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Is Timo Boll serve legal? analyzed with TTR

Is Timo Boll’s service legal or not legal? Let’s analyze the serve of Timo Boll with the ball-tracking technology in table tennis. It’s used in table tennis as the TTR review system.

Ball tracking technology

The ITTF adopted the video table tennis refereeing (TTR) proposal at its meeting on November 27, 2021, in Houston, Texas, giving players the right to review a decision made by a referee, whether they deem incorrect.

TTR ball tracking used by ITTF
TTR ball tracking used by ITTF

This ball-tracking technology can be now used in more official competition.

Effective immediately, the TTR can now be used and will take effect when a player appeals a decision of a referee. This very precise technology will allow better implementation of the current regulation.

TTR will instantly provide a replay of the game leading to a decision subject to review. The replay will be reviewed by a video match official, who will have the power to override the original decision based on the evidence.

checking the throw angle
checking the throw angle

The ITTF has always put players first and is committed to continuously improving their match experience through consultation and innovation.

ITTF CEO, Steve Dainton
ITTF CEO, Steve Dainton

“We felt it was important to implement new technology that will ensure fair competition for all athletes, allowing them to challenge any decision made by the referee. The benefits of using the TTR system are very positive and we can actually speak of evolution in the sport of table tennis.

We have received very positive feedback from players and expect a major improvement in the viewer experience in the future.” 

Steve Dainton, ITTF CEO

Real example use of TTR in table tennis

Analysis of service placement

The ability of ball-tracking technology is great. It can be used to analyze the serve placement of the top players. Here, you can see that Xu Xin likes to serve in the middle of the table.

The service placement of Xu Xin is 80% near the net and at the middle of the table. 

An example of what can be achieved with Ball Tracking Technology in table tennis
An example of what can be achieved with Ball Tracking Technology in table tennis

Analysis of an illegal serve (Timo Boll study case)

The umpire said that Timo Boll didn’t throw the ball high enough. In table tennis, you need to throw the ball higher than 16 cm. Timo Boll didn’t agree with the umpire. He asked for the TTR review camera system.

Is Timo Boll serve legal or not - reviewed by TTR
Is Timo Boll serve legal or not – reviewed by TTR

And Timo Boll is right. He threw the ball to 17 cm, which is a legal serve. The umpire is not correct.

Here is the full video I made to analyze the service of Timo Boll:


Measure the speed and spin of the ball

It’s also important to remember that table tennis is a game of strategy, and having all this live information obviously enhances the show but adds a bit more to the appeal.

Mima Ito forehand smash with super high speed
Mima Ito forehand smash with super high speed

It’s like chess when we learn that Mima Ito can smash with astonishing ease at 75 kilometers per hour, while a winning topspin from Fan Zendhong is approximately 6500 revolutions per minute

How vertical that you should throw up your serve?

Based on the rule of table tennis serve, you are allowed to throw the ball near vertical, the maximum angle should be smaller than 30 degrees.

If the service toss angle is bigger than 30 degrees, then your serve is illegal.

checking the throw angle
checking the throw angle

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Table tennis coach in France since 2012, founder of pingsunday.com (the best online coaching program for table tennis players). Born in Vietnam in 1983, Ph.D. in Université Pierre Marie Curie. Read more about him.

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