Glossary of table tennis

This glossary defines terms related to the sport of table tennis.

Alternation of ends
After each game, players switch sides of the table. In the last possible game of a match, for example the seventh game in a best of seven matches, players change ends when the first player scores five points, regardless of whose turn it is to serve. Service is subject to change on game point of the match. Upon the possible last point of the match, the player with the lesser score serves. If the sequence of serving and receiving is out of turn or the ends are not changed, points scored in the wrong situation are still calculated and the game shall be resumed with the order at the score that has been reached.
Alternation of service
Service alternates between opponents every two points (regardless of winner of the rally) until the end of the game, unless both players score ten points or the expedite system is operated, when the sequences of serving and receiving stay the same but each player serves for only one point in turn (Deuce).[1] The player serving first in a game receives first in the next game of the match.
A smooth rubber with very low surface friction, used to defend against strong spin or to confuse the opponent. This type of rubber is rarely (if at all) seen in modern top-level table tennis, but is popular with amateur and veteran players.
Assistant umpire
Someone who assists the main umpire with decisions.
A player who uses a large number of attacking shots.
Is where the bottom half of the ball is rotating away from the player, and is imparted by striking the base of the ball with a downward movement.[2] At the professional level, backspin is usually used defensively in order to keep the ball low.[3] Backspin is commonly employed in service because it is harder to produce an offensive return.
see Table tennis racket.
The wooden portion of the racket, often referred to as the "blade", commonly features anywhere between one and seven plies of wood, though cork, glass fiber, carbon fiber, aluminum fiber, and Kevlar are sometimes used. According to the ITTF regulations, at least 85% of the blade by thickness shall be of natural wood.[4] Common wood types include balsa, limba, and cypress or "hinoki", which is popular in Japan. The average size of the blade is about 17 centimetres (6.7 in) long and 15 centimetres (5.9 in) wide, although the official restrictions only focus on the flatness and rigidity of the blade itself, these dimensions are optimal for most play styles.
The block is a simple shot, but nonetheless can be devastating against an attacking opponent. A block is executed by simply placing the racket in front of the ball right after the ball bounces; thus, the ball rebounds back toward the opponent with nearly as much energy as it came in with. This requires precision, since the ball's spin, speed, and location all influence the correct angle of a block. It is very possible for an opponent to execute a perfect loop, drive, or smash, only to have the blocked shot come back at them just as fast. Due to the power involved in offensive strokes, often an opponent simply cannot recover quickly enough, and will be unable to return the blocked shot. Blocks almost always produce the same spin as was received, many times topspin. Depending on the spin of the ball, the block may be returned to an unexpected side of the table. This may come to your advantage, as the opponent may not expect this.
A player who blocks the ball a majority of the time.
Large wheels on the bottom of the legs of some table tennis tables.
A chop is the defensive, backspin counterpart to the offensive loop drive.[5] A chop is essentially a bigger, heavier push, taken well back from the table. The racket face points primarily horizontally, perhaps a little bit upward, and the direction of the stroke is straight down. The object of a defensive chop is to match the topspin of the opponent's shot with backspin. A good chop will float nearly horizontally back to the table, in some cases having so much backspin that the ball actually rises. Such a chop can be extremely difficult to return due to its enormous amount of backspin. Some defensive players can also impart no-spin or sidespin variations of the chop.
Chop block
A shot that uses sidespin and backspin. The player must hit diagonally downwards to generate the shot.
A player who chops the ball the majority of the time.
Closed angle
A small racket angle where a large amount of spin is generated.
Closed racket
The hitting surface of the racket is aimed downward and the top edge is leaning away from the player.[6]
The counter-hit is usually a counterattack against an incoming attack, normally high loop drives. The racket is held closed and near to the ball, which is hit with a short movement "off the bounce" (immediately after hitting the table) so that the ball travels faster to the other side. A well-timed, accurate counter-drive can be as effective as a smash.
A counter with a large amount of topspin from both players.
When both players smash the ball after each other.
When a player hits the ball diagonally across the table.
The point where a player has to change from playing a forehand stroke to backhand stroke; often a target for attack, since it is difficult to return balls aimed at this area.
Dead ball
When the ball either bounces twice on the table or hits the floor.
A shot hit long, toward the back of the table. Some also use the term to describe a player who is playing deep, far away from the table.
At 10-10 a player must win the set by two points such as 12-10, 13-11, 14-12 etc.
Double bounce
When the ball bounces twice on the same side of the table.
Two players on each side of the table.
Down the line
When a player hits the ball straight down the line on one side of the table.
Drop shot
Placing the ball so short that the opponent has difficulty reaching and returning it. Best done when the opponent is far away from the table.[7]
The rising part of a ball's bounce.
Expedite rule
A rule where a rally cannot go on from a certain amount of time or number of shots.
Extreme angle
A very small racket angle.
Falkenberg drill
A shot with little spin and moves in a straighter trajectory.
A short shot from over the table close to the net.
When a player tries to attack a ball that has not bounced beyond the edge of the table, the player does not have the room to wind up in a backswing. The ball may still be attacked, however, and the resulting shot is called a flip because the backswing is compressed into a quick wrist action. A flip is not a single stroke and can resemble either a loop drive or a loop in its characteristics. What identifies the stroke is that the backswing is compressed into a short wrist flick.
How a player moves their feet during a shot.
For a right-handed player, any shot done with the racket to the right of their elbow. For a left-handed player, any shot done with the racket to the left of their elbow.[8]
Free hand
The player's hand that is not holding the racket.
Game point
Game situation when one player needs just one more point to win.
Competitive table tennis players grip their rackets in a variety of ways.[9][10] The manner in which competitive players grip their rackets can be classified into two major families of styles; one is described as penhold and the other shakehand. The Laws of Table Tennis do not prescribe the manner in which one must grip the racket, and numerous variations on gripping styles exist.
Hard rubber
A rubber with a hard feeling and sponge. May also refer to the topsheet.
Used to describe strong spin.
High toss serve
When a player tosses the ball very high to serve.
A direct hit on the ball propelling it forward back to the opponent. This stroke differs from speed drives in other racket sports like tennis because the racket is primarily perpendicular to the direction of the stroke and most of the energy applied to the ball results in speed rather than spin, creating a shot that does not arc much, but is fast enough that it can be difficult to return. A speed drive is used mostly for keeping the ball in play, applying pressure on the opponent, and potentially opening up an opportunity for a more powerful attack.
International Table Tennis Federation
(ITTF), is the governing body for all national table tennis associations.[11] The role of the ITTF includes overseeing rules and regulations and seeking technological improvement for the sport of table tennis. The ITTF is responsible for the organization of numerous international competitions, including the World Table Tennis Championships that has continued since 1926.
Inverted rubber
Rubber which contacts the ball with its smooth surface, and is glued to the sponge with its pimpled surface. With a larger contact area this type of rubber generally produces more spin than pimpled rubber, although some rubbers are designed to have the opposite effect (see Antispin above).
see International Table Tennis Federation.
Kill shot
A shot that wins the point.
The falling part of a ball's bounce.
A let is a rally of which the result is not scored and is called in the following circumstances:[12]
  • The ball touches the net in service (service), provided the service is otherwise correct or the ball is obstructed by the player on the receiving side. Obstruction means a player touches the ball when it is above or traveling towards the playing surface, not having touched the player's court since last being struck by the player.
  • When the player on the receiving side is not ready and the service is delivered.
  • Player's failure to make a service or a return or to comply with the Laws is due to a disturbance outside the control of the player.
  • Play is interrupted by the umpire or assistant umpire.
A let is also called foul service, if the ball hits the server's side of the table, if the ball does not pass further than the edge and if the ball hits the table edge and hits the net.
Let serve
When the serve touches the net but still goes over. The serve is retaken.
A shot with a very large amount of spin.
The defensive lob propels the ball about five metres in height, only to land on the opponent's side of the table with potentially great amounts of spin.[13] To execute, a defensive player first backs-off the table 4–6 meters; then, the stroke itself consists of lifting the ball to an enormous height before it falls back to the opponent's side of the table. A lob is inherently a creative shot, and can have nearly any kind of spin. Top-quality players use this to their advantage in order to control the spin of the ball. For instance, though the opponent may smash the ball hard and fast, a good defensive lob could be more difficult to return due to the unpredictability and heavy amounts of the spin on the ball.[13] Thus, though backed off the table by tens of feet and running to reach the ball, a good defensive player can still win the point using good lobs. However, at the professional level, lobbers will lose the point most of the time, so the lob is not used unless it is really necessary.
A shot that hits the back of the table.
Long pips
A rubber with long pimples.
A strong topspin stroke that aims to overpower the spin of the oncoming ball.
A return which is too high, too long, has insufficient spin, or a combination of the above. Easy for the opponent to attack or kill (compare tight, below).
Magnus effect
Is an observable phenomenon that is commonly associated with a spinning object. The path of the spinning object is deflected in a manner that is not present when the object is not spinning. The deflection can be explained by the difference in pressure on opposite sides of the spinning object. Topspin in ball games is defined as spin about a horizontal axis perpendicular to the direction of travel that moves the top surface of the ball in the direction of travel. Under the Magnus effect, topspin produces a downward swerve of a moving ball, greater than would be produced by gravity alone. Backspin produces an upwards force that prolongs the flight of a moving ball.[14] Likewise side-spin causes swerve to either side.[15] The overall behaviour is similar to that around an aerofoil (see lift force), but with a circulation generated by mechanical rotation rather than airfoil action.[16]
Medium long serve
Mid long serve
Training method minimizing wasted time by using many balls which are continuously fed to the player, either by another player or a ball robot.
No-spin serve
Open angle
Open racket
The hitting surface of the racket is aimed upwards and the top edge leans toward the player.[17]
see Table tennis racket.
Style of player who grips the paddle in a manner similar to holding a pen.
Rubber which contacts the ball with its pimpled surface; produces different effects on the spin compared with inverted rubber, due to the reduced contact area and flexibility of the pimples.
Play-Back position
Positioning table tennis table with one side bent at a 90 degree angle to practice.
Playing elbow
Playing surface
The push is usually used for keeping the point alive and creating offensive opportunities. A push resembles a tennis slice: the racket cuts underneath the ball, imparting backspin and causing the ball to float slowly to the other side of the table. While not obvious, a push can be difficult to attack because the backspin on the ball causes it to drop toward the table upon striking the opponent's racket. In order to attack a push, a player must usually loop the ball back over the net. Often, the best option for beginners is to simply push the ball back again, resulting in pushing rallies. Against good players, it may be the worst option because the opponent will counter with a loop, putting the first player in a defensive position. Another response to pushing is flipping the ball when it is close to the net. Pushing can have advantages in some circumstances, such as when the opponent makes easy mistakes.
Racket hand
Rating even
Reverse penhold backhand
Refers to the rubber that is attached to the blade.
Rubber cleaner
Sandwich rubber
Rubber, with sponge.
Seemiller grip
The Seemiller grip is named after the American table tennis champion Danny Seemiller, who used it. It is achieved by placing your thumb and index finger on either side of the bottom of the racquet head and holding the handle with the rest of your fingers. Since only one side of the racquet is used to hit the ball, two contrasting rubber types can be applied to the blade, offering the advantage of "twiddling" the racket to fool the opponent. Seemiller paired inverted rubber with anti-spin rubber; many players today combine inverted and long-pipped rubber. The grip is considered exceptional for blocking, especially on the backhand side, and for forehand loops of backspin balls.[18]
The most popular table-tennis grip; similar to a tennis grip, with the index finger extended over the paddle head perpendicular to the handle.
This type of spin is predominantly employed during service, wherein the contact angle of the racket can be more easily varied. Sidespin causes the ball to spin on an axis which is vertical, rather than horizontal. The axis of rotation is still roughly perpendicular to the trajectory of the ball. In this circumstance, the Magnus effect will still dictate the curvature of the ball to some degree. Another difference is that unlike backspin and topspin, sidespin will have relatively very little effect on the bounce of the ball, much in the same way that a spinning top would not travel left or right if its axis of rotation were exactly vertical. This makes sidespin a useful weapon in service, because it is less easily recognized when bouncing, and the ball "loses" less spin on the bounce. Sidespin can also be employed in offensive rally strokes, often from a greater distance, as an adjunct to topspin or backspin. This stroke is sometimes referred to as a "hook". The hook can even be used in some extreme cases to circumvent the net when away from the table.
An informal rule in table tennis that says that a player wins a game at a score of 7-0 or 11-1.[19]
The offensive trump card is the smash. A player will typically execute a smash when the opponent has returned a ball that bounces too high or too close to the net. Smashing consists of using a large backswing and rapid acceleration to impart as much speed on the ball as possible. The goal of a smash is to get the ball to move so quickly that the opponent simply cannot return it. Because the ball speed is the main aim of this shot, often the spin on the ball is something other than topspin. Sidespin can be used effectively with a smash to alter the ball's trajectory significantly, although most intermediate players will smash the ball with little or no spin. An offensive table tennis player will think of a rally as a build-up to a winning smash.
Smother kill
Speed glue
Glue used to attach rubber to the blade; contains a high percentage of volatile solvents, which soak into the sponge of a rubber and increase the speed and spin of a stroke.
Spin reversal
Step around
Sweet spot
Table tennis racket
Also known as a paddle or bat, is used by table tennis players. The table tennis racket is usually made from laminated wood covered with rubber on one or two sides depending on the player's grip. The USA generally uses the term "paddle" while Europeans and Asians use the term "bat" and the official ITTF term is "racket".[20]
Third ball
The stroke hit by the server after the opponent's return of the serve. Because the serve can be used to make attacking difficult for the opponent, the third ball is frequently the first strong attacking stroke in a table-tennis rally.
Throw angle
A return which is difficult for the opponent to attack. Always a low ball, usually in combination with being short, having strong backspin or both[21]
Two step footwork
Two-winged looper
USA Table Tennis
Colloquially known as USATT, is the non-profit governing body for table tennis in the United States and is responsible for cataloging and sanctioning table tennis tournaments within the country.
Wide angle

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ International Table Tennis Federation 2011, index 2.13 and 2.14
  2. ^ Hodges 1993, p. 20
  3. ^ Hodges 1993, p. 21
  4. ^ International Table Tennis Federation 2011, index 2.4
  5. ^ Hodges 1993, p. 89
  6. ^ "USA Table Tennis glossary".
  7. ^ "USA Table Tennis glossary".
  8. ^ "USA Table Tennis glossary".
  9. ^ Yuza N., Sasaoka K., Nishioka N., Matsui Y., Yamanaka N. et al. (1992.) Game Analysis of Table Tennis in Top Japanese Players of Different Playing Styles. Int. J. of Table Tennis Scis. 1:79-89.
  10. ^ Drianovski Y. and Otcheva G. (1998.) Survey of the game styles of some of the best Asian players at the 12th World University Table Tennis Championships (Sofia, 1998). International Table Tennis Federation (ITTF).
  11. ^ "Official ITTF website".
  12. ^ International Table Tennis Federation 2011, index 2.5.3 and 2.9
  13. ^ a b Hodges 1993, p. 96
  14. ^ "Why are Golf Balls Dimpled?".
  15. ^ The Curveball Archived 21 October 2012 at the Wayback Machine, The Physics of Baseball.
  16. ^ Clancy, L.J. (1975), Aerodynamics, Section 4.6, Pitman Publishing
  17. ^ "USA Table Tennis glossary".
  18. ^ Hodges, Larry (20 January 2014). "Playing the Seemiller or American Grip". Retrieved 1 December 2014.
  19. ^ "Table Tennis Glossary/Terms".
  20. ^ ITTF (August 2018). The International Table Tennis Federation Handbook 2018 (PDF). Retrieved 16 November 2018.
  21. ^ USA Table Tennis glossary Retrieved 2012-02-18.