Power of Backhand

January 11, 2013

Suggested Service Rule

As I've blogged a number of times, many players hide their serve illegally, and many or most umpires allow it. It's frustrating to me as kids see opponents and top players hide their serves illegally and not get called, so why shouldn't they? It's almost reminiscent of the situation baseball players faced in the steroids era.

The current rule requires that the ball be visible throughout the serve to the opponent. The problem is that it's difficult for an umpire, sitting off to the side, to tell if the ball was hidden from the receiver, since often he himself cannot even see the ball, and must estimate where it is, and judge if it is hidden or not from the server's shoulders. Since I've coached and played table tennis nearly every day  for many years, I can see if the serve is hidden or not, but many umpires only see this type of thing on an occasional basis, and so have great difficulty judging it.

Technically, it shouldn't be a problem. The rules state that "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." That's pretty clear - it means if the umpire isn't sure the serve is visible, i.e. legal, then the umpire is NOT satisfied that the serve complies, and so the player should be warned (the first time) or faulted. But most umpires do not do this, and so at the higher levels many players get away with illegal hidden serves.

There are other serving problems. Many players abuse the "near vertical" toss rule, and few umpires enforce it. But the advantage of throwing the ball backwards (instead of near vertical) is minor compared to the advantage of hiding the serve. The same is true of other common transgressions.

But there's a solution to the problem, if we can convince ITTF (and/or USATT) to adopt it. The proposed rule would be that throughout the serve the ball must be visible to both umpires, or to where the umpires would sit if there is no umpire. Problem solved.

The specific rule change would be as follows, rewording rule 2.6.5 as follows:

Current: 2.6.5 As soon as the ball has been projected, the server’s free arm and hand shall be removed from the space between the ball and the net.

Proposed: 2.6.5 As soon as the ball has been projected, no part of the server, his or her doubles partner, or anything they wear or carry may be in the triangular area between the ball and the positions of the two umpires.

Kagin Lee has put together a web page detailing this proposal.

The key thing here is that even if a player tries to abuse the rule and goes into that gray area where it's not clear if the umpires (or where they would sit) can see the ball, it wouldn't matter, as if it's close, then obviously the opponent can see the ball - and that's the whole point of the proposed rule. It's sort of like the six-inch toss rule. For many years, the rule was the ball must be contacted on the drop, but many players would abuse this as it was hard to tell if they were hitting the ball on the drop or not as they practically served out of their hand. A three-inch toss would have been enough to solve the problem, but then there'd be those who'd abuse it by tossing below that, and it would be hard to tell. By making it six inches, the server can abuse the rule all he wants and if it's anywhere close to six inches, the opponent will clearly see the toss, which was the point of the rule.

I'm told that some are opposed to such a new rule because it would mean players would have to change their service motion. Well, duh!!! That's the whole point. But it's not a huge change; anyone change their forehand pendulum serve motion to make it legal; I know, because I can, and I teach this type of thing professionally. You can do so with either a more open position or by holding the ball farther from the body, or some combination of both. And it solves the hidden serve problem. Give players a year to get ready, and there'd be no reason to change the serve rule again . . . ever!!!

Dear Evil Time-Stealing Temporal-Taking Slobber Monkeys

Over the next couple of weeks I absolutely have to do the final editing and proofing (that's two complete reads) of my new book, "Table Tennis Tactics for Thinkers." (I also have to finalize the covers.) Every time I get ready to do this, various Evil Time-Stealing Temporal-Taking Slobber Monkeys come to me with requests for me to do things that are not editing or proofing the book. Things that are not editing or proofing my book do not decrease the time between now and when the book comes out, and things that do not decrease this time are the spawn of  the Devil and his minions, i.e. Evil Time-Stealing Temporal-Taking Slobber Monkeys. So if you are an Evil Time-Stealing Temporal-Taking Slobber Monkey, please hold off for a bit. I'll gladly sell my soul and do your work after the book comes out.

I am working under a rather tight deadline. On Monday, Feb. 4, USATT Historian Tim Boggan will be moving in with me for two weeks as I do the page layouts and photo work (with Mal Anderson's help on the latter) on Tim's History of U.S. Table Tennis, Volume 13. This one, which will once again run over 500 pages, will feature 1984, and if you've read that book, you have a vague idea of what will happen to me (and you) if I don't get my own book finalized before Tim's arrival. So let me have some peace and quiet for a while so I can finish my book. Big Brother is watching.

I've got 240 pages to edit and proof, I've got a full bottle of Deerpark Water*, half a peanut butter & jelly sandwich, it's light, and I'm not wearing sunglasses. Hit it.
    *And Mountain Dew for emergencies

Review of the New Plastic Ball

Part 3 just went up of the Plastic Ball Review from OOAK Reviews. All three parts are linked from their home page. The three parts are:

  1. Why the change and a comparison of their physical appearance (16:16)
  2. High Speed Filming of tests to compare relative rebound speed, bounce and spin (14:35)
  3. Playing Characteristics and Summary (26:40)

1273 Signatures

That's how many we got on the petition to the White House to recognize Table Tennis as a school sport. Not bad, but not good. We were 23,727 short of the needed 25,000. Think of it as a trial run; perhaps next time we can get the major distributors (with their huge mailing lists), celebrities, and others behind it.

The Power of Backhand

Here's a video (8:01) highlighting great backhand shots. The very first rally is pretty wild!

Five-Hour Energy Commercial

With table tennis! (31 seconds)

Be Different

Here's a humorous video (3:21) of some nerdy-looking guy as he takes on the "King Kong of Ping Pong"!

Ping-Pong Ball Spinning in Nitrogen

Here's 89 seconds of a ping-pong ball getting cooled and spinning in liquid nitrogen.

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