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The Tennis Business Discussion Forum Archive

[tennisbiz] Rule interpretations

From: Jeff Davies <>
Date: Wed 17 Apr 2002 11:22:50 -0400

I am responding to Alan Chandronnait's questions:

I am an ex-USTA referee. I allowed my certification to lapse
at the end of last year. Why? Predominantly because of the
incompetence of tennis officials. It is a sad fact that most
officials do not know the rules and apply their decisions
arbitrarily with more regard for their 'feelings' and their
'ego' than the rules of tennis.

This is not entirely their fault.

They are inadequately trained and may have only had a few hours of
classroom training covering the absolute basics before being
placed in charge of a number of matches as a roving umpire. No
on-court training is provided as part of their certification and
there is no requirement for any supervision of a new official.
There is no evaluation process for roving officials and an
incompetent official needs only to attend a few hours of
'refresher' training once a year to remain certified.

To address Alan's specific questions:

In my own training, there has never been any guidance given as
to what constitutes ball or racquet abuse and I have never seen or
heard of any advice from the USTA. I have seen officials issue
warnings and point penalties - and even default a player - for as
little as hitting a ball into the fence and have also seen an
official fail to penalize a racquet thrown across the net at an
opponent. (His rationale? He thought that the player just meant to
throw it into the net and simply misjudged his aim..!).

I have formulated my own rules for racquet and ball abuse:

Racquet and ball abuse should be penalized when the actions of the
player are likely to irritate his opponent to the extent that his
playing ability is hindered or potentially harm a person or cause
damage to something other than the player's racquet (if a player
wants to break his own racquet, that's fine with me!). Throwing a
racquet onto the ground in a moment of frustration in the midst of
a competitive match should not warrant a penalty. Doing so repeatedly
may - depending on how many times it occurs and the
circumstances that initiate it. Particularly in junior tennis,
I think that the award of a penalty should be as a result of making a
distinction between racquet or ball abuse that results from a
hard-fought, competitive match as opposed to a player's petulance,
bad-temper or tantrum. If a racquet is thrown deliberately or
recklessly so that it could injure someone, a penalty is clearly
warranted no matter what the circumstances - and the immediate
default of a player without warning would be justified for a
deliberate act that does, in fact, cause injury. Hitting a ball
out of the playing area should, I believe, always be penalized if
there is ANY possibility of a person being struck by the ball.

Clearly, a careful analysis of a wide range of factors is necessary
before a decision can be made as to whether a penalty should be
issued in such circumstances. My experience reluctantly leads me
to the conclusion that an official at a junior tournament is
unlikely to be capable of making such evaluations in a consistent
and reasonable manner.

I think that this topic is particularly difficult as a result of
junior players seeing pro tennis players regularly toss racquets on
TV without penalty and are then penalized by over-zealous officials
when they emulate their heros at local tournaments. They are
right to feel aggrieved...

In any event, the need for some definitions and specific guidance
to officials from the USTA is certainly well overdue.

Alan's second question is a little easier:

A receiver should not be penalized for taking a reasonable time
to retrieve a ball from the court. Just think of the consequences
(physical and legal) that could result from a player who, during
play, steps on a ball that has not been removed due to the threat
of penalties...

And how would you tell a player not to strike at a serve that is long?
If you do, is he going to be penalized if he does it again???

Slow play that deliberately hinders another player can always be
penalized under the rules but it would be a very brave or very
foolish official who would go any further in these particular
circumstances than having a friendly word in the receiver's ear about
good sportsmanship....

Jeff Davies

Received on Thu Apr 18 2002 - 08:34:19 CDT

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