In game play, the player serving the ball commences a play. The server first stands with the ball held on the open palm of the hand not carrying the racket, called the freehand, and tosses the ball directly upward without spin, at least 16 centimeters high.
The server strikes the ball with the racket on the ball's descent so that it touches first his court and then touches directly the receiver's court without touching the net assembly. In casual games, many players do not toss the ball upward; however, this is technically illegal and can give the serving player an unfair advantage.
The ball must remain behind the end line and above the upper surface of the table, known as the playing surface, at all times during the service. The server cannot use his body or clothing to obstruct sight of the ball; the opponent and the umpire must have a clear view of the ball at all times. If the umpire is doubtful of the legality of a service they may first interrupt play and give a warning to the server. If the serve is a clear failure or is doubted again by the umpire after the warning, receiver scores a point.
If the service is "good", then the receiver must make a "good" return by hitting the ball back before it bounces a second time on receiver's side of the table so that the ball passes the net and touches the opponent's court, either directly or after touching the net assembly. Thereafter, the server and receiver must alternately make a return until the rally is over. Returning the serve is one of the most difficult parts of the game, as the server's first move is often the least predictable and thus most advantageous shot due to the numerous spin and speed choices at his or her disposal.
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