The Final Word: Doubles Dilemmas

May 26, 2011 12:13 PM
Richard Kaufman, USTA Director of Officials, answers your questions.
Have you ever had a dispute with a fellow player over a call on the court that you couldn’t settle? Or have you ever wondered why a certain ruling was made during a match you were watching? Maybe you’re just curious about how some scenarios, from the common to the ridiculous, are resolved.
USTA Director of Officials, Richard Kaufman, is here to answer your questions. Each week, he will select a few submissions and supply the definitive rulings through a Q&A.
Have a question of your own? Click here to submit your question to The Final Word.
* Please note, due to the volume of emails Rich receives, he is not able to answer every email.
Subject: Who calls a tipped ball?
Recently we played a doubles match in which the opponent team believed my partner 'tipped' the ball with her racquet. She did not and I was able to return the ball, however the opposing team stopped playing in their belief that the point was over. Which call is this to make?
KAUFMAN: That call should be made by the player who tipped the ball. It is not the opponents call to make.
In The Code, a Players’ Guide for Matches When Officials Are Not Present, #19, page 47, 2011 Friend at Court: The player calls that on themselves.
Subject: Asking for verification on a call
Under the new rule, if one person on receiving team called it out and their partner said nothing but appeared to have seen the ball land, can the serving team (who both saw it in, or even just the net man or server) put the silent partner of the return team on the spot and make him or her answer if it was seen in or out? If yes, is it the same test for the silent person, that they have to have seen it clearly out to agree with their partner?
KAUFMAN: Only one player in doubles needs to call the ball out. If the other player is silent it is assumed that that partner agreed with the call or could not determine the call.
It is not really proper to ask the silent partner what they thought. You can ask the person who made the call nicely if they are sure.
Subject: Racquet switching etiquette
I have 1 racquet I use for extreme slices and a different racquet that enables me to hit more power/flat shots and/or serves. How often can I switch racquets?
KAUFMAN: Technically, if you can do it very quickly one can change racquets after every point. However play must be continuous and if changing racquets after every point keeps play from being continuous, then it is not permitted.
Subject: Out of bounds
What is the ruling when a person hits a ball over the net and it hits another ball that is sitting out of bounds?
KAUFMAN: If the ball in play hits a ball that is outside the lines of the court, then the ball is considered "out."
Subject: Is accidentally dropping a racquet a hindrance?
This is a curiosity question, since it did not happen in actual play but only in a practice session. Still, who knows what may come up in actual play?
Situation: In a practice match, my opponent hit a ball to me, I reached for it, and my racquet slipped out of my hand and fell on the court. My opponent immediately stopped playing, said that it was a hindrance, and therefore claimed the point. I thought that a let should have been played, and my opponent should have another first serve. What's the correct answer here?
KAUFMAN: The racquet flying out of the hand of a player is not considered a hindrance and play should continue, as long as the racquet was in the hand of the player when they hit the ball.