The surface should be painted a dark, matte (not shiny) color. There should be a 2 cm. (3/4 in.) white line around the edges. The lines along the short edges are termed the end lines, and they are regarded for scoring purposes as extending indefinitely in either direction. The lines along the long edges are termed side lines.
For purposes of playing doubles, a 3 mm. (1/8 in.) white line should be in the center of the table and should run parallel to the side lines. This line is termed the center line. During singles play, this line has no bearing on play or scoring; it can simply be ignored.
The playing surface is divided in the center by a net that runs parallel to the end lines, creating two courts of equal size. The bottom of the net should be as close as possible to the table surface and the ends of the net should be as close to the supporting posts as possible.
One or both sides of the racket intended to strike the ball should be covered with an ordinary pimpled rubber. Only one side must be covered with rubber, but both sides may be covered. Most rackets are made this way, but double check with officials if you plan to play competitively. The covering material used for striking the ball must be a type that is currently approved by the USATT and a trademark and ITTF logo (if applicable) should be clearly visible.
Normal wear or fading, or any accidental damages that change the uniformity of color can be ignored, but only if they do not significantly change the characteristics of the surface in play. If the ball is struck with a surface that does not comply with standard requirements, the opponent will be given a point. At the beginning of each match, or if the racket is changed during a match, each player will show the umpire and the opponent the racket he or she intends to use in play and will allow them to examine it for compliance with the rules and regulations.
There are many special terms used in table tennis. A rally is the time period in which a ball is in play. A rally begins with a good serve and ends when the ball is not struck by a player and/or a point is scored.
A let is a rally during which no points are awarded. A point is awarded when the result is scored in favor of either player. The racket hand is, as it sounds, the hand holding the racket and the free hand is the hand not holding the racket. The free hand should never touch the table during a rally.
The server is the player who strikes the ball first in a rally. The receiver is the player that strikes the ball second, returning it to the server. In competitive play, the umpire is the official who is appointed to decide the outcome of each rally. An assistant umpire may be appointed when necessary to assist the umpire in any way needed.
During a serve, the ball should never be hidden from the receiver and should never be out of sight of the receiver or doubles partner. Once struck, the ball should touch first the server’s court, and then pass directly over the net and touch the receiver’s court. In doubles, the ball should touch the right half of the court of both the server and receiver.
After a good serve, the ball should be struck so that it travels directly over or around the net and net assembly and touch the opponent’s court. If the ball hits the net and then hits the opponent’s court, it is fair.
In doubles, the server first makes a good service, the receiver makes a good return, then the partner of the server makes a good return and then the partner of the receiver. This sequence continues until a player makes a bad return. Hitting out of sequence will give the opponent a point.
The game is won by the player or pair that is the first to score 11 points, unless both players or teams have 10 points, in which case the game is won by the player or pair that gains a lead of 2 points. A match consists of the best of any number of odd games.
The choice of ends and the right to serve or receive first is decided by lot and the winning player chooses to serve or receive first or to start at a particular end. If they choose to start at a particular end, the opponent may choose whether to serve or receive first, and vice versa. Players switch ends at the end of each game in a match.
Ping pong is a wonderful game and should be enjoyed!