April 12, 2013

Wet Balls

I saw a discussion on the OOAK forum about whether it's a let if the ball is wet during a rally, and so slides off your racket into the net. The question comes up all the time. The answer is yes. Here's the rule:

Rule [Play may be interrupted] "because the conditions of play are disturbed in a way which could affect the outcome of the rally."

If a ball is wet, "the conditions of play are disturbed in a way which could affect the outcome of the rally." The only question is how to judge this. A wet ball normally slides off the racket into the net. But so does a misread backspin serve. So it's a judgment call. The best indication is if there's a wet spot on the racket - but again, it's a judgment call since that wet spot might have been there before the point started or have been hit with sweat during the point. But normally it's pretty obvious if the ball went into the net because of a wet ball, and checking a wet spot on the racket is just verification. I have had opponents put my heavy backspin serve into the net and call "wet ball" when they had simply misread the serve, as indicated by their racket angle. (If you serve backspin but the split second after contact pull your racket up, this'll happen a lot. But it takes practice.)

I believe the wording used to be that it would be a let "if the ball was fractured or imperfect in play," but at some point it was changed. With both wordings the main reasons for calling a let because of the ball is because it is wet or fractured. (Or, of course, if another ball rolls into your court.)

How do you avoid wet balls? When it's hot & humid, I always advise players to have two towels. (Yes, I'm doubling up on "Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy.") One for you, and one for the ball and your racket. If you use the latter towel regularly, you'll rarely have wet balls. However, having two towels doesn't mean just bringing two towels - you might need to bring a third, since towels get damp when it's hot & humid. You might be able to use a damp towel for yourself, but drying a ball with a damp towel only makes the ball damp. I often bring an extra towel or two for students I coach at tournaments, who always seem to forget to bring one (not to mention two). 

There's still a flaw in this two- (or three-) towel strategy - your serving hand tends to get damp when it's hot & humid, which means every time you serve you start with the ball lying on your damp hand. My solution? I use my regular towel to dry my serving hand off. When that towel becomes damp, then I use the ball & racket towel to also dry off my serving hand. This gradually dampens that towel, and eventually you will need to go to your third towel. Or a fourth. Or a fifth. (Practically speaking, I've never needed more than three towels in a day to keep the ball, racket, and serving hand dry - one for me, and two for the ball, racket, and when needed, serving hand.)

There's a simple solution for all this. It's called AIR CONDITIONING.

Table Tennista

As usual, there are a lot of new international articles at Table Tennista (mostly featuring China), including the following:

Very Fast Training with Dimitrij Ovtcharov

Here's the video (24 sec) - why can't you do this? Of course, Dimitrij is #7 in the world.

USA National College Championships

They start today in Rockford, IL - follow the action (results and video) at their home page!

Richard McAfee Paddle Picture

Here's a picture of former USATT Coaching Chair Richard McAfee. (If Facebook won't let you see it, try this.) As he describes it, it was "given to me from a table tennis coach in Thailand in appreciation for my work leading the ITTF Tsunami Relief Project in 2005. Besides being a top junior coach he also teaches art." And yes, the shadow on the lower left is a silhouette of Thailand.

David Bowie Playing Table Tennis

Here he is - but what is that he's wearing? (If Facebook won't let you see it, try this.) It's like a psychedelic version of Neo from The Matrix

Airport Ping-Pong

Here's a picture of Michael Landers (R, 2009 USA Men's Singles Champion) and Patrick Wu playing on improvised tables at Chicago O'Hare Airport. (If Facebook won't let you access it because you aren't "friends" with the owner, try this.) What, you've never seen Airport Ping-Pong? Here's a video (2:48) at Houston Airport last August after the Southern Open and Junior Olympics (held back to back). At the start you see Amy Lu (the lefty) and Lilly Lin playing, with me in the background catching balls for them. Then Nathan Hsu starts to play. At 1:14 I start hitting with Nathan.

"I'm Pinging in the Rain!"

Here's the picture!

Send us your own coaching news!

Re: wet ball

i sweat a ton (usually go through at least 2 shirts on league nights at MDTTC, and that was over winter!), but i try dilligently to keep my hands, and my side of the table clean and dry...  however, this past tuesday i had something happen that i wasn't sure how to handle, and the way i instinctively handled it i am not sure was legal: right as i was tossing the ball for service, a giant drop of sweat fell from my face onto the ball.  i just stopped my service action immediately, grabbed the ball, and called a let to clean-off the ball.  my opponent was cool with it, but i know that as soon as the ball leaves your hand the point has officially started, and so you cannot just interupt the action to start over, and anything other than a successful serve, or let, is considered losing the point.  i guess that considering the discussion above, what i did was legal, and within the rules, and would be a let...is this correct?

i think i am going to start bringing towels.  :-|

as always, love the blog!

Larry Hodges's picture

Re: wet ball

Actually, your catching the ball and calling a let was completely correct. The rule states that play may be interrupted "because the conditions of play are disturbed in a way which could affect the outcome of the rally." The giant drop of sweat falling on the ball did exactly that. 

Re: wet ball

awesome!...thanks for the clarification.  glad to know my instincts were correct in this case.

i took 2 towels in last night, and it definitely was helpful.  it is getting hot inside MDTTC these days!

Re: April 12, 2013


In that Airport TT video, why is it that the kids look so smooth and fluid like dancers while your strokes look a little like one of those wind up monkeys with the cymbals?

Note: In fairness,  you might look a little mechanical, but my videos look like they were done with stop-action animation.  And even then there is more "stop" than "action".

Mark - Hoping this weekends tournament drops my rating enough (and get processed soon enough) to give me a chance in a US Open rating event.



Larry Hodges's picture

Re: April 12, 2013

I'm definitely way too stiff - always have been. When I coach I warn players not to copy that. I also loop with my arm too bent, care of both stiffness and past arm problems. But the key thing to note - most of my shots are hitting the airport table! (And I still beat the 2200 juniors most of the time.) As to the kids, if their shots look smooth and fluid, then the MDTTC coaches have done well!

Re: April 12, 2013

Yes indeed, your shots were landing.  Maybe even with my old stiff body there may be some hope of getting better.  I just signed up for a 3 day camp with Stellan and Angie in Oklahoma.  If you hear that Stellan retired from coaching due to severe frustration then you will know that I was the cause.