Thursday, November 10, 2016

Weird tennis rules & match scenarios - Part 2

Kristianne Bontempo & Katelyn Caniford | Towpath Tennis Contributors

How many times have you played a match and wondered, “Is that legal?” Well with all sorts of odd-ball rules and strange scenarios, you might find yourself frequently questioning the rules. We’re here to give you a list of ten uncommon situations you might find yourself dealing with during your matches.

1) I was playing a match one time and I hit a shot that was floating in the air, but looked like it wasn’t going to go over the net. As the ball was floating, my opponent reached over the net and hit the ball. Is that allowed?  No it’s not allowed. The ball must cross onto HER side of the net before she makes contact, and as long as she did not touch the net, THEN it is okay to follow-through over the net. The only situation when a player may reach over the net to play a ball, is if the spin or wind brings the ball back over the net to the side of the player(s) who hit the shot. Then your opponent can reach over the net to hit the ball.

2) I once played a match where my opponent was cracking open a new beer every so often while changing sides. Are you allowed to have alcoholic beverages during a USTA match? Surprisingly we cannot find any rule against this, but we would hope players would wait at least until after the match is completed to consume any alcohol. If the facility prohibits alcoholic beverages on the court then that player should certainly abide by their rules.

3) Is there a limit to how many lets you can serve in a match? Someone once tried to call a fault for doing so. No! Serve as many times as you need☺

4) Is there a rule that prevents the receiver from “crowding” the service box when returning serve? You and your partner can stand anywhere you want on your side of the court BUT seriously why would you want to considering 1) You can be distracting your doubles partner who’s returning. 2) You can get hit by your opponent's serve and lose the point anyways. 3) You need to let the service ball bounce before you hit it. 4) Your opponents could claim a distraction if you look like you’re intentionally distracting them.

5) I played a doubles match one time where my shot fell too short while lobbing and I told my partner to “watch out.” We ended up winning the point. However, my opponents told me I cannot talk when the ball is leaving my racket and that we can only talk when the ball is coming towards us. Is this correct?
No, this is not correct. You are allowed to speak to your partner at any time during play. Just try to be respectful about it. For example, this could become an issue if you and your partner are so loud that it affects your opponents' concentration or ability to set up the point. They in turn are allowed to ask for a let. 

6) During a singles match, your opponent’s hat flies off in the middle of the point. Is it considered a let or a loss point? In an officiated match, a hat, glasses, ball or racket that falls during a point is considered a let. If an item falls again, then there will be a loss of point. HOWEVER, in an UN-officiated match it is up to the opponent (not the player who dropped the item), to call the let. Also, if the ball in play happens to touch anything that you wear or carry (other than the racket) or any part of your body, then you lose the point.

7) If you whiff a serve, is it considered a fault? Yep sorry! Good news is if you swing and miss an overhead (or any other shot for that matter), you can try to retrieve the ball after the permitted one bounce or no bounce and that is legal. Your partner can make an attempt to play the ball if you whiff a shot as well.

8) What happens if my opponent is serving and purposefully comes to the baseline every time with only one ball? Therefore if she misses, she can take her time walking to get another ball in order to delay. The official rules state that if the first serve is missed, then the second serve should then be hit without delay. Even though the rules also state that there is a 20 second provision in between points, that doesn’t apply to first and second serves. Your opponent should have two balls with them every time they step up to serve.

9) Can you switch hands when playing tennis? There are players that are ambidextrous that can play with two forehands/two backhands (ie. Monica Seles). It might screw with your opponent's head but yes, it is legal to switch racket “handed-ness” during play.

10) I once hit a shot that was clearly going out. Both my opponent and I know it, yet he calls the ball out but then reaches up and catches it. Is this allowed? No. According to the rules, if a player catches a ball before it bounces then that player automatically loses the point. Players are always considered to have the benefit of the doubt that the ball is in, until it touches the ground.

To study up on other weird tennis rulings, check out Miscellaneous USTA Rules. You never know when you're going to need it!

Do you have a question or weird scenario that you'd like to know the ruling of? Email us with your question!


  1. I am not a regular tennis player, most often it's complicated to understand the rules and regulation of this game. We need to understand the basic of every game to be a learner. But to be a professional player, we should go through the whole book of rules and regulation. Thanks for this wonderful article, which describes some important rules and regulations of tennis.
    Facts About Tennis

  2. #5 is a poor interpretation. According to The Code, "Doubles players should not talk when the ball is moving toward their opponent’s court." However, unless the opponents made a timely claim of hindrance, the point goes to the questioner.

  3. Exactly I also don't like these rules. However, I'm finding Best Tennis Shoes with the support of Ankle. Can you suggest some shoes?