Is Your Serve Allowed to Bounce Twice on Your Opponent's Court?

Table Tennis Rules

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Your Citation
Letts, Greg. "Is Your Serve Allowed to Bounce Twice on Your Opponent's Court?" ThoughtCo, Apr. 30, 2017, thoughtco.com/is-your-serve-allowed-to-bounce-twice-3174138. Letts, Greg. (2017, April 30). Is Your Serve Allowed to Bounce Twice on Your Opponent's Court? Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/is-your-serve-allowed-to-bounce-twice-3174138 Letts, Greg. "Is Your Serve Allowed to Bounce Twice on Your Opponent's Court?" ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/is-your-serve-allowed-to-bounce-twice-3174138 (accessed September 22, 2017).
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Question: In Table Tennis, Is Your Serve Allowed to Bounce Twice on Your Opponent's Court?

  1. I was always under the assumption that the serve had to strike my opponent's end of the table only once. If it bounced twice, it was a loss of point. I've also played the serve as needing to be hit the length of the table, not at a serious angle. It's probably the same false concept: Since we didn't think the ball could bounce twice on the receiver's end, we also extrapolated that to the angles, since going so short on the serve would've resulted in two bounces if hit straight ahead.
  1. Also, can you serve as far to the outside of the table as long as you're behind the imaginary service line?
Thanks,
Larry

Answer: Hi Larry,
Thanks for your questions - here are my answers:

  1. The serve can bounce more than one time on your opponent's side of the table. If it does bounce more than once, this is a point for the server, since the receiver must hit the ball after the ball has bounced only once on his side of the table.

    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.
    2.10.1 Unless the rally is a let, a player shall score a point
    2.10.1.3 if, after he has made a service or a return, the ball touches anything other than the net assembly before being struck by his opponent;

    So as you can see from the laws above, if the server makes a good service (in which the ball bounces once on his side of the table, and once on his opponent's side of the table), the ball must not touch anything else other than the net assembly before being hit by his opponent. So if the ball bounces a second time on the table (or the floor, or wall etc), then the server wins the point.

    My thanks to Roger Stout who kindly pointed out my original answer was ambiguous about whether the server would win the point if the ball bounced twice, or whether it the returner could legally return the ball. I hope this is much clearer.

    Serious angles are allowed as well. It is perfectly legal for the server to serve the ball so that it bounces once on the receiver's side, then cuts the sideline (so that the second bounce would have been on the floor if the receiver does not hit the ball). Again, the receiver must hit the ball after the first bounce on his side of the table - in fact he must hit the ball before it bounces for a second time, regardless of what it would have hit.

    You may be thinking of the laws for serving to a receiver in a wheelchair, which are slightly different, and which state that the point is a let:

    2.9.1.5 if the receiver is in wheelchair due to a physical disability and the ball
    2.9.1.5.1 leaves the receiver’s half after touching it in the direction of the net;
    2.9.1.5.2 comes to rest on the receiver's half;
    2.9.1.5.3 in singles leaves the receiver’s half after touching it by either of its sidelines

  1. Yes, you can serve far outside the sidelines of the table, provided the ball is behind the endline of the table, according to Law 2.6.4, which states:

    From the start of service until it is struck, the ball shall be above the level of the playing surface and behind the server's end line, and it shall not be hidden from the receiver by the server or his doubles partner and by anything they wear or carry.

    So it is perfectly legal to serve from way outside the sidelines of the table, provided the ball remains behind the endline at the start of the serve. In practice, this is not done very often since it can put the server out of position for the rest of the rally.