Are Edge Balls Out of Bounds?

In or Out?

Gael Marziou/flickr/CC BY 2.0

N writes:


I searched a question on google to determine who gets the point when a ball "deflects" from the table by hitting an edge. I believe that you are incorrect in asserting that either player can receive the point based on the circumstances. I assert that the player who hits the ball resulting in the deflection NEVER receives the point.

The official rules defining the table state:

The playing surface shall be uniformly dark colored and matt, but with a white side line, 2cm wide, along each 2.74m edge and a white end line, 2cm wide, along each 1.525m edge.

These lines are referred to as "boundary lines" and therefore any ball landing outside and beyond their limits are "out of bounds". Since the boundary lines are intentionally drawn a finite distance away from the edge of the table, any ball which can deflect due to striking the edge is out of bounds and the point should go to the receiving player.

Hi N,

Thanks for sharing your opinion - and while I do agree that your theory would make the process of judging edge balls much easier, I am afraid that I still do not believe that it is correct.

I've never come across the argument that the perimeter lines are drawn intentionally a little distance away from the edge of the table. The ITTF Technical Leaflet regarding tables only mentions that there shall be 20mm lines around the perimeter of the playing surface to ensure that its limits are clearly visible, with a tolerance on width of all lines of +- 1mm. This may be the cause of any gaps that you see. This is on page 7 of the leaflet, which you can find on the ITTF website (this is a .pdf file).

Furthermore, on page 15 of the ITTF Handbook for Match Officials (this is also a .pdf file), clear mention is made of the procedure for dealing with edge balls. As you can see, the ITTF do not agree with your intepretation, since they give guidelines on how to determine whether an edge ball is the server or receiver's point.

12.2 Edge Balls
12.2.1 It is necessary to decide whether a ball which touches the edge of the table makes contact on or below the playing surface, and the path of the ball before and after it touches the table can help the umpire or assistant umpire to arrive at the correct decision. If the ball first passed over the playing surface the return is good, but if it touched while it is still rising from below the level of the playing surface it almost certainly touched the side.

12.2.2 The main difficulty arises when a ball arrives from outside, and above the level of, the playing surface, and here the best guide is the direction of the ball after contact with the table. There is no infallible guide but, if, after touching the edge, the ball travels upwards, it is reasonable to assume that it touched the playing surface but, if it continues downwards, it is more likely to have touched the side.

12.2.3 The assistant umpire is solely responsible for edge ball decisions at the side of the table nearest to him. If he believes that the ball touched the side he should call “side”, and the umpire must award a point to the opponent(s) of the last striker. Only the umpire can decide on edge balls at the ends and at the side nearest to him.

So although I do think that your method would simply edge balls to a large degree, I don't think that is how the ITTF intend edge balls to be handled.