February 26, 2015

Most Interesting Rules

Here are some of the more interesting rules in table tennis.

  • Table Dimensions. Contrary to popular belief, the table is not 9 feet by 5 feet. It is roughly 8.98950 feet by 5.0038 feet. To be specific, the ITTF rules state that the table is 2.74 meters by 1.525 meters. A 9x5 table would be about 0.132 inches too long, and 0.036 inches not wide enough. Nor is the net 6 inches tall - it is 15.25 centimeters tall, which is about 6.003937 inches tall, or about 1/254th of an inch over 6 inches. No wonder all your smashes nick the net.
  • Net Extension to the Side. The net extends 15.25 centimeters outside the table, about 6 inches. I'm told the reason was players like Istvan Jonyer (1975 World Men's Champion, already European Champion in 1971) became so good at nearly unreturnable around-the-net sidespin loops that they had to change the rules to require it to extend those six inches.
    EDIT - At least two people had told me this about the net, but it looks like this info is incorrect. I've gone over my table tennis book collection, and many of the old ones have rulebooks. Until 1933, several of them specify the net as being 66" in width, extending 3" off each side. Starting in 1933 they begin specifying six-foot nets (72"), with the net extending six inches outwards. If you look at old table tennis pictures, most also seem to show the net extending outwards about six inches.
  • Broken Ball Rule. If the ball breaks in the middle of a rally, it's a let - period. It doesn't matter whether the shot was an easy winner that the opponent couldn't return, it's a let. The actual wording of the rule is that the rally shall be a let "because the conditions of play are disturbed in a way which could affect the outcome of the rally." So if a ball breaks in a rally and thereby affects the conditions of play, the point is a let. Over the years I've seen this interpreted differently - some umpires and referees have interpreted this to mean it's a let only if they believe the ball's breaking really would have affected the outcome of the point. So, for example, if a player has an easy kill and smacks the ball out of reach of the opponent, and the ball cracks as he hits the ball, they might not call it a let because, in their opinion, the breaking of the ball didn't actually affect the outcome of the point since the opponent wouldn't returned it anyway. But recently I've been told that this has been ruled on (I believe by ITTF officials), and it's always a let.
  • Double Hit Rule. It used to be that double hits were illegal. It was a regular source for argument - did the ball double bounce off the hand, or racket and hand? So they changed the rule a few years ago so that unintentional double hits are legal. This basically means there are now three times where proper protocol is to apologize to your opponent (often by just raising your hand) - when you score with a net ball, and edge, or a double hit. This came up recently at the North American Tour Final, where an opponent of Jim Butler got a double hit, but Jim, who'd been away from the sport for a few years and so didn't know about this rule change, thought it was his point.
  • Stationary Hand Rule. The rules state that the service shall start with the ball resting freely on the open palm of the server's stationary free hand. Guess what? There's no such thing as a truly stationary free hand. So every serve you have ever done in your life has been illegal, you cheater!!! (This was similar to the previous rules that stated the ball must be on the flat palm - but there's no such thing as a truly flat palm either.)
  • Free Hand Rule. Because the rules define both a playing hand and a non-playing hand, it is illegal to play with a racket in both hands, since then you wouldn't have a non-playing hand. However, taking this to its logical conclusion, doesn't this mean that if you hit the ball with a two-handed grip you lose the point, since you wouldn't have a free hand? (I've seen tennis players play this way.)
  • Racket Hand Rule. It is legal to hit the ball with your playing hand below the wrist. This means, for example, you can vary your serve by hitting it off the back of your hand, completely catching an opponent off guard. I've done this twice in tournaments, but both times my opponent caught the ball, thinking it was an illegal serve. I should have claimed the point, but both times I let them have the let. I'm too nice.
  • Games in a Match. We're used to playing best of five, and sometimes best of three or best of seven. But guess what? The rules state that "A match shall consist of the best of any odd number of games." So someone can run a tournament and specify that all matches shall be, say, best of 243 - so first to win 122 games wins!!! (We'll run the tournament with a Giant Round Robin Format, so everyone plays lots of these "matches.")
  • Touching Table and Net or Moving Table Rules. You lose the point if you touch the table with your free hand, touch the net in any way, or move the table. Technically, if you breathe, you move the table as your exhalation collides with the table, so you need to hold your breath from now on while playing, right? (Just kidding - or am I?)
  • Ball Above Playing Surface. The rules state that "From the start of service until it is struck, the ball shall be above the level of the playing surface." Little kids have difficulty with this since the table is often near shoulder level for them. They almost have to serve volleyball style.
  • Serving to a Wheelchair Player. There are specific rules when serving to a player in a wheelchair owing to a physical disability. (Note that this only applies to someone in a wheelchair because of a physical disability, but not to someone who simply chooses to play in a wheelchair.) Specifically, the serve is a let if the ball:
    • after touching the receiver's court returns in the direction of the net; 
    • comes to rest on the receiver's court; 
    • in singles leaves the receiver’s court after touching it by either of its sidelines. 
  • Hidden Serves. At the higher levels, this is the most ignored rule of all, leading to all sorts of problems. I've blogged about this numerous times. The problem is that most umpires only fault a hidden serve if they are sure it is hidden, but if they aren't sure if it is hidden, they don't call it, even though the rules specifically say that they should - and so many titles are decided by whether the umpire will enforce the rules, and if he won't, then the winner is often the one willing to cheat, at the expense of players who choose not to cheat. What does this mean? It means that if the umpire isn't satisfied that the serve was visible throughout the serve, or isn't sure about this in any way, the serve is illegal. Period. That's what the rules say.Here is the actual wording of the rules:
    • "From the start of service until it is struck, the ball … shall not be hidden from the receiver by the server or his or her doubles partner or by anything they wear or carry."
    • "It is the responsibility of the player to serve so that the umpire or the assistant umpire can be satisfied that he or she complies with the requirements of the Laws, and either may decide that a service is incorrect."
    • "If either the umpire or the assistant umpire is not sure about the legality of a service he or she may, on the first occasion in a match, interrupt play and warn the server; but any subsequent service by that player or his or her doubles partner which is not clearly legal shall be considered incorrect."

Zhang Jike's Serves

Here's the video (34 sec, including slow motion).

Wang Liqin Training

Here's the video (4:42). It's in Chinese, but you can learn from just watching.

Ask the Coach

Episode #84 (17:31) - Attending Your First Tournament

  • Brock's Update - 0:45: Did Brock beat the tall guy?
  • Yesterday's  #PQOTD  - 1:29: How long can Samsonov stay competitive with the best in the World?
  • #PQOTD  - 3:43: What was the most important thing you learned at your first tournament?
  • First Tournament - 4:08: Andre: I am going for the tournament and I need help with what equipment I need e.g (kind of) clothing, number of bats and so on. I would like to know everything so I don't embarrass myself in the tournament. Thanks in advance?
  • Thumb on Backhand - 7:07: Frendy: I want to ask about the thumb on backhand. Some people told me to put my thumb a little bit up on the rubber but some others told me to only put it on the paddle just like the usual grip.
  • Varying Speed of Topspin - 8:57: Ralph: When I want to vary between a fast loop and slow loop off heavy chop, could explain the two different techniques to achieve those shots.  How open should the blade be? How much should you let the ball drop? how much should the ball reach the wood?
  • Long Pimples with Sponge - 13:18: Nikola: Hello! I am interested in investing in a new sheet of long pimples. I am wondering what the difference between OX (no sponge) and 1-1.2mm sponge. How will it affect the playstile of the rubber and my arsenal of shots?
  • Hitting Your Finger - 15:37: Brock:  have a problem, When I am playing in the school I often hit my finger, very often. nearly all balls I get. the players who is worser than me wins. Do you have some tip to help me with that or there isn't a tip to help that?

Racket Recommendation for Tennis Player

Here's a video (1:50) where U.S. Men's Coach (Butterfly sponsored) explains his equipment recommendations for tennis players who take up table tennis.

USATT Insider

The new issue came out yesterday.

$12,000 Butterfly Arnold Challenge

The event will be held March 6-8 in Columbus, Ohio. Here's the home page for the event, the flyer, the promo video (1:40), and an article by Barbara Wei, "Top Collegiate Teams Compete at Butterfly Arnold Challenge." Entry deadline is Feb. 28 (this Saturday).

Richard Prause Impressed by 11-year-old Japanese Wonder-Kid

Here's the article from MH Table Tennis.

Top Ten Shots at the 2015 World Tour Super Series Qatar Open

Here's the video (5:08).

Timo Boll and Ma Long Playing Men's Doubles at Worlds

Here's what we'll get to see (29 sec). Here's the ITTF press release. There's even a poster about them: The Legendary Pair are Back!

Excited about Jiang Jialiang in Action Again?

Here's the video! He's again part of the upcoming ITTF Legends Tour, which starts up again on March 4.

Michael Maze in Multiball

Here's the video (9 sec) - care to join him? Ironically when I saw the video the first thing I was studying was the coaches multiball technique - which resembles mine! (Yes, every coach has their own multiball "style.")

Another Behind-the-Back Shot - Set to Music

Here's the video (22 sec). Seriously folks, this shot is suddenly all the craze, with anyone who can hold a paddle doing it. Videos like this are popping up everywhere. Soon the shot will join looping, banana flips, and reverse penhold backhand as basic shots that everyone does - and I'll be out of a job. Woe is me! I have a stiff arm and back, and cannot do this shot! I can't even demonstrate it properly. Soon the mobs of basement players will be flocking to my club, demanding to learn this shot, and I'll be left a phony, a supposed professional ping-pong coach who can't even demonstrate the most basic shot in the game.

Keep Your Eyes on the Ball

Here's the picture!


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