Switching Hands in Table Tennis – Is it Allowed? – The Hand Switch

As in tennis, is it allowed to change the racket hand in table tennis? So could you only play forehand? If you have questions like these, you’ve come to the right place. The most important in a nutshell:

It is allowed in table tennis to change the hitting hand during the game and even during the ball change and to take the bat in the other hand.  One of the most popular players who regularly implement the hand switch is Timo Boll.

What do the rules say?

The official rules clearly state which is the racket hand and which is the free hand: 

2.5.5 The racket hand is the hand carrying the racket.

2.5.6 The free hand is the hand not carrying the racket; the free arm is the arm of the free hand.

2.5.7 A player strikes the ball if he or she touches it in play with his or her racket, held in the hand, or with his or her racket hand below the wrist.

It is not specified more precisely when and if it is allowed to change the racket hand during the game. Thus, we can conclude that the change of hand is allowed at any time.

It is therefore allowed to take the racket in the other hand during the serve and to switch hands during the rally. 

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So, it would be perfectly legitimate to make one stroke with the right hand and the next one with the left. This way you could theoretically only play forehand or backhand. 

But does that really make sense…

When is a hand switch useful in game?

For this, it is worth having a look at professional sports. If the hand switch would be effective, you would see it often in professional matches, wouldn’t you?

In tennis, for example, there are players who constantly change their racket hand in order to play only with the forehand. Does that also exist in table tennis?

In fact, you can see the pros changing hands in table tennis as well. However, this is mainly used as an emergency solution. The sport is too fast to constantly change hands and for example, only play forehand. 

It makes sense to change hands, for instance, when the ball goes very far to the backhand side and you wouldn’t actually be able to reach it with your backhand. 

If you are quick here and take the racket in the other hand, you are more likely to get to the ball because of the better reach of the outstretched arm.

Is it allowed to hit the ball with the free hand?

No, in order to play the ball correctly, you must hold the racket in the hand with which you hit the ball. It is therefore not allowed to play the ball with your bare hand. 

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You can read more about this in this article.

 Which players are known for hand switches?

One of the best-known players is Timo Boll, who is known for his spectacular hand changes. He has already won a few points with this clever move. He even explains the hand switch in this video.

Here you can see a hand switch by Timo boll against Ma Long (he is left-handed)

Boll himself says that the hand switch should only be used in extreme emergencies, but then it can be a very strong weapon, as opponents are often surprised by this unusual stroke. 

Another table tennis player who has changed her stroke hand in competition is the Japanese player Feng Yalan. In this video you can see her most outrageous hand switch shot.


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