Little-Known Tennis Rules

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Little-Known Tennis Rules

Postby fightfan » Fri Mar 27, 2009 9:07 am

I just thought I'd start a thread about some unusual, strange, peculiar, not so well-known tennis rules. Perhaps this is something we all should know in order to play properly, but maybe we or our partners/opponents do not always know. Maybe it's something that we think we know but are incorrect. This will be a chance for someone to correct us. I'll start with 2 so you have an idea of what I mean.

1. After the end-of-set tiebreaker, you switch sides to begin the next set (even if you just switched sides as part of the tiebreaker). For example, at 6-0 you switch sides since a total of 6 points was played. If the next point declares a winner at 7-0, you would switch sides again to begin the next set. Also, the person to start serving that next set is the person who did NOT start serving the tiebreaker at 0-0. It turns out that this server would be the person who did not start serving the previous set. In other words, each player would get a turn to start serving the set. As you can see, these rules have nothing to do with who served the last point in the tiebreaker or which side you started the set or tiebreaker on.

2. I'm sure most of us know this, but a ball is not out until it bounces out or hits a permanent fixture out of bounds, i.e. the fence. If you are out of bounds and catch or even touch a ball before it bounces, then you lose the point, even if the ball was obviously going to be out. In Jason's case, if you hit your opponent's body on the fly during a serve, you win the point no matter where they are standing. Technically, the ball was not out yet. :)

Edit: just clarified some English to avoid confusion.
Last edited by fightfan on Fri Mar 27, 2009 10:50 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Little-Known Tennis Rules

Postby Charlzz » Fri Mar 27, 2009 10:10 am

Interesting thread.

Here's a few that are interesting. Normally, if you swing at a ball and completely miss, there is no "penalty" other than you didn't hit the ball. Thus, if the ball flew out, any attempted swing has no bearing on the shot. However, if you swing at a serve and miss, I believe this is considered a fault. You can stop the motion and catch the ball, etc., and it wouldn't be a fault.

A bizarre one that really happened. In the final of the WCT Finals in Dallas (WCT was a rival tour started by Lamar Hunt, one of the early owners in American football), McEnroe was in a fifth set tiebreak against Lendl. He quickly took a 6-0 lead in the tiebreak. A lengthy rally ensued. Lendl took Mac out wide to his backhand, and Mac appeared to hit around the netpost.

The chair umpire agreed with this assessment and awarded Mac the point and match. Lendl argued, claiming the ball had gone between the netpost and the net. In that particular match, there was a gap between the net and netpost of maybe 8 inches. Replays showed that Lendl was correct, and the ball had gone in between and it should have been Lendl's point. As it was 6-1, it probably didn't matter.

The following year, the net was tied to the netpost so this wouldn't happen again.

So the rules are that if you hit wide of the netpost, the ball does not have to travel above the height of the net. It can be below. However, if there's a gap between the netpost and net, then that is not a valid shot.

There's also the following obscure rule. You may not reach over the net to hit a ball, except in one circumstance. Before I explain the exception, here's a common scenario. You are playing doubles. You see a short ball, not even a real lob. It will barely clear the net by inches (or cm). To make it easier to hit, you reach over the net, and knock the ball down for the easy winner. That is illegal. You must hit the ball on your side of the court. The follow-through may cross the plane of the net, however, if you've hit the ball on your side first.

The exception is this. Suppose your opponent hit a nasty backspin drop shot which is a little high (in doubles, this would usually be a volley accidentally hit with such backspin that it pops up and barely crosses the net). The backspin carries it back to your opponent's side.

You are allowed to reach over the net (but not allowed to touch the net) and tap the ball before it bounces on your opponent's side.

Touching the net is an immediate loss of point. I believe this is always the case. If you hit the ball, and the point is not over (i.e., the ball hasn't bounced twice or landed out, etc), and you touch the net (perhaps running down a drop shot), you lose the point.

There are several kinds of double faults. You may not touch the court or the baseline until the ball has been hit. You may jump over the baseline as long as you don't touch it and you land after the ball has been hit. You may also not touch the extension of the center line if it were extended backward all the way to the back fence. Safin was called on a fault for doing this.

You can't touch the extension of the singles sideline in singles or the doubles sideline in doubles if you happen to serve near the sideline.

Double-hits are permitted in tennis provided the double-hit is unintentional. This is a judgment call. Typically this is a badly hit volley where the follow-through strikes the ball a second time.

I always get confused about permanent vs. non-permanent fixtures. I believe you can hit a permanent fixture (the netpost) and if the ball lands in, it's good (I don't know what happens if this is a serve). If there is a non-permanent fixture, say, a jacket sitting on a net and the ball hits that, then the point is over (I think).
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Re: Little-Known Tennis Rules

Postby fightfan » Fri Mar 27, 2009 11:10 am

Charlzz wrote:if you swing at a serve and miss, I believe this is considered a fault.
Interesting, I did not know this. How about this scenario, which actually happened to me? My service motion is pretty standard: ball and racquet in front of me, then ball and racquet down together, then up together, then swing at the ball. So, I have ball and racquet in front of me to start my serve. As I bring them down together, the racquet hits the ball and it falls out of my hand. I didn't swing at the ball, but the racquet definitely hit the ball. Is this a fault?

Charlzz wrote:Suppose your opponent hit a nasty backspin drop shot...The backspin carries it back to your opponent's side. You are allowed to reach over the net (but not allowed to touch the net) and tap the ball before it bounces on your opponent's side.
I actually saw this happen in a tournament singles match once, pre-qualifier for the SAP Open! It was hilarious, and both guys laughed. The toughest part was not touching the net, on either side!

Charlzz wrote:There are several kinds of double faults...You may also not touch the extension of the center line if it were extended backward all the way to the back fence.
Just to clarify, I'm fairly sure that you cannot start there either. For example, if you have a serve where you take a step before you hit the ball, your foot cannot start where it could touch the center line extension, even if by the time you actually hit the serve both feet are clearly "in bounds."

Charlzz wrote:I believe you can hit a permanent fixture (the netpost) and if the ball lands in, it's good (I don't know what happens if this is a serve). If there is a non-permanent fixture, say, a jacket sitting on a net and the ball hits that, then the point is over (I think).
Hmm, good questions. I think you're right about a rally ball hitting the netpost, but I don't know about the serve. I also have no idea about a jacket on the net. I'd be interested in answers to these. It would really suck if your opponent put his jacket there and caused you to lose a point.
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Re: Little-Known Tennis Rules

Postby Charlzz » Fri Mar 27, 2009 11:32 am

fightfan wrote:
Charlzz wrote:if you swing at a serve and miss, I believe this is considered a fault.
Interesting, I did not know this. How about this scenario, which actually happened to me? My service motion is pretty standard: ball and racquet in front of me, then ball and racquet down together, then up together, then swing at the ball. So, I have ball and racquet in front of me to start my serve. As I bring them down together, the racquet hits the ball and it falls out of my hand. I didn't swing at the ball, but the racquet definitely hit the ball. Is this a fault?


Hmm, that's a tough one. So imagine this scenario. You want to be a sneaky server. So you drop the ball at waist height and hit the ball underhand. There you would have deliberately swung the racquet, so I could see that being a fault.

I think in casual play, it would probably be fine since you hadn't really swung at your serve, but accidentally dropped the ball. Perhaps the fine alumni at PTM can answer this.

fightfan wrote:
Charlzz wrote:There are several kinds of double faults...You may also not touch the extension of the center line if it were extended backward all the way to the back fence.
Just to clarify, I'm fairly sure that you cannot start there either. For example, if you have a serve where you take a step before you hit the ball, your foot cannot start where it could touch the center line extension, even if by the time you actually hit the serve both feet are clearly "in bounds."


That sounds right. I think that's what happened to Safin. His right foot touched the imaginary extension of the center line at the beginning of the serve. By the time he was ready to hit the serve, his right foot had moved up. Although his feet were both in bounds when he hit the serve, he was called for a foot fault because he started on that imaginary extension.

I guess it's like having your foot on the baseline, then backing it up before you hit it (bad technique, but just for sake of example). That would still be a foot-fault.
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Re: Little-Known Tennis Rules

Postby Sally » Fri Mar 27, 2009 11:38 am

Lots of helpful info fightfan and Charlzz.

You probably know this but I learned it the hard way. I was playing singles, the ball left my racquet, traveled over the net, bounced short on my opponents side, then bounced again (clearly a double bounce). My opponent hit the ball over to my side and it landed out. I made the mistake of calling 'double bounce' during the play which was wrong on my part. I was told that my opponent can only call a double bounce on her side. The rules say something like 'once the ball leaves your racquet, it's the opponents call and visa versa, once the ball leaves the opponents racquet, it's your call.' In other words, if the ball bounces twice on your side, it's your call to make, not your opponents. Technically it was my point b/c her shot went wide but we played a let since I made such a hullabaloo at the net, hehe. So, from now on if I see a double bounce on the other side of the net, I'll play the point out and question it later. 98% of players are honest and will call a double bounce but every so often....

I believe it would be the same thing with the backspin ball you were talking about Charlzz. Once the ball leaves your opponents racquet, backspins over the net and starts returning backwards, that ball is in your jurisdication now so you make the judgment call, not your opponent. Correct?
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Re: Little-Known Tennis Rules

Postby Charlzz » Fri Mar 27, 2009 1:27 pm

I don't know that the rules specify who is to make the call. They only specify scenarios.

There was an additional set of "rules" which were more etiquette called "The Code" written by one Colonel Nicholas Powell. I'm surprised the rules were only written in 1989. I thought they were much older than that. These rules would include such things as "if you're unsure of the call, call it good".
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Re: Little-Known Tennis Rules

Postby Ian W » Fri Mar 27, 2009 1:37 pm

Little known rule: "When in doubt, call it out!"







Just kidding, just kidding
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Re: Little-Known Tennis Rules

Postby Jason C » Fri Mar 27, 2009 2:46 pm

Charlzz wrote:The chair umpire agreed with this assessment and awarded Mac the point and match. Lendl argued, claiming the ball had gone between the netpost and the net. In that particular match, there was a gap between the net and netpost of maybe 8 inches. Replays showed that Lendl was correct, and the ball had gone in between and it should have been Lendl's point. As it was 6-1, it probably didn't matter.

The following year, the net was tied to the netpost so this wouldn't happen again.

So the rules are that if you hit wide of the netpost, the ball does not have to travel above the height of the net. It can be below. However, if there's a gap between the netpost and net, then that is not a valid shot.


Charlzz, this isn't entirely accurate. The net posts are supposed to be a certain distance from the outside line on the court. In singles this is the singles sideline, in doubles it'd be the doubles sideline. In professional tennis they can accomodate for this. Notice the post in the middles of the doubles ally in this picture http://www.somaxsports.com/images/Feder ... etPrep.jpg . If the posts are set there which is the correct way, you cannot hit the ball between the net and the post, but anywhere outside is legit. Safe to say most of us here at ET don't have grounds crews moving the nets from singles to doubles to accomodate our match, so if you're playing singles on a doubles court the net is in the wrong position. Therefore if there is a gap between the net and post and you're playing singles you CAN hit between it and have it count if it goes straight through. If it touches the net or post on it's way through, it's dead. This option of course won't be there on professional nets but on PLENTY of recreational nets around the world theres a ton of room for a legal shot.

If you're playing doubles then it is never acceptable to go through the net.

Here are some tricky questions for ya though.

If i hit a serve and it goes through the net, and both players agree it went through a hole in the net... what happens?

If Ian and I are playing and Ians hat falls off, can he call a let? can i? what if it happens twice? Can he just knock his hat off his head whenever he is in trouble?

If I serve and the ball pops but we both continue to play out the point with the very dead ball exchanging 5 or 6 shots... and after the point i pick up the ball and notice that its popped, what happens?

What are you options after winning a coin toss at the start of a match?

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Re: Little-Known Tennis Rules

Postby JohnInRealLife » Fri Mar 27, 2009 3:24 pm

Jason C wrote:If i hit a serve and it goes through the net, and both players agree it went through a hole in the net... what happens?

Fault.

Jason C wrote:If Ian and I are playing and Ians hat falls off, can he call a let?

No.

Jason C wrote:can i?

Yes.

Jason C wrote:what if it happens twice?

You aim for him?

Jason C wrote:If I serve and the ball pops but we both continue to play out the point with the very dead ball exchanging 5 or 6 shots... and after the point i pick up the ball and notice that its popped, what happens?

The point counts.

Jason C wrote:What are you options after winning a coin toss at the start of a match?

Serve or receive. Pick a side. Give the first decision to your opponent. Or...forfeit the match and go have a 12-pack with Brian.
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Re: Little-Known Tennis Rules

Postby JohnInRealLife » Fri Mar 27, 2009 3:30 pm

Your opponent hits a high bouncing shot that takes you all the way back to the fence. While trying to play the ball, your foot gets caught on the chain link. Let, or no let?
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Re: Little-Known Tennis Rules

Postby fightfan » Sun Mar 29, 2009 12:33 am

I assume #52's answers to Jason's questions were all right as no one has corrected them. I'm just trying to keep this thread alive because I'd love to know more about the actual rules of this game I play. :) I'll add a couple more.

* Most doubles players already know this, but perhaps singles players don't. When playing doubles, you can reverse the serve order and/or the side you play on (deuce/ad) during the beginning of every set. In other words, if you have a much better server on your team, he can start serving each set, even if it's out of the normal order. Likewise, you and your partner can switch sides if things are not working at all and you want to try something different. Naturally, this also applies to the 3rd set match tiebreaker since that replaces the 3rd set.

* This isn't a rule per se, but it's something I was taught from the very beginning. Only a hair on the ball has to touch the outside of the line to be consider in. Also, I was told that a ball should be called in unless you are 100% sure the ball was out. In other words, if you are 99% sure the ball is out, i.e. not even fuzz touched the outside of the line, you should call it in. If you believe that and have paid attention to the electronic line calling these days on pro matches, you might want to reconsider some of your calls, haha! I'd love to know your thoughts.
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Re: Little-Known Tennis Rules

Postby JohnInRealLife » Sun Mar 29, 2009 1:37 am

fightfan wrote:...I was told that a ball should be called in unless you are 100% sure the ball was out. In other words, if you are 99% sure the ball is out, i.e. not even fuzz touched the outside of the line, you should call it in.


Unless you're playing USTA, then it's the reverse of your description. And if you think I'm joking, Just wait and see..
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Re: Little-Known Tennis Rules

Postby JohnInRealLife » Sun Mar 29, 2009 1:38 am

Here's one...

When is the only time your racquet is allowed to contact the ball on your opponent's side of the net without it costing you a point?
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Re: Little-Known Tennis Rules

Postby Jason C » Sun Mar 29, 2009 12:26 pm

JohnInRealLife wrote:Jason C wrote:
If i hit a serve and it goes through the net, and both players agree it went through a hole in the net... what happens?

Fault.


Correct.

JohnInRealLife wrote:Jason C wrote:
If Ian and I are playing and Ians hat falls off, can he call a let?

No.


Jason C wrote:
can i?

Yes.


Correct

JohnInRealLife wrote:Jason C wrote:
what if it happens twice?

You aim for him?


Wrong. I call a let which results in me getting the point. Then I aim for him.

JohnInRealLife wrote:Jason C wrote:
If I serve and the ball pops but we both continue to play out the point with the very dead ball exchanging 5 or 6 shots... and after the point i pick up the ball and notice that its popped, what happens?

The point counts.


Wrong, it's a let.

JohnInRealLife wrote:Jason C wrote:
What are you options after winning a coin toss at the start of a match?

Serve or receive. Pick a side. Give the first decision to your opponent. Or...forfeit the match and go have a 12-pack with Brian.


1. Serve 2. Recieve. 3. Defer

Note: All of these can and should result in a 12-pack with Brian and/or #52.4
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Re: Little-Known Tennis Rules

Postby Charlzz » Sun Mar 29, 2009 1:34 pm

JohnInRealLife wrote:Here's one...

When is the only time your racquet is allowed to contact the ball on your opponent's side of the net without it costing you a point?


Charlzz wrote:The exception is this. Suppose your opponent hit a nasty backspin drop shot which is a little high (in doubles, this would usually be a volley accidentally hit with such backspin that it pops up and barely crosses the net). The backspin carries it back to your opponent's side.

You are allowed to reach over the net (but not allowed to touch the net) and tap the ball before it bounces on your opponent's side.

Touching the net is an immediate loss of point. I believe this is always the case. If you hit the ball, and the point is not over (i.e., the ball hasn't bounced twice or landed out, etc), and you touch the net (perhaps running down a drop shot), you lose the point.


Already beat you to it!
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