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    #1

    Hidden serve rule

    So what is the rationale (& history) for the rule abut hidden serve ?

    (ITTF RuleBook Section ) 2.6.4 From the start of service until it is struck, the ball shall be above the level of the playing surface and behind the server's end line, and it shall not be hidden from the receiver by the server or his or her doubles partner or by anything they wear or carry.

    It makes no sense to me

    I understand need for "above the level and behind the endline" part
    .


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    #3
    So that the opponent can clearly see your bat strike the ball. Some years back the top Chinese players became adept at serving with their bodies blocking their opponent's view of the contact . If you need an explanation or justiification of why this matters, perhaps you should consider taking up a different sport ?

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    #4
    Imagine losing 3 out of 5 points in a row purely due to poor receiving. Once you have experienced it in a real competition, you'd realize how ****ed up it could get.

    https://www.tabletennisdaily.com/for...l=1#post284867

    Back then, the 38mm ball, speedglue and hidden serve combined allowed for a much more technical and much less physical game. A player could hone just a few skills to the utmost and beat many others. In China, it's often said that Jiang Jialiang, known for his rallying skill, didn't win any domestic title because he couldn't get past the receiving. Once, Liu Guoliang was chewed out by Cai Zhenhua for throwing a tantrum:

    https://sports.sohu.com/20140409/n397956738_1.shtml
      王鼎华:刘国梁初露锋芒那年,一次在国内公开赛上输了球,竟发起脾气,把拍子甩到球台上。蔡振华立即召集全队开会,指着鼻子“痛骂”:“你不要以为自己了不起,输了就耍脾气。报纸宣传你,电视抬举你,那是人家在给我们男队打气,希望出点人才。你不就是会玩几个发球,玩几个直板横打吗?过去对手不摸你的底,你才赢了。其实你正手和侧身都很臭,漏洞很多。行了,今天你就不要打球了,回房间去好好想一想!”小伙子痛哭流涕,中午饭也没有吃,在房间里闭门思过。有人找蔡振华,认为批评过重,担心挫伤这棵好苗子。蔡振华反驳:“这小子很聪明,球感特好,是打乒乓的料。我要是不狠狠地敲榔头,光让他出风头,就会毁了这棵好苗子。”
    Wang Dinghua: In the year when Liu Guoliang first showed his strength, he once lost a match in the domestic Open. He lost his temper and tossed the racket on the table. Cai Zhenhua immediately convened a team meeting and gave him an earful: "Don't think that you are that great, throwing a tantrum after losing. The newspaper promotes you, the TV praises you, that is because others are cheering for our men's team, hoping to see some talents. You're nothing more than just a few serves and some reverse penhold backhand, aren't you? In the past, you won just because your opponent didn’t size you up. In fact, your forehand and step-around stink and full of loopholes. Okay, go back to your room for the day and think over it!" The young man cried bitterly and skipped lunch. He thought about it behind closed doors in his room. Someone approached Cai Zhenhua, thinking that the criticism was too heavy and worried about damaging this good seedling. Cai Zhenhua retorted: "This kid is very clever, he has very good ball sense, he has talent for table tennis. If I don't hit him hard, and just let him steal the limelight, I will ruin this good seedling."

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    #5
    Quote Originally Posted by JHB
    So that the opponent can clearly see your bat strike the ball. Some years back the top Chinese players became adept at serving with their bodies blocking their opponent's view of the contact . If you need an explanation or justiification of why this matters, perhaps you should consider taking up a different sport ?

    Except it wasn't just Chinese players, it was everyone. Watch old video Gatien or younger Samsonov to see examples (I choose Samsonov because of how much his serve changed after therule). I spent lots of time perfecting my hidden serve. The ball came out from under my arm. It was legal. This was in years ~ 2000. I think they made the hidden serve rule around 2001 or thereabouts. Again, it was everyone. If you didn't hide your serve you were giving up a big advantage.

    And also what Zeio just said. Small balls. Hidden serves. Five serves in a row It was different. There was a lot more finesse required. If you were weak returning serve or dealing with short game you were screwed. And you had to read spin on serve return by watching how the ball moved in the air because for sure you couldn't see your opponent's blade contact the ball!

    The attacks top players make now returning good serves are possible because of these changes, especially to 40+ balls. If it had been feasible in the 90s guys like Waldner and Persson would have been doing it all the time. But 38 mm balls were a lot smaller and lighter. Harder to keep on the table, but when you could hith them with power, they flew fast! It is a cliche to say it, but 40+ balls really have dumbed down the game. I actually get a lot less frustrated now, though.

    Edit. Here is a video. Check out the serves in the first 1990 match between Gatien and Waldner, a classic. Actually watch the whole thing. There is incredible TT in this video. I don't think the rule changes have improved the sport in retrospect.

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    Last edited by Baal; 3 Days Ago at 09:28 PM.

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    #6
    JHB;343192
    So that the opponent can clearly see your bat strike the ball. Some years back the top Chinese players became adept at serving with their bodies blocking their opponent's view of the ontact . If you need an explanation or justiification of why this matters, perhaps you should consider taking up a different sport ?

    Dear JHB,
    I understand (that I should take up another sport, since I am obviously not good enough for table-tennis, may be later you can suggest what sports would be good enough for a person like me)

    But for now please talk down to me at my level so I can understand better why hidden serves are a big problem. I am taking your advice and am leaving the sport but I am just very curious. Greatly appreciated.
    Last edited by GooHara; 3 Days Ago at 01:24 AM.

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    #7
    Come on Zeio be serious... do you mean Waldner only honed a "few skills" ? your assertion is, at least, laughable... Rosskopf, Primorac, Saive, Gatien, Legoût were all highly physical athletes, 2 of them have been N°1 ITTF, Primorac N°2, Legoût 11th, Jorg Rooskopf a World Cup winner.

    The serve rules, as the 11 points game, 40mm ball, speed glue ban and now booster ban, then P ball have only been made to market TT and make money. It has nothing to do with the athletes honing more or less skills. The athletes will always find a way to play effortlessly, this is what TT's efficiency is all about: economy of motion/speed ratio.

    Even you as an asian player should know that: the less number of steps you make with your footwork patterns, the more efficient you are.
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    Seems like in those days you could get away with having less optimal technique as long as you had good feeling for the ball. Serve and receive is to me very feeling dependent as well as doing things with just the hand and the arm in general. Since the serve is especially important having a super good serve will give a lot of free points and attack opportunities. Same goes for receiving. But efficient forehand technique is also needed to finish the points.

    Since the ball is now bigger and harder you need more force to get the ball moving. It's also less feeling dependent since there's less spin. To to get the ball moving better you need better physique and technique and it's harder to get away with winning points by feeling, particularly serve and receive and heavy spin.

    I think before people could get away with having a few superpowers, like extremely good serve and receive and a good forehand while lacking a backhand. Today serve and receive isn't as important as it was and allround ability is more required - this makes sense as to why the game has become less diverse. And the more technique dependent it is the less room there will be for finesse
    Last edited by Richie; 3 Days Ago at 02:04 PM.

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    #9
    That there is an excellent example of 對號入座. 😑
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    Quote Originally Posted by GooHara
    JHB;343192
    So that the opponent can clearly see your bat strike the ball. Some years back the top Chinese players became adept at serving with their bodies blocking their opponent's view of the ontact . If you need an explanation or justiification of why this matters, perhaps you should consider taking up a different sport ?

    Dear JHB,
    I understand (that I should take up another sport, since I am obviously not good enough for table-tennis, may be later you can suggest what sports would be good enough for a person like me)

    But for now please talk down to me at my level so I can understand better why hidden serves are a big problem. I am taking your advice and am leaving the sport but I am just very curious. Greatly appreciated.


    Apologies GooHara, I didn't realise you were an absolute beginner. Let me try to explain as best I can. With modern table tennis bats and rubbers, whenever a player serves he or she will usually apply some sort of spin to the ball. In order to return the service the opponent needs to have some idea of which way the ball is spinning; table tennis balls can be made to spin very rapidly and the spin will affect how the ball behaves after striking the opponent's bat because if the players are using orthodox rubbers the ball will grip the bat or rather the rubber. A ball served with backspin requires a different return stroke to one served with topspin, in order to avoid hitting the return into the net or off the far end of the table. Better players can also apply sidespin to their services if they wish, and again this requires the opponent to adjust their stroke to ensure the return doesn't fly off to one side or the other and miss the table. All of this is refered to as "reading the spin", and while there are sometimes other visible clues the best information comes from watching how the server's bat contacts the ball. In order to be able to do that it is vital that the contact is not hidden by the server's body, hence the rule as it now stands.

    Inevitably the better players learn ways to counteract the advantage that this rule appears to offer to their opponent. Some players become adept at disguising the spin they are applying by last-moment changes of bat angle, for example, or appearing to apply heavy spin when in fact they apply little or none. Deception is still possible, it just requires a greater degree of skill and practise. Hope this helps, and sorry again !

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    #11
    Quote Originally Posted by JHB


    Apologies GooHara, I didn't realise you were an absolute beginner. Let me try to explain as best I can. With modern table tennis bats and rubbers, whenever a player serves he or she will usually apply some sort of spin to the ball. In order to return the service the opponent needs to have some idea of which way the ball is spinning; table tennis balls can be made to spin very rapidly and the spin will affect how the ball behaves after striking the opponent's bat because if the players are using orthodox rubbers the ball will grip the bat or rather the rubber. A ball served with backspin requires a different return stroke to one served with topspin, in order to avoid hitting the return into the net or off the far end of the table. Better players can also apply sidespin to their services if they wish, and again this requires the opponent to adjust their stroke to ensure the return doesn't fly off to one side or the other and miss the table. All of this is refered to as "reading the spin", and while there are sometimes other visible clues the best information comes from watching how the server's bat contacts the ball. In order to be able to do that it is vital that the contact is not hidden by the server's body, hence the rule as it now stands.

    Inevitably the better players learn ways to counteract the advantage that this rule appears to offer to their opponent. Some players become adept at disguising the spin they are applying by last-moment changes of bat angle, for example, or appearing to apply heavy spin when in fact they apply little or none. Deception is still possible, it just requires a greater degree of skill and practise. Hope this helps, and sorry again !

    [fsize=12pt]I am still confused from a simple science & common sense standpoint.[/fsize]
    [fsize=12pt]By all means, please feel free to prove me wrong but from a scientific standpoint I see absolutely no way the contact point and the direction & orientation of racket (left to right or right to left, under the ball, over the ball or behind the ball etc) at the very moment of contact can be hidden from view of the receiver. (Maybe from the umpire but the rule 2.6.4 only talks about the receiver). I say this assuming that the ball will travel in a near straight line for at least a feet or two after contact with server's racket. Or are you telling me the ball can travel at an extremely curved path such as around the server’s body within first few feet ? I very much doubt it.[/fsize]
    [fsize=12pt]Is there still picture or a slow motion video where you can draw a straight line from the server contact point to the receiver’s eyes. If the straight line goes thru the server’s body I totally accept the “hidden serve” argument. [/fsize]
    [fsize=12pt]But, from what I have seen videos of, (assuming two rightie opponents) it seems in most matches (at least professional) both server & receiver stand in their backhand corners. In this case the contact point is most visible. The worst case is a rightie server against a leftie receiver in doubles . Even in this worst case I cannot see the contact point (& racket direction etc ) being hidden from the receiver , if you draw a straight line.[/fsize]
    [fsize=12pt]Of course I could be missing something totally. I am willing to listen. [/fsize]


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    #12
    Quote Originally Posted by Richie
    Seems like in those days you could get away with having less optimal technique as long as you had good feeling for the ball. Serve and receive is to me very feeling dependent as well as doing things with just the hand and the arm in general. Since the serve is especially important having a super good serve will give a lot of free points and attack opportunities. Same goes for receiving. But efficient forehand technique is also needed to finish the points.

    Since the ball is now bigger and harder you need more force to get the ball moving. It's also less feeling dependent since there's less spin. To to get the ball moving better you need better physique and technique and it's harder to get away with winning points by feeling, particularly serve and receive and heavy spin.

    I think before people could get away with having a few superpowers, like extremely good serve and receive and a good forehand while lacking a backhand. Today serve and receive isn't as important as it was and allround ability is more required - this makes sense as to why the game has become less diverse. And the more technique dependent it is the less room there will be for finesse

    Not better or worse, different in ways. Guys like Gatien, Saive and Primoracs were just as strong physically as any modern players. Add Korbel to that, also Wang Liqin, even though they're not on that video. But you usually couldn't just hit everything with max power. You certainly couldn't attack serves the way you can now. Also, matches tended to last longer then. All of the top players of the 90s and 00s had many great skills, just like now. But some things you needed to be able to do then don't matter much now and vice versa. By the way, Gatien's game was really well suited to 40+ balls i think. The other thing too of course then was speed glue. Glued up rubber, 38 mm ball, no need for a composite blade!


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    #13
    Quote Originally Posted by GooHara

    [fsize=12pt]I am still confused from a simple science & common sense standpoint.[/fsize]
    [fsize=12pt]By all means, please feel free to prove me wrong but from a scientific standpoint I see absolutely no way the contact point and the direction & orientation of racket (left to right or right to left, under the ball, over the ball or behind the ball etc) at the very moment of contact can be hidden from view of the receiver. (Maybe from the umpire but the rule 2.6.4 only talks about the receiver). [/fsize]

    If you faced someone who knew how to hide the contact, you would understand it is very possible.

    Part of how it can work is that, part of the stroke is a rotation of your body; an ideal contact point (for a righty, on certain FH serves like pendulum and reverse pendulum) is behind the right hip (which is further away from the table in a traditional stance for pendulum serves). If you are turned towards the back, and you leave your tossing arm out across the table (reaching towards the FH side) as you contact with the ball behind your hip and you turned a little back, you will contact the ball behind your body with the arm helping to block visibility. And as you follow-through in your serve motion, the torso's rotation will make it so your body is not in front of where you contacted the ball by the time the serve is passing your body.

    So, if you have not seen a serve where the contact point is blocked from view and/or you can't imagine how it is scientifically possible, it just may mean that you would need to see it to understand.

    Here. This video shows two guys doing it so you get to see from the same side of the table and from the far side of the table.

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    #14
    Here are two screen shots from when the lefty on the far side is serving.





    Please note the camera angle is from further to the side than a left handed receiver would be would be when receiving. Also note: YOU CANNOT see the racket or the ball from this vantage point even though the angle is wider than a receiver would normally stand.

    I timed where I paused for these screen shots to match his contact point.

    You can use the time stamps from the screen shots to find that part of the video posted above. Feel free to pause and find them. The racket and the ball make their appearance directly after where I paused. And the ball has already left the racket every time the racket makes its appearance.

    Have a look for yourself.
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    #15
    Quote Originally Posted by UpSideDownCarl
    Here are two screen shots from when the lefty on the far side is serving.





    Please note the camera angle is from further to the side than a left handed receiver would be would be when receiving. Also note: YOU CANNOT see the racket or the ball from this vantage point even though the angle is wider than a receiver would normally stand.

    I timed where I paused for these screen shots to match his contact point.

    You can use the time stamps from the screen shots to find that part of the video posted above. Feel free to pause and find them. The racket and the ball make their appearance directly after where I paused. And the ball has already left the racket every time the racket makes its appearance.

    Have a look for yourself.

    From a scientific standpoint, I do not buy it sorry. Because I find it inconceivable that someone can strike the ball behind their body towards their body (i say this because the only possible way the server can hide the contact) and then immediately pull their body out. Sounds crazy. Sounds magical.

    I do admit Waldner did make top 20 players look like beginners sometimes with his so called hidden serves(In his book "When the feeling decides", Waldner sort of admits that in 1989 Quarter Finals, Klampar would have probably beaten him really bad but for his serves. Waldner of course won the title. In the semi-finals against Grubba it was the same story. )

    I tend to think it is an illusion and only looks hidden in the paranoid mind of a receiver. Maybe it was bad for the sport & so the rule was good but enforcement of this rule seems very problematic with lots of umpire disputes. At lower levels (where there usually are no umpires) if I am a jerk, I can always start an argument on this, with any opponent who I don't like or if I am way behind in score & want to pull a John McEnroe or Illie Nastase.

    Again I do admit it is somehow possible but I won't believe it until someone shows me a still picture with a straight line drawn, going thru server's body to the receiver's eye at the moment of contact. (Thanks for your effort however showing the videos & stills but I do not see it . May be I am not good enough intellectually or table-tennis-wise or both, to understand this )

    BTW I pointed out in my previous post that the hand blocking the serve is covered by a different sub-section (2.6.5) of the service rule. I do admit that part as possibly illegal but not (2.6.4), the body blocking the contact and racket direction and orientation at the exact moment of contact.

    I also do understand that you want to maximize the drama with your serves (like when you try to return a snake, which seems so easy to solve in theory but not in practice.) If I can count the number of times I returned the serve 3 feet to the left or right of the table due to mental lapse but realizing side-spin immediately thereafter, I would probably be a millionaire if not a professional table-tennis player ) . So that may be part of this too.

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    #16

    Very interesting ,,, l,m learning the punch serve, at home before we start playing again in the uk next month ..Its the serve where most players can more easily hide the ball hit with their chest because the throw up is very curved . My Question Carl is ? not strictly that sorry ,, but both the guys ball throw in the video looks llegal,, is it ? they thro back about a 60 to 80 cms dia arc. when l tried this high throw way far back behind the serving hip much more body weight goes into the ball its a far better serve ! and its possible to hide the hit point when swivelling , as you and others pointed out ... this is all to do with the throw up .. Umpires should call the throw up!! they can't see the chest hide from their position at the side !!!

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    #17
    Quote Originally Posted by GooHara

    From a scientific standpoint, I do not buy it sorry. Because I find it inconceivable that someone can strike the ball behind their body towards their body (i say this because the only possible way the server can hide the contact) and then immediately pull their body out. Sounds crazy. Sounds magical.

    ......

    Again I do admit it is somehow possible but I won't believe it until someone shows me a still picture with a straight line drawn, going thru server's body to the receiver's eye at the moment of contact. (Thanks for your effort however showing the videos & stills but I do not see it . May be I am not good enough intellectually or table-tennis-wise or both, to understand this )

    Are you trying to say you can see the ball and/or the racket in the screen shots I posted?

    If you can't see the ball or racket in those photos and you are still saying this silliness, there is not really much point discussing the matter. You can believe what you want.

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    #18
    Quote Originally Posted by zbys

    Very interesting ,,, l,m learning the punch serve, at home before we start playing again in the uk next month ..Its the serve where most players can more easily hide the ball hit with their chest because the throw up is very curved . My Question Carl is ? not strictly that sorry ,, but both the guys ball throw in the video looks llegal,, is it ? they thro back about a 60 to 80 cms dia arc. when l tried this high throw way far back behind the serving hip much more body weight goes into the ball its a far better serve ! and its possible to hide the hit point when swivelling , as you and others pointed out ... this is all to do with the throw up .. Umpires should call the throw up!! they can't see the chest hide from their position at the side !!!

    As the video says, those serves are illegal. I am not sure the toss is why though. The rule is vague. The rule says mostly up.


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


    "Near Vertical" is open to interpretation and, if the ball goes up more than it goes over and back, they usually will not call that.


    Watch the serve toss for both LJK and ML and notice it goes up, back and towards them from the center of the table. It is not as exaggerated as in the video where they are showing how to hide the serve. But.....it is right on the border between hidden and not hidden. So, their serves, you can see them....but just barely. And yes, contacting from a position far back like that gives you much more leverage on the ball when serving.

    Last edited by UpSideDownCarl; 1 Day Ago at 08:58 PM.
    Setup 1: Blade by Nate: Vortex Spin Machine, FH Evolution MX-K, BH Evolution FX-P
    Setup 2: OSP Virtuoso Plus, FH Rasanter R 48, BH Rasanter R 48
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  19. Baal is offline
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    Nov 2010
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    #19
    Here's how it worked. The ball comes out towards the table under the server's toss arm. The ball comes out almost parallel to the table surface. The receiver on the other side is standing, probably crouched a little, but still looking downwards trying to see the point of contact between ball and racket. And that point is obscured by the arm. Now if you kneeled down so that your eyes were looking just above the table surface you would see the contact, but you can't move very well that position.

    I played a lot in that era. Trust me, against somebody good at hiding serves you would not get much clue. The best person at doing that I experienced personally was a guy from my club named Viktor Subonj. He was originally on the Yugoslavia junior national team, then went to school in Bucharest, then emigrated to US in the mid 90s. In the mid 00s he was on US national team and played in the WTTC in Zagreb (by which time hidden serves were illegal). When he hid his serve the ball seemed like it must have been ejected from his arm pit! For me, 400 rating points below him, returning his serve was pretty hopeless. But I also learned how to hide serves from him. Actually the change in serve rule hurt him more than most people because he had that skill so well honed.

    The Following 3 Users Like Baal's Post:

    IB66, lodro and 1 other

    Last edited by Baal; 2 Days Ago at 02:54 PM.

  20. IB66 is offline
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    #20
    When the shielding with the body was combined with the arm obstructing receivers view...... nightmare for receivers!!!!Regarding ball toss - is any reference in the rules made about the toss must be no more than 10 or 15 degrees from vertical?? I’m sure I’ve heard that somewhere??The ball toss in the video could be regarded as illegal as the ball travels back at roughly 45 degrees.If you want to get the ball to their contact position and remove any chance of the toss being called as illegal then all you have to do is toss the ball higher and closer to vertical.This is sort of a double whammy!! High ball toss = higher ball speed = better/higher spin plus concealed body serve!!!I remember when I was on a training course, watching this teenager stand with his back towards the table / receiver and then serve!! Party trick!!
    Last edited by IB66; 2 Days Ago at 06:41 PM. Reason: Spelling mistake

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