In table tennis, there are some unwritten rules (or called “etiquette”) that you should know. Such as, winning someone 11-0 is considered bad, low esteem. Why? Many professional players avoid winning the set 11-0. You should do the same! Here are the reasons.
Winning someone 11-0 is good or bad for your feeling? Maybe it’s good for you! But think for your opponent!
Mercy point in table tennis
This is not the official rules. This rule is for respect and Fairplay.
Mercy point is when you are up 10-0, and give a mercy point 10-1. You should purposely give away a point when it’s 10-0.
It is a sign of good sportsmanship and respect. Ma long did this against Ovtcharov in Olympics London 2012 (at the minute of 9:38 in the video).
In table tennis, winning someone with the score of 11-0 is bad for the opponent.
The mercy point rule is just one of those unwritten good sportsmanship rules in table tennis. You should hold your finger up, and say sorry for edge balls.
Insult or not?
But some players would feel “insulting” with the mercy point. Here are some of the opinion:
If you “give” someone a point in a competitive match you’re as much saying “you’re not good enough to win a point any other way I’m that much better than you – or you’re that much worse than me. I see it as more of an insult.”
And, they prefer loosing 0-11 than getting the mercy point:
I’d rather lose 11:0 playing someone who played to win every point than lose 11:1 and my only point coming from a shot they threw away. Maybe not so bad if the other person doesn’t play to win the point, only not to lose.
But losing 11-0 is embarrassing to see on anyone’s playing record. Instead of thinking of it as the winning player as being cocky, thinking of it as letting the loser look a little better. The mercy point is to prevent the audience from talking about an 11-0 and laughing. So for me, mercy point is not insulting.
Avoid winning 11-0
At the amateur and club level, it’s OK to win 11-0. Because we are mostly amateur and friendly. Winning 11-0, or 11-1 is the same. It’s OK to win 11-0 at the low level.
But at the high level, and professional level, winning someone 11-0 is “mal vu”, poorly perceived by the player and the public. In the Asian culture, to show respect to the opponent, you should avoid winning 11-0. You should give them the mercy point.
The mercy point is not the “basement rules” in table tennis. This is the unofficial rules at the professional scene. At the amateur level, there are also some “Skunk Rule”: like you win the set at 7-0, or if you lose 11-0 or 10-0, you must perform push-ups or drink two beers.
What to do when you get the mercy point?
The best solution here is to say “thanks” and return the mercy.
In Asian culture (or anywhere else), when you get a “gift” from someone, and if you should return it to the sender as soon as possible. So for example, when you are down 0-10. The opponent gave you the mercy point to get 1-10. The next point, you should return the mercy, and no need to play the point. Accept it, and give them free point to finish the set 1-11.
Here is the final of the Youth Olympics Games 2018. Wang Chuqin has given the “mercy point” to Harimoto Tomokazu. As being lost a game 0-11 is bad in Asian culture, especially at the professional level.
Harimoto Tomokazu also did a very nice action. He returned the mercy to Wang Chuqin. This is the Fairplay action of both players.
How about the come-back?
But there are some exceptions, it’s called “the great comeback” in table tennis. There is some rare situation, that a player made a huge come-back after down 0-10, or 1-10. Watch the video here to understand. (Search “Everything is possible EmRatThich to watch full series).
Give mercy point is great. But making the great comeback is even better!
But in general, making a huge come-back at (0-10) is nearly impossible. So mercy point and “mercy return” is the best Fairplay rule and “etiquette” to follow. Give them respect and get the respect!
You should read
Coach EmRatThich was born in Hanoi, Vietnam in 1983. He started playing table tennis at the age of 8. After finishing his Ph.D. in Paris, University Pierre Marie Curie (Sorbonne University) in 2011, he is now a table tennis coach in a small club in France (about 153 players). Interested in table tennis coaching for a global audience, he founded pingsunday.com, one of the best online coaching programs for table tennis players. Using the Chinese coaching philosophy, his table tennis lessons are free, which allows many table tennis players to improve fast. He can speak English, French, Vietnamese, and a little bit of Chinese.