What Happens When the Ball Hits the Net Clamp on the Opponent's Side?

Olympics Day 9 - Table Tennis

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What happens if a player hits the ball over the net, and the ball hits the net clamp on the opponent's side of the table? Is this considered the same as the ball hitting the table? What happens next depends on what the ball does after hitting the net clamp.

Table Tennis Rules

According to the Laws of Table Tennis, the net clamps are part of the net assembly, not the playing surface. Law 2.02.01 states:

2.02.01 The net assembly shall consist of the net, its suspension and the supporting posts, including the clamps attaching them to the table.

This means that if a ball goes over the net, but then hits the net clamp on the opponent's side of the table, it still hasn't hit the opponent's side of the table yet. It must bounce off the net clamp and onto the opponent's court before the opponent can attempt to hit the ball. The usual rules for an obstruction would apply.

A ball that hit the net clamp and the opponent's side of the table at virtually the same time would be considered a legal return, and the opponent must try to return the ball before it bounces again.

It is up to the umpire to make the final decision on whether the ball only hit the net clamp or both the net clamp and table. This means the opponent must make his best guess about whether the ball hit only the net clamp or the table as well, and play the ball accordingly. If he guesses differently to the umpire's final decision, he will lose the point. A tough break!