Don't let bad calls or scoring disputes ruin your fun on the tennis court. This article presents USTA guidelines and the unwritten rules of tennis that are designed to help you enjoy the game and encourage cooperation and courtesy during match play.
The Player's Guide to Fair Play and the Unwritten Rules of Tennis
The Code, a summary of procedures and unwritten rules that custom and tradition dictate all players should follow. No system of rules will cover every specific problem or situation. If players of goodwill follow the principles of The Code, they should always be able to reach an agreement, while at the same time making tennis more fun and a better game for all.
1. Courtesy is expected. Tennis is a game that requires cooperation and courtesy.
2. Points played in good faith are counted. All points played in good faith stand. For example, if after losing a point, a player discovered that the net was four inches too high, the point stands. If a point is played from the wrong court, there is no replay. If during a point, a player realizes that a mistake was made at the beginning (for example, service from the wrong court), the player shall continue playing the point. Corrective action may be taken only after a point has been completed. Shaking hands at the end of a match is an acknowledgment by the players that the match is over.
3. Warm-up is not practice. A players should provide the opponent a warm-up of five to ten minutes. Some players confuse warm-up and practice. Each player should try to hit shots directly to the opponent.
4. Warm-up serves are taken before first serve of match.
5. Player makes calls on own side of net. A player calls all shots landing on, or aimed at, the player's side of the net.
6. Opponent gets benefit of doubt.
7. Ball touching any part of line is good. If any part of a ball touches a line, the ball is good. A ball 99% out is still 100% good. A player shall not call a bal out unless the player clearly sees space between where the ball hits and a line.
8. Ball that cannot be called out is good. Any ball that cannot be called out is considered to be good. A player may not claim a let on the basis of not seeing a ball. One of tennis' more infuriating moments occurs after a long hard rally when a player makes a clean placement and an opponent says: "I'm not sure if it was good or out. Let's play a let." Remember, it is each player's resonsibility to call all balls landing on, or aimed at, the player's side of the net. If a ball cannot be called out with certainty, it is good. When a player says an opponent's shot was really out but offers to replay the point to give the opponent a break, it seems clear the that player actually doubted that the ball was out.
9. Either partner may make calls in doubles.
10. All points are treated same regardless of their importance. There is not justification for considering a match point differently from a first point.
11. Requesting opponent's help. When an opponent's opinion is requested and the opponent gives a positive opinion, it mmust be accepted. If neither player has an opinion, the ball is considered good. Aid from an opponent is available only on a call that ends a point.
12. Out calls reversed. A player who calls a ball out shall reverse the call if the player becomes uncertain or realizes that the ball was good. The point goes to the opponent and is not replayed. However, when a receiver reverses a fault call on a serve that hit the net, the server is entitled to two serves.
13. Player calls own shots out. With the exception of the first serve, a player should call out the player's own shots if the player clearly sees the ball out regardless of whether requested to do so by an opponent. The prime objective in making calls is accuracy. All players should cooperate to attain this objective.
14. Partner's disagreement on calls. If one partner calls the ball out and the other partner sees the ball good, the ball is good. It is more important to give opponents the benefit of the doubt than to avoid possibly hurting a partner's feelings. The tactful way to achieve the desired result is to tell a partner quietly of the mistake and then let the partner concede the point. If a call is changed from out to good, the principles of Code 12 apply.
15. Audible or visible calls. No matter how obvious it is to a player that an opponent's ball is out, the opponent is entitled to a prompt audible or visible out call.
16. Spectators never make calls.
17. Prompt calls eliminate two chance option. A player shall make all calls promptly. A call shall be make either before the player's return shot has gone out of play or before an opponent has had an opportunity to play the return shot. Prompt calls will quickly eliminate the "two chances to win the point" option that some players practice. To illustrate, a player is advancing to the net for an easy put away and sees a ball from an adjoining court rolling toward the court. The player continues to advance and hits the shot, only to have the supposed easy put away fly over the baseline. The player then claims a let. The claim is not valid because the player forfeited the right to call a let by choosing instead to play the ball. The player took a chance to win or lose and is not entitled to a second chance.
18. Let called when ball rolls on court. When a ball from another court enters the playing area, any player on the court affected may call a let as soon as the player becomes aware of the ball. The player loses the right to call a let if the player unreasonably delays in making the call.
19. Touches, hitting the ball before it crosses net, invasion of opponent;s court, double hits, and double bounces. A player shall concede when:
- A ball in play touches that player;
- That player touches the net or opponent's court while a ball is in play;
- That player hits a ball before it crosses the net;
- That player deliberately carries or double hits a ball; or
- A ball bounces more than once in that player's court.
20. Avoid foot faults.
21. Calling foot faults. The receiver or the receiver's partner may call foot faults only after all reasonable efforts, such as warning the server and attempting to get an official to the court, have failed and the foot fault is so flagrant as to be clearly perceptible from the receiver's side.
22. Service calls in doubles. In doubles the receiver's partner should call the service line, and the receiver should call the sideline and the center service line. Nonetheless, either partner may call a ball that iether clearly sees.
23. Service let calls. Any player may call a service let. The call shall be made before the return of serve goes out of play or is hit by the server or the server's partner. If the serve is an apparent or near ace, any let shall be called promptly.
24. Obvious faults. A player shall not put into play or hit over the net an obvious fault. To do so constitutes rudeness and may even be a form of gamesmanship. On the other hand, if a player does not call a serve a fault and gives the opponent the benefit of a close call, the server is not entitled to replay the point.
25. Receiver readiness. The receiver shall play to the reasonable pace of the server. The receiver should make no effort to return a serve when the receiver is not ready. If a player attempts to return a serve (even if it is a "quick" serve), then the receiver (or receiving team) is presumed to be ready.
26. Delays during service. When the server's second service motion is interrupted by a ball coming onto the court, the server is entitled to two serves. When there is a delay between the first and second serves:
- The server gets one serve if the server was the cause of the delay;
- The server gets two serves if the delay was caused by the receiver or if there was outside interference.
27. Server announces score. The server shall announce the game score before the first point of a game and the point score before each subsequent point of the game.
28. Disputes. Disputes over the score shall be resolved by using one of the following methods, which are listed in the order of preference:
- Count all points and games agreed upon by the players and replay only disputed points or games;
- If the players do not agree on the court in which the disputed point started, toss a coin to select the court.
- If the players do not agree on who served a disputed point in a tiebreak, toss a coin to select the server. ( A coin toss may alse be needed to determine the side in which the point is played and the end from which the server serves.)
- If the players do not agree on who served a disputed game, toss a coin to select a server.
- Play from a score mutually agreeable to all players;
- Spin a racket or toss a coin.
Now, go out their and be a champion of fair play.