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Errors and Scoring Disputes

What to do When Errors & Scoring Disputes Occur

Sometimes errors or scoring disputes occur, and we’re here to explain how to properly handle these instances so that the mistakes or scores are fixed in the fairest way possible. 

According to ITF rules, when players discover that an error has been made, “all points previously played shall stand.” Once an error has been discovered, the following guidelines explain how to rectify the errors. 

Well Played Tennis Errors ServingPhoto credit: Adobe

Serving Errors

  • If a player serves from the wrong half of the court (deuce or ad side), this should be corrected as soon as possible, and the server should continue serving from the correct half of the court according to the score. In other words, the previous points do not need to be replayed, the score should remain, and play should continue from the correct half of the court. A fault that was served before the error was discovered shall stand. 
  • Similar to the situation above, if the players are at the wrong ends of the court, this should be corrected as soon as possible, and the server should continue serving from the correct end of the court according to the score. Again, the previous points do not need to be replayed, the score should remain, and play should continue from the correct end of the court. 
  • If the order of serving gets switched, the player who should have been serving should start serving as soon as the error is discovered. However, if a game is completed before the error is discovered, play should continue with the new order of service. 
    • If the order of serving is getting switched back in the middle of a game, a fault that was served by the incorrect player before the error was discovered shall NOT stand. However, in doubles, if the partners on the same team switched their order of serving, a fault that was served by the incorrect partner before the error was discovered shall stand. 
  • In tiebreaks, a mistake in the order of serving gets a little complicated. If a player serves out of turn and the error is discovered after an EVEN number of points have been played, the error should be corrected immediately. If the error is discovered after an ODD number of points have been played, play should continue with the new order of service. 
    • The way to deal with a fault before the error is discovered is the same as in the situation above. 
Well Played Tennis Errors ReceivingPhoto credit: Adobe

Receiving Error

  • In doubles, if the order of receiving gets switched, play should continue with the new order of receiving until the end of the game. For the remaining games in which that doubles team is receiving in that set, the partners should switch back to the original order of receiving. 

Set or Match-Ending Errors

  • If players are supposed to play an “advantage set” (first to win by two games), but they accidentally start playing a tiebreak, the error should be corrected immediately if only one point has been played. Otherwise, it should continue as a “tie-break set.” 
  • If players are supposed to play a “tie-break set,” but they accidentally start playing a standard game at 6-6, the error should be corrected immediately if only one point has been played. Otherwise, the set will continue as an “advantage set” until the score reaches 8-8 (or a higher even number), when a tiebreak should be played. 
  • If players are supposed to play a match tiebreak for the final set, but they accidentally start playing a standard game to start the final set, the error should be corrected immediately if only one point has been played. Otherwise, the set will continue either until a player or team wins three games (and therefore the set) or until the score reaches 2-2, when a match tiebreak shall be played. However, if the error is discovered after the second point of the fifth game, the set will continue as a “tie-break set.” 

 

Well Played Tennis Errors VolleyPhoto credit: Adobe

    Scoring Disputes

    While everyone knows that the easiest way to avoid scoring disputes is to call out scores loudly and clearly before each point and game, despite our best efforts, they still occur. The Code, published by the USTA, emphasizes that the most important rule to follow when a scoring dispute occurs is to determine a score that both sides agree on and only replay the points or games that are disagreed upon. In other words, play should restart from a score that is mutually agreed upon by both sides. When reconstructing points and games, use memory and which side of the court (deuce or ad) or end of the court you’re on to help you determine the score.

    Example 1

    Player A calls the score as 40-30

    Player B believes the score is 40-40

    The last score they both agree on is 30-30

    Play resumes from 30-30

    Example 2

    Player A calls the game score as 5-3

    Player B believes the game score is 4-3

    The last game score they both agree on is 3-3

    Play resumes from 3-3


    Once the starting score has been determined, here are some other guidelines to follow:

    • If the players do not agree on the side of the court on which the point being replayed started, toss a coin or spin a racquet to select which side of the court to use. 
    • If the point being replayed occurred in a tiebreak, and if the players do not agree on who served it, toss a coin or spin a racquet to select the server. If necessary, toss a coin or spin a racquet to determine the side on which the point should be played and the end from which the server should serve. 
    • If an entire game needs to be replayed, and if once again the players do not agree on who served it, toss a coin or spin a racquet to select the server. 
    Well Played Tennis Errors Serving BouncePhoto credit: Adobe

    Conclusion

    Whether the wrong person started serving a game or you and your opponents can’t agree on the score, mistakes will occur in tennis matches, and without the help of a chair umpire, it’s up to you and your opponents to resolve the issue quickly and fairly, without tempers flaring. Good luck!

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