Here’s great sporstmanship from German legend Timo Boll in his quarterfinal match against China’s Ma Long. This type of sportsmanship seems to have gone away for most top and upcoming players in the world and the US today. In the first point, I think Ma Long’s ball clearly hits the side but Timo Boll intentionally misses the next ball to give Ma Long the point to even out in case there was any doubt. In the second point, Timo Boll has no hesitation and admits the ball hits his shirt at a critical stage in the match. There are many coaches and players now that have a “win-at-all-costs” mentality so it’s nice to see players like Boll are still around. I remember seeing a match between Waldner and Primorac in the 1990s where both players are strongly arguing that the other should win the point. With today’s game of hidden serves and boosting among top players, I can’t see that happening much anymore. The rules states that serves are not to be hidden but many matches don’t have umpires and most umpires never penalize you if you do hide your serve so most players try to get away with it. If you can’t see the contact of when the opponent hits the ball, it’s much harder to return the serve as subtle variations can produce different spins.
Timo Boll said 80% of the world-class players are boosting which is also against the rules but there is no test for it. It adds spin and speed to the shots so it’s an advantage if you do it. The ITTF makes up rules that are not enforced or unenforceable. Imagine if the International Cycling Union said EPO is banned but there is no test or penalty if you use it. Considering how many athletes are caught with performance-enhancing drugs with all the stringent testing that takes place, imagine what would happen if there was no testing! Lance Armstrong would be the greatest cyclist and still an American hero instead of a disgraced athlete. I think in 10 years, all the players who are hiding their serve and boosting today will be looked on similar to but in a smaller scale as to how baseball players who took steroids or cyclists who used EPO are looked at today. Hiding your serve and boosting are not performance enhancing drugs but are performance enhancers. I did see more players being called for faults from umpires in recent times but most players still get away with it. I think the ITTF deserves a big part of the blame for boosting and hidden serves to be so prevalent in today’s game. Boosting does not harm anyone so the ITTF could easily legalize it to not unfairly penalize players like Timo Boll who play by the rules.