Service obscured from one umpire

Table Tennis Rules

Last updated 9 years ago

Gerard McCarthy

Gerard McCarthy Asked 9 years ago

Hi Alois
Thanks for your answer regarding “Service visibility with one umpire”
This is still a troubling question for me Alois, since it was raised at club level recently.
I’d like to take my question further about the requirement of visibility for the umpire. I have the impression that this rule is completely impractical with one umpire and I’d like to explore this. I’d like to consider situations in which the changing of the position of the umpire to the other side of the table at the end of a game can be ruled out as a solution. Any suggestion that the umpire could change sides of the table during a game would completely interfere with the flow of the game. I’m pushing this to the point at which it seems that certain types of serves that meet the all the legal requirements apart from direct visibility to the umpire then become no longer legal when only one umpire is present.

For instance:
Case 1: Symmetrical serves by both players which allow good visibility at one end only.
If both players are right handed and doing pendulum serves, with their body at right angles to the end of the table, and they are making contact with the ball near their right hip then the umpire will not be able to see everything they need to see to make sure the serve is legal. For instance, the ball toss could be done near the right hip, back from the table, and be completely obscured from the umpire, in which case certain aspects of a legal serve could be hidden from view, such as having the ball on the fingers, or dipping the hand below the table, or not throwing the ball up the required height or near vertical, etc. This situation would require the umpire to change sides of the table at the change of serves.

Case 2: Alternating backhand and forehand serves from side on positions.
Consider just one right handed server at one of the table. The umpire could be on their right side of the table, allowing them to see the pendulum and reverse pendulum serves well. However, if the player turns their body at right angles to the table, so that they face away from the umpire and then perform a backhand pendulum or tomahawk server, then again the complete throw up of the ball and contact of the ball with the bat could be obscured from the umpire. A player could alternate backhand and forehand serves, making it impossible for the umpire to see one of these serves without changing sides of the table between points.
In both these cases, the umpire would need to change sides of the table to see the serve properly
Is there a solution to this? What should an umpire do? What rights does a player have in doing a serve that is perfectly legal with 2 umpires, but not legal with one umpire due to a lack of visibility? This question has been raised at club level. I need to have an authoritative response so that this can be resolved the next time that it is questioned at club level. I would hate to think that one would have to change their service technique or be limited in their choice of serves. Can a player insist on a second umpire? What do you think?

Alois Rosario

Alois Rosario Answered 9 years ago

Hi Gerard,

I have deferred to Graeme Ireland an International Referee and authority on rules.  Here is his response.

Hi Alois,

This is a perennial question and unfortunately there is no definitive answer. ITTF Laws are written for international competition where it is assumed that there will be an umpire and assistant umpire in place for all matches. Your answer was correct in that the umpire does not have to be able to see the ball, just be satisfied that the service action is correct. The implication of this is that if the umpire observes a service from one end and is satisfied that it is correct, then if the player serves from the other end with the same action(s) the umpire should reasonably be satisfied that it is still correct, whether or not he can actually see that all service requirements are complied with. Gerard is correct in that an umpire can’t change sides during a game, and it is not really practical to change between games because the umpire will still see the same service from the same angle as before. The only real solution is for there to be an assistant umpire (for one or two games at least) so that either can be satisfied that the service is correct. If this is not possible, and the umpire cannot be satisfied that a service is correct, then he should initially warn the player and explain his reasons for doing so. The onus is then on the player to satisfy the umpire, but if the player is sure he is serving correctly, although the single umpire can’t be satisfied, he can request an assistant umpire. It may be beneficial if the club were to invite a qualified umpire trainer to come to the club and give an overview of umpiring, and it would be even better if those with an interest in rules and umpiring became qualified umpires.

Graeme Ireland

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Gerard McCarthy

Gerard McCarthy Posted 9 years ago

Thankyou for the excellent answer: very clear and most helpful.

Alois Rosario

Alois Rosario from PingSkills Posted 9 years ago

No problems, I will pass on your thanks to Graeme.

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