Can you strike the ball before it bounces in table tennis?

Table tennis is not a complex sport and the rules are simple as well. Server (first player) strikes the ball. Then the receiver (the second player) strikes back, just after the ball bounces from the table. But what if the player strikes before the ball bounces? This is called a volley. Do the rally continue or end? Let me share some important points here.

Can you hit the ball before it bounces in table tennis? No, you can not hit the ball until it has bounced on your side of the table. In other words, volley is not allowed. You should wait for the ball to continue its path till table. If it bounces, you should hit, if it passes the table without touching, then it’s your point. Congratulations.

What if the ball would already go out of the table without touching?

You strike the ball before bouncing in your side of the table, but it was already going outside. Maybe you just wanted to stop the ball or mistakenly, is it still your opponent’s point?

The ball over the table
  • If you strike above the playing surface, even if it was going out the table without touching, it is your opponent's point(An obstruct)(A),
  • If you strike in a place, not above the playing surface but the ball was traveling towards the playing surface, it is your opponent's point(An obstruct)(B),
  • If you strike in a place, not above the playing surface and the ball was not traveling towards the playing surface, it is your point(C).

You must notice that the same rule applies if the ball touches your clothes or anything you wear. 

Related ITTF Rule & Regulations

All the explanations I made above is coming from related rules & regulations of the ITTF, that can be found in the ITTF Handbook of 2019. Below you can find the related 4 rules that structures why you can not strike the ball before it bounces in table tennis.

2.5.8 A player obstructs the ball if he or she, or anything he or she wears or carries, touches it in play when it is above or traveling towards the playing surface, not having touched his or her court since last being struck by his or her opponent (2.5 Definitions).

2.6.3 As the ball is falling the server shall strike it so that it touches first his or her court and then touches directly the receiver’s court; in doubles, the ball shall touch successively the right half court of server and receiver (2.6 The Service).

2.7.1 The ball, having been served or returned, shall be struck so that it touches the opponent’s court, either directly or after touching the net assembly. (2.7 The Return)

2.10.1.6 Unless the rally is a let, a player shall score a point if an opponent obstructs the ball (2.10 A Point).

Was the rule always like this?

No. The rule changed in the 1990s, a few times. Before then, you were losing the rally if you volley the ball, without considering any condition. ITTF realized the rule was unfair in some of the cases we mentioned above and changed the rule.