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Cummings and Goings XVII by Jim Cummings

January 14, 2009 01:42 AM

The 2009 edition of Friend At Court (FAC), the USTA Handbook for Tennis Officials, Tournament Administrators and Players (and I might add parents, coaches and teachers) should be available as you read this. FAC contains just about everything you need to know about playing tennis in the United States whether you are a player, tournament director or official.
 
First and foremost, it contains the International Tennis Federation's (ITF) Rules of Tennis and its cases and decisions. The USTA cannot change one word of the rules written by the ITF, but it can interpret and comment on them and does so in USTA Comments which are shown along with the ITF Rules. The Comments are binding on the tennis you and I play here in the U.S.
 
Then there is The Code, a compilation of the unwritten rules of tennis that have evolved through custom and tradition over the years. The Code applies to unofficiated matches which are well over 99% of all tennis we play. Know and follow the roughly 7 pages of the Code and you should be able to resolve just about any problem that might arise in a match. It's that simple.
 
Tournament and Officiating Regulations, along with USTA comments on them, follow, They contain about everything  needed to run or play a tournament including how to set up and run tournaments, players dos and don'ts, and the officiating structure and regulations governing officials. There is a whole section on running and playing national tournaments and on ranking the results at year's end. For most of you, these regs will only be of passing interest; the real meat of a Friend At Court is in the front part of the book which contains the Rules and the Code. Still, the more you know about our game, the more enjoyment you can get out of it.
 
As if the above were not enough, it also  has the Rules of Wheelchair Tennis, the rules and regs of college tennis and  a glossary which sometimes tends to explain the meaning of a term a lot clearer than what is in the rules and regs.
 
So, what's new for 2009? In the way of rules changes, there is nothing, but there are several clarifications of the rules and regs. For one, apparently there is a problem with players withdrawing from tournaments. Tournament committees are being charged to publish the requirement for a player to verify the reason for withdrawal from a tournament and the Referee is charged with receiving the verifications.
 
The regs now clearly state that the Coman Tiebreak Procedure applies to Match Tiebreaks as well as Set Tiebreaks.
 
Entry fees are not required to be refunded if a player withdraws 6 days or less before the tournament start date.
 
The old way of seeding a tournament has a new name; the All Factors Method. It is in contrast to the Computerized List Method.
 
Laptops and just about all other electronic devices are banned from being brought on court. Hearing aids and watches are OK as long as the watches are not the Dick Tracy type.
 
Only the players on the court affected may call a let when a ball from another court rolls onto their court.
 
Touches, hitting a ball before it crosses the net, touching an opponent's court, double hits and double bounces are all the calls of the player directly involved.
The opponent across the net is not entitled to make these calls.
 
When scheduling, the regs now recommend that all juniors (not just 12s and 14s) be given 12 hours rest between their last match of the day and their first match of the following day. My take on this is that the same should apply to all seniors. Then again, I'm prejudiced.
 
Finally, the 2009 FAC for the first time includes USTA'S Emergency Care Guidelines. This publication has been out for a couple years, but for the most part, has been hard to come by. I am really pleased to see that USTA has decided to give it the prominence it deserves by including it in FAC. The Guidelines are addressed to tournament directors and advises them to be prepared to deal with cuts, sprains, stings/bites, heart attacks and other medical emergencies. It also addresses lightning and heat. Although the guideline is addressed to tournament directors, heat and especially lightning are really where the Referee comes in because both are on-court matters. The Referee is the one who stops play when lightning is in the area and it is the Referee who should take into account heat when scheduling and running a tournament. If necessary, play should be stopped as it was in the Australian Open a year or so ago because of heat.
 
Lightning, Heat, & Serious stuff. Lightning is obvious; heat more insidious. According to the Heat Index Chart in the Guidelines, you get close to the heat danger zone when the temperature gets over 95 degrees and the relative humidity is more than 40 percent. Heat cramps and heat exhaustion are likely and heatstroke possible. In a handbook put out by the USTA Sports Science Committee, heat exhaustion is described thusly, "Heat exhaustion is just as it sounds. Because of the heat, the player becomes very tired, lethargic and is unable to function effectively. If the player is treated at this point, stops playing, is able to cool down and receive fluids, he will not go the next step, which is heat stroke." Heat stroke? You don't want to go there. You may never come back.
 
The handbook recommends playing shortened formats when heat conditions are dangerous and to avoid playing in mid-day; especially between 12:00- 2:00 PM.
I don't like pro sets or no-ad scoring, although their use is mentioned. There are 3 formats I recommend: a Match Tiebreak in lieu of a third set; two out of three
short sets where each set is started at 2-all and, finally, two short sets starting at 2-all with a Match Tiebreak in lieu of a third set. Take your pick.
 
If you have a Friend At Court and it is more than 4 years old, it is seriously out of date and I strongly urge you to get a new one. If you have a current edition, you can get by, but it is always good to be up to date. The cost is just $6.75 with a shipping charge most likely. You can order a copy by going to usta.com and clicking onto USTA shop or you can call 1-800-677-0275. Tell them Jim sent you.


By:  Jim Cummings 1/12/2009

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
   zjimc@msn.com

 

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