Match Etiquette

Especially at more recreational skill levels of interscholastic play, it's important to know not only the rules of tennis, but also those covering basic etiquette.

The last thing two palyers want is a fight over the rules.

The Code of Conduct, written to help players in unofficiated matches, provides a number of solutions to sticky scenarios which arise in these types of matches, some of which were reviewed in the February 2002 issue of High School Tennis.

Following are some basic rules that cover common courtesy for tennis matches.

Warm up your opponent.
Warm up is not practice; it is warm up, for your opponent as well as yourself. This means hitting balls directly to the opponent and at a reasonable pace. Generally, you should not return serves during the warm up, unless you ask your opponent for permission. Doubles teams may warm up with each other, rather than their opponents.

Call the score before each point.
This not only ensures that players are on the same wavelength before each point and avoids later disputes, calling the score before serving lets the receiver know the point is about to begin. The server should call the score before each point, NOT the receiver.

Do not return serves that are obviously out.
If a serve is obviously long or wide, the Code of Conduct requires player to hit the ball into the net in front of them, or make sure it is secure in the fence behind them. It's considered a form of rudeness to hit serves that are obviously out back over the net. Continuing to do so can be considered unsportsmanlike and a delay of game.

Play to the reasonable pace of the server.
While the rules allow up to 25 seconds in between points for recovery, the receiver must play to the reasonable pace of the server, which is generally considered around 10-12 seconds after the last point ended. Receivers should not stall and servers should not rush, even if they prefer to start the next point immediately.

Additionally, if the receiver is not ready when the ball is served, he or she should make no attempt to return the ball. If the receiver makes a stab at a serve, and then tries to claim he or she wasn't ready, the receiver is out of luck. Just hold up your hand and say, “I wasn't ready.”

When in doubt, call it “in.”
If there is any doubt, give the call to your opponent. If you honestly can't see a call, you may ask your opponent if they saw the ball. If they saw the ball, they should make the call. If they didn't, then you must give them the call.

There are no “do overs,” with one exception.

If doubles teammates disagree on a serve call, and the serve was put back in play, they may play a let. If the receiver put a sitting duck back in play, sportsmanship would require that the receiving team give the point to their opponents.

Don't interrupt points on the next court when returning balls.
In order not to interrupt a point on the next court, or delay your match, simply roll balls into the fence behind and between fences if the other court is involved in a point. This will allow you to begin your point, and allow the players on the next court to retrieve their ball without interfering with your point. Do not roll balls behind players involved in a point, even if it's well behind them and into their fence; their opponent can see the ball rolling behind them.

Keep balls dry.
If you sweat to the point that your shorts become soaked, do not put balls in your pocket if this causes the balls to begin to absorb the moisture in your pockets. This can be considered tampering with the equipment and you can be penalized for it. If you sweat this much and use a two-handed backhand, you'll have to come up with a remedy for this situation, as you may not place a ball on the ground near your feet when serving.

Educate spectators.
Do not applaud double faults or missed shots. If your fans heckle opposing players, you can expect twice that many fans waiting for your team when you come to their school!

Knowing these simple rules of etiquette prior to matches will help you maintain a sportsmanlike match atmosphere during even the toughest matches.