Are you playing table tennis as a double for the first time and are unsure of the rules? Perhaps you regularly play singles and want to know what the difference between the rules is? Or maybe you are curious and want to know more? Whatever your reason might be, we have the answer for you!
When it comes to playing doubles in table tennis, the rules can differ. While most of them will stay the same, there are some variations. These variations can sometimes be so subtle, we don’t even spot them!
And this oversight could mean that you are playing illegally and this could be the deciding factor in winning or losing a match.
But often, it can be hard to find out the rules and what these variations are, leaving many people confused and unsure how to proceed. The last thing you want to do is let your partner down and cost you the game. But what can you do to find out these rules?
Well, you can stick with us and keep reading! Today we are here to walk you through the rules for playing table tennis as doubles, and explain where they differ from the rules as singles. Get ready to become a table tennis rule expert!
What Is Doubles Table Tennis?
Let’s have a quick recap for those in the room that needs it, before diving into the article! Doubles table tennis is a fun take on table tennis. Instead of two players facing each other, each player doubles up and plays as a duo.
You will have four players around the table, two on either side of the net that will play against each other as a team. Each team stands side by side on their end of the table with a paddle. The aim is to hit the ball back and forth over the net to score points.
Doubles table tennis is fairly similar to singles, but the added players do make it more fun. You can enjoy some team spirit and bounce off each other, rather than standing on your own on one side of the net.
Generally, doubles will play up until 21, with the first team to score 21 points to win. However, you can play until 15 if you would prefer a shorter game. In lower-level settings where there isn’t an umpire present, the players can decide amongst themselves the number they wish to play up to.
How Is Double Play Different From Singles?
Let’s dive straight in and take a look at what is different about double play! Aside from the fact that you are playing as a team of two rather than on your own, the service stays the same.
There is one exception though and that is that the ball can only bounce on the right half of the table. It doesn’t matter if you are serving or recieving the ball, you can only bounce it on the right side of the table. This is due to the sequence that the game is played in, but don’t worry, we will cover that in more detail later.
This rule is different from single play, where the ball can bounce anywhere on the table.
You still alternate the service will still alternate every two points, but along with the teams changing, the players on the same team also change. There is an order you have to follow when playing. We will go into more detail about this later, but you must follow the correct order of play to avoid breaking any rules.
Now that we have established the main differences in the rules when playing doubles, let’s take a closer look at some doubles rules to help you get to grips with the game.
First, you need to consider your table and ensure that it meets the requirements stated in the rules. The rules (rule 2.01.06) say that each court is divided into 2 equal half courts.
The division is done by a white line in the center that runs parallel with the sidelines. This centerline is taken as part of each right half-court.
Make sure that any table you play doubles on has this center line marked on it. Ideally, it should be 3mm wide too. If the ball touches the centerline during service in doubles, then it is classed as ‘in.’
Otherwise, there are no specific rules regarding the table for double play in table tennis. You will want to make sure that you are still following table rules set in the rules for single play, just ensure that you have the centerline we mentioned earlier.
Order Of Play
Next, let’s take a look at the order of play. We mentioned earlier that players must play in a certain order, and rule 2.0 8.02 confirms this. In this rule, the server makes the first service, with the receiver making a return.
Next, the partner of the server shall make the return and the partner of the receiver will follow with the return. The play continues in that order for the duration of the game then. You will need to ensure that you follow this sequence to comply with the rules of double table tennis.
We know that can sound a little confusing, so here is an example to help you better understand the sequence. Let’s start with two teams made up of A and B and C and D.
Player A will start the game and serve to player C who returns the ball. Next, player B must play the next shot, and player D will receive and return the shot. The game continues in this way until a point is decided.
While playing, players can stand where they want and play their shots from any position. While this is incredibly freeing, there is one restriction, and that is that the ball must be behind the server’s end line.
This is the same as when playing singles so should not be new information for seasoned table tennis players.
Order Of Serving And Receiving
Now that we have covered the rule of play, let’s take a look at serving and receiving. We can find information about this in rule 2.13.04, where it states that the serving pair will decide which of them will serve first.
The receiving pair will also decide which of them will receive first and this will become the sequence that they will follow.
While the sequence must be maintained during the game, it is reversed in the next game. Don’t worry, we’ve got another example for you! Let’s use the player’s A and B and C and D again.
Before the match begins, A decides to be the first serve and C to receive. For the entire first game, player A will only play his serves to player C.
In the next game, players C and D will decide who serves first. Once they have agreed, its time to decide on the receiver. This is done easily, by simply reversing the sequence played in the last game.
So if player A serves to player C in the first game and player C decides to serve first in the next game, player A will receive all of their serves.
After the first game, each team will decide which player will serve first and the receiver is determined by reversing the sequence of the last played game.
When playing table tennis as doubles in wheelchairs, the rules are slightly different. These different rules apply whether there is one or multiple players in a wheelchair.
You can find information about this in rule 2.08.03, where it states that the server will make service and the receiver will make the return. After that, either player of the disabled pair can make any returns.
Unlike the order of play rules we looked at earlier, the players do not need to play alternately after the returning serve.
There is also another different rule that applies to wheelchair users. Rule 188.8.131.52 states that if any player, including those in a wheelchair, crosses an extension of the centerline of the table, they will lose the point.
So, each player must remain in their own half at all times, otherwise, they will lose the point. This includes all parts of the wheelchair and any able-bodied players too.
Playing Out Of Order
We’ve covered the different order of play that must be followed for doubles, playing with able-bodied players and those in wheelchairs. But what happens if you play out of order?
Well, you can lose a point! According to rule 2.10.01.11, a team will lose a point if you hit a ball out of sequence. The sequence is established by the first server and receiver, as we saw earlier. So if you fail to play alternately, then you can lose a point.
Remember, the rules are a little different if you have one or more plates in a wheelchair, where you only need to follow a sequence for the first serve and receive.
Change Of Service
As we have seen, you must follow the sequence in every game. Rule 2.13.05 states that at each change of service, the previous receiver will become the server. The previous servers partner will then become the receiver.
So, after player A plays their two serves to player C, player C will play their serves to player B. Player B will then play their serves to Player D and then player D plays theirs to player A.
Once this sequence has been completed, player A then restarts the sequence from the beginning. This continues until the game finishes.
Changing The Order Of Service And Ends
Playing table tennis as doubles involves a lot of structure and sticking to the order of service, but can you change it? And can you change ends? Let’s see what the rules say about this!
Rules 2.13.06 and 2.13.07 provide us with the information about this and state that the pair serving first will receive first in the next game and the last possible game, the pair duke to receive shall change the order of receiving when one pair scores five points.
So, once a team hits five points in the matchs final game, the team’s switch ends and the receiving pair change their order of receiving. So if A and B score five points first during A’s serve to C, they will change ends.
Then, player A will serve to player D for the rest of the game.
Errors In Serving Or Receiving
We can all make mistakes easily, so what happens if there is an error when you serve or receive? Well, according to rule 2.14.01, if a player serves or receives out of turn, play will be interrupted by the umpire. This happens as soon as it is discovered that the sequence is being played incorrectly.
The game will then resume with the players playing in the correct sequence until the end of the game. Any points scored before the error is noticed will remain, you will simply revert to the agreed-upon sequence and resume the game.
Errors In Changing Ends
Errors can also occur when changing ends, and some rules determine what happens in these situations.
Rule 2.14.02 states that if players did not change ends when they were supposed to, play will be interrupted by the umpire. Just like with errors in serving or receiving, play is interrupted as soon as the error is noticed.
Play will only resume once the players are at the correct ends in line with the sequence established at the start of the game. Remember, players only change ends in the last game once a team has hit five points. Until that happens, there is no need for players to change ends.
Once the mistake is noticed, you must stop playing and change ends before continuing with the game. Just like earlier, all points scored before the error was noticed will remain.
And there you have it, the main differences in the rules when playing table tennis doubles! For the rest of the rules, you can follow those created for single play, as there are only a few variations that you need to be aware of.
But as you can see, the differences are so subtle that it could be easy to overlook them and play incorrectly. But now that you have seen these rules, that should not happen! Just make sure that the partner on your team is aware of the rules too, as you don’t want any confusion when you play!
Frequently Asked Questions
Get your last-minute questions answered here before you leave today!
Can My Serve Go Off The Table On My Opponent’s Side?
When playing doubles, your service cannot go off the left-hand side of the table. This is because you can only serve to the right half of the table (following the rules that we discussed earlier).
It can also not go off the side of the table when your opponent is a wheelchair user. This applies to both single and double play where a wheelchair user or users make up the opponent’s team.
In single play, providing your service bounces once on your side of the table, and at least once on your opponent’s side of the table, then it can go off the side of the table.
Does The Base Of The Ball Need To Hit The White Line When Serving Down The Middle Of The Line?
Here, we are only talking about playing doubles. Following the rules, the bal needs to touch the right half of the court, with the centerline rcognized as part of each right court. The ball’s base point needs to come into contact with the line or the right half court to be considered as ‘in.’
Who Decides If A Ball Is In Or Out When You Are Playing Doubles Without An Umpire Present?
When playing at lower levels, such as outside of competitions where an umpire is not present, we need to use the honor system.
This is where we need to agree, as players, on how we will undersadn the rules and apply them to our game. This includes all the rules listed above and other table tennis rules that apply to a double and single play.
Often, the receiver will be the first person to call a ball out, but you need both pairs to agree on the call before moving forward.
If both pairs don’t agree if the service is in or out, then the service or point are usually re-played. This option can help to diffuse any tense situations if the teams are becoming agitated with the lack of agreement.
Generally, there isn’t a rule that states who should decide if a ball is in or out without an umpire. The consensus of players is the option that most double players will opt for and ensure that all players agree and understand the rules before the game begins. Doing so helps to avoid any issues down the line.
Along with calling balls as in or out, the consensus of players is how other calls are decided in a match without an umpire present.
What Happens If My Serve Hits The Net And Is Deflected Into The Left-Hand Court?
If your serve hits the net and deflects to the left-hand court, then you lose the point. A serve will only be considered a let if it is good in all other aspects, apart from touching the net, or if your opponent obstructs or volleys it after the service has hit the net.
In the instances where there is no umpire present to do this, you will need to determine this with the other players.
What Happens If My Serve Hits The Net?
If your ball hits the net, but still hits your opponent’s side of the table or they obstruct or volley it before it hits the table, then it is classed as a let. In these cases, no point will be scored and you need to make your serve again.
It doesn’t matter how many times your ball hits the net, the service will be replayed. This only applies when the server and other players are following the rules.
As soon as you do anything illegal or there is a foul serve, you can lose a point or your serve. If you are playing without an umpire, be sure you agree on this with your opponents before playing.
And just like that, we have come to the end of our article today! As you can see, there are some differences between doubles table tennis and singles.
The differences mainly relate to serving and the sequence the game is played in, but there are some subtle differences that you need to be aware of.
It’s best to ensure that all players are aware of the rules before starting the game to avoid any issues along the way. Once you are all aware of the rules and have agreed on who serves first, playing doubles table tennis is lots of fun.
Doubles table tennis is a fantastic sport to play with friends or at a competitive level. Why not use the rules and have a go today? Remember, you can always find copies of the rules online for single and doubles table tennis if you need a refresher along the way!
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