10 Summer Olympics Table Tennis Rules Fans Should Know

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Table tennis is a fast-paced sport in which competitors hit a small celluloid ball with paddles. A net separates both sides of the table. Singles and team matches will happen at the ExCeL London venue, made up of five arenas. Olympic table tennis starts July 28.

There are rules to the sport fans should follow as they watch the ball go back and forth at dizzying speeds. The Summer Olympics are a sanctioned event by the International Table Tennis Federation.


Singles matches are best-of-seven games to determine which competitor moves on to the next round. Much like the NCAA basketball tournament, competitors are seeded with higher seeds playing lower seeds. Semifinal losers play each other for the bronze medal.


Balls must weigh 2.7 grams (.1 ounces) and have a diameter of 40 mm (1.6 inches). They are hollow, very light and can be hit at speeds of 70 mph. Popular Science states the balls are kept in a controlled environment before matches at the Summer Olympics.


Paddles, known as blades, must be made of 85-percent wood. Outer coverings are made of rubber.


Games are played to 11 points. Winners must achieve victory by at least two points.


Service alternates every two points. That means each player gets to serve twice before it goes to the opposing player. When and if the score reaches 10-10, service alternates every point.

Doubles matches

Team table tennis consists of four singles matches and a doubles match. In doubles, players on the same team must alternate hitting the ball.


A player may not touch the table while the ball is in play. Players cannot touch the net either. A violation of those rules results in a point to the opposition.


The ball must bounce on the table before it is played, including the serve. Violation of this rule means a point to the other side. If a player misses the table completely, a point is awarded to the player that didn't hit the ball. If the ball bounces twice on one side, a point goes to the player who struck that particular shot.


A serve must clear the net for it to be successful. Otherwise, a ball may hit the net and go over for a valid hit.

Expedite system

If, after a match reaches 10 minutes of playing time, an expedited system may be used. If a receiver makes 13 correct returns during a rally, that person gets a point in the expedited system. If 18 total points have been scored before 10 minutes have elapsed, the rule is not put into effect.

William Browning has been a fan of table tennis ever since he played in his teens on a table in his parent's garage. He was also his sophomore year P.E. class ping pong champion in high school.

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