I am watching the 2012 Men's Table Tennis championship between Timo Boll (DEU.) and Ma Long (CHN.). I've never really watched a professional table tennis game, and one thing that I am seeing these two players do quite frequently is rub the inside of their hand on the table throughout times in the match. At the 15:28 mark in the video -- after an incredible rally -- both players partake in this practice. There are several instances before this point in the game, and presumably after as well, that they rub their hand near the net. In each instance both players have done it - close to simultaneously. I don't know if it has anything to do with "being ready", but it reminds me of in Soccer/Hockey when the referee has each keeper raise their hand to signal that they are ready to play.

Why do these players rub their hands on the table near the net throughout this match of table tennis? Is this related to a rule of any sort? Or is it more of a habit that professional table tennis players have adopted?

1 Answer 1


In professional play - there are rules about how many points (6) must be played in between towel breaks (to wipe off sweat and what not). The "hand rub" is one tactic or ritual used to wipe a sweaty hand off on the table - usually up near the net on a part of the table the ball is not likely to come in contact with.

It doesn't necessarily mean their hand is sweaty though. Some players do it to keep themselves in a rhythm, and do it just as a mental tick or something to keep them focused. Sometimes you'll also see them do it near the baseline of the table if some of the rubber nubs from their paddle have fallen onto the table during play.

It is definitely not something "required" by any means, rather just something that some players do out of habit.

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