Goran Dragic

April 28, 2014

Tip of the Week

Develop the Fundamentals: Strokes & Footwork.

The Six-Inch Toss Rule

I had a question on the six-inch toss rule, so I decided to submit it to USATT's Stump the Ump, where umpire questions are answered by Paul Kovac, an international umpire and certified referee. (He's also a regular at my club, MDTTC, and referees the MDTTC tournaments.) The question was seemingly simple, but as you'll see, may not be as obvious as you'd think. Here's my question:  

Here’s a question that keeps coming up, and I’d like to see an online answer that we can refer to. When serving, does the ball have to go six inches up from the exact point where it leaves the hand, or does it actually require six inches of clearance between the hand and the ball? I thought I knew the answer to this, but when I asked six umpires/referees for their ruling at the Nationals, three said the first, three said the latter.

Here is the answer Paul gave, which is now published at Stump the Ump.

This should not be a topic for discussion because the rule is very clear about it:

2.6.2 The server shall then project the ball near vertically upwards, without imparting spin, so that it rises at least 16cm (6") after leaving the palm of the free hand and then falls without touching anything before being struck.

The important part is:

"...so that it rises at least 16cm (6") after leaving the palm...."

The first part of the service rule, namely, "2.6.1 Service shall start with the ball resting freely on the open palm of the server's stationary free hand" is also important because if the serve does not start with "ball resting freely on the open palm of the server's stationary free hand", it is virtually impossible to judge the toss.

Rule 2.6.2 means that after the toss, the separation of ball and player's palm must be at least 6" before the palm and ball get any closer. We see sometime that after the 6" toss the player's hand follows the ball and gets closer than 6" from the ball as the ball raises, and sometimes also when the ball falls. But as long as the 6" separation of the palm and the ball was satisfied, and the palm and hand is not between the ball and the net (not hiding the ball from receiver), the serve is legal.

Thanks, 
Paul

However, I don't think the answer is that clear, as shown by the 3-3 split by umpires/referees when I asked the question at the Nationals. Here's my response to Paul's answer:

Hi Paul,

Thanks for getting back to me. However, I don't think the ruling on this is that clear, based on the actual wording of the rules.

The rules say the ball must rise at least 6". Suppose a player serves so that the ball leaves his hand exactly 40 inches above the ground. If the ball then goes up six inches, it has risen six inches, from 40 inches to 46 inches, and it would seem to have fulfilled requirements of the rule, regardless of what the serving hand does. Nowhere does the rule state that there must be six inches clearance between the hand and the ball - that's a common sense interpretation, but I don't see how one can get that from the wording of the rules.

As noted, many umpires and players read the rule as it is written (and interpret it differently than what you wrote), i.e. the ball must rise six inches, and since it isn't indicated otherwise, they measure it from the point where it leaves the hand. Based on that, a player's serving hand could rise and stay with the ball, and still fulfill the requirements of the rules as they are worded as long as he doesn't use it to hide the ball, and as long as he quickly removes the serving arm and hand from the space between the ball and the net. If there is an interpretation that the ball must rise six inches relative to the hand - which would be difficult to justify, based on the wording of the rule - then that needs to be published somewhere so as to remove the confusion.

I'm CCing Roman and Wendell again as I'd like to see if they concur with your ruling, and why. This came up twice at the Nationals (I didn't make an issue of it), and as noted below, six umpires/referees I asked about it split down the middle on the ruling - so it's obviously not clear to everyone, even officials, and I guarantee most players aren't sure about this. Once the wording of a ruling on this is agreed on, I think this should be published in the Stump the Ump column, or somewhere, so it can be referred to. (Ideally, they'd change the wording of the serving rule to make this clear, but that probably won't happen.)

-Larry Hodges

So what do you think? Is there anything in the actual rules that state that there must be six inches of separation between the hand and the ball when serving? I don't see it. All I see is that the ball must rise six inches, and I don't see how that is affected by the location of the serving hand. I'll go by this interpretation even though I don't really agree with it. I haven't received a response yet from Roman Tinyszin (chair of the USATT Officials and Rules Advisory Committee) or Wendell Dillon (former chair).

Have a rules question? Feel free to ask me. If I can't answer it (impossible!!!), then we can submit it to Stump the Ump.

Veep

As I blogged about on Friday, the episode of Veep that would "feature" table tennis was on Sunday night. Alas, while there was some recreational table tennis, all the scenes with the three top players I'd brought in were cut. However, in most of the scenes taking place at the fake Clovis corporation - about half the episode - I'm often standing just behind the camera or off to the side, out of view, watching it as it is filmed. 

ITTF President Adham Sharara to Step Down as ITTF President

Here's the article, where he explains why he wants to deal with the "China" crisis, and will remain involved in the newly created position of ITTF Chairman.

Shonie Aki Scholarship Award

Here's the article and info for this annual $1250 scholarship.

Incredible Rally, Michael Maze vs. Zoran Primorac

Here's the video (52 sec, including slow motion replay). Maze is on far side (lefty). This'll wake you up before you move on!

WORLD TEAM CHAMPIONSHIPS

Here's the home page for the ZEN-NOH 2014 World Team Championships, April 28 - May 5, in Tokyo, where you can find results, articles, photos, and video. It starts today. Since Tokyo is thirteen hours ahead of us, all of the first day action should be complete already. (So 9AM east coast time is 10PM Tokyo time.) Here are more articles involving the Worlds.

USA at the Worlds

  • Men's Video Update #1 (1:37) by Jim Butler (before play began).
  • Women's Video Update #1 (43 sec) by Lily Zhang (before play began).
  • Day One Results (do search for "USA"): USA Men went 2-0, defeating Luxembourg 3-1, and Kazakhstan 3-2. USA Women were apparently in the middle of their first tie, and were listed as 1-1 with Hungary, so by the time you read this that'll probably be done.

Players at Worlds Not Happy With Cameras Next to Net

Here's the article.

Photos from Just Before the Worlds

Here are the photos - click on the photos to see more.  

Table Tennis Billboard at World Championships

Here's the picture.

My Passion for Sports and the State of "Flow"

Here's the new article by Dora Kurimay, sports psychologist and table tennis star.

Ma Long and Zhang Jike Serve

Here's a video (10:11) where they demonstrate and explain (in Chinese) their serves. Even if you can't understand the Chinese you can watch the serves themselves. About halfway through they start showing other players doing other shots.

New Coaching Articles at Table Tennis Master

The Downside of Being Fan Zhendong

Here's the article.

Basketball Star Goran Dragic Plays Table Tennis

Here's the video (3:27), where he talks about his table tennis and shows him playing.

Unique Ping-Pong Paddle

Now that's a unique paddle! I want one. Especially the swimming pool part. Artwork by Milan Mirkovic. 

Beetle Bailey on Friday

Here's the cartoon! So Beetle has learned to serve with heavy backspin?

Chicken Table Tennis Cartoon

Here's the cartoon! Now I'll never look at our own junior program the same way.

Table Tennis Epic

Here's a hilarious video (1:12), showing Michael Maze and Dimitrij Ovtcharov in an "epic" match . . . sort of.

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March 4, 2014

Tip of the Week

Changing Bad Technique.

Change of Direction Receive

At the MDTTC tournament this weekend player I was coaching was having trouble against a much higher-rated player who had nice last-second change of directions on his receives. Over and over he'd start to push the ball one way - usually to the backhand - and at the last second, would change and go the other way. (Here's a Tip on this, "Pushing Change of Direction.") Although my player kept the first game close when the other player kept going for (and missing) some difficult counterloops, this last-second change of directions completely stopped my player's serve and attack. He'd see where the ball was going and start to move to attack, and then, suddenly, the ball would be somewhere else, and he'd be lunging to make a return.

Between games I told him to focus on three things. First, go completely two-winged to follow up his serve - if the receive was to his backhand, backhand loop, while if the ball was to the forehand, forehand loop. Players who can't do this when necessary have a major weakness in their games.

Second, since he wasn't trying to follow with the forehand, I told him to take his time and just wait and see where the ball was going. He was so used to reacting quickly that his own instincts were going against him as he reacted too quickly. This showed that most players are too obvious in their returns, telegraphing their receive way too early. It also showed how effective it is when a player learns the seemingly basic idea of not telegraphing the receive, i.e. changing directions at the last second.

Third, I told him to focus on varied backspin and no-spin serves short to the middle. (This, combined with sudden deep serves to his wide backhand, proved effective.) This helps in two ways. By going to the middle it cuts off the extreme angles. If my player served short to the forehand or backhand, the opponent could aim one way, and at the last second instead go for the extreme angle, which would be tricky to cover. And by varying the serve, the server loses some control of those last-second changes of direction. (Varying the serve, of course, is something you should do against everyone, but regular reminders help. But here the focus was on variation mostly between two simple serves, along with the occasional long one.)  

The tactics worked as my player won game two. Alas, remember those difficult counterloops the opponent missed in the first game? He stopped missing them, and managed to barely pull out two close games to win the match and avoid a major upset.

MDTTC Open Results and Raghu's Shot

We had a tournament this past weekend at the Maryland Table Tennis Center. You can see the complete results - including every preliminary match - at Omnipong!

One thing you can't see is the shot of the year, by Raghu Nadmichettu, who's about 2400. He was playing against Nam Nguyen in the Open, a 2100+ player. (Both are righties.) Nam ripped a ball to Raghu's wide backhand, which Raghu fished back. Then Nam ripped another to Raghu's extreme wide forehand. Raghu raced over and made a lunging return from his wide, wide forehand, which left him stumbling into the adjacent court. Nam creamed the ball with a powerful sidespin kill-loop that broke wide into Raghu's forehand again. From the adjacent court, Raghu counter-ripped a backhand sidespin counter-kill-loop from his wide forehand (!). The ball came from outside the table, curving to the right as it went toward the table, and hitting right on Nam's backhand corner for a clean winner. Okay, maybe you had to be there, but page down below to the segment on Timo Boll's backhand passing shots and watch those examples. Now imagine them right-handed, at twice the speed, and done with a backhand from the wide forehand side from the adjacent court, with the ball smacking into the far right-corner.

1500 Published Articles

The new Winter 2014 USATT Magazine includes my article "Blocking Tips." It's a milestone - my 1500th published article. Here's a complete listing. This includes 1334 articles on table tennis. I've been in 145 different publications. (I don't include blog entries in this count, though I do include Tips of the Week.)

Chance Friend is a Pro Player

In my blog on Feb. 28, I wrote, "Right now there's really only one USA player who is basically a full-time professional player, Timothy Wang. I've been told that Chance Friend of Texas also makes a living as a full-time professional player, playing in the German Leagues. (I've amended the blog.) So perhaps it can be said that Timothy Wang is the only professional player in the U.S., since Chance is making a living at it overseas.

Kagin Lee's Blog

Here's his blog from last week where he talks about different types of ping-pong balls (celluloid vs. the new plastic ones, different sizes, and seamed vs. non-seamed). He covers the topics well, including how the various spinning balls move through the air and jump off the paddle.

One picky little thing not covered - how the ball would bounce off the table differently. One of the key hidden reasons looping is so effective is how it jumps when it hits the table, unlike a regular drive which goes at a more constant speed, making it easier to time against. It's also why off-the-bounce looping is so deadly, because you are already rushed to react to the shot and then it suddenly jumps even more quickly.

Mike Babuin's Blog

On Feb. 21, I blogged about USATT Board Chair Mike Babuin's blog. Here's a discussion on about.com about it, where one player posts a lengthy criticism, and Mike responds, also in lengthy fashion.

Timo Boll's Backhand Passing Shot

Here's video (64 sec) of the German star snapping off backhand counterloop winners.

Great Drop Shots

Here's a video (35 sec) that features three great drop shots against topspin in one rally. Why don't players do this more often?

193-Shot Rally

Here's video (2:44) of a 193-shot rally (mostly pushing) between two top choppers. One of them finally and bravely finally ends the point! You don't see too many points like this anymore.

Boca Raton Table Tennis

Here's an article featuring table tennis in general and in Boca Raton, Florida.

Tampa Bay Rays

Now another team is playing table tennis! Includes a picture of Wil Myers playing David DeJesus.

Goran Dragic Playing Table Tennis

Here are photos of the Phoenix Suns basketball star hitting with Coach Matt Winkler.

Mythbusters and the Supersonic Canon

On the March 1 episode of Mythbusters asked themselves if supersonic ping pong can go lethally wrong. And so they created a supersonic ping-pong ball canon. I've linked to other such ping-pong ball canons, but Mythbusters took it to another level, with the ball reaching speeds in excess of 1100 mph! The ball went cleanly through a ping-pong paddle, leaving a ball-sized hold. However, after testing it against a giant pork shoulder, they concluded it did not do lethal damage.

Judah Friedlander Interview

Here it is, where he discusses ping-pong. "The thing with ping pong is, it’s a sport pretty much everyone has played. And everyone thinks they’re great at it. And I just like to show people the truth."

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