Facebook53x53pxFINAL  Twitter53x53pxFINAL



WTA Tennis




Cummings & Goings VIII by Jim Cummings

January 24, 2007 03:15 AM

As a preface to the write-up below (copied in its entirety), there were several instances in 2006 where an erroneous decision by an official cost a player a match. One of these occurred in Atlanta, GA and an official who was later consulted on the matter, Robert Sasserville from Fairburn, GA, was so disturbed by what had happened, that he got up in the middle of the night and wrote what is tantamount to a player's bill of rights when involved in a dispute where an official is involved. Robert had sent me a copy and I was pleasantly surprised to see it in the handout material we were given at a National Referee School I attended in January. That gives it USTA endorsement, so, without further ado:

What you absolutely need to know about Referees, Umpires, Officials

As a tournament player, you need to know what these terms mean.   The terms "referee", "umpire", "official" and even "tournament director" are used by many players interchangeably.

They don't 'mean the same thing, and if you don't know the difference, you may lose points, games, or even a match because of it.

"Official" is a general term which includes anyone who exercises some degree of control over the conduct of tournament play.  Typically, this term applies to the "referee", "deputy referees", "site referees", "roving umpires", "chair umpires", and "line umpires".  [The "tournament director" is not really an official, but sometimes the duties of this position and those of the "referee" are confused.]

Umpires (roving or chair) typically wear the USTA "officials shirt" and/or other distinguishing apparel.  Roving umpires are responsible to monitor play on two or more courts and become involved in matches only when invited.  (This invitation may come from a player, or take the form of on-court profanity, racquet abuse, etc.)  Umpires may come to the court to address a certain issue and leave, or stay for a few games, or stay for the duration of the match, depending on the nature of the situation.

Umpires' are on or around the courts and typically:

  • conduct pre-match meetings with players, perform the coin-toss, and time the warm-up
  • oversee play and issue code and time violations, when warranted
  • resolve disputes regarding tennis law (rules)
  • resolve scoring disputes
  • make decisions of fact (correcting erroneous "out" calls, net touches, incorrect score calling, etc.) when on court or in direct observation thereof 
  • summon the referee to the court at the players' request for a decision on a point of law.

The referee (or site referee) may, or may not, wear USTA "officials' apparel".   The referee may be at the tournament desk or anywhere on the premises, but can always be located by radio.  The referee:

  • oversees all tournament play and has the final responsibility for assuring fairness, enforcement of the rules, and scheduling matches
  • suspends play and postpones or cancels matches when circumstances warrant
  • makes final decisions regarding tennis law.  The decision on a point of law of an "umpire" may be appealed to the referee.

What happens when there is a dispute?

If something occurs on the court that you feel is contrary to the rules, your first line of appeal is the "umpire".  If the umpire must be summoned, and the question involves the score, stop playing until he arrives.  When the umpire arrives, you and your opponent should explain the situation.  The umpire will apply the rules to the current situation and give instructions as to how to proceed.

What happens if the dispute is over line calls, on issue of fact?

First, the umpire cannot overturn any call that he didn't see.   No matter how adamantly a player protests his opponent's call, the umpire cannot overturn the call, or order the point replayed.  If the umpire is already on the court, or is in direct observation of the incident, he may "correct" a clearly erroneous call.  If he issues an overrule (correction), the player making the erroneous call loses the point.   [The exception to this rule is when an umpire can read a ball mark on a clay court that both players agree is the mark.]

What happens if you don't agree with the umpire's interpretation of the rules?

Any decision made by the umpire regarding the rules (not fact, like a ball being in or out, or ball hitting a player) may be appealed to the referee.  Players should use words similar to these, "I am not sure that I agree with that decision  Please summon the referee."  The umpire is obligated to call the referee.  If the ruling doesn't affect the score, play may resume.

What happens if the umpire's decision affects the score?

Do not resume play until the referee has come to the court and rendered his decision.  Once the referee has issued his opinion, you must resume play immediately.

What happens if you resume play and then decide to appeal to the referee at a later time?

When any dispute occurs that affects the score and it is resolved by an umpire and play is resumed, the score "IS" whatever was agreed upon when play resumed.  If you don't agree with the score, do not resume play until you appeal to the referee

What if I don't agree with the referee either?

Sorry, you are out of options; the referee had the final say.  You have 20 seconds to resume play.

If you get in a situation that you don't believe is fair or follows the rules, remember these words,

"Please summon the referee."

There you have it. But don't keep it. Pass it on to your fellow players. And parents, coaches and tennis teachers; please be sure your charges know this when they get into tournament play. Officials do make mistakes; they are semi-perfect at best.
New for 2007
An addendum to Code 2 in the 2007 Friend At Court states that "Shaking hands at the end of the match is an acknowledgement by the players that the match is over" Hold off on that handshake if you intend to appeal the outcome of the match or, better yet, make it conditional. Remember, the Code applies to all unofficiated matches.
The only other significant substantive change for 2007 concerns players late for a match. When several matches are scheduled for the same time, but there are not enough available courts for all the scheduled matches, the Referee is now required to call all the matches scheduled for that time. Any player not checked in by the start time will be subject to the lateness penalty.
For example, if 5 matches are scheduled for one o'clock, but only 2 courts are available, the Referee should call all players for the one o'clock matches. The lateness clock will start for all players not checked in by one o'clock despite the fact that only 2 courts are available. The Referee can put the matches on in any order. Prior to this, a Referee could give a player a break if they saw fit, but not any more.
One change in the 2007 Friend At Court (FAC) that does have significance is the reorganization of former USTA Regulation I, Tournament Regulations, into 5 sections The subject matter is now logically presented in a straight flow from the start of a tournament to its conclusion. As always, I urge you to get an updated copy. To do so, you can call 888-832-8291 M-F  from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m.   At $5.00 a copy plus shipping, it's well worth the coin. And USTA members get a 10 percent discount.
Global Warming? Tournament Directors - Be Prepared!
As I write, I am waiting for a call from my sister, Judy, who lives north of Green Bay to come and get some snowmobiling in. I may have a long wait.  The Wisconsin snowmobile website for Oconto County reports all trails closed.  No Snow! Then there is the report that El Nino is heating up and we may be in for a long, hot summer. Finally, the Australian Open stops play because of heat conditions. And these are conditioned athletes.
Where am I going with this? A reminder that USTA has published emergency care guidelines for tournament directors which contains a heat index chart. The heat index chart is something akin to the wind chill factor in reverse. Every tournament director should be familiar with it. Yeah, I know, here I am in Maryland talking about Wisconsin weather. Well, it wasn't too many years ago we were going to play golf in Appleton and decided to bag it. Why? The temperature was 103 degrees; the heat index off the chart.
So, with things heating up the way they are, don't wait until its too late. There should not have to be a death before action is taken.
Art Buchwald
I hope all of you had the opportunity to read Art Buchwald's going away column; the final one he wrote for release after his death. In adding up all the pluses and minuses of his life, he starts out wanting to add up all the great tennis games he played and all the great players he overcame with his "famous" lob. He goes on from there, of course, but you have to love his starting point. We will miss you, Art. May you lob in peace.

By:  Jim Cummings 1/23/2007

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