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Can I Use a Racket in Each Hand When Playing Table Tennis?

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Can I Use a Racket in Each Hand When Playing Table Tennis?

Because sometimes one bat just isn't enough...

© Greg Letts, licensed to About.com, Inc.
Question: Can I Use a Racket in Each Hand When Playing Table Tennis?
Hello there...

I am ambidextrous. Can I hold two rackets during the game, to go forehand at the shots as much as possible?

Please advise with what the official rules say? and if possible, please share the logic behind it (like there is one in all aspects of the game). Especially if NOT.

Thanks for your attention. Regards

Answer: This is one of those questions that seems to have a simple answer at first ("Of course you can't!"), but which gets tricky when you start trying to find a specific rule to back the answer up.

After poring through the ITTF Laws of Table Tennis, and the ITTF Handbook for Match Officials, I think I can safely say that there is no specific rule that outlaws using a racket in each hand.

BUT

That doesn't mean that you will be allowed to do so in a table tennis tournament that follows the ITTF Laws. In fact, I'm virtually 100% certain that you won't be allowed to use two rackets at once.

The reason being is that while there is no law specifically prohibiting the use of a racket in each hand, it is safe to say that the ITTF have developed their rules under the assumption that each player will only use one racket. You can see this assumption at work in a number of their rules, such as:

2.5.2 The ball is in play from the last moment at which it is stationary on the palm of the free hand before being intentionally projected in service until the rally is decided as a let or a point.
2.5.5 The racket hand is the hand carrying the racket.
2.5.6 The free hand is the hand not carrying the racket; the free arm is the arm of the free hand.
2.6.1 Service shall start with the ball resting freely on the open palm of the server's stationary free hand.
2.6.5 As soon as the ball has been projected, the server’s free arm shall be removed from the space between the ball and the net. Note: The space between the ball and the net is defined by the ball, the net and its indefinite upward extension.

and also from the ITTF Handbook for Match Officials:

9.3 For the same reason he cannot make a good return by throwing his racket at the ball, because the racket does not “strike” the ball if it is not held in the racket hand at the moment of impact. However, a player may transfer his racket from one hand to the other during play and strike the ball with the racket held alternately in either hand, because the hand holding the racket is automatically the “racket hand”.

Note that in the above rules the ITTF simply assumes that a free hand will exist. Notice also that they always talk about the racket in singular terms, and the same goes for the racket hand. They don't mention "a racket", or "a racket hand", but always "the racket" or "the racket hand".

From this, I think it is safe to say that the ITTF intend for each player to only use one racket, even though it is not spelt out in the rules of table tennis. So although you might technically argue that there is no rule stopping your from doing so, in practice no tournament referee would allow you to use two rackets.

Why hasn't the ITTF simply added one simple rule to make things clear, you might well ask? Probably because it is such a commonly accepted practice that each player uses one racket that there has been no need to legislate against it for any ITTF events. If a player decided to make an issue of it, I'm pretty sure that the ITTF would simply move to close the issue by adding a rule to stop anybody from doing so.

But it's an intriguing question nonetheless. I know a couple of players who are pretty handy(!) with their opposite hand, I'd sure hate to face them hitting forehands from both sides.

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