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Sun, March 24

Column: Getting to know the finer points of tennis

If you’re an avid tennis players who enjoys the game of singles and doubles, there is no doubt you have come across situations during a match that you might not known what to do exactly.

For instance, you hit a serve to your opponent and they yell, “I think” it was out. Followed by, “Just go ahead and hit that serve over again.” In reality any doubt on a call should go in your opponents favor. Or, Your first serve is interrupted by a ball that comes over from another court, should you just wait and then take your second serve, or start the point over with two serves? Maybe during the point one of your shots hits the net post and deflects for a crazy angle winner, is that okay?

Those and many more rules, regulations, and sometimes not so black and white situations occur during matches that have needed clarification since the modern game came to life in 1877 - that are now pretty well covered in a USTA book called “Friend At Court.”

Friend at Court is the book of rules and regulations under which tennis is played in the United States. It is recommended reading for players, parents, coaches, teachers, tournament directors, league officials, and anyone who wants a finer understanding of the game. This book contains the: • ITF Rules of Tennis; • USTA Regulations; • The Code; and • Glossary of terms commonly used in tennis. A working knowledge of the ITF Rules of Tennis, The Code, and USTA Regulations are essential to playing the game the way it should be played.

The first part of the book goes over the 40 plus rules that give you most of the answers on how to play the game correctly - the accepted procedures by the ruling bodies. The 35 pages should be a “must read” for any tennis players who have gone beyond “hit and giggle” tennis. Why, because that’s what makes the game more fun and meaningful.

The second part of the book is a document called The Code, and it was put in place to show the principles of tennis, where fair play and courtesy is expected. It covers items like warming up to begin a match, making calls, benefit of doubt, dealing with disagreements and disputes, spectators, people playing on courts next to you - distractions, general tennis etiquette, talking, hindrance causes, stalling, and most other issues that could and do come up over years of competitive match play.

The Regulations specifically state that The Code shall apply to all matches except to the extent to which an official assumes some of the players’ responsibilities. The Code contains the “unwritten” rules under which tennis is played.

When you play in USTA sanctioned tournaments there are umpires roaming around helping players, enforcing the rules and everyone of them carries this little paperback book around with them. It’s the bible of officiating the game of tennis.

What’s a foot-fault, and who can call it? If you happen to play a point starting on the wrong side - or worse yet you serve a whole game out of turn what should take place? One player thinks the set score or game score is different from what you believe it is - how do you settle the matter?

The list of situations that take place on the court is too long here to give you all the answers you may have and each year it seems something gets changed a bit or up-dated that keeps even the pro’s of the game on their toes - so if you want to be a little more confident in your tennis endeavors, go on-line and type in, “Friend At Court” (tennis rules) and the whole book will be at your disposal.

Chris Howard is a local USPTA Tennis Professional with over 40 years in the racquet and fitness industry. He can be reached at 928-642-6775 or


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