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How is a doubles game played in table tennis?

Sports

How is a doubles game played in table tennis?

Table Tennis doubles

File Photo Credit: Guek Peng Siong/SportSG

By Averlynn Lim

The doubles game in table tennis can be more exciting than singles. Some players enjoy the “team” aspect, as well as the faster movement involved and the emphasis on ball placement. 

Although the rules between singles and doubles are essentially the same, there are some subtle differences in terms of tactics and gameplay. That’s why a well-trained partnership can often defeat a team of higher-skilled players who have not practiced much together.

Playing and winning in doubles competition is also fun and rewarding – after all, there's two of you to share the glory and celebrate!

The Rules of Doubles

Service

Unlike the singles game where the ball can bounce anywhere on the table during service, in doubles, the ball can only bounce on the right half portion of the table for both the server and the receiver.

Like the singles game, the service still alternates every two points between teams, but it also alternates between players on the same team. 

Once your team has finished your two serves, you swap sides with your partner. The person you were serving to now serves and your partner is the new receiver.

Order of Play

Doubles matches have a certain order of play that must be followed.

- Imagine two teams ... players A & B and players X & Y.

- Player A serves to player X who then returns the ball. Player B must then play the next shot and player Y the shot after.

- This pattern goes on (A, X, B, Y) until the point is decided.

- If the wrong player makes the return, the team loses the point.

Change of Service

At each change of service, the last receiver shall become the server and the partner of the previous server shall become the receiver. For example, a correct pattern would be:

- Player A has played his two serves to player X 
- Player X then plays his two serves to player B.
- Player B will then play his two serves to Player Y
- player Y will play his two serves to Player A.

Player A will then restart the sequence all over again and the sequence will repeat itself until a changeover or the end of the game.

Change of Ends

A changeover occurs when one team has scored 5 points. This will also change up the order of receiving.

For instance, players A & B score 5 points first, whilst A is serving to X. After changing ends, player A will serve to player Y for the remainder of the game.

Doubles Tactics

Doubles require quick movement and good understanding. One of the first thing to remember is to move out of your partner’s way after you’ve made your shot.

Here are five quick tips to remember the next time you play doubles:

1. When serving, remember that your partner, not you, will be making the third stroke. That’s why you should always try to use services that will help set up your partner's best attacks.

2. Give hand signals to your partner on the serve you’re about to make, so that he’ll be prepared for the next shot.

3. Make your serve, step to the right side of the table and let your partner move to the centre. Watch your partner make his shot and slide to the left of the table, while you move back into the centre.

4. You should always aim attacks at either the weaker player or the one who’ve just made a shot from the other team. In the second scenario, the receiver may be blocked by his teammate in the process.

5. If you are a good player teamed up with a weaker player, your job is to make as many strong attacks as you can, so that your partner hopefully will get a weak return that he can handle easily.

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