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Who Makes the Call?

When it comes to making calls in recreational or unofficiated competitive tennis, sometimes it can be confusing as to who has the right to make the call. Tennis is a game of millimeters, and it’s also a game of good sportsmanship, so when a disagreement happens due to a call, which is bound to happen, it can leave a bad taste in everyone’s mouth. We’ve boiled down the rules about who makes what calls because no one wants to be known as “the lady who makes bad calls.”

Self-Calls

Players or teams make the calls on their own side of the net.

Players should also admit when the ball touches them, they touched the net or the opponent's court, they hit the ball before it crossed the net, they intentionally double hit the ball, or the ball double bounced before they returned it.

Best practices

As a show of good sportsmanship, players can also call their own shots out if they know they clearly hit the ball out.

Woman looking over tennis net

 

Opponent’s Calls

A player should make the call when the opponent hits the ball through the net or into the ground before it goes over the net.

When it comes to calling serves, if a server hits what she (or her partner) thinks is a fault, but the receiver does not call it out, the serve is considered good. It may be that the receiving team is giving the serve the benefit of the doubt.

Therefore, whether a serve is considered in or out should be left up to the receiver or receiving team. If a second serve goes out, the server (or team) should call the double fault, even if the receiving team doesn’t call it.

Two tennis players walking with their racquets.

Doubles Specifics

If partners disagree on a call, the ball is good.

Best practices

In general, the partner looking down the line most likely has a better view than the partner looking across the line. In doubles, if an opponent with a less than ideal view calls your ball out, it can sometimes be beneficial to politely ask their partner what they thought.

When receiving serve, either the receiver or the receiver’s partner may call a fault; however, the receiver should focus on the sideline and the center service line, whereas, the receiver’s partner should focus on the service line.

Graphic showing Doubles Partner Focus Areas

Reversing Calls

The player who calls a ball out can reverse the call if she becomes unsure whether or not the ball was actually out or if she realizes that the ball was in. If that happens, the point automatically goes to the opponent. The exception is if the receiver reverses a fault call on a serve that hits the net. In that case, the server gets two more serves.

Let Calls & Hindrances

Anyone can call a let if she is affected by a hindrance, such as when a stray ball rolls onto the court. The call must be made in a timely manner, and play must be stopped immediately, otherwise, play will continue.

Any player may call a service let, but it should be done before the return goes out or is hit by the server or the server’s partner.

Ball resting on tennis net post

Outside Input

Spectators and coaches can never make calls. If a player is unsure about a call, she should call the ball in and not look for a reaction from spectators or a coach to help make the call.

Foot Faults

The receiver or the receiver’s partner may call foot faults after giving the server a warning and calling an official if possible. If the foot faults continue and are easily seen from across the net, then foot faults may be called going forward.

Conclusion

The next time your partner tries to call your first serve out, kindly let her know that she should let the opposing team call your first serves. Or the next time your opponent’s feet are touching the baseline before she hits her serve, give her a warning or two before you start calling foot faults.

While mistaken calls are bound to take place in tennis, we hope this refresher will help clear up some questions and reduce the number of bad calls made in your next match. We can’t prevent our eyesight from going, but we can do our best to make the right calls.

Adapted from The Code: The Players’ Guide to Fair Play and the Unwritten Rules of Tennis

Cheat Sheet

Situation

When can you make the call?

What Happens

Calling ball out On your side of the net Point goes to you

Mistakes
- Touching the ball or net 

- Crossing the net before ball is hit

- Intentional double hit

When you make the mistake Point goes to opponent
Double bounce On your side of the net Point goes to opponent

Ball not going over net

- Through net 

- Bouncing before going over

When your opponent hits it Point goes to you
LETS
Service let Anytime Serve is replayed
Let Anytime Point is replayed
Hindrance let If you were hindered Depends on type of hindrance*
SERVICE
Fault (first serve) When you are the receiver or receiving team Server takes a second serve
Fault (second serve) Anytime Point goes to receiver or receiving team
Foot fault When you are the receiver or receiving team, but only after you have warned the server If called on a first serve, the server takes a second serve. If called on the second serve, the point goes to you.
REVERSALS AND DISAGREEMENTS
Reversed call Anytime Point goes to opponent
Partner disagreement Anytime Point goes to opponent
Service let reversal Anytime Server gets two serves

 *If your opponent intentionally hindered you, the point is yours. If it hindrance was unintentional, the point is replayed.

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