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.
Readers can send their burning questions about the rules of tennis along with their name and town to FinalWord@USTA.com. Each week, we will select submissions and supply the definitive rulings though a Q&A with USTA Director of Officials Richard Kaufman.
On to this week's questions and responses...
Q. What are the rules concerning inclement weather?
KAUFMAN. The referee on site must determine if the courts are fit and safe to play. A small amount of rain can make playing on a hard court very dangerous. If there is no referee, players can rub their foot across the line. If the water on the court streaks across the line then play should probably stop. Most matches should not start in the rain. On clay courts, play may continue if a small amount of rain comes after the start of the match since it is still safe to play on a clay court with a small amount of moisture.
Q. Yesterday I was playing doubles with my regular partners when a ball flew very close to my face. The women facing me on the opposite side of the net wanted to know if the ball touched me.
Would we have lost a point if I got hit with the ball?
KAUFMAN. Yes a player would lose the point if they are hit by the ball. Any ball that hits a player before it bounces is loss of point for that player, no matter where that player is standing, even outside the lines. If a ball hits you should admit it to your opponents.
Q. A doubles team was wearing color enhancing sunglasses during their match. I questioned the tournament official about the legality, who looked at me like I was crazy. However, I was told by a senior official in a previous tournament that these types of sunglasses are not legal for play. I am unable to find information in the Rules or Code. Can you help?
KAUFMAN. I am not sure exactly what color enhancing sunglasses you are speaking of, however most sun glasses that I am aware of are legal.
Q. Is there a certain amount a person must not exceed when serving? I have run into a few cases where the server tosses and tosses, then misses, and starts the process again. It is very distracting to wait and wait for the serve.(at least 45 seconds at times!).
Renee (from Avila Beach CA)
KAUFMAN. Play must be continuous. With officials on court, the server may have 20-25 seconds between points depending upon the event. With no officials, the act of consistently catching tosses that holds up play from being “continuous” is not acceptable. An errant toss from time to time is acceptable. Constant errant tosses that hold up play is not acceptable.
Q: What is the rule about running or stepping into the serve motion?
Tom W. (from Berwyn, PA)
KAUFMAN. Serving the ball as one would in volley ball with a big step leading into the serve is not legal. The front foot should be stationary at the start of the service motion behind the baseline and the foot cannot touch the line while the player is in the service motion. It is permitted to jump in the air from a stationary position with the front foot on the serve when hitting the ball but the foot may not come down into the court or on the line until the ball is struck.
Since 1997, Richard Kaufman has served as Director of Officials for the USTA and Chief Umpire of the US Open. He's an ITF Certified Gold Badge Chief Umpire and an ITF Certified Silver Badge Referee, and has been a USTA Certified Official since 1977. Kaufman has also worked as the Chair Umpire for the US Open men's final (1983, 1987, 1996), US Open women's final (1988, 1995), the Australian Open men's final (1987), the Wimbledon men's doubles final (1987), the French Open men's doubles final (1988), and the Masters Cup final (1985-96).
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