The Rules Governing the Singles and Doubles Ping Pong Game

Table tennis is a non-contact sport that can be played by two or four individuals at once. When it is played by two individuals, it is regarded as singles; and when it is played by four people, it is regarded as doubles.

Now there might be a lot of uncertainties surrounding what’s wrong or right, which move is correct or incorrect, or perhaps what counts as a point or a foul. This especially happens when the game is played unofficially.

There’s no need for the arguments really, if you ask us. This is because the sport is an Olympic sport with well defined rules. You should find out more about the rules rather than continue in ignorance.

In this article, we’ll cover the most important rules that govern the singles and doubles ping pong game.


Singles and Doubles Rules

A table tennis game can be viewed as very important in the areas related to service, general gameplay and what counts as a point or a let.

Therefore, to see the different rules which govern the singles and doubles game, we’ll take a look at each segment of the game as they follow each other in succession.

  • Service
  • Return
  • Rally
  • Order of Play
  • Let
  • Point


The service is a very important aspect of the game. It is the first action required to kickstart the game.

The rules governing a good service requires that the ball is initially resting on the palm of the server who is then expected to project it vertically upwards to a height of at least 16cm without a spin.

As the ball then descends, the server is expected to strike the ball so that it touches his own half first and then goes over or around the net assembly to touch the half of the opponent.

At this point, the rules of the service then slightly differ for both the singles and the doubles game.


In a singles game, the ball can be struck in any direction the server so deem fit. There are no restrictions concerning this so long the earlier stated conditions are met.


In a doubles game on the other hand, the ball must be struck diagonally by the server so that it goes from the right hand half of the server to the right hand side of the receiving opponent.


A return is what is expected from the opponent after a good service or a good return as well. It requires striking the ball so that it goes over or around the net assembly either directly without touching the net or indirectly after touching it.


A rally refers to the period of time which the ball is in play. It is a general time which spans across both a singles and a doubles game.

This period starts from the moment it is vertically projected and then struck on one side of the table across to the other side.

It can be otherwise seen as a series of successive services and returns.

Order of Play

This refers to the rules guiding the sequence of striking the ball either for a service or a return by all players participating in the game. The rules for a singles and doubles game are as follows:


In a singles game, after a server makes a good service, and an opponent makes a good return. After this, both the server and receiver will continue to make good returns till one of them is unable to do so.


In a doubles game, the server is required to make a good service, the receiver shall then make a good return. The partner of the server will then make a good return, the partner of the receiver shall then make a good return and thereafter each player in turn in that sequence shall make a good return.

All players strike the ball in succession.


A let is a situation whereby no point is awarded throughout the game. It is a rally with no points scored.

This can happen both in a singles and a doubles game.


This is a rally with an awarded point. It occurs both in singles and a doubles game.

A point is often awarded when either player is unable to play a legal return to the opponent. It can also be awarded when a player can not play a legal serve.

Ending Thoughts

The table tennis game is pretty much governed by the same rules when played as both a singles and a doubles game. However, there are slight variations between both.

These variations are very evident in key areas of a table tennis match such as service and the order of Play amongst others.

Having shed more light on these rules, we can say that the rules governing the doubles game are quite geared towards ensuring equal participation by all players. The rules intend to keep up the reputation of the sport for being an all-engaging sport.

Whichever game you chose to participate in, be it singles or doubles, be sure to enjoy full participation. Have fun playing!

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