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WTA Tennis




Cummings and Goings - The Code (Part 4)

November 18, 2013 09:44 AM

We've already covered a lot of ground in this series on The Code, the
unofficial "rules" of playing our game and now we'll tackle the segment on
serving by starting off with Code 23 which says don't foot fault. This is a
rather obvious 'don't' because ITF Rules of Tennis already prohibit foot
faults (Rule 18) and declaring such serves a fault (Rule 19). The problem is
calling them when playing without officials and none are available (the
theme of this whole series). The server has his eyes on the ball toss when
the ball is hit and so does the receiver. The receiver standing about 80
feet away is not going to see a foot that just touches the line. So we are
really talking about obvious/flagrant foot faults. Code 24 says a receiver
or his partner first has to warn the server before calling a foot fault. So
the first time you see an obvious/flagrant foot, play the point and then
warn the server. The next time it happens, you can call a foot fault. Good


 Any player who hears or sees a serve  hit the net may make a service let
call and the call of "let" should be made immediately. If the serve goes in,
it is replayed. A server's request for a 3rd ball should be complied with if
the ball is readily available. Distant balls can be retrieved at the end of
the game but there are times when courts are full that it makes sense to
retrieve a ball immediately to avoid later complications in getting the
right ball back.


Code 29 (and Rule 21) says the server shall not serve until the receiver is
ready and that receivers have to play to the reasonable pace of the server.
If the server hits a "quick" serve (the receiver is not ready), the receiver
should make no attempt to play it. If he does, he is presumed to be ready.
Nick Powel, the author of the original Code, used to say there is no such
thing as a quick serve, only a dumb receiver. Ouch!


Per Code 28, obvious faults  should not be returned. It's not fair to an
opponent to interrupt his serve by making him look after a loose ball. At
best it's poor sportsmanship and at worst, gamesmanship. I usually stop
faults with my racket and shove the ball in my pocket thus avoiding any
concern about a ball rolling dangerously behind me and also saving a later
pick-up. Finally, Code 28  adds that if a receiver gives the server the
benefit of a doubt and plays a serve that may be a fault, the ball is in


The final Code on serving, number 30, deals with delays during service. If
there is an interruption while the server is in motion during delivery of a
second serve, a let, first serve is played. When there is a delay between a
first and second serve and the delay was caused by the server or his partner
in the case of doubles, the server gets only the second serve. The server
gets two serves if the delay was caused by the receiver, his partner if
doubles or by outside interference.


But Code 30 doesn't stop there. There is another whole paragraph addressing
a ball that comes onto the court between a first and second serve, the most
common cause of outside interference. When this happens, the time it takes
to clear the ball determines whether there has been an interruption in
service and it is the receiver who gets to make this determination. No
criteria is offered for making this determination other than the comment
that this time is not considered sufficient unless prolonged. My take and
that of just about all of the fellows I play with is that if it takes any
time at all, "Take two."

Are we not in it for fun?

By Jim Cummings

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