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WTA Tennis




Cummings and Goings XXII by Jim Cummings

August 30, 2009 06:43 PM

Karen is a gold mine of material for this column and the good thing about it is, I never have to ask. The minute she sees me, she descends full force with the latest league rhubarb. What would I do without her? And the latest involves changing ends during a tiebreak. On a hot day, her opponents took her to task for taking a drink of water while changing ends. "Can't do that," they said. I won't repeat what she said, but suffice it to say she took a good drink of water. So, what's the scoop?

The applicable rule is number 29 which says after the first game of each set and during a tiebreak game, play shall be continuous and the players shall change ends without a rest. In other words, no sitting down or long toweling off, etc. But a quick towel off and a drink has always been permissible and is not interpreted by officials as a rest.

But here is a kicker I think is a problem and one that I have already brought to the attention of the USTA Rules committee for discussion when we meet over the Labor Day weekend in New York. In a USTA Comment to Rule 5, Score In A Game, there is a sentence that reads, "They (players) must change sides during the Tiebreak without any break or delay." That is a different slant than without a rest. Taken literally, taking time for a drink could be construed as a delay. The comment needs fixing. Can you imagine going without hydrating during a long tiebreak? By the time it is finished, you might be too; in more ways than one.

For the first time, this years edition of USTA's playing rules and regulations handbook (Friend At Court) contains five pages of emergency care guidelines. In it is a sentence advising tournament directors to post signs advising players to drink plenty of fluids before, during and after play. I'll drink to that.

Armed and Ready

At Oglebay Park in Wheeling, WV, I was called to court #7 up the hill where one of the later round matches in the Men's 70 National Category II tournament was being played. The players needed a ruling on a point where the ball in play hit a ball which was lying in the court. The ball in play bounced up after hitting the ball on the court and was returned for a winner. Good point? Yes. Case 2 of Rule 25 is right on point. It says play continues if a ball in play hits another ball which is lying in the correct court. A let is played if it is not clear which ball has been returned. Both players agreed the ball in play had been returned.

Would you believe that was the first time I had to make that call in over 40 years as an official? Nevertheless, an official has to know the rules when going on court. If not, it's like going into Dodge without bullets. Something like what happened at Oglebay happened one time when I was playing. My opponents hit a high ball that I was barely able to reach. The ball floated over the net, landed on a ball lying in my opponent's court and scooted away for a winner. There is more than one reason besides safety for clearing balls on your court.

By:  Jim Cummings 8/30/2009

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