Foot Faults

Q. "My partner and I have been playing doubles for four years, and he cannot stop foot faulting. I am always reminding him to step back, but I have to remind him each time he serves, which, at times, distracts me from my game. On top of that, he will not replace his outdated tennis racquet, and when we are in a tight match, his strings break, and then the pressure is on. He was even given two other racquets to use, but he just can't get away from that old racquet.

"We do very well at the 3.5 level, only losing those close matches that we should win due to his racquet string breaking. I have been playing 4.0, also, and he cannot move up to that level, due to his foot faulting. Everyone that he knows tells him about his issues, and he does not make the adjustments. How can I help him, or is it just time for me to find a new partner? Lessons will help, as he says, but he will not do anything to change his foot-fault issues."

From Coach Kenny, Highland Park, IL:

Equipment is very important in tennis. The new strings and racquets that are available today are more powerful and have more control then even five or 10 years ago. The grip size is also very important. Some players tend to play with a 4 1/2-size grip, when they really should be using a 4 3/8ths. These all will help prevent injury and make your game better. If a player wants to be at a high level, he or she needs to take equipment issues, including shoes and also the tension of the strings, into account.

As for the foot faulting, if there is no judge, I guess you can get away with it, but it hurts the serve. If your body is moving forward too fast on the serve and you are falling forward before you hit the ball, it takes away from the power and control of the serve. If you are falling back on a serve, this would affect it, also. He needs a steady groove to the serve and balance.

As for keeping him as a partner, friendship is a very important part of the game of tennis, as is winning and doing your best out there. Anyone playing matches needs two racquets, and they should be in good shape and somewhat modern. Your partner, as a player, should want a well-strung racquet that is up-to-date and another to play with if the strings or grip goes out.

If it is a money issue, and he can't afford new equipment, maybe help him out. Giving is always better then receiving. If none of this helps, play with him, but find a new partner who wants to play at a high level like you do. Also explain to him that foot-faulting and bad equipment are both really hurting his game.

From Anonymous:

His foot faulting should not be a problem with you unless a lines judge is called in by your opponents. Is that the case? Also, his racquet should not be a problem if it is what he likes to play with. Maybe he should try a polyester, synthetic gut mixture (using poly as the mains) would stop the string breaking. Other than that, just try a margarita before you play and have a little bit more fun. It can't be all him!!!

From Donald W., Suffolk, VA:

Foot faults have ruined many a person's aces. How do you fix it? Great question.

First, let’s look at a couple of causes. Normally, there are two things happening on foot faults:

1. People are "chasing” their ball toss and/or

2. They are stepping forward in an attempt to get more power and to the net for a "serve-and-volley game"

On the first cause, try to develop a more consistent toss without having a "J" formation in the hand that holds the ball on the toss. The "J" adds a swinging pattern for the ball as it leaves the hand, and the chase to hit the swaying ball is on.

For the second cause, with your partner assuming a normal service stance, try placing a tennis ball under his front foot and tell him not to move his foot with the ball under it through his service motion. He should slow down his service motion to maybe half speed so that he may get the feel for the new, correct process.

Have him be patient, as this new motion with the ball under his toes takes a little getting used to. Once understood, remove the ball and practice without it. Your partner will realize the extra step with his forward foot can be controlled without the loss of power and no hindrance of moving forward to serve and volley.

From Doug E.:

Here are a couple ideas to try before you get a new partner:

1. Play friendly doubles matches (not serious USTA matches) with a flat object (small paper, polyspot, throw-down line) that remains in front of him when he serves. Make an agreement with him and the other team that if he steps on the object before he hits the ball, he gets a fault. I'm sure the other team will be more than happy to try this, so it's a bit of pressure for him to agree (3 versus 1).

2. Let the other team call out the foot faults. Agree to do so before the match. But also agree that any (other 3) player can be called for a foot fault by the other team. (Do in a friendly match, not a serious match).

3. Have him serve standing on only one foot. Unless he jumps, he won't foot fault.

If he doesn't agree to these, don't play with him any more. Or decide not to be bothered by it; let it go.

In addition, how much are you bothered by this? If you were really bothered, then you would have dropped him a long time ago. Or are you only a bit bothered by it? We only make changes that we feel comfortable with or if we have no choice (as the consequence is very serious).

If he lost $1,000 for each foot fault, he wouldn't do it any more (unless he is Bill Gates). So it seems to matter, but not enough. You and he need to draw a line, which is why I suggest to agree that all players may call foot fault.

From Tim, South Carolina:

Time to get a new partner. I may be a bit hardcore, but anybody who continues to foot fault after being informed of his error (repeatedly) has no respect for the game. Playing with an ancient racquet, well, that's a personal style issue, but foot faulting is, quite simply, cheating. And I’m amazed at how many people do it, even experienced intermediate players who think they love tennis. Read the rules, play by the rules, or find another game to play, I say. Good luck.

From Coach Poppie, Palm Bay, FL:

Lessons will not help this. It is assumed you are friends and want to continue playing with him, hence the question.

Then you might want to take a proactive role. Before the match, set up this term for the foot faults -- charge him a buck for every foot fault, and collect after each one. That will get his attention.

As for string failure, every once in awhile, pick up his racquet and pull down a cross string and look for “Mouse Nips.” You will know what I mean; the mains will have what looks like little bite marks, Mouse Nips. Buy him a string job if he can’t afford it; if he can, you take him on a visit to the pro shop and get it restrung. Once he starts playing with fresh strings on a regular basis and his game improves, that problem will be history.

Keep a friend, adjust, and play on. The net is your enemy; your partner is your friend.

From The Big Woof, Aptos, CA:

It’s clear that he is not going to change and also that, in addition to hampering your game, it is affecting you psychologically, and that's not good for either your game or your physical or mental health. Find a new partner with whom you will be more compatible, and let him (if he can) find a new partner who is willing to put up with this, or let him play singles. You've already done it about three years too many.

From Bill B.:

Offer a point penalty for each foot fault. That should get his attention!

From Sandy S.:

I know this may sound harsh, but try a new partner. Your partner obviously isn’t listening to you. If you play with a new partner, it will force your current partner to look at the tennis relationship in a new perspective. If he values the partnership, he will question what went wrong and force him to change if he wants you back as his partner.

From K. Stice:

First, you should give him a new tennis racquet as a present. You should get more strict about foot faults.

From Lola, Minneapolis, MN:

SSGT, the time has come... it's time for a new partner. It sounds like you and others have provided feedback constructively without any acknowledgement from your other half. You aren't in a partnership, more like a bad relationship.

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