Good Rules to Know

Here are ten “good to know”, “often misinterpreted” rules of tennis.  Knowledge of these rules will come in handy should you encounter disagreements on the court.

  1. To begin, you have four (not two) choices with the coin flip or racquet spin. The choices are to serve, return serve, choose an end (north or south) or defer the choice to your opponent. If your choice is to serve or return serve, your opponent then has the choice of ends. If your choice is an end, your opponent then has the choice of serving or returning serve. If you defer the choice, your opponent can then choose a side, serve or return serve. Got it?
  2. With a traditional two-out-of-three set format, you can control the tempo and timing of a match (to a degree). First, you have 20 or 25 seconds between points with allowance to retrieve balls or to correct a problem with your gear and equipment (not your racquet), 90 seconds during changeovers, two minutes between the first and second sets and from two to 10 minutes (depending on the event) between the second and third sets. Second, you have to play to the tempo and timing of the server. When returning serve you need to ready when the server is prepared to serve. Of course, you are afforded the same opportunity on your service games. Players can also take up to three minutes for treatment of an injury (not to recover physical condition).
  3. You are responsible for making line calls on your side of the court and your opponent is responsible for making calls on his/her side of the court. You can question a call but have no authority to change a call made by your opponent. There should be no grey area. If unsure or unsighted and cannot make a definitive call, the ball is in. Likewise, there should never be a situation where the point replayed if in doubt.
  4. There are three options if you and your opponent have a dispute on the score. First, you can count all agreed upon points and games and then replay only those points and games still in dispute. Two, you can restart the match at a mutually agreeable score (the last score you and your opponent can agree to). Three, if all else fails, you can spin a racquet or toss a coin
  5. If you make a mistake in serving a point or points out of order or playing a point or points from the wrong side (half) or end of the court, the most important thing to remember is that all points (and service faults) played in error stand as played. This may be obvious or not but what is not as definitive and clear is what to do after detecting the error. For most situations, as soon as the error is detected, players should make any corrections as necessary according to the score and resume play as normal. However, there are exceptions. If a player serves out of order and completes a full game before the error is discovered, the order of service shall remain as altered. If a player serves out of turn during a tie-break game and the error is discovered after an even number of points have been played, the error is corrected immediately. If the error is discovered after an odd number of points have been played, the order of service shall remain as altered. Finally, if in error a standard game is started at 6 games all, when it was previously agreed that the set would be a “tie-break set”, the error shall be corrected immediately if only one point has been played. If the error is discovered after the second point is in play, the set will continue until one player or team gains a two game advantage (i.e. 8-6 or 9-7) or until the score reaches 8 games all at which time a tie-break game shall be played.
  6. Most players are aware that according to the foot fault rule you cannot touch the baseline or step into the court during the service motion. The foot fault rule also states you cannot change your position by walking or running during the service motion or touch with either foot the area outside the imaginary extension of the singles sideline for singles (doubles sideline for doubles) or the imaginary extension of the center mark.
  7. For doubles, the net should be suspended from net posts measuring three feet, six inches in height. The net posts should be placed three feet outside the doubles sidelines. Although play for singles is permissible for most matches with the net posts three feet from the doubles sideline, tournament (regulation) singles play requires the posts to be repositioned three feet from the singles sidelines or the net to be propped up by a three foot, six inches high singles stick positioned three feet from the singles sidelines. The net at the center of the court should measure three feet in height. The net should be taut to reduce the number of roll over lets. The net should be tightened with cranks to a height of three feet, four inches before using the center strap to secure the net down to a height of three feet.
  8. The rules state you cannot touch any part of the net or the opponents court while the ball is in play. The rules also state you cannot contact the ball before the ball crosses the net.  There is one exception. If a ball bounces on your side of the net and then due to excessive spin or possibly wind, the ball then proceeds to travel back over the net to your opponents side of the court, you are permitted to reach over the net (without touching the net) to hit the ball. If you are unable to make contact to the ball with your racquet, you unfortunately lose the point.
  9. In addition to making line calls on your end of the court, you are also responsible for making other calls and decisions on your end of the court (all of which unfortunately result in your loss of the point). It is your responsibility (not your opponent’s responsibility) to promptly let your opponent(s) know if the ball hits you, you touch the net, you touch the opponent’s court, you hit the ball before it crosses the net, you deliberately carry or double hit the ball or you hit the ball after the ball bounces more than once.
  10. According to the hindrance rule, “If a player is hindered in playing the point by a deliberate act of the opponent(s), the player shall win the point. However, the point shall be replayed if a player is hindered in playing the point by either an unintentional act of the opponent(s), or something outside the player’s own control (not including a permanent fixture).” Where the rule gets fuzzy is in determining what is deliberate and what is not deliberate and how to determine when and how to ask or accept a point should there be a perceived deliberate hindrance. As an example, what should the decision be with grunting. In a new interpretation, the WTA has cited that a continual distraction of grunting should be considered a deliberate act and dealt with in accordance with the Hindrance Rule. The important thing in unofficiated matches is to be considerate of your opponent(s) and do nothing that is meant to distract, obstruct, disrupt or otherwise hinder your opponent’s ability to make a clean contact with the ball (outside of what you do with the ball in regard to spin, pace, trajectory, etc. and how you position yourself on the court).

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