Rules Of Tennis - The Code Of Tennis
1 January 1992
Colonel Nick Powell
(This edition supersedes the edition of 1 January 1989.)
1. Before reading this pamphlet you might well ask
yourself: Since we have a book that contains all the rules of tennis,
why do we need a code? Isn't it sufficient to know and understand all the rules?
2. An answer to these questions could come from this
hypothetical situation. Two strangers, A and B, are playing a tightly contested tournament
match without officials. On one of B's shots A says: "I can't be sure if it was in or
out; therefore, the point is yours." Three games later on one of A's shots B says:
"I'm not sure how it was; let's play a let." In two identical situations there
are different decisions. If no one else is in favor of a code that works the same on both
sides of the net, you can be sure that A is!
3. There are a number of things not specifically set
forth in the rules that are covered by custom and tradition only. For example, everybody
knows that in case of doubt on a line call your opponent gets the benefit of the doubt,
but can you find that in the rules? Further, custom dictates the standard procedures that
players will use in reaching decisions. These, then, plus some other similar ones, are the
reasons why we need a code, the essential elements of which are set forth here.
4. One of the difficult aspects of tennis is that
when a match is played without officials the players themselves have the responsibility
for making decisions, particularly line calls; but there is a subtle difference between
their decisions and those of an umpire or a linesman. A linesman does his best to resolve
impartially a problem involving a line call with the interests of both players in mind,
whereas a player must be guided, in this case and in all other cases, by the unwritten law
that any doubt must be resolved in favor of his opponent.
5. A corollary of this principle is the fact that a
player in attempting to be scrupulously honest on line calls will find himself frequently
keeping in play a ball that "might have been out" and that he discovers -- too
late -- was out. Even so, the game is much better played this way.
6. In making a line call a player should not enlist
the aid of a spectator. In the first place, the spectator has no part in the match and
putting him in it may be very annoying to an opponent; in the second, he may offer a call
even though he was not in a position to see the ball; in the third, he may be prejudiced;
and in the fourth, he may be totally unqualified. All these factors point decisively
toward keeping out of the match all persons who are not officially participating.
7. It is both the obligation and
prerogative of a player to call all shots landing on, or aimed at, his side of the net, to
help his opponent make calls when the opponent requests it, and to call against himself
(with the exception of a first service; see par. 32) any ball
that he clearly sees out on his opponent's side of the net. If A just got to B's shot,
hitting it several inches above the ground, and there is a question whether A's shot went
directly over the net or bounced over, the best determinant is the presence or absence of
forward roll on A's shot, with the presence of forward roll being an almost certain sign
that A's shot bounced over. In a case like this, B has the prerogative of decision. (For
calling service lets, see par. 32.)
8. The prime objective in making line calls is
accuracy, and all participants in a match should cooperate to attain this objective. When
a player does not call an out ball (with the exception of a first serve) against himself
when he clearly sees it out -- whether he is requested to do so by his opponents or not --
he is cheating.
9. All players being human, they will all make
mistakes, but they should do everything they can to minimize these mistakes, including
helping an opponent. No player should question an opponent's call unless asked. When an
opponent's opinion has been requested and he has given a positive opinion it must be
accepted; if neither player has an opinion the ball is considered good. Obviously, aid
from an opponent is available only on a call that terminates a point. In accordance with
the laws of parallax, the opinion of a player looking down a line is much more likely to
be accurate than that of a player looking across a line.
9.1. When you are looking across a line don't call a
ball out unless you can clearly see part of the court between where the ball hit and the
line. This means if you are half a court or so away and a ball lands within two inches of
a line it is almost impossible for you to call it with accuracy. A player who stands on
one base line and questions a call concerning a ball that landed near the other base line
is probably being ridiculous.
9.2. Unless you have made a local ground rule
designed to save chasing balls that are obviously going out, when you catch in the air a
ball that is in play you have lost the point, regardless of whether you are inside or
outside the court.
10. Any call of "out", "let", or
"fault" must be made instantaneously; otherwise, the ball is presumed good and
still in play. In this connotation "instantaneously" means that the call is made
before either an opponent has hit the return or the return has gone out of play. Most
important: a ball is not out until it is called out.
11. The requirement for an instantaneous call will
quickly eliminate the "two chance" option that some players practice. To
illustrate, C is advancing to the net for an easy putaway when he sees a ball from an
adjoining court rolling towards him. He continues his advance and hits the shot, only to
have his supposed easy putaway fly over the baseline. C then makes a claim for a let,
which is obviously not valid. C could have had a let had he stopped when he first saw the
ball rolling towards him, but when he saw it and then continued on to hit the easy shot he
forfeited his right to a let. He took his chance to win or lose, and he is not entitled to
a second one.
12. Another situation eliminated by the
instantaneous call requirement is that in which a player returns the ball, at the same
time yelling: "I don't know." This sort of call constitutes a puzzle which
should not be thrown at any opponent.
13. In living up to the instantaneous call
requirement it is almost certain that there will be out balls that are played. On a fast
first service, for example, sometimes the ball will be moving so rapidly that the receiver
has hit the ball and it has gone into play (maybe for a placement) or into the net before
an out call can be made. In such cases, the receiver is considered as having taken his
chance, and he is entitled to only one, whether he made a putaway or an error. Likewise,
when the server and his partner thought to be out the ball which was good and didn't play
their opponents' return, they lose the point. The purists' argument that a ball that is
out cannot be played under any circumstances falls before the practicality of the player's
responsibility to make calls. Otherwise, after a point involving a long rally had been
concluded a player could discover an out mark made at the beginning of the point and ask
that the point he had just lost be awarded to him. It is only fair that any time you cause
your opponent to expend energy he should have a chance to win the point; and when you fail
in your duties as a linesman you pay by letting an out ball stay in play. From strictly
the practical view, the instantaneous call rule will eliminate much indecision and
14. Any ball that cannot be called out is presumed
to have been good, and a player cannot claim a let on the basis that he did not see a
ball. If this were not so, picture your opponent at the net ready to tap away a sitter. As
he does so your back is to him. Can you ask for a replay because you didn't see where his
shot landed? If you could, the perfect defense has been found against any shot that is out
of reach: close your eyes before it touches the court.
15. One of tennis' most infuriating moments occurs
when after a long hard rally a player makes a clean placement and hears his opponent say:
"I'm not sure if it was good or out. Let's play a let." Remember that it is each
player's responsibility to call all balls landing on, or aimed at, his side of the net,
and if a ball can't be called out with surety, it is good. When you ask for a replay of a
point because you say your opponent's shot was really out but you want to give him "a
break," you are deluding yourself; you must have had some small shred of doubt and
that doubt means the point should be your opponent's. Further, telling your opponent to
"take two" is usually not so generous as it might sound.
16. When time and the court surface permit, a player
should take a careful second look at any point-ending placement that is close to a line.
Calls based on a "flash look" are often inaccurate, and the "flash
look" system has a high probability of being unfair to an opponent.
17. In doubles when one partner calls a ball out and
the other one good, the doubt that has been established means the ball must be considered
to have been good. The reluctance that some doubles players have to overrule their
partners is secondary to the importance of not letting your opponents suffer from a bad
call. The tactful way to achieve the desired result is to tell your partner quietly that
he has made a mistake and then let him overrule himself. If it comes to a showdown,
untactful honesty is preferable to tactful dishonesty.
18. Normally, asking for a replay of a point is a
sign of weakness and of failure to exercise line calling responsibilities, and should
occur only on rare occasions. One of these is as follows. Your opponent's ball -- a serve
or otherwise -- appears out and you so call, but return the ball to his court. Inspection
reveals that your out call, which stopped play, is in error. Since you actually returned
the ball a let is authorized. Had you not returned the ball the point would have been your
opponent's. (See last sentence in par. 19.) Another possible
replay situation occurs when, just as C is returning A's good shot, A's overzealous
partner, B calls A's shot out. If C hits a placement he wins the point; otherwise, the
point should be replayed.
18.1. When you are hindered attempting to return a
shot that you could not have returned even had there been no hindrance, a let is not
authorized. Incidentally, a request for a let does not mean that the let is automatically
granted. For example, a request for a let because you have tripped over your own hat
should be denied.
19. Once an out (meaning a ball
has landed outside the court), fault, or let call is made play stops, regardless of what
happens thereafter. This policy is sound, though sometimes maddening. For example, with
you at the net your partner serves a bullet that the receiver barely gets to the net for
an easy setup which you whack away, but the receiver has yelled "fault" as he
was returning the service. Inspection reveals that the service was good. You first feel
that your putaway shot should count for the point. But suppose that you had missed the
putaway. Your immediate cry would have been for a let because the out call distracted you
and made you miss. A rule can't work one way one time and work another way another time.
It is unfortunate that a miscall was made on such a good service, but you must trust your
opponents' intentions to be fair, remember that since they are human they are going to
make some mistakes, and realize that since they returned the service a let may be called.
The validity of the principle here notwithstanding, most good players who have made a weak
giveaway type of return because of an opponent's good forcing shot will give the opponent
the point in spite of the out call. The important thing is that a player should not let
his ineptitude as a linecaller cause his opponent to fail to win a point that he almost
surely would have won had the correct call been made on his forcing shot.
20. All points in a match should be treated with the
same importance, and there is no justification for considering a match point differently
than the first point. Also, some players will insist that on occasion even though a ball
is good they want it to be out so badly that they will unconsciously call it out, this
reasoning is difficult for a strong-willed fair-minded player to accept.
20.1. All points played in good faith stand. For
example, if, after losing a point, you discover that the net was four inches too high, the
loss stands. If the third point of a game is played in the ad court, there is no replay.
If you lose a match using a 9-point tie-break, then discover the tournament was using
12-point tie-breaks, the loss stands.
20.2. As a general guide, when it is realized during
a point that a mistake was made at the beginning, e.g., service from the wrong court, the
point will not be interrupted, nor will corrective action be taken until the point is
20.3. Each player is responsible for
"housekeeping" on his own court. If he fails to remove stray balls and other
objects he may expect to pay for the consequences.
20.4. When a player is injured in an accident caused
by his opponent, it is the player who must suffer with respect to the match, not the
opponent. For example, A accidently throws his racket and incapacitates B so that B is
unable to resume play within the time limit; even though A caused the injury, it was
accidental, and B must be defaulted, not A.
21. As a driven ball -- in contrast to a ball
dropping vertically -- strikes the ground (or asphalt or cement, but not grass) it will
leave a mark in the shape of an ellipse. If this ellipse is near a line and you cannot see
court surface between the ellipse and the line, the ball is good. If you can see only part
of an ellipse on the ground this means that the missing part is on the line or tape. Some
players will call a ball of this kind out on the basis that all of the mark they can see
is outside the line; this thinking is fallacious. An ellipse tangent to a line literally,
touching the line at only one point) still represents a good ball; this is tantamount to
saying that a ball 99% out is 100% good.
22. Notwithstanding the ellipse theory, on courts
which have tapes for lines, occasionally a ball will strike the tape, jump an inch, then
leave a full ellipse. This is frequently the case with a hard service when the server will
see a clear white spot appear on the service tape, only to have the receiver call
"fault" and point to an ellipse an inch back of the line. To attain accuracy in
such situations is difficult. The best that the receiver can do is to listen for the sound
of the ball touching the tape and look for a clean spot on the tape directly between the
server and the ellipse; if these conditions exist he should give the point to his
opponent. Sometimes sound alone can be misleading, particularly when the hearer is some
distance -- across the net or otherwise -- from the sound. Also, an inch and a half is
about the maximum that a ball will jump off the tape.
23. In returning service the partner of the receiver
should call the service line for him, with the receiver calling the center line and the
side line, although either partner may make an out call on any shot (service or other)
that he clearly sees out. It is difficult for the receiver, who is looking across the
service line, to call with accuracy a shot that lands near that line. This is the reason
why in singles a receiver will frequently find himself unsure of a serve and put it in
play even though later it is determined that it was out.
24. Returning a service that is obviously out
(accompanied by an out call) is a form of rudeness, and when the receiver knows that in
making these returns he bothers the server it is gamesmanship. At the same time it must be
expected that a fast service that just misses the line will frequently with justification
be returned as a matter of self-protection, even though an out call is made. The speed of
deliveries is such that if the receiver waited for a call before he started to make a
return he would be overpowered. Probably the most difficult shot in tennis to call
accurately is a hard flat service, aimed directly at the receiver, that hits within an
inch of the service line in a grass court singles match.
24.1. Returning a first service that is obviously
out without an out call in an attempt to catch an opponent off guard is cheating. At the
same time, if the receiver in good faith gives the server the benefit of the doubt and
returns an out ball, the server is not entitled to refuse the benefit of the doubt and ask
for a let on the basis that since he saw the serve out the return caught him by surprise.
24.2. When the server causes a delay between the
first and second serves, he has one serve to come. When there is a delay between serves
that interrupts the natural flow of the match and when the delay is caused by the receiver
or outside interference, the server has two serves to come. The receiver determines
whether the delay has interrupted the natural flow of the match.
25. A USTA rule interpretation authorizes the
receiver or his partner to call footfaults on the server after the server has been warned
once and a request for an umpire has failed. This call should be made only when the caller
is absolutely certain, with the footfaulting being so flagrant as to be clearly
perceptible from the receiver's side of the net. While in doubles the partner of the
receiver may be in a fair position to call a normal footfault, in either singles or
doubles the receiver himself would be able to make this call only in flagrant cases.
25.1. When you feel that your opponent, a netrusher,
is footfaulting but his violations are not sufficiently flagrant for you to be sure and to
call, the situation can be irritating. Compliance with the footfault rule is very much a
function of a player's personal honor system. The plea that he only touches the line and
doesn't rush the net is not acceptable. If he doesn't footfault when there is an umpire
but does when there is no umpire, the time has come for him to examine his own sense of
fair play to see if he is the type of person who will cheat provided he thinks he can go
undetected or unpunished, and, if he is, to try to make a change. Habitual foot faulting,
intentional or careless, is just as surely cheating as is making a deliberate bad line
26. Even if no ethics were involved, from the
practical view it behooves a player to avoid footfaults. It is not uncommon in a match
having officials for a chronic footfaulter to become so upset by the frequent footfault
calls against him that his whole game disintegrates.
27. A player who hits a weak shot and then, when the
ball is moving towards his opponents' court, utters an exclamation such as "back,
partner!" has violated the ethics of good play. His opponent, provided he does not
play the ball because of the exclamation, is entitled to the point on the basis of having
been hindered. However, if the opponent goes ahead and plays the ball and misses, the
"two chance" rule holds. There is such a thing as the exclamation coming forth
just as the opponent is making his shot. It is then properly a matter for the opponent to
determine whether or not he is entitled to a let, for only he can judge if the hindrance
came before his shot, after it, or simultaneously with it. If he is going to request a let
he should try to make the claim before he sees the outcome of his shot, though this is not
always possible. A certain type of player will wait and request a let if he has made an
error, but will forget about the let if his shot has turned into a freak placement; this
practice is not ethical. The main thing is that if the opponent was hindered, then had an
option to stop or to make the shot, then attempted the shot, whether he missed it or not
is immaterial, he is considered to have played the ball and there is no basis for a let.
28. In general, any conversation between partners
while the ball is moving toward their opponents' side of the net is taboo; once either you
or your partner has hit the ball, don't say anything until an opponent has hit it. Even
when a ball is moving toward two partners conversation between them should be minimized,
with about the only words permitted being such exhortations as to try hard for a ball
("run!") or to let one pass ("out!"), etc. Incidentally,
"out" as advice to a partner to let the ball drop does not suffice for the
normal "out" call necessary when a ball has landed outside the court.
29. With respect to a player moving when a ball is
in play or about to be in play, in general he is entitled to feint with his body as he
wishes. He may change position on the court at any time including while the server is
tossing the ball to serve. Movements or sounds that are made solely to distract an
opponent, such as waving the arms or racket, stamping the feet, or talking are prohibited.
30. A ball from your court going into an adjoining
court or a ball from an adjoining court coming into your court can provide the basis for a
let. In handling these balls here are some things to remember. When play is in progress
don't go behind another court to retrieve a ball or hit a loose ball to that court; this
may mean holding a ball for several seconds while a point is being finished. Don't ask for
one of your balls until the point in play on the adjoining court has stopped. In returning
a loose ball to another court don't hit it aimlessly as if you didn't care where it goes
as long as it leaves your court. Instead, pick up the ball and hit it so that it goes
directly to one of the players on the other court, preferably the server, on the first
bounce; this might be termed "Rule One" of court etiquette. As a corollary to
this rule, except when so doing will delay play unnecessarily, collect the match balls
that are on your side of the net and either give them to the next server or place them on
31. In the general area of common courtesy and
consideration for others violations are too frequent. Some players in loud tones have a
post mortem on each point, to the dismay of the players on the adjoining courts. Some
players complain of the type of shots an opponent hits (e.g., too many lobs); what he hits
are his business as long as they are legal. Don't embarrass a weak opponent by being
overly gracious or condescending. Don't spoil the game for your partner or opponents by
losing your temper and using vile language or throwing your racket. After losing a point
don't slam a ball in anger; a ball boy once lost an eye from this sort of action. And
don't sulk when you are losing; instead, praise your opponent's good shots. Above all, try
to make tennis a fun game for all participants.
31.1. Be neat in your dress, and wear proper tennis
clothing; no blue jeans, loud sport shirts, or jogging shoes. If you are going to a
strange club with whose rules you are not familiar you can never be wrong dressing in
all-white. Carry a spare racket; if one breaks you are not allowed a delay to find a
replacement, but instead must continue with what you have courtside, broken or not. If you
break a string and change rackets, practice shots with the new racket are not permitted.
And don't place towels or clothing over the net or on the court.
31.2. If there is a clothing, shoes, equipment or
racket malfunction during a point, the point will be finished before any corrective action
is taken. After the point is over a reasonable delay may be allowed for a player to leave
the playing area to repair or replace shoes, clothing, and equipment, but not rackets.
32. As mentioned in paragraph 7, neither the server nor his net man should make an out
call on a first service even though he thinks it is out, because the receiver, not being
sure of the ball, may give the server the benefit of the doubt and then hit a placement.
In this instance the prerogative of the receiver to give the benefit of the doubt and make
a return should not be usurped. However, either the server or the net man should volunteer
a call on any second service he clearly sees to be out for his call terminates the point.
In doubles the net man is usually in the best position to hear a service touch the net,
though custom supports the calling of a let in singles or doubles by any player who hears
an otherwise good serve touch the net. For a call of a service let to be valid, it must be
made prior to the return of serve either going out of play or being hit by an opponent.
33. Calls involving a ball's touching a player, a
player's touching the net, a player's touching his opponent's court (invasion), hitting an
opponent's return before it has passed the net, and a double-bounce, can be very difficult
to make. Any player who becomes aware that he has committed a violation in one of these
areas should announce the violation immediately in order to avoid unnecessary expenditure
of energy by his opponent.
33.1. In all of the above areas the prerogative of
decision belongs to the player or team involved. To illustrate, A thinks B's shot is a
double- bounce, catches B's shot and claims the point. B, however, feels sure there was no
double-bounce; since B has the prerogative of decision the point is B's. On occasion even
though B thinks there was no double-bounce he will defer to A's judgment because A was in
a better position to see what happened.
33.2. After a point has been finished A might give B
an opportunity to admit, for example, a double-bounce that was not called during the
point. If B accepts A's thinking he should give him the point, even at that late time. The
decision, of course, is still B's. A better example would be where A thinks that B has
invaded A's court, but B hasn't called the invasion. After the point is over, if A can
point out half of one of B's footprints under the net it would be difficult for B to
refuse to give A the point.
33.3. Done without deliberation and with one
continuous forward swing of the racket, a double-hit and a carry are legal shots. When
done with deliberation, or when there is a definite 'second push' of the racket, each of
these shots is illegal, with consequent loss of point that the striker, who has the
prerogative of decision, should call promptly on himself.
34. Some players confuse "warm-up" and
"practice." While it is not mandatory, normally a player should provide his
opponent five minutes (ten minutes if there are no ball persons) of warm-up, making a
special effort to hit his shots directly to his opponent. Five minutes warm-up is adequate
even on a chilly day, although it may not be adequate for him to practice his shots as
much as he would like. If he wants to practice more than five minutes he should do it
prior to the match. Courtesy dictates that you not practice your service return when your
opponent practices his serve. Incidentally, even a windy day does not justify taking
warm-up serves from both ends of the court. If partners want to warm each other up (at the
same time their opponents are warming up), they may do so.
34.1. Many players want to practice or to warm-up
their serves just before they serve the first time, even though the match is then one game
or more old. Once a match has started there is no basis for further practice or warm-up.
It would be just as logical to hit practice serves before the tenth game as it would be to
hit them before the second game.
35. If you feel that you, as a receiver, are being
victimized by a server who serves without hesitation (frequently, a server who serves when
you are getting ready rather than when you are ready) the person to blame is most likely
yourself. This is true because in any discussion over whether a receiver was ready or not
the sole criterion is the receiver's own statement, and if he wasn't ready a let is in
order. In reality, while there are unsmart receivers, there is no such thing as a quick
36. The receiver should make no effort to return a
serve when he is not ready if he wishes to maintain valid his right to a let. On the other
hand the server is protected from the "two chances" receiver under the same
rule, this rule states that if a receiver makes any attempt to return a service he is
presumed to have been ready.
37. A recent USTA Comment under Rule 12
provides that once the receiver has indicated that he is ready he cannot become unready
and claim a let-- anymore than he could become unready during a point-- unless there is
some outside interference. This negates the gamesmanship practice some receivers have had
of indicating ready, then, just as the server starts to serve, announcing that they are
unready in an attempt to upset him.
38. When the receiver has indicated that he is ready
and the server serves an ace, the receiver's partner cannot claim a let because he (the
partner of the receiver) was not ready. The receiver's indication of being ready is
tantamount to indicating that his team is ready. While no server should serve if he sees
either of his opponents is not ready, he is not expected to check both opponents before
each serve. It is the receiver's responsibility to signal ready only when both he and his
partner are ready. Likewise, the server should check his partner's readiness before he
serves, for his serving is an indication that his team is ready.
39. When a server requests three balls to be in his
hand prior to each point he is to serve the receiver should comply with this wish when the
third ball is readily available. Since only two balls are normally needed for a service,
the receiver should not be required to get the third when it is some distance away, nor,
under the continuous play rule, should a server during a game be permitted to retrieve a
distant third ball himself. The distant balls should be retrieved at the end of a game.
When a tournament specifies a new can of balls for a third set, it is mandatory that the
new balls be used unless all the players agree to use the old balls.
40. In any argument about facts it should be
remembered that the position of each side has equal weight. For example, regardless of how
sure you are that the score is thirty-forty, your opponent may be just as sure that it is
forty-thirty (or five games to three versus four games all). The preferred, but not
mandatory, method of settling a scoring dispute is to count all points and games agreed on
by the players, with only the disputed points and games being replayed. Another method is
to go back to the last score on which there was agreement, then resume play from that
point. If no agreement can be reached in a dispute, whatever the disagreement may be, it
should be settled by tossing a racket. Certainly, it would be undesirable to have the
players depart in a huff.
40.1. To eliminate arguments about the score the
server should announce, in a voice audible to the players and spectators, the set score
(e.g., 5-4) prior to his first serve in each game, and the game score (e.g., thirty-forty)
prior to serving each point. This is important.
40.2. No matter how obvious it may be to you that
your opponent's shot is out, it may not be obvious to him. He is entitled to a prompt hand
signal or call; give it to him.
41. You have had contact with the primary form of
stalling when your opponent in an official match purposely arrives 25 minutes late, hoping
that those 25 minutes will have provided you with ample opportunity to tense up. Some
opponents attempt an excessively long warm-up to achieve the same result. Another form of
stalling is provided by the player who walks and plays at about one-third his normal rate,
thereby, among other things, taking much of the fun out of the match. Another form is the
excess time taken between games when the authorized delay is doubled due to extra
toweling, drinking, taking of pills, and sitting down. Another form is the taking of time
at the end of a 6-4 first set; the rules say play shall be continuous except for specified
breaks, which do not include one at the end of the first set that ends on an even number
of games. Another form is the server's waiting at the net -- instead of going to the
baseline -- while the receiver is retrieving a ball to give to him. Another form is taking
more time than the authorized ten minutes break at the end of the second set in a
three-set match. Another is the starting of a discussion to permit a player to catch his
breath. Another is the action of the receiver in clearing an out first service that
doesn't need to be cleared, such as one that ends up six inches from the backstop. Another
is bouncing the ball ten times before each serve. These are some of the more common forms
of stalling, a type of gamesmanship aimed at upsetting an opponent. What is the answer to
the problem? Again, like footfaulting, it is a matter of a player's personal honor system.
From a practical view, if you try to outstall a staller you may upset yourself even more,
and from an ethical view you may damage your own reputation. With it all, you can be firm
in waiting for a late opponent only a reasonable period (as you interpret the meaning of
the word under the circumstances involved) before departing, and in other cases refusing
to continue play without an official. The best players are not known as stallers.
41.1. If your opponent is a chronic footfaulter or
makes a larger number of what you feel sure are bad calls, what should you do? There is
only one answer: calmly call for an umpire and refuse to continue until the umpire
arrives. While normally a player may not leave the playing area during a match, an
expeditious visit to the referee to request an umpire is authorized. Incidentally, also
authorized is a bona fide toilet visit.
41.2. Grunting (or other loud noises) can be the
basis for a let or loss of point, and should be avoided. Fortunately, a player can usually
adjust to his opponent's grunting so that it does not become a distraction; unfortunately,
grunting can be an annoyance to players on an adjacent court.
41.3. Don't enter a tournament and then withdraw
when you discover some tough opponents have also entered. Don't be a cup hunter and search
for tournaments where all the entrants will be of a much lower caliber than yourself. If
you must default a match notify the referee at once so that your opponent may be saved a
trip. If you withdraw from a tournament don't expect the return of your entry fee unless
you withdrew before the entries closed.
42. When your serve hits your partner stationed at
the net is it a let, fault, or loss of point? Likewise, what is the ruling when your serve
before touching the ground hits an opponent who is standing back of the base line? The
answers to these questions are obvious to anyone who knows the fundamentals of tennis, but
it is surprising the number of players who don't know these fundamentals. All players have
the responsibility of being familiar with the basic rules and customs. Further, it can be
distressing to your opponent when he makes a decision in accordance with a rule and you
protest with the remark: "Well, I never heard of that rule before!" Ignorance of
the rules constitutes a delinquency on the part of a player and often spoils an otherwise
43. What has been written here constitutes the
essentials of "The Code," the summarization of procedures and unwritten rules
which custom and tradition dictate all players should follow. No system of rules will
cover every specific problem situation that may arise, but if players of good will follow
the principles of The Code they should always be able to reach an agreement, at the same
time making tennis a better game and more fun for all participants.
If you have a question concerning The Code, or if you have
a suggestion for improvement, send full details, enclosing a stamped, self-addressed
envelope, to: USTA Officials Department, 70 West Red Oak Lane, White Plains, New York
10604, and you will be sent a prompt reply.