Table Tennis Rally Statistics – Samson Dubina

Jena Newgarden1 comment
Statistics were taken for the length of the rallies at a professional table tennis tournament.  These statistics are fairly common across the board for all levels but differ based on game-style.

On average:

12% of serves are not returned

18% of points are won on the 2nd ball

26% of points are won on the 3rd ball

13% of points are won on the 4th ball

11% of points are won on the 5th ball

6% of points are won on the 6th ball

4% of points are won on the 7th ball

10% of points are won after the 7th ball

So as you can see, the serve, serve return, and 3rd ball attack are critically important during a table tennis match.  56% of the points do not last more than the 3rd hit.  For this reason, I would recommend practicing at least 56% of the time on the serve, serve return, and 3rd hit.


One of the best ways to improve your serve is to do it during a drill.  Instead of starting the drill with a warm-up serve, start each drill with a tournament serve such short backspin.  Ask your table tennis training partner to push long, next you loop the push, then you begin the footwork drill.

Serve Return

You probably have some serves that give you problems.  Ask your training partner to serve those problem serves again and again while thinking of new ways to return them.  Experiment by attacking slightly stronger or slightly slower, by pushing instead of looping, by adding to or stopping the sidespin, or countless types of returns.  In order to properly read the spin on a serve, you should watch the racket motion, listen to the contact, watch the bounce, and look for the logo on the ping-pong ball.

The 3rd Ball

Even if your opponent doesn’t miss your serve, he might give you an easy return in which you can attack.  If your 3rd ball attack is strong, it will put more pressure on your opponent to return more precisely.  When he tries to return shorter or lower or faster, he will begin making more mistakes.  Remember, it isn’t just about your serve in a table tennis rally. It’s also about what comes after your serve.

Samson Dubina

1 comment

David Hunt
David Hunt
I’d say this is a big problem. Table tennis the only racquet sport I know of where deception is an integral part of the service. As can be seen by the statistics, the serve creates a crap shoot on shots two and three, so just over half are lucky enough to get into a rally. At lower levels of play, where players don’t have the time to practice against better serves, that 88 percent return rate is highly inflated. The combination of spins from various types of rubber, and the deception used in delivering serves, has created table tennis’s version of the tennis ace, only with less drama or visual appeal. The sport already suffers an image problem for spectators due to the short rallies, but it’s also a problem for players who are new to the game or less “athletic.” Once they see that rallies are a one-and-done kinda thing, they just walk. Speed and spin create complexities that are unique to our sport. The addition of SOME deception is okay, but does it have to be used to start every point? In my own college programs (I have 100 students at three levels of play), I require competitors to face the table when serving for about 80% of my course, which creates much longer and more exciting rallies. Only at the end do I allow the side-on deceptive serves that they practice throughout the program. Such serves add challenge and athleticism, but with it comes frustration. All of it is at the expense of exciting rallies.

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