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HomeRules → New 2002 Service Rule about ball visibility

The New Service Rule - Improving ball visibility during serve

As of 1 September 2002

Explanation and intent of the new rule

The intent of the new service rule is to make the rule itself clear and easy to interpret. The new rule is designed to make the Service in table tennis an “OPEN” technique which is fully visible to the receiver at all times.

A detailed instructional and explanatory package will distributed by the ITTF’s Umpires & Referees Committee to all International Umpires in order to guarantee consistent application of the rule and respect of the spirit of the rule.

In the meantime, the ITTF is distributing an explanatory package to the National Associations in which the new service rule is demonstrated in written and visual form.

In order for the server to ensure that he/she complies with the new service rule, here are a few pointers to help achieve this objective:

  1. As soon as the free hand (the hand holding the ball in service) and arm has projected the ball upwards, the free hand/arm must be immediately removed to the side. In other words, the free arm must not remain in any area between the ball and the receiver- it has to be out of the line of sight of the receiver and the ball as demonstrated in the attached Power-point presentation, video streams and photos.
  2. If the server could imagine a triangular space created by the ball and both net posts, then extends this space upwards to head level, the server must then ensure that no part of his body or clothing enters this space (or remains in this space) after he projects the ball upwards in service. This will ensure that the space between the ball and the receiver remains clear of any obstructions. This is a simple way to ensure that the service meets the legal requirements.
  3. A slight modification from current services is required. Players must learn, in forehand services, to swing their free arm out of the way as fast as possible to create a legal, open and visible service.

The Rule


2.6.1 Service shall start with the ball resting freely on the open palm of the server's stationary free hand.

2.6.2 The server shall then project the ball near vertically upwards, without imparting spin, so that it rises at least 16cm after leaving the palm of the free hand and then falls without touching anything before being struck.

2.6.3 As the ball is falling the server shall strike it so that it touches first his court and then, after passing over or around the net assembly, touches directly the receiver's court; in doubles, the ball shall touch successively the right half court of server and receiver.

2.6.4 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 any part of the body or clothing of the server or his doubles partner.

(The purpose of this rule is to make the ball visible to the receiver at all times during service. The serving player or pair must not take any action which would prevent the receiver from seeing the ball from the time at which it leaves the server’s hand and seeing the side of the racket used to strike the ball).

2.6.5 It is the responsibility of the player to serve so that the umpire or the assistant umpire can see that he complies with the requirements for a good service. If there is no Assistant Umpire, and the umpire is doubtful of the legality of a service he may, on the first occasion in a match, warn the server without awarding a point. If subsequently in the match a service by that player or his doubles partner is of dubious legality, for the same reason or for any other reason, the receiver shall score a point. Whenever there is a clear failure to comply with the requirements for a good service, no warning shall be given and the receiver shall score a point.

2.6.6. Exceptionally, the umpire may relax the requirements for a good service where he is satisfied that compliance is prevented by physical disability.