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I never hold back. =D I have a question for Dave.
Last week I was umpiring a game and after a set I stood up and said "well played" to James.
A mental midget in the other team in their usual end of set huddle to discuss tactics was overheard ,with a smug rolling of the eyes, to say .. "Oh, we now got the umpire coaching!"

But is he correct? Should I not speak to a player in my team at the end of a set if I am umpiring?

Hi Dave - service law!!!
Two questions I'm afraid.
1. The server throws the ball up ( a novelty in itself these days!) and whilst it's descending he catches it without attempting to strike it. Is it a let or a point to the receiver?

2. At the start of a match recently I lost the coin spin but the winner gave me the ball to serve first. I decided to walk round to the other end and start the match playing from there. World War 3 nearly broke out!! I'm adamant I was right, but to keep the peace I reverted back to my original position. Could you clarify the law please?

Before Dave answers these, can we all have a guess? :-)

My guesses are as follows:

Ian's question: I would have thought you are entitled to "coach" between games as you would be doing so in your role of a team member rather than as the umpire.

Kevin's 1st: Although most people would simply count it as a let (and it's the sporting thing to do) I reckon technically you forfiet the point

Kevin's 2nd: The table should have been rotated 90 degrees to keep both players happy.

Here is a question of my own:

If a player is foul serving, is it the duty of the umpire to call them up on it or should the umpire wait until the opposing player asks them to do so?

I ask because the opposing player may be having no trouble at all with the serve and may not want the umpire to force the server to change it.

What I would think would be the rules Kevin.

If the player makes no attempt to strike the ball, then nothing happens as the ball is not yet in play. Play resumes with the server commencing to serve once again....

Question 2. In terms of the Choice of service. If the winner of the toss decides not to serve, that is the same as deciding to serve, they have made a choice of what they want to do, you would then have the choice now to opt for changing ends if you wish. If the Server wanted to choose the end that they wanted to start from, then I believe you have the choice to decide whether you want to server or not. As the winner of the toss has chosen to select an end rather (as more important to them) than whether they start serving initially or not.

Will be interesting to hear David's professonal view !!

I *ought* to know the answers to these, as I am qualified as a County Umpire, but I have haven't umpired officially for some time, so that's my excuse if I'm wrong, David.

1 - Umpire saying "Well played."
Perhaps not good etiquette, but not against the Rules, as far as I know! Might be rather different at a higher level, where additional Guidelines apply.

2. Service: Ball thrown up and caught.
Point against server (unless there is *another* reason to call a let), as service starts when the ball is thrown up, near vertically, from stationery on the flat hand, above the level of the table, without imparting spin (admittedly a rarity).

3. Choice of service / ends.
I believe Chris/Kevin are right, after player 1 has "chosen" who servers, player 2 can "chhose" which end. [slight doubt, as I seem to recall there was a slight change in this area, recently?]

4. Foul serving.
The umpire *should* intervene, although at League level this is rarely done - to avoid too many arguments as so many serves are illegal in one sense or another!! If service is just "doubtful", then a warning can be given, but if it's clear breach then it should be a point against the server!

Does David know what he's let himself in for, with this subject? :-)

Dear All,

Thanks for the questions and answers.

Ian......At League level, most players are scoring and not umpiring. I agree that you are umpiring/scoring as part of the team. so therefore not completely impartial. Hence the need for alternate umpiring for each set. I don't see anything wrong with coaching anyone if you happen to be scoring (at the end of games, not during!).
However, at a higher level in tournaments, there should be absolutely no coaching from the umpire to either player.
Also, I would recommend that you do not umpire someone from your own family, as you open yourself up to criticism. I know a few umpires who will not umpire their own sons/daughters. Usually they over compensate by being too strict on their offspring, so as not to appear biased.

1 The ball is in play once it is projected. Therefore it is a point to the opponent, unless the umpire has already called "Let" for another reason.
2. You and Chris are correct. The loser of the toss still has a choice to make.

1 It is the umpire's responsibility to intervene and either fault a service or warn a player. There is also nothing wrong with an umpire having a quiet word between rallies that a player's service action is doubtful.
Technically, a player is not entitled to a warning for a fault service, but, at League leavel, I would recommend that the umpire calls "Let" as early as possible and give at least one warning, if not two.
Keep them coming!

Thanks for all the comments esp Dave Ed.
What is the difference between umpiring and scoring in the league?

Dave Sol..Lol. But surely you mean the table should have been rotated 180 degrees? =D

Dave Ed...I know its difficult because Queens is next to a chicken farm but can the scorer/umpire penalise a player for fowl language?


Umpiring is a qualification and takes into account rules and regulations. Most players can not be expected to know all the rules and only score because they have to!
Also, if all serves were called as faults there would be very little play and I have seen players get very upset and go home on occasions(even when they are only warned not faulted!).
I like the pun on the word "foul". Unfortunately, the use of yellow and red cards is an International Regulation, which can not be used in League play for foul and abusive language. Fortunately, it does not happen too often in League play, where the only recourse would be a stern rebuke and a report to the Watford committee.

A few people have mentioned the service rule and how difficult the set of rules that apply to the serve are to apply. Its an interesting subject.

I have always felt that literal interpretation of the service rules causes more problems than it solves - especially at local league level. And lets be honest, can a foul serve be called by someone with an interest in the outcome of a game? A foul serve can only really be applied by a neutral umpire who has no interest in a game. Unless of course it is an exaggerated foul and gains an advantage.

It is only when a clear advantage is gained that intervention should be made by the umpire. And it should be by the umpire not by the opponent - nothing worse than an opponent trying to call a foul serve.

The main problems are the cupped hand and throwing ball up straight more than six inches. I have watched players of all abilities up at queens in league matches and it is difficult to find a technically legal serve...and the prem players are the worse culprits! In most cases no advantage is gained so why stop play.... The higher the level the tougher the umpires should be and are! I wonder if David agrees that common sense does need to be applied at local league level. Flat hand; above the table; six inches; throw up verticle not backwards; free arm cleared out of way; in front of body - it is actually quite a skill to develop a good legal serve....Next time you play why dont you try to follow the rules to the letter when serving - it will feel alien to most.

Failing that you could come and watch me serve .... perfect.....hahahahaha....

It is good to have someone like David around locally - he has helped me in the past to check serves are legal before going to county matches or tournaments where umpires will call players up. If David thinks its ok it generally is!! Ask him to look at your foul serve next time he is up at Queens :)


I agree there needs to some common sense when umpiring at local league level.
I think the most important thing is that the ball is thrown up and not dropped or served off the hand. Serving off the hand is just cheating (whether on purpose or not). On most occasions the receiver will return the ball into the net!
If you throw the ball up only two ot three inches, it is impossible, in my view, for the ball to be struck as it is descending as the service Law states.
Obscuring the contact point of the serve with the free hand is also a big (illegal) advantage. In St. Albans, I mentioned it to two players but after the match, so as not to spoil the evening, but also for them to practise a legal serve before their next match.
Finally, throwing the ball backward or back into the body is also an unfair advantage, as you can create more spin than throwing the ball upwards.
The serve is an important stroke and needs to be practised as much as forehand and backhand topspins. The top players spend quite a long time perfecting their serve.
Remember, the serve is the only time in the rally where you are in complete control.

Clearly the League must insist that both Dave and Martin attend every match night and dash from table to table and umpire all matches.

I'd cost too much, Ian!!

I agree with the approach that unless a clear advantage is being gained by an "illegal" serve, then in *League* matches it's not worth calling it, although a quiet word after the game, possibly?

I have a few tricky questions (think I know the answers, but good to get the correct answers "known").

1. The receiver just catches the ball on a serve, saying it was a net/let. The umpire did not see it/call it, and the server doesn't agree that it was a let.
Is it a let, umpire?

2. Barring general interruptions, such as tea breaks (!), or injuries, etc.,
(a) how long is a player allowed from the end of the previous match to get to the table for the next match?
(b) how long is player allowed between games?

3.(a) Can a player bring two (or more) bats to the playing area for use in the match?
(b) If (a) is yes, and so long as they don't unreasonably affect continuous play (or due to a damaged bat), can they switch bats
(i) between games only,
(ii) at changes of serve only,
or (iii) at any time?

4. Ball is returned and hits the net, then lands only on the net CLAMP (not the table surface) on the other side of the table.
Is it in?

5. Ball is returned and hits the net POST, then lands on the other side of the table. Is it in?

6. Server moves well WIDE of the table to serve an *otherwise* legal serve.
Is it a fault?

[Hi, David :)]


1. No let, only the umpire can call a let but he would be wise to agree if both players think it touched the net.
2. There is no rule and it doesn't say in Watford's rule book either. I would hope the answer is "as soon as possible".
3a. Yes
3b In League play the answer is(iii) as long as he shows the player and the umpire his new racket. The Internation regulation about not changing a racket is only for ETTA ranking points tournaments.
4. No, the clamp is part of the net and is only in if the ball then touches the table. If it doesn't it is out.
5. Yes, part of the net assembly.
6. No, it is legal as long as it behind the end line. The Laws (2.5.15)define the end line as extending indefinitely in both directions.
I hope this helps.

i expect to see you serving from several yards wide of the table in future martin :-)

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