www.tomveatch.com / Table Tennis

On the new service rule

The new no-hidden-service rule for table tennis comes into effect on Sept. 1, 2002, and, as finalized, reads as follows:

2.6.5 When the ball is struck, no part of the body or clothing of the server or his doubles partner shall be within or above the triangular area formed by the net and imaginary lines between the ball and the tops of the net posts, at a height where it could hide the ball from the receiver.

In short, the contact point must be visible to the receiver.

My game depends heavily on the service advantage, so I am eager to understand how to minimize the damage to my game under this new rule, which is designed to reduce the service advantage (which is also an effect of both the other rule changes of the last two years, the bigger ball, and 11 point games). Here are my initial thoughts.

To maximize the service advantage, I believe one will have to focus on hiding the paddle before and after the point of contact, and on service strokes with rapid changes in direction or orientation of the paddle around the point of contact, and on toss/stroke combinations which make the resulting spin difficult to see even when visible.


Serve from your backhand corner with body turned 3/4 of a 180 degree turn toward your forehand. Then you can toss the ball to fall very close to your side without the body being in that triangle between ball and net posts.

Sometimes twiddle the blade while it is behind your body so that the visible color does not tell the receiver the blade orientation.

If possible, swing the blade underneath the table after contact so that the follow-through is invisible. A topspin serve with an under-table follow-through should be very confusing.

Alternatively, do an opposite follow-through, indicating a different spin than the actual one.

Rapid changes in direction/orientation

Flip the blade from underspin to topspin orientation during the stroke. With the same stroke, vary the timing of contact to produce different spins. If you can tune this up to make it very fast, it will be nearly impossible to see, like the wing of a hummingbird.

There are at least a couple of ways to flip the blade to get this result. The wrist may be above the blade; the blade may be above the wrist.

Invisible-even-when-visible strokes

A high toss is different from a low toss serve in that it generates a spin that comes from the sum of two vectors, the paddle movement at contact, and the ball's movement at contact. Whereas with a low toss serve, the ball's velocity vector at contact is relatively small, and the receiver's task is simpler since knowing the paddle movement alone is sufficient to figure out the spin. Therefore use high toss serves; small differences in paddle angle and amount of body weight-shift can make the difference between topspin and underspin serves.

Because vision distinguishes movements across the line of sight better than movements along the line of sight, it follows that small movements or differences in movement in the line between the ball and the receiver's eyes will be nearly invisible to the receiver. Therefore if you can translate differences in forward motion into differences in spin, then those spins should be indistinguishable to the receiver. It may be easier to hide spin quantity rather than spin direction, but making a dead ball look spinny is still plenty of deception.


Copyright © 2001 Tom Veatch All rights reserved.Last Modified: October 25, 2001. Comments welcome! Please contact the author at tv@sprex.com or 1-206-366-0198.