The following Rules and Cases and Decisions are
the official Code of the International Tennis Federation, of which the United
States Tennis Association is a member. USTA Comments have the same weight and
force in USTA tournaments as do ITF Cases and Decisions.
When a match is played without officials, USTA
Regulation I.M. shall apply in any situation not covered by the rules.
The Code shall apply in any situation not
covered by USTA Regulation I.M.
Except where otherwise stated, every reference
in these Rules to the masculine includes the feminine gender.
Amendments to the USTA Comments may be made in
accordance with Article VIII of the USTA Regulations provided such amendments
are not inconsistent with the Rules of Tennis of the International Tennis
The court shall be a rectangle 78 feet (23.77m.)
long and 27 feet (8.23m.) wide.
[USTA Comment: See Rule 34 for a doubles court.]
It shall be divided across the middle by a net
suspended from a cord or metal cable of a maximum diameter of one-third of an
inch (0.8cm.), the ends of which shall be attached to, or pass over, the tops of
two posts, which shall be not more than 6 inches (15cm.) square or 6 inches
(15cm.) in diameter. These posts shall not be higher than 1 inch (2.5 cm.) above
the top of the net cord. The centers of the posts shall be 3 feet (0.914m.)
outside the court on each side and the height of the posts shall be such that
the top of the cord or metal cable shall be 3 feet 6 inches (1.07m.) above the
When a combined doubles (see Rule
34) and singles court with a doubles net is used for singles, the net must
be supported to a height of 3 feet 6 inches (1.07m.) by means of two posts,
called "singles sticks", which shall be not more than 3 inches (7.5cm.) square
or 3 inches (7.5cm.) in diameter. The centers of the singles sticks shall be 3
feet (0.914m.) outside the singles court on each side.
The net shall be extended fully so that it fills
completely the space between the two posts and shall be of sufficiently small
mesh to prevent the ball passing through. The height of the net shall be 3 feet
(0.914m.) at the center, where it shall be held down taut by a strap not more
than 2 inches (5cm.) wide and completely white in colour. There shall be a band
covering the cord or metal cable and the top of the net of not less than 2
inches (5cm.) nor more than 2.5 inches (6.3cm.) in depth on each side and
completely white in colour.
[USTA Comment: An approved method for
obtaining proper net tautness is: Loosen the center strap. Tighten the net cord
until it is approximately 40 inches above the ground, being careful not to
overtighten the net. Tighten the center strap until the center of the net is 36
inches above the ground. These measurements should always be made before the
first match of the day.]
There shall be no advertisement on the net,
strap, band or singles sticks.
The lines bounding the ends and sides of the
Court shall respectively be called the base-lines and the side-lines. On each
side of the net, at a distance of 21 feet (6.40m.) from it and parallel with it,
shall be drawn the service-lines. The space on each side of the net between the
service-line and the side-lines shall be divided into two equal parts called the
service-courts by the center service-line which must be 2 inches (5cm.) in
width, drawn half-way between, and parallel with, the side-lines. Each base-line
shall be bisected by an imaginary continuation of the center service-line to a
line 4 inches (lOcm.) in length and 2 inches (5cm.) in width called the center
mark drawn inside the Court, at right angles to and in contact with such
base-lines. All other lines shall be not less than 1 inch (2.5cm.) nor more than
2 inches (5cm.) in width, except the base-line, which may be 4 inches (10cm.) in
width, and all measurements shall be made to the outside of the lines. All lines
shall be of uniform colour.
If advertising or any other material is placed
at the back of the court, it may not contain white, or yellow. A light colour
may only be used if this does not interfere with the vision of the players.
If advertisements are placed on the chairs of
the Linesmen sitting at the back of the court, they may not contain white, or
yellow. A light colour may only be used if this does not interfere with the
vision of the players.
ITF Note 1: In the case of the Davis
Cup or other Official Championships of the International Tennis Federation,
there shall be a space behind each base-line of not less than 21 feet (6.4m.),
and at the sides of not less than 12 feet (3.66m.). The chairs of the linesmen
may be placed at the back of the court within the 21 feet or at the side of the
court within the 12 feet, provided they do not protrude into that area more than
3 feet (.914m).
ITF Note 2: In the case of the stadium
courts in the Davis Cup World Group and the Federation Cup Main Draw
there should be space behind each baseline of not less than 27 feet (8.23m) and
at the sides of not less than 15 feet (4.57m).
ITF Note 3: At club or recreation level,
the space behind each baseline should be not less than 18 feet (5.5m) and at the
sides not less than 10 feet (3.05m).
The permanent fixtures of the Court shall
include not only the net, posts, singles sticks, cord or metal cable, strap and
band, but also, where there are any such, the back and side stops, the stands,
fixed or movable seats and chairs round the Court, and their occupants, all
other fixtures around and above the Court, and the Umpire, Net-cord Judge,
Foot-fault Judge, Linesmen and Ball Boys when in their respective places.
ITF Note: For the purpose of this Rule,
the word "Umpire" comprehends the Umpire, the persons entitled to a seat on the
Court, and all those persons designated to assist the Umpire in the conduct of a
The ball shall have a uniform outer surface and
shall be white or yellow in colour. If there are any seams, they shall be
The ball shall be more than two and a half
inches (6.35cm.) and less than two and five-eighths inches (6.67cm.) in
diameter, and more than two ounces (56.7 grams) and less than two and
one-sixteenth ounces (58.5 grams) in weight.
The ball shall have a bound of more than 53
inches (135cm.) and less than 58 inches (147cm.) when dropped 100 inches
(254cm.) upon a concrete base.
The ball shall have a forward deformation of
more than .220 of an inch (.56cm.) and less than .290 of an inch (.74cm.) and a
return deformation of more than .315 of an inch (.80cm.) and less than .425 of
an inch (1.08cm.) at 18 lb. (8.165kg.) load. The two deformation figures shall
be the averages of three individual readings along three axes of the ball and no
two individual readings shall differ by more than .030 of an inch (.08cm.) in
For play above 4,000 feet (1219m) in altitude
above sea level, two additional types of ball may be used. The first type is
identical to those described above except that the bound shall be more than 48
inches (121.92cm) and less than 53 inches (135cm) and the ball shall have an
internal pressure that is greater than the external pressure. This type of
tennis ball is commonly known as a pressurized ball. The second type is
identical to those described above except that they shall have a bound of more
than 53 inches (135cm) and less than 58 inches (147cm) and shall have an
internal pressure that is approximately equal to the external pressure and have
been acclimatized for 60 days or more at the altitude of the specific
tournament. This type of tennis ball is commonly known as a zero-pressure or
All tests for bound, size and deformation shall
be made in accordance with the Regulations in the Appendix
Rackets failing to comply with the following
specifications are not approved for play under the Rules of Tennis:
(a) The hitting surface of the rachet shall
be flat and consist of a pattern of crossed strings connected to a frame and
alternately interlaced or bonded where they cross; and the stringing pattern
shall be generally uniform, and in particular not less dense in the center than
in any other area. The strings shall be free of attached objects and protrusions
other than those utilized solely and specifically to limit or prevent wear and
tear or vibration and which are reasonable in size and placement for such
(b) The frame of the racket shall not
exceed 32 inches (81.28cm.) in overall length, including the handle and 12.5
inches (31.75cm.) in overall width. The strung surface shall not exceed 15.5
inches (39.37cm.) in overall length, and 11.5 inches (29.21cm.) in overall
(c) The frame, including the handle,
shall be free of attached objects and devices other than those utilized solely
and specifically to limit or prevent wear and tear or vibration, or to
distribute weight. Any objects and devices must be reasonable in size and
placement for such purposes.
(d) The frame, including the handle and
the strings, shall be free of any device which makes it possible to change
materially the shape of the racket, or to change the weight distribution in the
direction of the longitudinal axis of the racket which would alter the swing
moment of inertia, during the playing of a point.
The International Tennis Federation shall rule
on the question of whether any racket or prototype complies with the above
specifications or is otherwise approved, or not approved, for play. Such ruling
may be undertaken on its own initiative, or upon application by any party with a
bona fide interest therein, including any player, equipment manufacturer or
National Association or members thereof. Such rulings and applications shall be
made in accordance with the applicable Review and Hearing Procedures of the
International Tennis Federation, copies of which may be obtained from the office
of the Secretary.
Case 1. Can there be more than one set of
strings on the hitting surface of a racket?
Decision. No. The rule clearly mentions a
pattern, and not patterns, of crossed strings.
Case 2. Is the stringing pattern of a
racket considered to be generally uniform and flat if the strings are on more
than one plane?
Case 3. Can a vibration dampening device
be placed on the strings of a racket and if so here can it be placed?
Decision. Yes; but such devices may only
be placed outside the pattern of crossed strings.
Server and Receiver
The players shall stand on opposite sides of the
net; the player who first delivers the ball shall be called the Server, and the
other the Receiver.
Case 1. Does a
player, attempting stroke, lose the point if he crosses an imaginary line in the
extension of the net,
(a) before striking the ball,
(b) after striking the ball?
Decision. He does not lose the point in
either case by crossing the imaginary line and provided he does not enter the
lines bounding his opponents Court (Rule 20 (e)) In regard
to hindrance, his opponent my ask for the decision of the Umpire under
Rules 21 and 25.
Case 2. The Server claims that the
Receiver must stand within the lines bounding his Court. Is this necessary?
Decision. No. The Receiver my stand
wherever he pleases on his own side of the net.
Choice of Ends and Service
The choice of ends and the right to be Server or
Receiver in the first game shall be decided by toss. The player winning the toss
may choose or require his opponent to choose:
(a) The right to be Server or Receiver,
in which case the other player shall choose the end; or
(b) The end, in which case the other
player shall choose the right to be Server or Receiver.
[USTA Comment: The toss shall be made
before the warm-up. Choices should be made promptly after the toss and are
irrevocable, except that if the match is postponed or suspended before the start
of the match.]
The service shall be delivered in the following
manner. Immediately before commencing to serve, the Server shall stand with both
feet at rest behind (i.e. further from the net than) the base-line, and within
the imaginary continuations of the center-mark and side-line. The Server shall
then project the ball by hand into the air in any direction and before it hits
the ground strike it with his racket, and the delivery shall be deemed to have
been completed at the moment of the impact of the racket and the ball. A player
with the use of only one arm may utilize his racket for the projection.
[USTA Comment: The service begins when
the Server takes a ready position (i.e., both feet at rest behind the baseline)
and ends when his racket makes contact with the ball or when he misses the ball
in attempting to serve it.]
[USTA Comment: There is no restriction
regarding the kind of service which may be used; that is, the player may use an
underhand or overhand service at his discretion.]
Case 1. May the Server in a singles game
take his stand behind the portion of the base-line between the side-lines of the
Singles Court and the Doubles Court?
[USTA Comment: The server may stand
anywhere in back of the baseline between the imaginary extensions of the center
mark and the singles sideline.]
Case 2. If a player, when serving, throws
up two or more balls instead of one, does he lose that service?
Decision. No. A let should be called, but
if the Umpire regards the action as deliberate he may take action under
[USTA Comment: There is no restriction
regarding the kind of service which may be used; that is, the player may use an
underhand or overhand service at his discretion.]
(a) The Server shall throughout the
delivery of the service:
(i) Not change his position by walking or
running. The Server shall not by slight movements of the feet which do not
materially affect the location originally taken up by him, be deemed "to change
his position by walking or running".
(ii) Not touch, with either foot, any
area other than that behind the base-line within the imaginary extensions of the
center mark and side-lines.
(b) The word "foot" means the extremity
of the leg below the ankle.
[USTA Comment: This rule covers the most
decisive stroke in the game, and there is no justification for its not being
obeyed by players and enforced by officials. No official has the right to
instruct any umpire to disregard violations of it. In a non-officiated match,
the Receiver, or his partner, may call foot faults after all efforts (appeal to
the server, request for an umpire, etc.) have failed and the foot faulting is so
flagrant as to be clearly perceptible from the Receiver's side.
It is improper for any official to warn a player
that he is in danger of having a foot fault called on him. On the other hand if
a player in all sincerity, asks for an explanation of how he foot faulted,
either the Line Umpire or the Chair Umpire should give him that information.]
Delivery of Service
(a) In delivering the service, the Server
shall stand alternately behind the right and left Courts beginning from the
right in every game. If service from a wrong half of the Court occurs and is
undetected, all play resulting from such wrong service or services shall stand,
but the inaccuracy of station shall be corrected immediately it is discovered.
(b) The ball served
shall pass over the net and hit the ground within the Service Court which is
diagonally opposite, or upon any line bounding such Court, before the Receiver
The Service is a fault:
(a) If the Server commits any breach of
Rules 7, 8 or 9(b);
(b) If he misses the ball in attempting
to strike it;
(c) If the ball served
touches a permanent fixture (other than the net, strap or band) before it hits
Case 1. After throwing a ball up
preparatory to serving the Server decides not to strike at it and catches it
instead. Is it a fault?
[USTA Comment: As long as the Server
makes no attempt to strike the ball it is immaterial whether he catches it in
his hand or on his racket or lets it drop to the ground.]
Case 2. In serving in a singles game
played on a Doubles Court with doubles posts and singles sticks the ball hits a
singles stick and then hits the ground within the lines of the correct Service
Court. Is this a fault or a let?
Decision. In serving it is a fault
because the singles stick the doubles post and that portion of the net or band
between them are permanent fixtures. (Rules 2 and
10 and note to Rule 24.).
[USTA Comment: The significant point
governing Case 2 is that the part of the net and band outside the singles sticks
is not part of the net over which this singles match is being played. Thus such
a serve is a fault under the provisions of Article (c) above . . . By the same
token this would be a fault also if it were a singles game played with permanent
posts in the singles position. See Case 1 under Rule 24 for
difference between "service" and "good return" with respect to a ball's hitting
a net post.]
After a fault (if it is the first fault) the
Server shall serve again from behind the same half of the Court from which he
served that fault, unless the service was from the wrong half, when, in
accordance with Rule 9, the Server shall be entitled to one
service only from behind the other half.
Case 1. A player serves from a wrong
Court. He loses the point and then claims it was a fault because of his wrong
Decision. The point stands as played and
the next service should be from the correct station according to the score.
Case 2. The point score being 15 all the
Server by mistake serves from the left-hand Court. He wins the point. He then
serves again from the right-hand Court delivering a fault. This mistake in
station is then discovered. Is he entitled to the previous point? From which
Court should he next serve?
Decision. The previous point stands. The
next service should be from the left-hand Court the score being 30/15 and the
Server has served one fault.
The Server shall not serve until the Receiver is
ready. If the latter attempts to return the service, he shall be deemed ready.
If, however, the Receiver signifies that he is not ready, he may not claim a
fault because the ball does not hit the ground within the limits fixed for the
[USTA Comment: The
Server must wait until the Receiver is ready for the second service as well as
the first, and if the Receiver claims to be not ready and does not make any
effort to return a service, the Server's claim for the point may not be honored
even though the service was good. However, the Receiver, having indicated he is
ready, may not become unready unless some outside interference takes place.
In all cases where a let has to be called under
the rules, or to provide for an interruption to play, it shall have the
(a) When called solely in respect of a
service that one service only shall be replayed.
(b) When called under any other
circumstance, the point shall be replayed.
Case 1. A service is interrupted by some
cause outside those defined in Rule 14. Should the service
only be replayed?
Decision. No the whole point must be
[USTA Comment: If the interruption occurs
during delivery of the second service, the Server gets two serves. Example: On a
second service a linesman calls "fault" and immediately corrects it, the
Receiver meanwhile having let the ball go by. The Server is entitled to two
serves, on this ground: The corrected call means that the Server has put the
ball into play with a good service, and once the ball is in play and a let is
called, the point must be replayed. Note, however, that if the serve is an
unmistakable ace - that is, the Umpire is sure that the erroneous call had no
part in the Receiver's inability to play the ball - the point should be declared
for the Server.
If a delay between first and second serves is
caused by the Receiver, by an official or by an outside interference the whole
point shall be replayed; if the delay is caused by the Server, the Server has
one serve to come. A spectator's outcry (of "out", "fault" or other) is not a
valid basis for replay of a point, but action should be taken to prevent a
Case 2. If a ball in play becomes broken,
should a let be called?
[USTA Comment: A ball shall be regarded
as having become "broken" if, in the opinion of the Chair Umpire, it is found to
have lost compression to the point of being unfit for further play, or unfit for
any reason, and it is clear the defective ball was the one in play.]
The "Let" in Service
The service is a let:
(a) If the ball served
touches the net, strap or band, and is otherwise good, or, after touching the
net, strap or band, touches the Receiver or anything which he wears or carries
before hitting the ground.
(b) If a service or a fault is delivered
when the Receiver is not ready (see Rule 12).
In case of a let, that particular service shall
not count, and the Server shall serve again, but a service let does not annul a
Order of Service
At the end of the first game the Receiver shall
become Server, and the Server Receiver; and so on alternately in all the
subsequent games of a match. If a player serves out of turn, the player who
ought to have served shall serve as soon as the mistake is discovered, but all
points scored before such discovery shall be reckoned. If a game shall have been
completed before such discovery, the order of service remains as altered. A
fault served before such discovery shall not be reckoned.
When Players Change Ends
The players shall change ends at the end of the
first, third and every subsequent alternate game of each set, and at the end of
each set unless the total number of games in such set is even, in which case the
change is not made until the end of the first game of the next set.
If a mistake is made and the correct sequence is
not followed the players must take up their correct station as soon as the
discovery is made and follow their original sequence.
The Ball in Play
A ball is in play from the moment at which it is
delivered in service. Unless a fault or a let is called it remains in play until
the point is decided.
[USTA Comment: A point is not decided
simply when, or because, a good shot has clearly passed a player, or when an
apparently bad shot passes over a baseline or sideline. An outgoing ball is
still definitely in play until it actually strikes the ground, backstop or a
permanent fixture (other than the net, posts, singles sticks, cord or metal
cable, strap or band), or a player. The same applies to a good ball, bounding
after it has landed in the proper court. A ball that becomes imbedded in the net
is out of play.]
[USTA Comment: When a ball is hit into
the net and the player on the other side, thinking the ball is coming over,
strikes at it and hits the next he loses the point if his touching the net
occurs while the ball is still in play.]
Case 1. A player
fails to make a good return. No call is made and the ball remains in play. May
his opponent later claim the point after the rally has ended?
Decision. No. The point may not be
claimed if the players continue to play after he error has been made, provided
the opponent was not hindered.
[USTA Comment: An out call on A's shot to
B's court must be made before B's shot has either gone out of play or has been
hit by A. See Case 3 under Rule 29 regarding this situation
in an umpired match.]
Server Wins Point
The Server wins the point:
(a) If the ball served, not being a let
under Rule 14, touches the Receiver or anything which he
wears or carries, before it hits the ground;
(b) If the Receiver otherwise loses the
point as provided by Rule 20.
Receiver Wins Point
The Receiver wins the point:
(a) If the Server serves two consecutive
(b) If the Server otherwise loses the
point as provided by Rule 20.
Player Loses Point
A player loses the point if:
(a) He fails, before the ball in play has
hit the ground twice consecutively, to return it directly over the net (except
as provided in Rule 24(a) or (c)); or
(b) He returns the ball in play so that
it hits the ground, a permanent fixture, or other object, outside any of the
lines which bound his opponent's Court (except as provided in
Rule 24(a) or (c)); or
[USTA Comment: A ball hitting a scoring
device or other object attached to a net post results in loss of point to the
(c) He volleys the
ball and fails to make a good return even when standing outside the Court; or
(d) In playing the
ball he deliberately carries or catches it on his racket or deliberately touches
it with his racket more than once; or
[USTA Comment: Only when there is a
definite "second push " by the player does his shot become illegal, with
consequent loss of point. The word 'deliberately' is the key word in this rule.
Two hits occurring in the course of a single continuous swing are not deemed a
(e) He or his racket
(in his hand or otherwise) or anything which he wears or carries touches the
net, posts, singles sticks, cord or metal cable, strap or band, or the ground
within his opponent's Court at any time while the ball is in play; or
[USTA Comment: Touching a pipe support
that runs across the court at the bottom of the net is interpreted as touching
the net; See USTA Comment under Rule 23 for a ball which
hits a pipe support.]
(f) He volleys the ball before it has
passed the net; or
(g) The ball in play
touches him or anything that he wears or carries, except his racket in his hand
or hands; or
[USTA Comment: This loss of point occurs
regardless of whether the player is inside or outside the bounds of his court
when the ball touches him.]
(h) He throws his
racket at and hits the ball; or
(i) He deliberately and materially
changes the shape of his racket during the playing of the point.
Case 1. In serving, the racket flies from
the Server's hand and touches the net before the ball has touched the ground. Is
his a fault or does the player lose he point?
Decision. The Server loses the point
because his racket touches the net while the ball is in play (Rule
Case 2. In serving the racket flies from
the Server's hand and touches the net after the ball has touched the ground
outside the proper court. Is this a fault or does the player lose the point?
Decision. This is a fault because the
ball was out of play when he racket touched the net.
Case 3. A and B are playing against C and
D. A is serving to D. C touches the net before the ball touches the ground. A
fault is then called because the service falls outside the Service Court. Do C
and D lose he point?
Decision. The call "fault" is an
erroneous one. C and D had already lost the point before "fault" could be called
because C touched the net whilst the ball was in play (Rule 20
Case 4. May a player jump over the net
into his opponent's Court while the ball is in play and not suffer penalty?
Decision. No. He loses the point (Rule
Case 5. A cuts the ball just over the net
and it returns to A's side. B, unable to reach the ball, throws his racket and
hits the ball. Both racket and ball fall over the net on A's Court. A returns
the ball outside of B's Court. Does B win or lose the point?
Decision. B loses the point (Rule
20 (e) and (h)).
Case 6. A player standing outside the
service Court is struck by a service ball before it has touched the ground. Does
he win or lose the point?
Decision. The player struck loses the
point (Rule 20 (d), except as provided under
Rule 14 (a).
Case 7. A player standing outside the
Court volleys the ball or catches it in his hand and claims the point because
the ball was certainly going out of court.
Decision. In no circumstances can he
claim the point.
(1) If he catches the ball he loses the
point under Rule 20 (g)
(2) If he volleys it and makes a bad
return he loses he point under Rule 20 (c).
(3) If he volleys it and makes a good
return the rally continues.
Player Hinders Opponent
If a player commits any act which hinders his
opponent in making a stroke, then, if this is deliberate, he shall lose the
point or if involuntary, the point shall be replayed.
[USTA Comment: 'Deliberate' means a player
did what he intended to do, although the resulting effect on his opponent might
or might not have been what he intended. Example: a player, after his return is
in the air, gives advice to his partner in such a loud voice that his opponent
is hindered. 'Involuntary' means a non-intentional act such as a hat blowing off
or a scream resulting from a sudden wasp sting.]
[USTA Comment: Upon appeal by a
competitor that the server's action in discarding a "second ball" after a rally
has started constitutes a distraction (hindrance), the Umpire, if he deems the
claim valid, shall require the server to make some other satisfactory
disposition of the ball. Failure to comply with this instruction shall result in
loss of a point on each occasion.]
Case 1. Is a player liable to a penalty
if in making a stroke he touches his opponent?
Decision. No, unless the Umpire deems it
necessary to take action under Rule 21.
Case 2. When a ball bounds back over the
net the player concerned may reach over the net in order to play he ball. What
is the ruling if the player is hindered from doing this by his opponent?
Decision. In accordance with
Rule 21 the Umpire may either award the point to the player
hindered or order the point to be replayed (See also Rule 25).
Case 3. Does an involuntary double hit
constitute an act which hinders an opponent within Rule 21?
Ball Falls on Line
A ball falling on a line is regarded as falling in
the Court bounded by that line.
Comment: In a non-officiated singles match, each player makes the call on
any ball hit toward his side of the net. If a player cannot call a ball out with
surety he should regard it as good. In doubles, normally the Receiver's partner
makes the calls with respect to the service line, with the Receiver calling on
the side and center lines, but either partner may make the call on any ball he
clearly sees out.]
Ball Touches Permanent Fixtures
If the ball in play touches a permanent fixture
other than the net, posts, singles sticks, cord or metal cable, strap or band)
after it has hit the ground, the player who struck it wins the point; if before
it hits the ground, his opponent wins the point.
[USTA Comment: A
ball in play that strikes a pipe support running across the court at the base of
the net is treated the same as a ball landing on clear ground. See also
Rule 20(e) for a player who touches a pipe support.]
Case 1. A return hits the Umpire or his
chair or stand. The player claims that the ball was going into Court.
Decision. He loses the point.
It is a good return:
(a) If the ball touches
the net, posts, singles sticks, cord or metal cable, strap or band, provided
that it passes over any of them and hits the ground within the court; or
(b) If the ball, served or returned, hits
the ground within the proper Court and rebounds or is blown back over the net,
and the player whose turn it is to strike reaches over the net and plays the
ball, provided that neither he nor any part of his clothes or racket touches the
net, posts, singles sticks, cord or metal cable strap or band or the ground
within his opponent's Court, and that the stroke is otherwise good, or
(c) If the ball is
returned outside the posts, or singles sticks, either above or below the level
of the top of the net, even though it touches the posts or singles sticks,
provided that it hits the ground within the proper Court, or
(d) If a player's
racket passes over the net after he has returned the ball provided the ball
passes the net before being played and is properly returned; or
(e) If a player succeeds in returning the
ball, served or in play, which strikes a ball lying in the Court.
[USTA Comment: Paragraph (e) of the rule
refers to a ball lying on the court at the start of the point, as a result of a
service let or fault, or as a result of a player dropping it. If a ball in play
strikes a rolling or stationary "foreign" ball that has come from elsewhere
after the point started, a let should be played. See Case 7 under
Rule 25 and note that it pertains to an object other than a ball that is
being used in the match.]
Rule 24: In a singles match, if, for the sake of convenience, a doubles
Court is equipped with singles sticks for the purpose of a singles game then the
doubles posts and those portions of the net, cord or metal cable and the band
outside such singles sticks shall at all times be permanent fixtures, and are
not regarded as posts or parts of the net of a singles game.
A return that passes under the net cord between
the singles stick and adjacent doubles post without touching either net cord,
net or doubles post and falls within the court, is a good return.
[USTA Comment: But in doubles this would be a
"through" -- loss of point.]
Case 1. A ball going
out of Court hits a net post or singles stick and falls within the lines of the
opponent's Court. Is the stroke good?
Decision. It a service: no, under
Rule 10 (c). If other than a service yes, under
Rule 24 (d).
Case 2. Is it a good return if a player
returns the ball holding his racket in both hands?
Case 3. The service, or ball in play,
strikes a ball lying in the Court. Is the point won or lost thereby?
[USTA Comment: A ball that is touching a
boundary line is considered to be "lying in the court".]
Decision. No. Play must continue. If it
is not clear to the Umpire that the right ball is returned a let should be
Case 4. May a player use more than one
racket at any time during play?
Decision. No; the whole implication of
the Rules is singular.
Case 5. May a player request that a ball
or balls lying in his opponent's Court be removed?
Decision. Yes, but not while a ball is in
[USTA Comment: The request must be
Hindrance of a Player
In case a player is hindered in making a stroke
by anything not within his control, except a permanent fixture of the Court, or
except as provided for in Rule 21, a let shall be called.
[USTA Comment: See Rule 13
and its USTA Comments regarding lets.]
Case 1. A spectator gets into the way of
a player, who fails to return the ball. May the player then claim a let?
Decision. Yes, if in the Umpire's opinion
he was obstructed by circumstances beyond his control, but not it due to
permanent fixtures of the Court or the arrangements of the ground.
Case 2. A player is interfered with as in
Case No. 1, and the Umpire calls a let. The Server had previously served a
fault. Has he the right to two services?
Decision. Yes: as the ball is in play,
the point, not merely the stroke, must be replayed as the Rule provides.
Case 3. May a player claim a let under
Rule 25 because he thought his opponent was being hindered,
and consequently did not expect the ball to be returned?
Case 4. Is a stroke good when a ball in
play hits another ball in the air?
Decision. A let should be called unless
the other ball is in the air by the act of one of the players, in which case the
Umpire will decide under Rule 21.
Case 5. If an Umpire or other judge
erroneously calls "fault" or "out", and then corrects himself, which of the
calls shall prevail?
Decision. A let must be called unless in
the opinion of the Umpire, neither player is hindered in his game, in which case
the corrected call shall prevail.
Case 6. If the first ball served, a
fault, rebounds, interfering with the Receiver at the time of the second
service, may the Receiver claim a let?
Decision. Yes. But if he had an
opportunity to remove the ball from the Court and negligently failed to do so,
he may not claim a let.
Case 7. Is it a good stroke if the ball
touches a stationary or moving object on the Court?
Decision. It is a good stroke unless the
stationary object came into Court after the ball was put into play, in which
case a let must be called. If the ball in play strikes an object moving along or
above the surface of the Court, a let must be called.
Case 8. What is the ruling if the first
service is a fault, the second service correct, and it becomes necessary to call
a let either under the provision of Rule 25 or if the Umpire
is unable to decide the point?
Decision. The fault shall be annulled and
the whole point replayed.
Score in a Game
If a player wins his first point, the score is
called 15 for that player; on winning his second point, the score is called 30
for that player; on winning his third point, the score is called 40 for that
player, and the fourth point won by a player is scored game for that player
except as below:
If both players have won three points, the score
is called deuce; and the next point won by a player is scored advantage for that
player. If the same player wins the next point, he wins the game; if the other
player wins the next point the score is again called deuce; and so on, until a
player wins the two points immediately following the score at deuce, when the
game is scored for that player.
[USTA Comment: In an non-officiated match
the Server should announce, in a voice audible to his opponent and spectators,
the set score at the beginning of each game, and point scores as the game goes
on. Misunderstandings will be avoided if this practice is followed.]
Score in a Set
(a) A player (or players) who first wins
six games wins a set, except that he must win by a margin of two games over his
opponent and where necessary a set is extended until this margin is achieved.
(b) The tie-break system of scoring may
be adopted as an alternative to the advantage set system in paragraph (a) of
this Rule provided the decision is announced in advance of the match.
In this case, the following Rules shall be
The tie-break shall operate when the score
reaches six games all in any set except in the third or fifth set of a three set
or five set match respectively when an ordinary advantage set shall be played,
unless otherwise decided and announced in advance of the match.
The following system shall be used in a
(i) A player who first wins seven points
shall win the game and the set provided he leads by a margin of two points. If
the score reaches six points all the game shall be extended until this margin
has been achieved. Numerical scoring shall be used throughout the tie-break
(ii) The player whose turn it is to serve
shall be the server for the first point. His opponent shall be the server for
the second and third points and thereafter each player shall serve alternately
for two consecutive points until the winner of the game and set has been
(iii) From the first point, each service
shall be delivered alternately from the right and left courts, beginning from
the right court. If service from a wrong half of the court occurs and is
undetected, all play resulting from such wrong service or services shall stand,
but the inaccuracy of station shall be corrected immediately after it is
(iv) Players shall change ends after
every six points and at the conclusion of the tie-break game.
(v) The tie-break game shall count as one
game for the ball change, except that, if the balls are due to be changed at the
beginning of the tie-break, the change shall be delayed until the second game of
the following set.
In doubles the procedure for singles shall
apply. The player whose turn it is to serve shall be the server for the first
point. Thereafter each player shall serve in rotation for two points, in the
same order as previously in that set, until the winners of the game and set have
Rotation of Service
The player (or pair in the case of doubles) who
served first in the tie-break game shall receive service in the first game of
the following set.
Case 1. At six-all the tie-break is
played, although it has been decided and announced in advance of the match that
an advantage set will be played. Are the points already played counted?
Decision. It the error is discovered
before the ball is put in play for the second point, the first point shall count
but the error shall be corrected immediately. If the error is discovered after
the ball is put in play for the second point the game shall continue as a
Case 2. At six all, an advantage game is
played, although it has been decided and announced in advance of the match that
a tie-break will be played. Are the points already played counted?
Decision. If the error is discovered
before the ball is put in play for the second point, the first point shall be
counted but the error shall be corrected immediately. If the error is discovered
after the ball is put in play for the second point an advantage set shall be
continued. If the score thereafter reaches eight games all or a higher even
number, a tie-break shall be played.
Case 3. If during a
tie-break in a singles or doubles game, a player serves out of turn, shall the
order of service remain as altered until the end of the game?
Decision. If a player has completed his
turn of service the order of service shall remain as altered. If the error is
discovered before a player has completed his turn of service the order of
service shall be corrected immediately and any points already played shall
Maximum Number of Sets
The maximum number of sets in a match shall be
5, or, where women take part, 3.
Role of Court Officials
In matches where an Umpire is appointed his
decision shall be final, but where a Referee is appointed, an appeal shall lie
to him from the decision of an Umpire on a question of law, and in all such
cases the decision of the Referee shall be final.
In matches where assistants to the Umpire are
appointed (Linesmen, Net-cord Judges, Foot-fault Judges) their decisions shall
be final on questions of fact, except that if in the opinion of an Umpire a
clear mistake has been made, he shall have the right to change the decision of
an assistant or order a let to be played. When such an assistant is unable to
give a decision he shall indicate this immediately to the Umpire who shall give
a decision. When an Umpire is unable to give a decision on a question of fact he
shall order a let to be played.
In Davis Cup matches or other team competitions
where a Referee is on Court, any decision can be changed by the Referee, who may
also instruct an Umpire to order a let to be played.
The Referee, in his discretion, may at any time
postpone a match on account of darkness or the condition of the ground or the
weather. In any case of postponement the previous score and previous occupancy
of Courts shall hold good, unless the Referee and the players unanimously agree
[USTA Comment: See
fourth USTA Comment under Rule 30 regarding resumption of suspended match.]
Case 1. The Umpire orders a let, but a
player claims that the point should not be replayed. May the Referee be
requested to give a decision?
Decision. Yes. A question of tennis law,
that is an issue relating to the application of specific facts, shall first be
determined by the Umpire. However, if the Umpire is uncertain or if a player
appeals from his determination, then the Referee shall be requested to give a
decision, and his decision is final.
Case 2. A ball is called out but a player
claims that the ball was good. May the Referee give a ruling?
Decision. No. This is a question of fact,
that is an issue relating to what actually occurred during a specific incident,
and the decision of the on-court officials is therefore final.
Case 3. May an Umpire
overrule a Linesman at the end of a rally if, in his opinion, a clear mistake
has been made during the course of a rally?
Decision. No, unless in his opinion the
opponent was hindered. Otherwise an Umpire may only overrule a Linesman if he
does so immediately after the mistake has been made.
[USTA Comment: See Rule
17 Case 1 regarding non-officiated matches.]
Case 4. A Linesman calls a ball out. The
Umpire was unable to see clearly, although he thought the ball was in. May he
overrule the Linesman?
Decision. No. An Umpire may only overrule
if he considers that a call was incorrect beyond all reasonable doubt. He may
only overrule a ball determined good by a Linesman if he has been able to see a
space between the ball and the line; and he may only overrule a ball determined
out, or a fault, by a Linesman if he has seen the ball hit the line, or fall
inside the line.
Case 5. May a Linesman change his call
after the Umpire has given the score?
Decision. Yes. If a Linesman realizes he
has made an error, he may make a correction provided he does so immediately.
Case 6. A player claims his return shot
was good after a Linesman called out. May the Umpire overrule the Linesman?
Decision. No. An Umpire may never
overrule as a result of a protest or an appeal by a player.
Continuous Play and Rest Periods
Play shall be continuous from the first service
until the match is concluded, in accordance with the following provisions:
(a) If the first service is a fault, the
second service must be struck by the Server without delay.
The Receiver must play to the reasonable pace of
the Server and must be ready to receive when the Server is ready to serve.
When changing ends a maximum of one minute
thirty seconds shall elapse from the moment the ball goes out of play at the end
of the game to the time the ball is struck for the first point of the next game.
The Umpire shall use his discretion when there
is interference which makes it impractical for play to be continuous.
The organizers of international circuits and
team events recognized by the ITF may determine the time allowed between points,
which shall not at any time exceed 20 seconds from the moment the ball goes out
of play at the end of one point to the time the ball is struck for the next
[USTA Comment: The 20 second rule applies
only to certain international circuits and team events recognized by the ITF.
When practical, in USTA sanctioned tournaments using a certified official in
direct observation of the match, the time which shall elapse from the moment the
ball goes out of play at the end of the point to the time the ball is struck
shall not exceed 25 seconds.]
(b) Play shall never be suspended,
delayed or interfered with for the purpose of enabling a player to recover his
strength, breath, or physical condition.
However, in the case of accidental injury, the
Umpire may allow a one-time three minute suspension for that injury.
(c) If, through circumstances outside the
control of the player, his clothing, footwear or equipment (excluding racket)
becomes out of adjustment in such a way that it is impossible or undesirable for
him to play on, the Umpire may suspend play while the maladjustment is
[USTA Comment: If equipment other than a
racket becomes unusable through circumstances outside the control of the player,
play may be suspended for a reasonable period and the player may leave the court
to correct the problem. If a racket or racket string is broken, Rule 30 does not
permit play to be suspended. A player who leaves the court to get a replacement
is subject to code violation(s) under the Point Penalty System.]
[USTA Comment: Loss
of, or damage to, a contact lens or eyeglasses shall be treated as equipment
maladjustment. All players must follow the same rules with respect to suspending
play, even though in misty but playable weather, a player who wears glasses may
(d) The Umpire may suspend or delay play
at any time as may be necessary and appropriate.
[USTA Comment: When
a match is resumed after a suspension of more than ten minutes, it is
permissible for the players to engage in a re-warm-up that may be of the same
duration as that at the start of the match. The preferred method is to warm-up
with other used balls and then insert the match balls when play starts. If the
match balls are used in the re-warm-up, then the next ball change will be two
games sooner. There shall be no re-warm-up after an authorized intermission or
after a suspension of ten minutes or less.]
(e) After the third
set, or when women take part the second set, either player is entitled to a
rest, which shall not exceed 10 minutes, or in countries situated between
latitude 15 degrees north and latitude 15 degrees south, 45 minutes and
furthermore, when necessitated by circumstances not within the control of the
players, the Umpire may suspend play for such a period as he may consider
necessary. If play is suspended and is not resumed until a later day the rest
may be taken only after the third set (or when women take part the second set)
of play on such a later day, completion of an unfinished set being counted as
If play is suspended and is not resumed until 10
minutes have elapsed in the same day the rest may be taken only after three
consecutive sets have been played without interruption (or when women take part
two sets), completion of an unfinished set being counted as one set.
Any nation and/or committee organizing a
tournament, match or competition, other than the International Tennis
Championships (Davis Cup and Federation Cup), is at liberty to modify this
provision or omit it from its regulations provided this is announced before the
(f) A tournament committee has the
discretion to decide the time allowed for a warm-up period prior to a match but
this may not exceed five minutes and must be announced before the event
[USTA Comment: When there are no
ballpersons this time may be extended to ten minutes.]
(g) When approved point penalty and
non-accumulative point penalty systems are in operation, the Umpire shall make
his decisions within the terms of those systems.
(h) Upon violation of the principle that
play shall be continuous the Umpire may, after giving due warning, disqualify
During the playing of a match in a team
competition, a player may receive coaching from a captain who is sitting on the
court only when he changes ends at the end of a game, but not when he changes
ends during a tie-break game.
A player may not receive coaching during the
playing of any other match.
After due warning an offending player may be
disqualified. When an approved point penalty system is in operation, the Umpire
shall impose penalties according to that system.
Case 1. Should a warning be given, or the
player be disqualified, if the coaching is given by signals in an unobtrusive
Decision. The Umpire must take action as
soon as he becomes aware that coaching is being given verbally or by signals. If
the Umpire is unaware that coaching is being given, a player may draw his
attention to the fact that advice is being given.
Case 2. Can a player receive coaching
during an authorized rest period under Rule 30(e), or when
play is interrupted and he leaves the court?
Decision. Yes. In these circumstances,
when the player is not on the court, there is no restriction on coaching.
ITF Note: The word "coaching" includes
any advice or instruction.
[USTA Comment: Coaching is not permitted
in the USTA Adult and Senior League Program except during authorized rest
In cases where balls are to be changed after a
specified number of games, if the balls are not changed in the correct sequence,
the mistake shall be corrected when the player, or pair in the case of doubles,
who should have served with new balls is next due to serve. Thereafter the balls
shall be changed so that the number of games between changes shall be that
The above Rules shall apply to the Doubles Game
except as below.
The Doubles Court
For the Doubles Game, the Court shall be 36 feet
(10.97m.) in width, i.e. 4.5 feet (1.37m.) wider on each side than the Court for
the Singles Game, and those portions of the singles side-lines which lie between
the two service-lines shall be called the service side-lines. In other respects,
the Court shall be similar to that described in Rule 1, but
the portions of the singles side-lines between the base-line and service-line on
each side of the net may be omitted if desired.
[USTA Comment: The Server has the right
in doubles to stand anywhere back of the baseline between the center mark
imaginary extension and the doubles sideline imaginary extension.]
Order of Service in Doubles
The order of serving shall be decided at the
beginning of each set as follows:
who have to serve in the first game of each set shall decide which partner shall
do so and the opposing pair shall decide similarly for the second game. The
partner of the player who served in the first game shall serve in the third; the
partner of the player who served in the second game shall serve in the fourth,
and so on in the same order in all the subsequent games of a set.
Case 1. In doubles one player does not
appear in time to play, and his partner claims to be allowed to play
single-handed against the opposing players. May he do so?
Order of Receiving in Doubles
The order of receiving the service shall be
decided at the beginning of each set as follows:
The pair who have to receive the service in the
first game shall decide which partner shall receive the first service, and that
partner shall continue to receive the first service in every odd game throughout
that set. The opposing pair shall likewise decide which partner shall receive
the first service in the second game and that partner shall continue to receive
the first service in every even game throughout that set. Partners shall receive
the service alternately throughout each game.
Case 1. Is it allowable in doubles for
the server's partner or the Receiver's partner to stand in a position that
obstructs the view of the Receiver?
Decision. Yes. The Server's partner or
the Receiver's partner may take any position on his side of the net in or out of
the Court that he wishes.
Service Out of Turn in Doubles
If a partner serves out of his turn, the partner
who ought to have served shall serve as soon as the mistake is discovered, but
all points scored, and any faults served before such discovery, shall be
reckoned. If a game shall have been completed before such discovery, the order
of service remains as altered.
[USTA Comment: For an exception to
Rule 37 see Case 3 under Rule 27.]
Error in Order of Receiving in Doubles
If during a game the order of receiving the
service is changed by the Receivers it shall remain as altered until the end of
the game in which the mistake is discovered, but the partners shall resume their
original order of receiving in the next game of that set in which they are
Receivers of the service.
Service Fault in Doubles
The service is a fault as provided for by
Rule 10, or if the ball touches the Server's partner or
anything which he wears or carries, but if the ball served touches the partner
of the Receiver, or anything which he wears or carries, not being a let under
Rule 14(a) before it hits the ground, the Server wins the
Playing the Ball in Doubles
The ball shall be struck alternately by one or
other player of the opposing pairs, and if a player touches the ball in play
with his racket in contravention of this Rule, his opponents win the point.
[USTA Comment: The partners themselves do
not have to "alternate" in making returns. In the course of making one return,
only one member of a doubles team may hit the ball. If both of them hit the
ball, either simultaneously or consecutively, it is an illegal return. Mere
clashing of rackets does not make a return illegal unless it is clear that more
than one racket touched the ball.]
ITF Note: Except where otherwise stated,
every reference in these rules to the masculine includes the feminine gender.
Regulations for Making Tests Specified in
1. Unless otherwise specified all
tests shall be made at a temperature of approximately 68° Fahrenheit (20°
Centigrade) and a relative humidity of approximately 60 per cent. All balls
should be removed from their container and kept at the recognized temperature
and humidity for 24 hours prior to testing, and shall be at that temperature and
humidity when the test is commenced.
Unless otherwise specified the limits are for a test conducted in an atmospheric
pressure resulting in a barometric reading of approximately 30 inches (76cm.).
3. Other standards may be fixed for
localities where the average temperature, humidity or average barometric
pressure at which the game is being played differs materially from 68°
Fahrenheit (20° Centigrade), 60 per cent and 30 inches (76cm.) respectively.
Applications for such adjusted standards may be
made by any National Association to the International Tennis Federation and if
approved shall be adopted for such localities.
4. In all tests for diameter a ring gauge
shall be used consisting of a metal plate, preferably non-corrosive, of a
uniform thickness of one-eighth of an inch (.32cm.) in which there are two
circular openings 2.575 inches (6.54cm.) and 2.700 inches (6.86cm.) in diameter
respectively. The inner surface of the gauge shall have a convex profile with a
radius of one-sixteenth of an inch (.16cm.). The ball shall not drop through the
smaller opening by its own weight and shall drop through the larger opening by
its own weight.
5. In all tests for deformation conducted
under Rule 3, the machine designed by Percy Herbert Stevens
and patented in Great Britain under Patent No. 230250, together with the
subsequent additions and improvements thereto, including the modifications
required to take return deformations, shall be employed or such other machine
which is approved by a National Association and gives equivalent readings to the
6. Procedure for carrying out tests.
(a) Pre-compression. Before any ball is
tested it shall be steadily compressed by approximately one inch (2.54cm.) on
each of three diameters at right angles to one another in succession; this
process to be carried out three times (nine compressions in all). All tests to
be completed within two hours of precompression.
(b) Bound test (as in Rule
3). Measurements are to be taken from the concrete base to the bottom of the
(c) Size test (as in paragraph 4 above).
(d) Weight test (as in Rule
(e) Deformation test. The ball is placed
in position on the modified Stevens machine so that neither platen of the
machine is in contact with the cover seam. The contact weight is applied, the
pointer and the mark brought level, and the dials set to zero. The test weight
equivalent to 18 lb. (8.165kg.) is placed on the beam and pressure applied by
turning the wheel at a uniform speed so that five seconds elapse from the
instant the beam leaves its seat until the pointer is brought level with the
mark. When turning ceases the reading is recorded (forward deformation). The
wheel is turned again until figure ten is reached on the scale (one inch
[2.54cm.] deformation). The wheel is then rotated in the opposite direction at a
uniform speed (thus releasing pressure) until the beam pointer again coincides
with the mark. After waiting ten seconds the pointer is adjusted to the mark if
necessary. The reading is then recorded (return deformation). This procedure is
repeated on each ball across the two diameters at right angles to the initial
position and to each other.
Rules of Wheelchair Tennis
The game of wheelchair tennis follows the
same rules as able-bodied tennis as endorsed by the International Tennis
Foundation except the wheelchair tennis player is allowed two bounces of the
1. The Competitive
Wheelchair Tennis Player. The only eligibility requirements for an
individual to become a competitive wheelchair tennis player is that he must be
medically diagnosed as having a mobility-related disability. In other words, he
must have substantial or total loss of function in one or more extremities. If,
as a result of these functional limitations, this person would be unable to play
competitive able-bodied tennis (that is, having the mobility to cover the court
with adequate speed), then the person would be eligible to play competitive
wheelchair tennis in sanctioned IWTF tournaments.
(a) Quadriplegic division players shall
be characterized as one who has limited mobility, power and strength in at least
three limbs due to accidents, spinal cord injuries and other related diseases.
Also included in this division are walking quadriplegics, power wheelchair-users
and triple amputees. Players who cannot use both arms to move the chair are
allowed to use their legs. In case of doubt it is up to the IWTF to make a
decision if the player is allowed to use his legs.
If there is reason to doubt an individual's
eligibility to participate as a competitive wheelchair tennis players, the IWTF
rules committee reserves the right to screen any player being considered for
ranking. A verification of quadriplegic status may be required, when in doubt.
2. The Ball In Play
In wheelchair tennis the ball is allowed to
bounce twice before being returned.
(a) If the ball is taken on the first
bounce, it must bounce within the bounds of the court.
(b) If the ball is taken on the second
bounce, the second bounce can hit the ground either within the boundaries of the
court or outside the court boundaries before being returned.
3. The Service
(a) The ball served may, after hitting
the ground in the service court, hit the ground once again within the bounds of
the court or outside the court boundaries before being returned.
(b) The server shall throughout the
delivery of the service:
-- Not change position by rolling or spinning. The server shall not by slight
movements of the wheels which do not materially affect the location originally
taken up by him, be deemed "to change his position by rolling or spinning."
-- Not touch, with any wheel, any area other than that behind the
baseline within the imaginary extension of the center-mark and sideline.
(c) If the player deliberately uses any
part of his lower extremities as brakes or as stabilizers while delivering
service, the service is deemed a fault.
(d) If conventional methods for the
service are physically impossible for a quadriplegic player, then another
individual may drop the ball for such a player.
4. Player Loses Point. The wheelchair is
part of the body. All applicable rules apply. A player loses the point if:
(a) The ball in play touches him or his
wheelchair or anything he wears or carries, except his racket in his hand(s).
This loss of a point occurs regardless of whether the player is inside or
outside the bounds of his court when the ball touches him.
(b) A served ball hits him or his
wheelchair or anything he wears or carries, except his racket in his hand(s). If
the server hits his own partner with the served ball, then it is a fault.
(c) He deliberately uses any part of his
feet or lower extremities as brakes or as stabilizers while delivering the
service, stroking a ball, turning or stopping.
(d) He fails to keep one buttock in
contact with his wheelchair seat contacting the ball.
It is legal for a player to hit a return, fall out of his chair and then get
back into his chair to make the next return.
5. Wheelchair/Able-Bodied Tennis. Where a
wheelchair player is defined in Rule 1 above is playing with
able-bodied persons, then again the rules of tennis shall apply.
In this instance, however, the wheelchair player
is allowed only one bounce and Rules 2 and 3
above shall therefore not apply.
Tie-Breaks and No-Ad Scoring
1. Tie-Break Use Mandatory. Use of
the 12-point tie-break is mandatory in all sanctioned tournaments in all sets.
2. Twelve-Point Tie-Break
Singles. Player A, having served the first game
of the set, serves the first point from the right court; Player B serves points
2 and 3 (left and right); A serves points 4 and 5 (left and right); B serves
point 6 (left) and after they change ends, point 7 (right); A serves points 8
and 9 (left and right); B serves points 10 and 11 (left and right); A serves
point 12 (left). A player who reaches seven points during these first 12 points
wins the game and set. If the score has reached six points all, the players
change ends and continue in the same pattern until one player establishes a
margin of two points which gives him the game and set. Note that the players
change ends every six points and that the player who serves the last point of
one of these 6-point segments also serves the first point of the next one (from
right court). For a following set the players change ends and B serves the first
Doubles. The same pattern as in singles applies,
with partners preserving their serving sequence. In a game of A-B versus C-D,
with A having served the first game of the set, A serves the first point
(right); C serves points 2 and 3 (left and right); B serves points 4 and 5 (left
and right); D serves point 6 (left) and after the teams change ends, D serves
point 7 (right); A serves points 8 and 9 (left and right); C serves points 10
and 11 (left and right); B serves point 12 (left). A team that wins seven points
during these first 12 points wins the game and set. If the score has reached six
points all, the teams change ends. B then serves point 13 (right), and they
continue until one team establishes a two-point margin and thus wins the game
and set. As in singles, they change ends for one game to start a following set,
with team C-D to serve first.
3. Experimental 12-point tie-break. The
experimental 12-point tie-break is the same as the present 12-point tie-break
except that ends are changed after the first point, then after every four
points, and at the conclusion of the tie-break game.
4. When experimental 12-point tie-break
is authorized. For experimental purposes, a section may authorize any tournament
below the National Championship level to use the experimental 12-point
tie-break. For experimental purposes, the USTA Sanctions and Schedules Committee
may authorize the use of the experimental 12-point tie-break for any other
tournament. Any tournament electing to use the experimental 12-point tie-break
must announce the election before the start of tournament play.
5. Recording the tie-break score. The
score of the tie-break set will be written 7-6(x) or 6-7(x), with (x) being the
number of points won by the loser of the tie break. For example, 7-6(4) means
the tie-break score was 7-4, and 6-7(14) means the tie-break score was 14-16.
6. Changing ends during the tie-break.
Changes of ends during a tie-break game are to be made within the normal time
allowed between points.
7. Ball changes. If a ball change is due
on a tie-break game, it will be deferred until the start of the second game of
the next set. A tie-break game counts as one game in determining ball changes.
8. No-Ad scoring. The No-Ad procedure is
simply what the name implies; the first player to win four points wins the game,
with the seventh point of a game becoming a game point for each player. The
receiver has the choice of advantage court or deuce court to which the service
is to be delivered on the seventh point. No-ad scoring is authorized for
tournaments at the sectional championship level and below. A tournament electing
to use no-ad scoring must announce the election before the start of the
tournament play except as set forth in paragraph 9 below.
Note: The score-calling may be either in the
conventional terms or in simple number, i.e., "zero, one, two, three, game."
Cautionary Note: Any ITF-authorized tournament
should get special authorization from ITF before using No-Ad.
9. Change to No-Ad scoring. The referee can switch to no-ad scoring from
regular scoring in any round without prior notice on the entry blank when in the
referee's discretion the change is necessary to complete the tournament after
inclement weather or other factors cause the tournament to fall behind its
1 January 1992 by 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
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 played out.
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 fooffault, 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 call.
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 fooffaulter 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 his baseline.
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
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
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 server.
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
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
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 good match.
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.