by Earle Palmer Brown
The rules of tennis have been painstaking written and revised over the
decades to cover almost every contingency that a tournament player might face.
However, meticulous though they are, they don't solve the everyday problems
of social tennis. Here's an attempt to provide answers to questions puzzling
that great unappreciated legion of pushers and hackers.
QUESTION: Most of the people at our club play FBI or first ball in. Is there
any limit on the number of serves that may be taken under
this rule? It takes forever to get a match started.
ANSWER: First Ball In has been responsible for more rotator cuff
injuries than Australian Rules football. It ranks
somewhere between a mulligan and a gimmie. It certainly isn't legal and purists
deplore it, but it's usage has become so pervasive that there's not much you
can do to stop it.
QUESTION: At the end of the warmup period my regular opponent
always spins his racket, covers the butt with
his palm, and says "up or down." I've lost the service option 35 consecutive
times. Is there anyway I can overcome this without accusing him of cheating?
ANSWER: Before he gets a chance to spin his racket, spin yours and let
it fall on the ground and ask "up or down". After he
makes the call, pick up your racket without looking at the butt and immediately
head to the service line. An especially astute gene therapist from Connecticut
solves this problem another way: as soon as the offender spins his racket he
quickly asks "how was it?" Caught off guard the spinner often answers "up" or
"down" whereupon the therapist says "that's right" and starts serving. (Editors
note: younger players often ask where the term "rough or smooth" comes from.
Many years ago rackets were strung with decorative trim one side of which was
smooth and the other rough. One notorious gamesman had his racket strung with
the trim rough at the top and smooth at the bottom.)
QUESTION: I play every Sunday with an Internist, a Gynecologist, and a
Plastic Surgeon. Recently, while I was approaching the
net to put away a sitter my partner's medic alert beeper went off. One of our
opponents immediately called a let. Is this legal?
ANSWER: The USTA rule book doesn't even come close to covering this
situation so I checked with the American Medical
Association and they ruled that if the beeper went off before the ball was
struck a let could be played. In a case where two beepers sound simultaneously
the team with the louder beeper wins the point.
QUESTION: One of my regular singles opponents is quite fastidious and
always hangs his towel on the opposite netpost from
where I hang mine. If I should move my towel to his end he moves his to the
other side. For some reason this infuriates me and I lose my concentration. Do
you have any suggestions?
ANSWER: Yes, while changing change courts absent mindedly blow your
nose in his towel.
QUESTION: One member of our Thursday night foursome always arrives
after we've taken the court and started the warmup. We
suspect he does this to avoid bringing the balls. He's carried the same
unopened can for three months. Any thoughts?
ANSWER: Start warming up with a set of those green and reds balls they sell
for Christmas and see if this will shame him into opening his can. If it
doesn't work, trade him for a player to be named later.
QUESTION: One of my opponents won't serve unless he has all three balls in his
possession. This wastes a lot of time. Is there anything I can do to break him
of this habit?
ANSWER: Yes, wait till a day when you're playing after a rain and roll one of
the balls into a puddle.
QUESTION: My regular doubles partner has chronic laryngitis and goes
through periods when he can hardly speak. To keep me
from hitting out balls he plays with a football referees whistle in his mouth
and blows it when he thinks a ball is going long. Recently one our opponents
has taken to imitating the whistle and this has caused me to let several good
shots go by. What can I do?
QUESTION: Every summer I compete in a mixed doubles tournament played
in a very relaxed manner at a not-too-fashionable resort in Appalachia. This year, when I came up to the desk to pay my
entry fee, they refused to let me see the draw saying "we'll let you see it after
we go to ink." I sneaked a look at the draw they had pencilled on the back of an
empty Domino pizza box and noticed we were in the upper half. The draw wasn't
posted until after we had already played and won a match and I found we had
been shifted to the bottom half. When I complained I was told they had shifted
things around because they didn't want a local podiatrist to have to play
against his ex-wife. What recourse do I have?
ANSWER: I know the tournament of which you write. There's only one
solution; get yourself appointed to the tournament
QUESTION: Is it ethical to call a let after missing an overhead because your
sun tan lotion got in your eye?
ANSWER: It's not ethical but sure is imaginative
QUESTION: What is the difference between a pusher and a hacker?
ANSWER: A pusher gets the ball over the net one more time.
If you wish to provide a comment to the author of this Wild Cards column, please use this form. Tennis Server will forward the comment to the author.
Wild Cards Archives:
1998 - 2003 | 2004 - 2016
If you have not already signed up to receive our free e-mail
newsletter Tennis Server INTERACTIVE, you can sign up here.
You will receive notification each month of changes at the Tennis
Server and news of new columns posted on our site.
This column is copyrighted by the author, all rights reserved.