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Imagine this, you serve in table tennis with a lot of backspin. So much backspin, that the ball (when served) bounces once on your side then once on your opponents side, but hits the net on it's way back towards you as the server.

Is this still a "let" considering the ball touched the net on the serve or is it fair play?

Here is the specific occurrence I'm referring to.

If further visual representation is needed, I have sketched out specifically what occurrence I am referring to. (The server is on the bottom part of the table)

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I believe it would NOT be a let. That is, it would be a legal service and the server would earn the point (assuming the receiver did not return it).

I'm referencing the rules at PongWorld.com. In the description of the service (rule 2.06) the rules state (emphasis mine):

2.06.03 As the ball is falling the server shall strike it so that it touches first his or her court and then, after passing over or around the net assembly, touches directly the receiver's court; in doubles, the ball shall touch successively the right half court of server and receiver.

In describing a let (rule 2.09) the rules state (emphasis mine):

2.09.01.01 [The service shall be a let] if in service the ball, in passing over or around the net assembly, touches it, provided the service is otherwise correct or the ball is obstructed by the receiver or his or her partner.

In your description, the ball has already completed the "passing over or around the net assembly" and landed on the other side. As such, the serve is legal and what happens next is all part of normal play.

There is an exception in rule 2.09 if the player is in a wheelchair - in that case, if the ball returns towards the net after hitting the other side then it IS a let, regardless of whether it touches the net again or not.

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  • That's an interesting addendum to the rule, and I can see why it would be necessary. Someone in a wheelchair would not be able to reach a very short serve, especially one that it bouncing back towards the server. I have to wonder if anyone has ever taken advantage of this rule with someone short in stature, like a younger child, who might also have difficulty reaching in close to the net for a very short serve. Dec 8, 2017 at 18:50
  • Maybe I’m not understanding the question, but doesn’t this provision apply here? 2.09.01.05.01 [shall be a let if] after touching the receiver’s court returns in the direction of the net
    – jaycer
    Jan 31, 2018 at 3:12
  • That's the "exception" I referenced about a player being in a wheelchair. You'll notice that 2.09.01.05 says "if the receiver is in wheelchair owing to a physical disability and in service the ball, provided that the service is otherwise correct," and then 2.09.01.05.01 through 2.09.01.05.03 are all subrules to that clause.
    – Duncan
    Feb 1, 2018 at 5:21
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No, you would WIN the point.

The service is completed as soon as hit the other side of the table (2.6.3) and then it has to be struck to be a valid return (2.7.1 and 2.10.1.2).

2.6 THE SERVICE
2.6.3 ... the server shall strike it (the ball) so that it touches first his or her court and then touches directly the receiver's court;

2.7 THE RETURN
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.

2.10 A POINT
2.10.1.2 if an opponent fails to make a correct return;

The International Table Tennis Federation Handbook 2022

International Table Tennis Federation Documents

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