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TT Service Rule Violations

By Rudy Santo - Certified USATT Umpire

  As a certified USATT umpire I would to comment on a table tennis rule that I see being violated often during tournament play. It is the table tennis service rule. Table tennis service rules are outlined in sections 6.0 thru 6.6 of the USATT Rules Manual and all tournament players should be familiar with them and abide by them. These are a few of the service rule violations that I have observed in recent tournaments:


  1. Service rule 6.1: Service shall start with the ball resting freely on the open palm of the server's stationary free hand.
    Violation: The ball being projected while the hand is not stationary. In many cases the service is started while hand is constantly in motion never coming to a stationary state.
  2. Service rule 6.2: The server shall 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.
    Violation: This is one of the most often violated service rule where the ball is not projected at least 16cm before being struck. The ball is struck quickly after being tossed and it never reaches its required minimum ball toss height. Also the ball is not being projected near vertically upwards. The ball is being tossed either backwards toward the player or tossed sideways. In one case a player was observed repeatedly tossing the ball at least half the table width off to one side..
  3. Service rule 6.4: From the start of service until it is struck, the ball shall be above the playing surface and behind the server's end line, and it shall not be hidden from the receiver by any part of the body or clothing of the server or his doubles partner.
    Violation: The ball service hand dropping below the table surface during the service. The ball must be clearly visible at all times to the opponent and the umpire (if present) from the beginning and during the entire service.
  4. Service rule 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.
    Violation: The server's free arm is not quickly removed in the space between the ball and the net after the ball is tossed. This results in the partially shielding of the receiver's view of the ball during contact or its trajectory.

Often a player is not even aware of their service violations until warned by an umpire in a match. In a match this is the worst time for player to attempt to correct their service. Just because your service hasn't been questioned or challenged in previous tournaments does not mean that your service is in compliance with USATT Rules.

Some players believe that if their opponents are not serving legally then, why should they be required to serve legally? This type of attitude in table tennis competition is bad for the sport and brings the spirit of fair play and true sportsmanship of table tennis into questionable view.

In tournament play if you believe that your opponent is not serving in compliance with the USATT Rules, immediately hold up your free hand and do not attempt to return the serve. Inform the server that you believe that the server is not compliance with the USATT Rules. If the service issue cannot be resolve with your opponent, do not argue with your opponent. You have the right to request an umpire to officiate the match. The umpire is not there to determine the outcome of the match but to ensure that the match is played in accordance with the USATT Rules and to enforce those rules.

An umpire does not like to interrupt the flow or rhythm of the match to warn or penalize a player for a service rule violation. In the first occurrence an umpire will usually issue a warning (yellow card) to the server and if repeated violations are observed, the umpire at his discretion can award the receiver a point for each the violation (red card).

It is important that a player's service comply with all service rules so there is no question about the legally of his or her service in a tournament. I would suggest that at your club practice that you have someone familiar with the service rules observe your service and assist you in determining its legal compliance.

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