Have you ever had a dispute with a fellow player over a call on the court that you couldn’t settle? Or have you ever wondered why a certain ruling was made during a match you were watching? Maybe you’re just curious about how some scenarios, from the common to the ridiculous, are resolved.
The USTA constantly receives these types of questions from players and fans, so we figured it’s about time we provided a forum in which queries about rules can be answered. Thus, we present to you The Final Word.
Each week, we will select submissions and supply the definitive rulings through a Q&A with USTA Director of Officials, Richard Kaufman.
On to this week's questions and responses...
Subject: Natural Hindrance
During a recent singles match on a very windy day, my opponent hit a backspin floater into the wind. It landed near the net in my deuce court. I was at the baseline and immediately ran forward. The ball bounced high in the air, but by the time I got to the net, it had already been pushed by the wind back toward my opponent's court. I didn't swing, though I had an easy put-away, because to make contact with the ball I would have had to reach over the net, which is against the rules. So, I stood -- thinking, "no way!" -- and watched the ball bounce on his side of the net.
Neither of us knew how to call it, but it seemed like one of those problems caused by a natural "hindrance" -- the wind. But because the wind was affecting both of us, I felt I didn't have grounds to argue for a let. I gave him the point. Was that the right call?
Rob, San Antonio, Texas
KAUFMAN: If the spin or wind brings the ball back over the net to the side of the player(s) who hit the shot, the opponent(s) may then reach over the net and play the ball. They may not touch the net or the opponent's court. This is the only situation when a player may reach over the net to play a ball. If the opponent does not play the ball and it bounces on the side of the player who hit the spin shot, that player(s) who hit that spin shot wins the point.
Subject: Calling a ball out before it lands
My serve will often appear to be going wide but then will land in the service court. Twice I have had the opponents partner call it out before it landed, and then it clearly landed in (by about five inches). Each time I have questioned the call (which my coach tells me I cannot do) and each time they have agreed to replay the serve. Can I question the call and more importantly, can I claim the point?
Sharon – Houston, TX
KAUFMAN: If the opponent is calling shots before the ball lands (even if the calls turn out to be correct) request that this practice stop immediately. If this continues after your request you could claim the point due to hindrance.
Subject: 90 Second Changeover rule
I would like to know where I can find the 90 seconds changeover rule. Section or Part, Number or Letter and what Rule Book.
KAUFMAN: Rules of Tennis, #29. Continuous Play – “When players change ends at the end of a game, a maximum of ninety (90) seconds are allowed. However, after the first game of each set and during the tiebreak game, play shall be continuous and the players shall change ends without a rest.”