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Questionable Calls

Q. While receiving a first serve in doubles, my partner called it out, and I stopped playing. I actually thought the serve was good, and could have easily returned it before stopping play. Our opponents questioned the call, which my partner defended, but I did not enter the discussion, and her call prevailed. My later reading of The Code revealed the following: (1) if I had stopped play and disagreed with my partner's line call, then we would have lost the point (based on "indecision" about the call, regardless of whether it was on a first or a second serve), and (2) if I had not stopped play immediately, but instead had returned the serve successfully, and then stopped play, then our opponents would have been entitled to a let. Are these interpretations of the rules correct?

A. If there is disagreement or you corrected your call, the benefit must go to the opposing team and the shot is considered good.

If you acknowledge that your return shot on any serve or during a rally is a "weak sitter" (or in other words it was or would have been an easy put away for the opposing team) the point should go to your opponents.

If your return shot on any serve or during a rally lands out, or in the net, or you had no play on the ball, or you did not play the ball, the point goes to your opponents. An out call made by one of the players on a team cannot be considered a hindrance to their partner on their returned shot.

If you determine that your return shot on any serve or during a rally is not a "weak sitter" (or in other words it would NOT have been an easy put away for the opposing team) AND the shot did land or would have landed in the court, replay the ENTIRE point; first serve.

The team in disagreement on a line call can never win the point as a result of their return, even if it was a winner. In addition, the result of any shot made by your opponents off of your questioned returned shot is irrelevant.

Q. Last night I was playing doubles. I was receiving in the deuce court. I returned a serve cross court, and though it was close, from our side it looked like it caught the line. The server played the ball and returned it cross court. After the ball had crossed the net, and it looked like the ball was going out, his partner called my return of serve out. Is that a little late to make a line call on the return of serve?

I felt that since the server played the ball, he considered it too close to definitely call it out, and he was giving us the benefit of the doubt. I also felt that the server's partner, who was standing in the alley, was not in position to see if the return of serve was clearly in or out.

It seems like a cheap trick to wait until his partner's ball was going out to call my return of serve out. Shouldn't people first decide if the ball is in or out, and then play the ball and not the other way around?

A. All calls must be immediate. Player’s are not permitted to determine the result of their shot before calling "out" a previous shot from their opponents.

Q. Playing mixed doubles our opponent hit a shot that I thought was long and called out before I made contact with the ball but couldn't stop my swing and hit the ball back over the net which our opponent hit back over the net and we didn't play the ball (assuming the point to be over). Then I saw a mark where the ball had landed and it just caught the back of the tape. I told them I wanted to change my call to good and play a let. They said that if I change my call to good we don't play a let and they win the point. Who's right and why? Thanks for your help in this dispute.

A. Because there is disagreement or you corrected your call, the benefit must go to the opposing team and the shot is considered good.

If you acknowledge that your return shot on any serve or during a rally is a "weak sitter" (or in other words it was or would have been an easy put away for the opposing team) the point should go to your opponents.

If your return shot on any serve or during a rally lands out, or in the net, or you had no play on the ball, or you did not play the ball, the point goes to your opponents. An out call made by one of the players on a team cannot be considered a hindrance to their partner on their returned shot.

If you determine that your return shot on any serve or during a rally is not a "weak sitter" (or in other words it would NOT have been an easy put away for the opposing team) AND the shot did land or would have landed in the court, replay the ENTIRE point; first serve.

The team in disagreement on a line call can never win the point as a result of their return, even if it was a winner. In addition, the result of any shot made by your opponents off of your questioned returned shot is irrelevant. The out call made by one of the players on your team stopped play.

Q. My doubles partner and I were recently playing a womens' amateur match when the following occurred. My partner returned a shot and the opponent closest to the net (her partner was back at the base line) called "out." The ball had not yet bounced and her partner returned the shot for a winner. We meanwhile heard her yell "out" while moving into position for the next point, so consequently we were unprepared for the shot coming at us. We asked to replay the point and she didn't want to, saying she is allowed to say anything she wants on her side of the court. Her captain ended up telling her to replay the point but I am unable to find any rule that covers this although there must be one.

A. This is always an interesting case.

First, despite what some people think, there is no rule that says you cannot say 'out' or other words of communication to your partner, especially when you're at the net and the ball is coming in your direction. And because such communication would invariably occur before the ball has bounced, the claim that this could be mistaken for a line call doesn't hold water if everyone is paying attention. Communicating by screaming or yelling is not permitted at any time and could be deemed a hindrance no matter when it occurs.

The only time confusion could occur is in the case when a player said 'out' or another form of communication to his/her partner standing at the baseline at the time when the ball bounced. You were in the position to make a return of the ball and did so. In that case, saying "leave it" or "NO" would be preferable to saying 'out'. However, any word used when the ball lands on the ground or close to the ground when your partner hit the ball could be construed as a call.

If a player yells "out" at the moment or close to the moment their partner played the ball, it can be deemed a hindrance.

Q. During a mixed doubles match a ground stroke from our opponents landed just long of our baseline. My partner instinctively returned the ball inside the doubles lines of our opponents. However, just after her racket made contact with the ball, I called out and quickly checked the mark (in the clay) to verify the ball was out. Our opponents returned the ball for a winner and tried to claim the point stating my partner returned the ball, despite my out call. What is the correct way to handle this dispute? My partner and I both agreed the ball was long and stopped play.

A. If the call was made immediately just after the shot was hit, and you stopped playing the point, then that is fine and the call stands. In addition, on clay courts one understands that a player may need a moment to verify the mark, but the call still needs to be made ASAP. If the call came after the opponents hit the winner off of your return, then it is too late to call that shot out.

Q. You are a doubles team. You and your partner disagree on a line call. One partner calls the ball out and the other partner disagrees with the out call. How do you proceed in an unofficiated match?

A. Because there is disagreement, the benefit must go to the opposing team and the shot is considered good.

1. If you acknowledge that your return shot on any serve or during a rally is a "weak sitter" (or in other words it was or would have been an easy put away for the opposing team) the point should go to your opponents.

2. If your return shot on any serve or during a rally lands out, or in the net, or you had no play on the ball, or you did not play the ball, the point goes to your opponents. An out call made by one of the players on a team cannot be considered a hindrance to their partner on their returned shot.

3. If you determine that your return shot on any serve or during a rally is not a "weak sitter" (or in other words it would NOT have been an easy put away for the opposing team) AND the shot did land or would have landed in the court, replay the ENTIRE point; first serve.

4. The team in disagreement on a line call can never win the point as a result of their return, even if it was a winner. In addition, the result of any shot made by your opponents off of your questioned returned shot is irrelevant. The out call made by one of the players on your team stopped play.

Q. If I return a ball from behind the baseline without seeing where it bounced, or return a serve that I thought was on the line but my doubles partner clearly saw was out, can my partner call it out and end the point? Or if I see that the ball is out but already started my swing and I return it, can I call it out and end the point if I speak up immediately? What's the ruling in these situations?

A. You and your partner may call any shot on your side of the court. Your call must be made immediately and that call may come after your reflex return. If you and your partner disagree, the benefit of the doubt goes to your opponent, and the ball is good.

Q. Playing doubles on a Har-Tru court, I hit a ball close to the line on the opponent’s side. One opponent said it was out, the other said he thought it was good. After discussing it and looking at the court, they made the call of "out." I asked if the mark showed the ball to be out, and they answered that they were not sure which mark on the court was from my shot. In that case, I contended that the call was based on how they saw the shot, and since they disagreed about that the point should be awarded to our team. They countered with, "It is our call, and we are calling it out." I said that if a ball could not be called out with certainty it was in, and since they originally disagreed it was not certain. How do you rule?

A. You are correct. Unless they could produce a clear mark on a clay court verifying the call (if they cannot determine the mark then the call was based on what they saw) and since the two partners disagreed, the ball then should be considered good.

Q. I was playing doubles an my partner was serving. Her first serve was clearly out, but the opponents claimed that they were not sure it was out and played it anyway. Because both my partner and I clearly saw it as "out", we both stopped play. Is the right to call that serve as "out" reserved only for the receiving team? Can the serving team call out serves on themselves, especially on a first serve?

A. On a first serve, the serving team must accept the call of the receiving team. It is not the call of the serving team.

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