, let’s review the basics of a legal serve. According to the International Table Tennis Federation (ITTF), a legal serve must meet the following criteria:

  • The ball must be tossed at least 16 centimeters into the air.
  • The ball must be hit with the paddle on the descent.
  • The ball must be hit with one side of the paddle only.
  • The ball must hit the server’s end of the table before it hits the receiver’s side.
  • The server must keep his/her body and hand behind the table until the ball is hit.

If a player does not follow these rules, then the serve will be illegal and the point will be awarded to the other player.

Types of Illegal Serves

There are several types of illegal serves in table tennis. The most common are:

  • Double Bounce: This is when the ball bounces twice before it is hit by the paddle. This is illegal because the ball must be hit on the first bounce.
  • Faulty Toss: This is when the ball does not reach the required 16 centimeters in the air. This is illegal because the ball must be tossed at least 16 centimeters before it can be hit.
  • Hitting the Ball Twice: This is when the ball is hit with the paddle twice before it reaches the other side of the table. This is illegal because the ball must be hit with the paddle only once.
  • Hitting the Ball Out of Turn: This is when the player hits the ball before it is their turn to serve. This is illegal because the server must wait for their turn before they can hit the ball.
  • Stepping Over the Table: This is when the server steps over the table to hit the ball. This is illegal because the server must keep their body and hands behind the table until the ball is hit.
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It’s important to be aware of these types of illegal serves so that you can avoid them and play the game properly.

Consequences of an Illegal Serve

If a player commits an illegal serve, then the point is automatically awarded to the opponent. This means that the server will not get a chance to make up for the mistake, and the point is lost.

In addition to losing the point, an illegal serve can also lead to penalties. In some cases, a player can be given a warning or a penalty point for an illegal serve. In more serious cases, a player can be disqualified from the match or tournament.

How to Avoid an Illegal Serve

The best way to avoid an illegal serve is to know and understand the rules. Make sure that you are familiar with the requirements for a legal serve and always practice good technique.

You should also be aware of your surroundings. Pay attention to the other players and make sure that you are not stepping over the table or hitting the ball out of turn.

Finally, take your time. Don’t rush your serve and give yourself enough time to make sure that it is legal.

Benefits of Knowing the Rules

Knowing the rules of table tennis can help you become a better player. It can help you avoid making mistakes and can help you stay focused during the match.

It can also help you understand the game better. Knowing the rules can help you anticipate your opponent’s moves and can help you strategize more effectively.


Table tennis is a great sport to play and it’s important to understand the rules. An illegal serve can lead to penalties and can cost you the point, so it’s important to know what constitutes an illegal serve.

By knowing the rules and practicing good technique, you can avoid making illegal serves and become a better player. So take the time to learn the rules and have fun!