doubles

Table Tennis General

Last updated 10 years ago

andrew brand

andrew brand Asked 12 years ago

i still dont really understand how you decide who serves and to who in the start of the SECOND game and games after that. no one at my club explains it properly, they just debate amongst themselves about who's turn it is and they somehow come to a decision but i dont know how they reach it. could you clear this up for me once and for all please? id appreciate it. thanks.

Alois Rosario

Alois Rosario Answered 12 years ago

Hi Andrew,

This is a rule that is not well understood.

This is the official rule in the ITTF handbook:

In each game of a doubles match, the pair having the right to serve first shall choose which of them will do so and in the first game of a match the receiving pair shall decide which of them will receive first; in subsequent games of the match, the first server having been chosen, the first receiver shall be the player who served to him in the preceding game. 

So, at the start of the first game, you do a toss.  The winner of the toss has 3 choices.  They can decide whether they want to serve or receive or which end they want.

If they decide to choose an end, the other team can decide whether they want to serve or receive first.

If they decide to receive the opposition pair must then gets to decide firstly which end they want and also who is going to serve first.  The receiving pair then decides who they want to receive that serve.  So they are dictating the pattern for the match.  That is why in doubles the winner of the toss often decides to receive first.

If they decide to serve then they decide who willserve first form the two players in their pair.  The other team then decides which end they want and also who is going to receive first.

In the second game the team that received first in the first game serves first.  This alternates for every game from then on.

In the second game, after the serving pair has decided who is going to serve first (this can be either player in the pair), the receiver will be the player who served to that server in the first game. In other words you hit to a different player in the second game.

This does sound complicated but if you follow these rules you will get it right.

If you have any other questions with it please let me know.


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andrew brand

andrew brand Posted 12 years ago

im sorry but im even more confused now. my brain hurts!

Alois Rosario

Alois Rosario from PingSkills Posted 12 years ago

Yep, sorry Andrew, as I was writing it I thought, this is confusing. Perhaps a video presentation is the way to go... For now read it carefully 1000 times... and take some headache tablets...

Arnon Thaicharoen

Arnon Thaicharoen Posted 12 years ago

Don't know if I get it correctly but perhaps an example would clear this confusion up.

 Alois, please correct me if I'm off the mark.

Let's say one side is player A1 and A2 and the other is B1 and B2. In the first set player A1 serves to player B1. Then in the second set, player B1 or B2 serves to player A1, let's say it's player B2. In the third set, player A1 or A2 serves to player B2.

That's what I deduce from reading Alois's answer.


andrew brand

andrew brand Posted 12 years ago

i look forward to the video! for now its off to the pharmacy! who makes these rules up? they must have been laughing their heads off.

Jeff Plumb

Jeff Plumb from PingSkills Posted 12 years ago

Hi Arnon,

You've nearly got it right. However:

Let's say one side has player A1 and A2 and the other has B1 and B2.

In the first set player A1 serves to player B1, player B1 serves to A2, player A2 serves to B1 and player B2 serves to A1.

Then in the second set, player A2 must serve to B1, B1 serves to A1, A1 servers to B2 and B2 serves to A2.

The third set is the same as the first set.

If it gets to a deciding set then the service order switches after the first team reaches 5 points.

Take a look at our video lesson on the Rules of Table Tennis as we walk through a sample of this. Hope this helps. I must admit this is a little confusing.


Arnon Thaicharoen

Arnon Thaicharoen Posted 12 years ago

Your comment leaves me more confused, Jeff.

 Do you mean the pair that serves first always serves in the subsequent set? That sounds weird.


Jeff Plumb

Jeff Plumb from PingSkills Posted 12 years ago

Sorry for the confusion. If team A serves first in set 1 then team B will serve first in set 2 and they can choose either B1 or B2 to serve.

However in my example I was just explaining who serves to who. In one set you will serve to only one opponent and in the next set you will only serve to the other opponent. In one set you will only receive from one opponent and the next set you will only receive from the other opponent.


andrew brand

andrew brand Posted 12 years ago

so if it reaches a deciding 5th set/game, does it matter which side reaches 5 points for there to be an ends switch? and when you switch ends do you start hitting to the opposite player again (different opponent than 1st 5 points in that set/game)? i think ive almost got it.  also in the 2nd set/game does the serving team choose which of that team serves first?   hope i get these doubles rules soon because my league season starts in 2 weeks!

Jeff Plumb

Jeff Plumb from PingSkills Posted 12 years ago

Hi Andrew

I think you've got it too! In the deciding set it doesn't matter which side gets to 5 first, you switch as soon as one team does. And yes, you do start hitting to the opposite player again.

And at the start of each set the serving team does decide which player serves first.

Good luck with your new season!


Arnon Thaicharoen

Arnon Thaicharoen Posted 10 years ago

I think I got it now.

Let's say A1 and A2 play against X1 and X2. In the first game, A2 will serve the first ball and the X1-X2 team decides that X1 will receive first. From that moment onwards, A2 and X1, A1 and X2 will be paired for the rest of the match. In the second game, X1 and X2 must decide who will serve the first ball. Let's say X1 will serve. A1-A2 team will have no choice: they must elect A2 to receive because A2 and X1 are paired since the first game. The corollary from this rule is that, if they want, A1 can serve every game the A1-A2 team has the service initiative. The exception to the pairing rule is in the last possible game in the match when the point gets to 5. Then the receiver will be the one in the other pair.


Jeff Plumb

Jeff Plumb from PingSkills Posted 10 years ago

Hi Arnon,

That doesn't sound quite right. If you are player A1 and you are hitting to opponent X1 in one set, then in the next set you will hit to X2. 


Arnon Thaicharoen

Arnon Thaicharoen Posted 10 years ago

Perhaps I said it not clear enough. I meaned to say "paired for the first service of each new game". Of course, in your example, if I'm A1 and in the first game I served to X1, then in the next game, say, X2 elected to serve then it would go like this:

 X2 served to A2   <=== this is the "pairing" in my understanding.
A2 served to X1
X1 served to A1

 If I misunderstood, please advise me.



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