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Hardbat and Sandpaper FAQ's

Recent changes to hardbat rules (12/2015)

We have specified the timing requirements for expedite, as well as made clear that the new 40+ ball is allowed in hardbat events at the discretion of the tournament organizer.

Recent change to rubber approval process (7/2015)

We have removed the $30 fee for submitting rubber sheets for testing. If you would like the hardbat committee to consider a particular product for our list of approved hardbat surfaces, contact the hardbat committee chairperson.

Hardbat Use in Regular (Sponge) Events (12/2012)

Rule # that allowed legal hardbats to also be legal in USATT rated events for the past 10+ years was repealed in December 2012. That means if you want to use a hardbat in normal USATT rated (i.e. “sponge”) events, you must construct it out of ITTF legal rubbers, and it must be red/black.

If this rule change affects you adversely, please voice your concern to the USATT.

The rule change does not affect hardbat events.


Official Rules for Classic Hardbat Table Tennis Events

MOTIVATION: To define a game which:
> approximates as closely as possible table tennis as played in the 1930s/40s, before the advent of sponge rubber,
> is understandable to spectators,
> balances offense and defense,
> minimizes mechanical advantage due to equipment variation,
> minimizes deception to players caused by easily-produced intense spin,
> minimizes confusion to spectators caused by easily-produced intense spin,
> eliminates combination bats and the associated advantage of twiddling,
> fosters longer rallies than occur in sponge play,
> lessens the importance of serve and service return compared to sponge play,
> encourages participation by players of all skill levels,
> and therefore is uniquely enjoyable for players and spectators,
> and is not so restrictive as to be detrimental to promoting itself.


The game of Classic Hardbat Table Tennis is the same as the USATT’s definition of Table Tennis, except in the areas of equipment (blade, surface, adhesive, and balls) and rules (scoring, clothing, and foot-stamping).


In order for a player to participate in a hardbat event, he/she must use an acceptable hardbat.


An acceptable hardbat is defined as either:

  • a racket composed of the following approved components:
    • Blade, as defined in section 1.1;
    • Racket Covering, as defined in section 1.2; and
    • Glue, as defined in section 1.3.
  • in limited situations, a pre-assembled hardbat racket, as outlined in section 1.4.


The blade shall conform to the USATT definition, except that it shall be comprised solely of rigid wood (no carbon or other non-wood plies). The handle may incorporate decorative non-wood inserts or inlays. If two hitting surfaces are used, both surfaces must be identical, and the composition of the blade must be internally symmetrical with respect to each surface. That is, it shouldn’t matter which surface is used to hit the ball… they both must be identical.


Each playing surface must be covered with a racket covering explicitly listed on the current Approved Hardbat Racket Coverings list. If two sides of the blade are playing surfaces, then it is prohibited to use different Racket Coverings on the playing surfaces. In other words, “combination” rackets are prohibited — if the hypothetical “Acme” racket covering is used on one playing surface, then the “Acme” racket covering must be used on the other playing surface. Each racket covering must be attached to the blade in a manner described in section 1.3 (GLUE).

An unused non-playing surface must have either an identical covering as the playing side, or sandpaper, or it may have no covering (bare wood), or it may be covered with a “paint sheet”. Paint sheets are thin self- adhesive sheets typically used to cover the backside of a penhold blade. An unused non-playing surface may not be covered with any rubber incorporating sponge, nor may it be covered with medium-pips or long-pips rubber. A player who uses a non-playing surface to return a ball during a point, loses the point.

All racket coverings must be non-reflecting, but otherwise can be any color except white, orange, or yellow. The two sides may be the same or different colors.

The Approved Hardbat Racket Coverings list is generated by the hardbat committee and subject to change at any time.

1.3 GLUE

Rubber must be affixed to the paddle with a thin-drying standard glue that adds no perceptible effect to the paddle, or with a glue sheet. Typical rubber cements or wood glues are acceptable. Thick-drying flexible glues such as silicon glues that could provide a springy base are not allowed. Glue sheets are allowable (instead of glue) so long as they provide no perceivable thickness or springiness to the surface.


A “pre-assembled” hardbat racket is defined as a mass-produced, typically inexpensive prepackaged racket with an all wood blade and factory-covered with the same pimpled rubber on both sides and no sponge. A player may use a pre-assembled racket at the discretion of the tournament organizer. This situation is intended primarily for local hardbat events, and would typically occur if the tournament organizer wishes to provide rackets for players new to hardbat that don’t have their own rackets. Pre-assembled (recreational) hardbats are not to be used in championship or 4-star events.

Pre-assembled hardbats are not considered approved hardbats for use in regular USATT (sponge) events.


Hardbat events may use 38mm, 40mm, or 40+ “plastic” balls, at the discretion of the tournament organizer.


The rules of play are the same as defined by USATT, except for the areas of scoring, clothing, and foot-stamping.


Hardbat games are to 21 points, service switch every 5 points, according to the scoring rules in use prior to the introduction of 11-point scoring.


Clothing shall conform to USATT rules, with the exception that long pants, long-sleeved shirts, warmup suits, hats and visors are all permitted.


Players shall not use stamping of feet as an instrument of distraction, diversion, or in any way as to disrupt the opponent. Foot-stamping is only allowed if it is the reasonable and natural consequence of moving one’s body to reach the ball. Foot stamping is never allowed during service.


The expedite system for hardbat matches is the same as for regular USATT matches except that the time threshold for commencement is 20 minutes and the total points scored exception to the time threshold is 38.


Last modified 06/30/2009 by the USATT Hardbat Advisory Committee, with changes approved by the USATT Board 10/2009.

Approved Hardbat Racket Coverings

  • Leyland (“Hock” rubber)
  • Air Classique
  • Andro Classic
  • Butterfly Orthodox
  • Dunlop Barna Original
  • Friendship RITC “Dr Evil”
  • Gambler Peace Keeper OX
  • ATP Reisman, ATP “Leland Era”
  • Valor Premier
  • TSP Millitall
  • Yasaka A-1-2, A-1, or A2
  • Yasaka Cobalt


Last modified 05/31/2016 by the USATT Hardbat Advisory Committee.

A game in table tennis is played until one player scores 11 points.
If the game is close and the score is 10-10 (or deuce, as we call it), the winner must win by two points.
For example, a game may last until 12-10, 15-13 or even 23-21.
Games used to be played until the first player scored 21 points, but that rule was changed to 11 points by the ITTF in 2001.

A match can be a best of any odd number of games: 3, 5 or 7, but most people play 5 games.

Each player gets two serves in a row, and it alternates until one of the players scores 11 points, unless there is a deuce (10:10).
In that case, each player gets only one serve and it alternates until one of the players gets a two point lead to win the game.

If you’re the person serving, you need to stand behind the end line of the table, and the ball needs to be visible, and above the surface of the table. The receiver can stand wherever he or she deems ok.
So it is perfectly legal to serve from way outside the sidelines of the table, provided the ball remains behind the endline at the start of the serve.
In practice, this is not done very often since it can put the server out of position for the rest of the rally.

During a serve, if the ball hits the net but still bounces on the opponent’s side of the table, the point is a let (which means it needs to be replayed). If the ball hits the net and doesn’t make it to the other half of the table, the receiver is automatically awarded a point.

During a rally, if the ball hits the net but still bounces on the opponent’s side of the table, the rally continues, but if the ball hits the net and doesn’t make it to the other half of the table, the receiver is automatically awarded a point.

If the ball goes around the net, the shot is valid, whether it’s a serve or a rally.

So basically, as long as the ball does not go under the net, or between the net post and the net for those nets that do not extend to the net post, it is considered to have passed over or around the net assembly if you hit the ball and it goes on the opponent’s playing surface.

So, even though the ball doesn’t travel over or around the net when you hit the ball, the rules say it doesn’t matter.

This shot is only ok, as long as the ball does not end up hitting the side of the table top (white line is acceptable, side is not).