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What Table Tennis Rules Would You Change?


Photo of ITTF Umpire

Gerard Le Pape in the Hot Seat!

Photo by: Zhao Hui, by courtesy of the ITTF
If you could change or introduce any rule in table tennis, what would it be, and why?

Personally, I'd change the service rule - the current rules are too hard for the umpire to enforce consistently. They are even harder to keep consistent when you have a number of umpires at a tournament, all delivering their own interpretations of the service rules. Add to that the fact that you really need an umpire and an assistant umpire to enforce the service rules properly, and you have the perfect recipe for conflicts and controversy when trying to enforce the service laws. (For those interested, I've got videos and explanations of how to serve legally here.)

I'd rather have a service rule that makes the server hold the ball in front of his torso at all times, with no shielding of the ball. If that gets rid of the forehand pendulum serve (which I, like many other players, have spent many hours trying to perfect) then so be it. At least we would get an easy to enforce rule that would take away much of the guesswork from the umpire, and we might see some consistency in rules enforcement at last.

And just quickly, here's some other rules I'd like to change:

  • Time-outs - time-outs are a great way to interrupt an exciting game at a crucial point, and kill the momentum of a player who is on a roll. I personally believe this was added just to get an extra couple of breaks per match to show more TV ads.

  • Net-cords - I'd make the top of the net a thin solid metal bar, rather than a cord, to eliminate those crummy dribble-over nets that give the player who has made a mistake and hit the net a cheap point that he doesn't deserve. I don't like edge balls much either.
I also threw out the question of what rules need changing to the members of my forum. Here's what they had to say on the subject.

I'm all for eliminating unenforceable rules, but I think the upcoming no-VOC speed glue tops them all.

Except at the international level it will probably be unenforced in the U.S. meaning that players who aspire to compete internationally will have to decide between gluing to better their rating and results and not gluing to be ready to compete internationally.

Those below this level will be sorely tempted to cheat as there will probably be no testing and may just avoid any tournament that says it will test, meaning lessening participation at the bigger tournaments.

This is as someone who doesn't glue and as a short pip hitter will benefit from a glue ban.

-- Andrew

From scottgordo1

  1. Eliminate most of the clothing restrictions.
  2. Come up with a better way to determine if and when expedite is appropriate.
  3. Reduce max thickness (of sponge) to 1.5
  4. Games to 15.
  5. Doubles service should alternate direction (like tennis).
  6. Two timeouts per match.
  7. Increase weight/thickness of ball slightly.

From willy32
I don't know if this counts, but I would like to make it so everyone plays with the same rubber.

If we all played with smooth, short pips, long pips, just as long as we all played with the same stuff.

Also I would like to see a club clothing rule enforced in tournaments.

Those are my picks.


From VarShek
All series, not just the Open or Open semis and finals, in sanctioned tournaments should be BEST-OF-SEVEN.

This is actually done it at least one tournament- the monthly "Michigan Opens" in Davison, MI.

From Robert Trudell (mesapong)
Okay, I was thinking about this last night.

I think it might clarify who scored to spectators and heighten the game's drama by switching to a Volleyball like scoring system.

Only allow scores by the server and only switch serves when the server loses the rally.

I played a few team competitions in a Table Tennis Camp that used a system like this and it was fun. Teams broke up into 2 groups and the serving side was the only side allowed to score. The server would stay on the table while winning points the other teams player would rotate their line up as each would lose the rally. When the receiving team won the rally, then they earned the right to serve.


From roundrobin (roundrobi2)
I like your service rule change idea. I am just sick of losing to this same local lefty guy (2400 level) in local tournaments over and over, who never removes his free arm from obstructing the contact during the entire pendulum service motion... However, he does swing his free arm away violently at THE SAME EXACT TIME AS CONTACT. He claims that he serves exactly like the top Chinese players are doing, so why should he change? Even though I pointed out to him that the rule requires him to remove his free arm from the service path as soon as he tosses the ball up, he argues that no one "at the high level" follows the rule. I think he's right in a way, just watch some world class matches on DVD...

I think we need to make servers to STRIKE THE BALL IN FRONT OF THEIR BODY, not just hold the ball in front of their torso, to prevent them from tossing the ball backwards... This way if any body part is obstructing the view, the umpire can see it clearly...

Just my opinion...


From frontosa1
Hey Greg:
Something fun for a change!

I've always had this wacky idea for tournament play:

  1. Left hand players will only play against left hand players. Obviously, right handed players will be confined to play right handed players.
  2. There will be a pips / anti division where short, medium, long pips and anti spin rubber players get to play against each other.


From CarlDanner
I have liked most of the recent rule changes, especially when the paddle point rule went away some time ago. I can also live with non-hidden serves since having realized that some players hid it better than I did.

I would impose a tighter dress code in tournament play, and experiment with raising the table a couple of inches to recognize that people have grown on average since the current height was set.

Carl Danner

From Cowboy1000
Yes, raise the table.

And get rid of the rule where if handicap players enter a regular event we must play by their rules.

Got a table tennis rule that you'd like to change? Why not tell us about it in the forum?

Continued on next page

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