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WTA Tennis




"Cummings and Goings" by Jim Cummings

November 22, 2005 09:35 AM

When we came up with a "sticky" tournament rule question this summer, I  e-mailed my long-time friend - Jim Cummings.  The reason I wrote to Jim is simple.  He knows the rules, inside and out, and if/when he runs into something that he is not sure of,  he turns to his good friend Roy Van Brunt,  Chair of the USTA Rules Committee, and runs it by him.

I know that Jim writes a column for some publications out east and recently asked him if he would write one for our WTA pages, one each month.  Here's his reply:

        "When a leader like Lloyd Cook asks for your services, you say yes
         if at all possible. Lloyd and I go back to our boyhood days in
         Marinette where we were both born and raised. His older brother,
         Gene, was my best friend and, if it were not for that, I may never
         have picked up a tennis racquet. Their father, Ben Cook, was one
         of the best players in the Twin Cities area, so it was only natural
         that we all became tennis players. Then there was Mrs. Cook who
         was a second mother to me. A trip home after I had moved to Chicago,
         and later Baltimore, was never complete without a visit with "Ma" Cook.
         And did I forget to mention that Lloyd's second older brother, Ron, was
         a college roommate at the U of W - Madison? Now that you know my
         Cook connection, let's see if I can serve up some offerings that you will find
         worth reading."
And now, on with the 1st edition of Jim's:

"Cummings and Goings"
October 31, 2005
In case you are wondering, what happened to Michelle Wie in her first tournament as a professional golfer cannot happen in tennis. Wie was disqualified at the Samsung Open Championships (Oct. 13-16, 2005). Did she hit a ball into the woods and throw it out onto the fairway when nobody was looking? No, nothing like that. In fact, what she did (an unknowing illegal drop) was captured on television for all to see, including Sports Illustrated reporter, Michael Bramberger, who reported it to tournament officials a day after the deed was done No official made the call and at the end of her round, she did not add the two stroke penalty for unknowingly making an illegal drop, thus signing an incorrect scorecard. But how can any golfer add a penalty they know nothing about to their score; especially a penalty assessed the day after their round as the result of a spectator observation?

Now, why can it not happen in tennis. Although the International Tennis Federation (ITF) Rules Of Tennis do not specifically address spectators, Rule 27 (that deals with correcting errors) starts out by saying, "As a principle, when an error in respect to the Rules of Tennis is discovered, all points previously played shall stand."  By extension, if an error is discovered after a match is played, there is no going back. One thing you should know is that the ITF, not USTA, writes the Rules. The USTA cannot change one word of the ITF Rules as written. What it can do (and does) is comment on (interpret) the ITF Rules and those comments are binding on all tennis played in the United States.

In addition to ITF Rules, tennis played in the United States is also governed by USTA Regulations and by the Code, a USTA publication written by Nick Powel back in the early 70s. The Code sets forth the principles under which tennis shall be played in an unofficiated match.  Code Number 2 states "All points played in good faith stand."  Code Number 17 point-blank states "No spectator has a part in the match." USTA Regulation 1.O. states that the Code shall apply in all cases not specifically covered by USTA Regulations. The Regs do not specifically address spectator involvement; ergo, per the Code, no spectator has a part in a match. And may it ever be thus.

By:  Jim Cummings

Editor's Note:  Do you have a question about the article, rules of tennis, officiating, The Code, or a "sticky" problem with interpretation of the rules of tennis?  Send Jim an e-mail and he'll get back to you. For an archive of previous columns, please click on the "Rules / Officials" button on the left.

Thanks Jim.. appreciate you sharing with us.

Lloyd Cook, USPTA
President - USTA/Midwest Section/Wisconsin District

Jim Cummings Bio:
   Born in Marinette, WI
   Boyhood friend of the Cook family
   Played varsity tennis for UW-Madison in the 50s
   Officiated at over 25 US Opens as a chair and line umpire  
   Served on USTA's Rules Committee when Jack Stahr and Nick Powel were Chairs
   Active senior player and Referee
   Presently helps edit the Friend At Court