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Line Judge

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How well do you know the rules and etiquette of tennis that we play by at Tennis Sydney?  This ongoing series of articles is intended to help familiarise you with the rules of tennis.

These questions and answers were taken from the GLTA Tournament Rulebook, The GLTA Code of Tennis, and the ITF Rules of Tennis.

Do you have a question on the rules that you want answered? Send your question to the Line Judge at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. and it will be answered in an upcoming issue.


Q: If you hit the net after you make the point, do you lose the point?

A: "No."  As long as the ball has bounced twice or your have otherwise already won the point, you can touch the net or even cross into your opponent's court.  What you have to be careful about is, say you charge the net and hit a great overhead and your momentum would take you into the net even though your opponent has no chance to hit your smash.  Just remember, point has to be OVER before you can legally touch the net.


Q: True / False: You can throw your racquet to strike the ball and the point is good as long as the ball lands in the correct court and the racquet does not touch the net.

A: False. ITF rule 24.j. “The point is lost if: j.) The ball in play touches the racquet when the player is not holding it.”  Therefore, you must be holding the racquet when it touches the ball for the return to be considered good.


Q: During a single swing, the player’s racquet accidentally strikes the ball twice.  Does the player lose the point, or is it considered a good return and play continues?

A: It is considered a good return and play continues. ITF rule 24.f (clarified at ITF rule 26). “The point is lost if: f.) The player *deliberately* carries or catches the ball in play on the racquet or *deliberately* touches it with the racquet more than once.”  Accidental or unintentional double hits are allowed and considered a good return.


Q: Can you volley the serve? That is, can you return the serve before it has touched the court on your side?

A: No, you lose the point. ITF rule 24.e. “The point is lost if: e.) The receiver returns the service before it bounces.”  You must let the serve bounce before you hit the ball.


 

Q: True / False: You can reach across the net to hit a ball before it crosses to your side of the net, as long as you do not touch the net with your body, clothing, racquet, etc.

A: False.  ITF rule 24.h. “The point is lost if: h.) The player hits the ball before it has passed the net.” This rule is often ignored and players reach over the net to hit a winner.  The ball MUST cross the plane of the net prior to being hit.  It can come back across the net due to wind or spin, but it must have crossed the plane of the net once before it can be hit.


 

 Q: You are at the net and the ball hits your body then falls over the net where your opponent cannot get to it before it bounces twice.  Who wins the point?

A: Your opponent.  ITF rule 24.i. “The point is lost if: i.) The ball in play touches the player or anything the player wearing or carrying, except the racquet.”  The ball is only allowed to touch the racquet.  As soon as it strikes anything else on or with the player, the point is lost.


 

Q: In singles, can the server stand behind the tram tracks (doubles alley) when serving?

A: No, this is considered a foot fault.     ITF rules 16 & 18.  At the start of the service, both feet must be behind the base line and within imaginary extensions of the appropriate side line and the centre mark.  Therefore it is permissible to serve while standing behind the doubles alley when playing doubles, but not when playing singles.


 

Q: True / False: A ball returned around the net and below the level of the net is still considered good as long as it lands in the correct court.

A: True. ITF rule 25.c “It is a good return if: c.) The ball is returned outside the net posts, either above or below the level of the top of the net, even though it touches the net posts, provided that it hits the ground in the correct court.”  Therefore, it is legal to hit a shot around the net as long as it lands in the correct court.  Of important note here as well is that hitting the net post is considered the same as hitting the net or strap: the point is good as long as it lands in the correct court after hitting the net / net post.


 

Q: You toss the ball to serve it but decide to not hit the tossed ball.  Is this a service fault?

A: No, this is not a fault.  You can let the ball bounce or catch it with your hand or racquet. ITF rule 19.

Q: You toss the ball to serve, and swing to hit it but miss it completely and do not hit it.  Is this a service fault?

A: Yes, this is a fault.  ITF rule 19 says “The service is a fault if: b) the server misses the ball when trying to hit it.”


 

Q: In doubles matches, are you allowed to change the order of serving (or receiving) between partners?

  1. No
  2. Yes, in a game after both partners have served (or received) for one point in the game.
  3. Yes, in a set after both partners have served (or received) for one game in the set.
  4. Yes, in a match at the start of each new set.

A: 4)  Players  decide the order of serving when serving their first game at the start of each set, and continue that order until the set is completed.  Similarly, players decide the order of receiving at the start of their first receiving game for each set.  The order can only be changed at the start of each new set. ITF rules 14 & 15.

 


Q: In a tie break, the first person to serve serves for 1 point, then the serve changes with each subsequent player serving for 2 points.  Does a tie break start serve from the deuce court or the ad court?

A: The deuce court. See ITF rule 17.  “In a tie-break game, the service shall be served from behind alternate halves of the court, with the first served from the right half of the court.” The key here is to remember that a tie-break is actually a game.  Therefore the start of this game is the same as if it were a normal point game. It starts with the next player in the serve rotation, and from the deuce court.

NB: There are many permissible alternatives in tie break games, and these can be decided by the tournament director prior to the start of the tournament.


 

Q: Player A faults into the net and does not retrieve the ball. Player B returns the second serve and it strikes the ball lying in the court, and Player A cannot hit the return.  What should happen?

  1. A let should be played from first serve.
  2. A let should be played from second serve.
  3. Player A should win the point.
  4. Player B should win the point.

A: 4)  ITF rule 25.f.  “The return is good if: f.) The player returns the ball in play, which hits another ball lying in the correct court.”  Therefore it is important to always clear balls on your side of the court if you think there is chance that your opponent’s shot may strike that ball.  Your failure to clear the ball lying in your court is not grounds for your opponent to grant you a let on the point they have just won.

NB: play should continue after the ball in play strikes a ball on the court.  However, a let *can* be played if there is doubt that the ball returned was the ball in play or the ball lying on the court.