The AnswerWhile this question was a bit easier to follow than the previous quiz question, there still appeared to be a fairly wide spread of answers from readers, apart from Option 2 (which might be due to my typo in the original question!). The most popular answer was Option 5, although Options 1, 3 and 4 all received a significant number of votes.
Results at the time of writing are as follows:
Option 1: 15 votes (18%)
Option 2: 1 votes (1%)
Option 3: 14 vote (17%)
Option 4: 14 votes (17%)
Option 5: 38 votes (46%)
with a grand total of 82 votes.
This week, I believe that there are actually two possibly correct choices, Option 4 (Award the point to Player B), and Option 5 (Award the point to Player A). And while that seems a little contradictory, the reason that both answers could be correct lies in the fact that the hiding of the racket is not really the issue at stake here, as we'll see in a moment. The real issue is the catching of the ball by Player B.
Hiding the RacketThe first thing to examine is the issue of hiding the racket under the table, both for the server and receiver.
The receiver's hiding of the racket is the easiest to deal with, since there is no mention anywhere in the laws of table tennis regarding whether a receiver can hide his racket or not. As such, it is simple enough to deduce that the ITTF lawmakers don't care whether the receiver keeps his racket in view, or hides it. So Player B not breaking the laws of table tennis when he hides his racket while receiving. So he does not need to be warned by the umpire, and he cannot lose the point for hiding his racket.
As far as the server is concerned, the actual laws of table tennis make no mention on the subject of hiding the racket. The ball is the only item that the ITTF Laws state must be in view of the receiver during the serve. However, the ITTF Handbook for Match Officials (pdf file) does specifically discuss the subject of hiding the racket when serving, and has this to say:
10.5.2 The ball must be above the level of the playing surface at the start of service. There is, however, no specific requirement for the receiver to be able to see the racket throughout service, and the server may quite legitimately begin service with the racket concealed, for example, behind his back.
This makes it pretty clear that the server is entitled to hide the racket under the playing surface before serving, or at any time during the service. So Player A does not need to be warned by the umpire, and he also cannot lose the point for hiding his racket when serving.
Catching the BallWith the question of hiding the racket settled, the only thing that remains to discuss is the issue of Player B catching the ball. The relevant laws are as follows:
2.10.01 Unless the rally is a let, a player shall score a point
2.10.01.02 if an opponent fails to make a correct return;
2.10.01.05 if an opponent obstructs the ball;
2.05.08 A player obstructs the ball if he, or anything he wears or carries, touches it in play when it is above or travelling towards the playing surface, not having touched his court since last being struck by his opponent.
There are now three possibilities:
- If Player B catches the serve after it bounces on his side of the table, he has failed to make a correct return, and loses the point.
- If Player B catches the serve before it bounces on his side of the table, and while the ball is above the playing surface, or travelling towards the playing surface, he has obstructed the ball, and loses the point.
- If Player B catches the serve before it bounces on his side of the table, but the ball is not above the playing surface, and it is not travelling towards the playing surface, then he has not obstructed the ball. The serve is a fault (since the ball was not going to hit Player B's court), and Player B wins the point.