Thursday, September 1, 2016


We answer your questions about any aspect of tennis !  
Please send your questions to :

Q. How do you resolve a scoring dispute during a game ?
A. The 'easiest' thing to do would be to count the points starting with the most recent point played since this is the freshest in memory. So the conversation on a 30-40 vs 40-30 would go like this: ' The last point was won by Player A (15-0 A),the previous point was one by B (15-15),A had hit an ace (30-15 A) , Player A missed a volley(30-30), no one can remember or agree on the 1st point (still 30-30). So the game resumes at 30-30. The dispute can  also be resolved with a coin toss. At other times,if every point is disputed,then the game resumed with the last point played since that is often undisputed- being the freshest in memory. If all else fails then start the game over.
Q. Who can call a let and when ?
A. Generally ANYONE playing the match can call a service let but lets can also be called at any other time.However there are a few guidelines expected ( but not enforceable) to be followed:
1. It has to potentially interfere with play.
2. It cannot be called from anyone outside the court including players playing on an adjacent court whose ball rolls in.
3. Players generally call lets on their side of the court. ( So if you are at the net finishing off a volley and a ball rolls BEHIND you and your opponents calls a let to 'save' themselves, it does not merit as a let since it did not interfere with your winning shot).
4. If a wrong call is made and corrected,it is NOT a let. The wrong caller loses the point.
5. Outside interference like people yelling or camera flashlights DO NOT merit a let unless very
 dramatic ( like an explosion ).
6.Unless the time between the first and second serves gets very long (more than 20 seconds), it is not required to play a let for mundane actions such as clearing a ball that hit the net or returning a ball to another court.

Q. Why was Serena penalized for hindrance at the US Open while Razzano was given a warning for hindrance at the French Open ?
A. At the 2011 US Open, Serena got a point penalty because it was a deliberate hindrance-her shouting "C'mon" before the point was over.
 At the French Open, it was an involuntary hindrance-Razzano yelping in pain after she hit the ball. That’s why Razzano got a warning first  and a point penalty for a subsequent hindrance.
 Of course the umpire probably got carried away and ended up awarding two more hindrance point penalty.

Q. Is the point over if the ball is hit past the opponent ?
A. The surprising answer is ,'No' ! If the ball is not returned by the opponent, the point is over only AFTER the ball bounces twice or hits anything  after bouncing once. So if your opponent touches the net before this happens the point is yours ! Even if the shot was an obvious winner, it does not matter. For example if your opponent drills an overhead past you and touches the net before the ball bounces twice or hits the fence-you win the point ! The famous Serena hindrance ruling at the U.S. Open ( Serena had shouted 'Come on' after she hit a winner past her opponent but yelled before the ball was dead ) was also based on this.

Q. Can my opponent make calls on my side of the court ?
A. The rule of thumb is that all players make calls on their side of the court with the exception of foot faults which can be called by your opponent. Calls made the players on their side of the court include out calls,touching the net,double bounces and the ball hitting them or their hat or clothing. Technically once the ball bounces all calls are made by the person on whose side the ball bounces till the ball bounces on the other side.

Q. In doubles may the receivers switch positions for a point (i.e.  the person receiving in the deuce side switches to receive in the ad side)  ?
A. USTA Rule 27e states that if an error is discovered, the altered order should continue till that game gets over and the original order  be resumed at the next receiving game.
 Rule 27d states that if the wrong server serves the error should be corrected immediately if discovered before the game gets over. If it is discovered AFTER the game is over,the altered service order continues for the rest of the set.
In either case there is no loss of point. 

Also the order of serve/receiving can be changed at the end of the set.

Q. If my opponent corrects an 'out' call to 'in' do we play a let ?
A. As of 2011, the rules state that if a ball is 'in' but called 'out' and then corrected, the person making the wrong call loses the point. A 'let' is NOT played.

Q. How high is the net supposed to be ?
A. The net is 36" high at the center strap.

Q. Is a let played if a ball strays into the court between the first and second serves ?
A. Unless it interfered with the server i.e. while he was serving or it took a long time to clear the ball a let is not played.

Q. Is it a let if a server completely misses ('whiffs') a serve ?
A. Actually it is a fault.

Q. Where can a receiver's partner stand in doubles ?
A. Anywhere he likes on his side of the court but if the serve hits him on the fly his team loses the point.

Q. In the first point of the serve, if the serve goes down the middle can the receiver's partner return it ?
A. Until 2011 that was a legal shot but now once the players establish where they are going to receive from, the other person cannot return out of turn.

Q. How do you play a tie-break ?
A. This is something that creates confusion even among some experienced tennis players. So here is a primer:
1. A tie-break is played when the score is 6 games all.
2. The person whose serve it is at 6-6 ( it is always the person who STARTED the set) gets to serve once from the deuce court.(Of course, if you miss the first serve you do get a second serve)
3.After this both opponents get  TWO serves serving from the ad court first and then the deuce course.
4.Players change ends at 6-6 in the tie-break and after every 6 points.
5.First one to seven wins or if the tie-break score is 6-6 a difference of 2 is needed to win e.g. 8-6,9-7  etc;

Q.What is a Coman tie-break ?
A. A Coman tie-break is played the same way except the ends are changed every 4 points instead of every 6.
The premise of this is that the sun and wind factor are equally distributed to the players and ,in doubles, the same players serve from the same ends.

Q. What is a match tie-break ?
A. Fall League players play a match tie-break in lieu of a third set. Even on the pro level many tournaments have this format. A match tie-break is a 10 point tie-break (played either regular or Coman style) where the first one to 10 wins. At 9-9 the winner needs a difference of 2 e.g.  11-9,  14-12  etc;

Q. Why do some players say,"Stay for one" after a set ends ?
A.  There is a misunderstanding whether one should change ends after a set. In reality if the game ends in an even score e.g. 6-2 or 6-4 then there is no change of ends at the start of the next set. If it is an odd score like 6-1 or 7-6 then the player change ends.

Q. Who starts serving after a tie break is completed and do you change ends ?
A. The person who begins the tie-break receives serve at the start of the next set. Another way of looking at it is that the person that started the set  will receive the next set (after the tie-break). Yes there is a change of ends after the tie-break.

Q. In a recent league match, my opponent called my serve out, then corrected the call but returned the serve. She wanted to play a let. Is that the right thing to do ?
A. As per USTA 2011 rules, any corrected calls will result in the point awarded against the person making the wrong call. So if she called the serve out and corrected it- you win the point just based on her wrong call. This rule was instituted to avoid players from calling a good serve out just to be able to neutralize the advantage of the server.

Q. What if a string breaks during play ?
A. Point continues if it happens during a rally. If the receiver breaks a string during a first serve return and needs to replace the racquet, it is a first serve let. If a server breaks a string during a first serve fault, it is second serve.There is no rule saying you cannot play a match with a broken string.So you can play the whole match with a broken string.

Q.What if a ball breaks during play ?
A. If a ball breaks during a rally, a let is played. If it is discovered immediately after a point is completed, a player can request a let and it is usually honored.

Q. Why do some players have strips of lead tape on their racquet frames ?
A. Lead tape is used to alter the balance of the racquet,make it heavier in certain areas or shift the sweet spot. It is generally used by advanced players whose feel for the ball and racquet is 'fine tuned' by placing lead tape at startegic parts of the frame.

Q. What are the choices when I win the toss?
A. You can choose to serve,receive,select a side ...or ask your opponent to choose.

Q. How do I choose grip size while selecting a racquet ?
A. Grip size is very personal. Most racquets come in 41/4 41/2 4 3/8 and 4 5/8 sizes. Average hand size is 41/2. Smaller hand size is 41/4. Having said that a 'large hand' player like Nadal uses a very small 4 1/4 grip which helps him whip the racquet more for topspin. 

Q. Which is the best selling racquet ever made ?
A. The most enduring racquet ever made is the green Prince Graphite which is still made in its original form and is still a best selles. Aside from that, the old wooden Dunlop Maxply and Jack Kramer were the best selling racquets of the time. Among the newer racquets, Wilson Hammer takes the lead. These days companies keep changing names on the racquet so frequently that there has been no dominant racquet.

Q. Is a ball on the court a hindrance ?
A. If the ball was already present when the point began it is considered part of the court and no let is played even if the ball in play hits the ball on the ground. ( The ball is 'out' if it hits a stationary ball was lying outside the lines and 'good' if the stationary ball was inside the court).
If a ball rolls over from another court INTERFERING with play then a let is played.

Q. Is outside interference a hindrance ?
A. Spectator interference is not a hindrance and does not qualify,in most cases for even a let. If there is a loud explosion or something fairly dramatic to interfere with play,then the point is replayed.

Q. Is grunting a hindrance ?
A. Grunting,like Sharapova or Azarenka ( who grunts even when the opponent is getting ready to hit) definitely falls in that category and if the person does not stop it after being requested to,a point can be claimed for hindrance. On the pro tour this is seldom enforced mainly because players don't object to it but if they do ( Lendl vs. Agassi, Navratilova vs. Seles are examples) the umpire can intervene  and a point penalty  awarded.

Q. What is involuntary hindrance?
Involuntary hindrance is when the opponent did not deliberately hinder the opponent as in a ball falling out of the pocket or a hat flying off on the court. A squirrel running on the court during a point is also an example. In all these instances a let is played. Subsequent offences are a loss of point to the offender except ,of course, for the squirrel.

Q. What is hindrance?
 A. As per tennis rules, if a player is prevented from playing the point due to a deliberate act of an opponent,the player wins the point. Recently in the U.S. Open finals,Serena yelled, "C'mon" after hitting an apparent winner but before the point was over and while Samantha Stosur was trying to return it. This is called 'hindrance' since it was distracting to Stosur. ( Of course,since Serena hit what seemed like a clear winner, it could be debated whether a let should have been played-but the rules are clear: if a player's act hinders the opponent the player loses the point). Sometimes a let is played for hindrance like a hat falling or a ball slipping out of the pocket. If it happens a second time a point can be awarded due to hindrance. So the next time you play doubles and your opponent  hits a short lob and yells to his partner ' Get back....get back !'  -you can claim a point for hindrance even if you miss the overhead !
Q. What is the best solution to avoid a slippery grip ?
A. There are several solutions:
1. Frequently changing overgrips( See question below)
2. Wearing a wrist band to absorb sweat from the wrist which flows into the palm.
3. Gamma makes Tacky Towel which is a towel,when applied to the grip makes it sticky.
4. Prince makes a spray for the grip which makes it grip firmer.
5. Ivan Lendl used saw dust to pat his grip with.
6. Frequently toweling off the hands and the grip is another inexpensive method.

Q. Which is the best overgrip ?
A. An overgrip is a thin grip to cover the original grip or the bare wooden handle. It is mainly used to keep the grip surface non-slippery. Many brands are available. The most popular grip used by pros is Tourna Grip. Other brands like the Wilson Pro and Prince Microzorb are also popular.
Mainly it is an individual choice whether it is tacky,sticky,corrugated, or gauze like.

Q.  Is a double touch allowed with a racquet ?
A. A double touch is when the ball hits 2 parts of the racquet before going to the other side. If it is ONE motion i.e. if the ball touches the frame and then the strings but if the swing is one continuous motion, it is legal. However if the ball bounces off the racquet and a SECOND swing is made,it is illegal. By the way the call is made by the person hitting the ball.

Q. My opponent chased my drop shot and lobbed over my head but touched the net after the ball sailed over my head. I claimed the point but he said he had touched the net only after the ball sailed over my head and I had no play on the ball and the point was his. Who is correct ?
A. The point ends only AFTER the ball is 'dead'. It can happen:
 a) If the ball bounces twice ( or thrice in wheelchair tennis)
b) If the ball hits the net and does not cross over to the other side
c) If the ball goes out of the fence/side screens
d) If it touches a fixed structure outside the lines like a ball ,scoreboard or tennis bag.
So in this case the ball was still 'alive' when it sailed over your head and since your opponent touched the net before any of the above happened, the point is yours REGARDLESS of whether you were going to be able to return the ball. Even if your opponent had hit  an overhead past you and touched the net AFTER the ball went past your reach, it is still your point since the ball was still 'live' !

Q. Is it a fault if I 'whiff ' my serve ?
A. Yes it is a fault if you toss the ball and you swing your racquet but completely miss the ball. However if you completely miss when you swing for a ground stroke, you or your partner are allowed to take a second shot at the ball so long as it has not bounced twice

Q. Is gut the best string there is ?
A. Gut is certainly the most EXPENSIVE string there is ! As far as it being the best, it is in the eye of the beholder and your playing style. Very few top 10 pros ( if any) play with a complete gut job. A few like Roger Federer use a mix gut and polyester in the same racquet. There has been a myth associated with gut since it used to be popular with pros during the wood racquet days. It still is a soft string with great feel but most players no longer feel they need gut to play well. Polyester has pretty much replaced gut on the pro tour.

Q. Why do I play better in practice ?
A. Many players do well in practice but as soon as they start playing a set,their game changes radically. One reason is that once a set starts people get result oriented and stop executing. The ability to 'remain in the present' is an acquired skill. Thinking about the past i.e. missed shots,double faults or the future i.e. consequence of failure or 'hope I don't double fault' can lead to too much thinking. A match is when you have to forget about technique and play what you learnt in practice. It is far too late to analyze how to hit a particular shot. However keeping your eye on the ball and moving your feet will help you bring your game up---and NO THINKING ON COURT PLEASE !!

Q. What is a hybrid string ?
A. The correct term is 'hybrid string bed'. Many pros and recreational players use one type of string-usually polyester in the mains and a softer string like nylon or gut in the crosses for extra feel.This way they can hit hard but maintain feel. It is lso easier on the arm. There are different kinds of hybrids depending on styles of play.
Q. Recently I hit a drop shot and my opponent scrambled and  got to the ball after it bounced twice but he continued playing and I lost the point. Could I have claimed the point ?
 A. The rule of thumb is all calls on your opponent's side have to be made by your opponent. This includes line calls,double hits,two bounces and even if the ball nicked his/her hat. One exception is foot faults which can be called by the receiver. In this instance your opponent did not acknowledge hitting the ball after 2 bounces. So the point continues till the end.
Q. How can I stop double faulting ?
A. This is something that has plagued players from recreational to the pro levels. There is no single answer or magic solution and each player needs to be evaluated separately. However there are some common factors that transcend all levels of play:
1. Learning to serve with spin but using the same amount of force as the first serve. The spin will keep the ball in and the force will give you the distance.
2. One way to learn the spin serve is to get down on your knees
and try to serve the ball: you will have to hit UP for it to clear the net.
3. To  hit UP on the ball on the spin serve while standing : Make believe there is a tall wall  in front of you and you have to clear it to get the ball over the net .
4.Actually you can even practice by standing next to the back fence and trying to serve over the back fence into the court. You will notice how high you have to hit the ball to clear the fence. That is how  you have to hit your second serve !
5. On pressure points,try to take something off your first serve-so you don't have to serve a second serve.
6. In practice, try 'going for your 2nd serve' instead of powder puffing it. This will improve your serve and confidence.

Q. What is a polyester string and why are more pros using it ?
A. Actually polyester strings are the most popular string even among advanced recreational players. The polyester string first gained attention in Europe and soon clay courters started using it. The advantage is durability,spin and power but for recreational players the advantage is that the strings do not move. Hence the rallies are more consistent.
Polyester strings can be hard on the arm and are not for 'touch players'. Some of the popular polyester strings are made by Luxilon, Babolat, Technifiber, Genesis and Volkl.

Q. I always have good used balls in my bag. Is there a way to pressurize the balls ?
A. Actually Gamma makes a container that screws shut with positive pressure. This tends to prevent air from leaking out as well as push air into the balls. This results in used balls becoming bouncy and lively.

Q. What is the ideal tension to string a racquet ?
A. The ideal tension is very individualized. Higher tensions mean better control but you have to hit harder. Looser string tensions means the reverse i.e. less control but less effort is required. Generally hard hitters with topspin benefit with higher tensions while people who hit softly or with touch prefer lower tensions.
For example Bjorn Borg used to string at 70+ pounds while John McEnroe strings his at 40-45 pounds.
Most recreational players string their racquets at 50-55 pounds.

Q. What constitutes a foot fault  and who calls it in a match ?
1.The most obvious cause of a foot fault is the server's  foot stamping on or crossing the line during a serve.
2.It is NOT a foot fault if the foot was in the air during a serve regardless of whether it crossed the line.
3.It IS a foot fault if the server puts his foot on or over the baseline while tossing the ball even if he/she retracts the foot at the moment of impact.
4.It IS a foot fault if the foot crosses an imaginary extension of the center T line at the baseline ( i.e. if the foot is in the left of center while serving from the deuce court and right of center while serving from the ad court).
5. It IS a foot fault if (in singles) one serves from behind the doubles alley area or (in doubles)  from outside the doubles alley-even if serving from behind the baseline.
6..It IS a foot fault if one runs and serves like a volleyball serve.

In an unofficiated match, a foot fault can be called by the receiver or the receiver's partner-generally after the server has been warned by the opponent.

No comments:

Post a Comment