Can You Hit the Ball Around the Net in Table Tennis?

ping pong bars
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Because it's such a fast-moving sport and the players have the ability to curve the ball, unusual scoring situations arise in table tennis, also known as pingpong or by the trademarked name Ping-Pong. The ball must bounce once on the returner's side of the table, or court, during a point, but it is possible for the server to hit the ball around the net straight onto the opponent's court without the ball ever traveling over the net.

Unusual But Legal Situations

According to the official rules by the sport's governing body, the International Table Tennis Federation, this is a legal situation—the ball does not have to travel over the net. It is also legal for the ball to travel underneath the net assembly (the part that protrudes off the table and holds the net up), as long as it lands once on the opponent's side of the table. In this situation, the ball can travel below the table surface at the side of the table, and then up onto the opponent's court.

Not only is the ball allowed to go under or around the net, it is also allowed to hit the net as long as it goes over the net and onto the opponent's court. Surprisingly, the ball does not have to actually bounce but is allowed to roll on the opponent's side of the table, making the return next to impossible.

In yet another unusual situation, the ball may travel over the net then bounce backward and return to the server's side of the table. In this case, the returner would have to run around the table to make the shot.

Table Tennis Rules 

The rules concerned are Law 2.7 and Law 2.5.14, which are as follows:

2.7 A Good Return

2.7.1 The ball, having been served or returned, shall be struck so that it passes over or around the net assembly and touches the opponent's court, either directly or after touching the net assembly.

2.5.14 The ball shall be regarded as passing over or around the net assembly if it passes anywhere other than between the net and the net post or between the net and the playing surface.

History of Table Tennis

The sport started as a parlor game in England during the 1800s. It was called ping-pong until that name was trademarked in 1901 in England by J. Jaques & Son Ltd., who later sold the rights to Parker Brothers in the United States. Because of trademark infringement, various associations and governing bodies started using the name "table tennis." The first world championship of table tennis was held in 1926 in London.

In 2000 and 2001, the ITTF made some changes to the rules to make it a more exciting sport for television audiences. The size of the ball was increased from 38 mm to 40 mm. Also, the scoring system changed 21 points to 11 points and the serve rotation went from five points to two.