Table Tennis Scoring Rules

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The origins of table tennis can be traced back to the late 19th century, when upper-middle class Victorians in England began hitting a cork or rubber ball across their dining tables to simulate lawn tennis. While the game’s scoring was originally similar to its parent sport, unique rules were formalized in 1926 with the creation of the International Table Tennis Federation, which is still the global administrative body of the sport in 2010.

Scoring a Point

Once the ball is put in play by the server, either player can score a point. You receive a point if your opponent fails to return the ball over the net and land it on the opposing side of the table, or if he strikes the ball twice in succession, allows the ball to bounce twice, hits the ball with a piece of apparel or the side of the racket, touches the ball with his free hand or moves the playing surface. If the players are in wheelchairs, a player receives a point if his opponent does not maintain minimum contact with his seat, touches the table with either hand before hitting the ball or touches his foot to the floor.


A let in table tennis occurs when a minor infraction is committed during the service or return of the ball. Lets are called when the ball touches the net assembly during an otherwise legal service, if the service is made before the receiver is ready, if a distraction outside of the player’s control occurs or if the umpire stops play. If a let is called at anytime, no point is scored. However, if a server is at fault for two consecutive lets, a point is awarded to the receiver.

Winning a Match

The ITTF dictates that a table tennis match is composed of “the best of any odd number of games.” The number of games to be played in the match must be determined before the competition begins. A game is won by the first player to score 11 points while holding a two point lead. If both players reach 10 points, the game continues until one player leads by two points.

The Expedite System

Table tennis is designed to be a fast-paced game, and the rules of the ITTF provide for quick scoring if a game is not completed within 10 minutes. Once the time limit is reached, the umpire stops the game and the player who served the interrupted rally serves again. The players then alternate serving, and if the receiving player makes 13 legal returns, he receives a point. The expedite system is not used if 18 or more points have already been scored within the 10-minute time limit. If the expedite system is put in place, it remains in place until the game is completed.