Talking During a Point

During a USTA 4.5 SS League doubles match last week, there was a question about talking during a point in play.

We had a long exchange, mostly at the net; and while I was reaching for what ended up being the last shot, I was distracted by one of my opponents shouting “switch”… and pushed my volley just a little wide.

While we didn’t challenge the play then, we talked on the next changeover. My understanding is that your opponents cannot talk while the ball is on your side of the court; but my partner (a teaching pro) said that a USTA ref told him in a tournament that you have to stop play and not hit the ball in order to challenge the “hindrance” of the sound.

The USTA rules of play are not clear on the issue: it says that they cannot talk when you are hitting (and would lose the point for doing so); but the example they give is on an overhead and says that if you “choose” to still make the shot, you cannot claim the point because you didn’t make a “timely claim of hindrance.”

My contention is that there is NO time on a reflex volley; so it should at least be a let. Anybody know?

5 thoughts on “Talking During a Point

  1. Please refer to the Friend at Court, Item 33. “Talking during a point. A player shall not talk while the ball is moving toward the opponent’s side of the court. If the player’s talking interferes with an apponent’s ability to play the ball, the player loses the point. Consider the situation where a player hits a weak lob and loudly yells at his or her partner to get back. If the shout is loud enough to distract an opponent, then the opponent may claim the point based on a deliberate hindrance. If the opponent chooses to hit the lob and misses it, the opponent loses the point because the opponent did not make a timely claim of hindrance.”

    So, George, to answer your question, you could have claimed a hindrance as the ball was moving toward you but you did not call the hindrance of the distracting shout of “switch” so you lost the point because you hit the ball which continued play. A claim of hindrance may not be called after the conclusion of the point. To claim that there is no time to claim a hindrance while volleying is not valid. You either call the hindrance and not hit the ball claiming the point or you do hit the ball, losing the point in your particular instance. Linda
    soooo Linda, if my opponent is set up to hit a winning overhead, and as he takes his racquet back and starts his swing, and i shout “MISS IT!”… and he does, that is not a hindrance because he didn’t stop play????  I contend, the wording from the rule is: “If the player’s talking interferes with an opponent’s ability to play the ball, the player loses the point”  george

  2. Here is what “The Code” says about talking:
    33. Talking during a point. A player shall not talk while the ball is moving
    toward the opponent’s side of the court. If the player’s talking interferes with
    an opponent’s ability to play the ball, the player loses the point. Consider the
    situation where a player hits a weak lob and loudly yells at his or her partner
    to get back. If the shout is loud enough to distract an opponent, then the
    opponent may claim the point based on a deliberate hindrance. If the opponent
    chooses to hit the lob and misses it, the opponent loses the point
    because the opponent did not make a timely claim of hindrance.

  3. Excuse me if I chime in and ignore the Code, but shouldn’t we be a little tougher than that, concentrate on the ball and hit the shot? They even allow cheering and yelling during Davis Cup now, and during many Grand Slams there is a lot of noise from adjacent courts while play is occurring. I just don’t think we should be so “soft” that we can’t hit a tennis ball when, by way of comparison, a major league pitcher is expected to throw a 3-2 pitch in the ninth inning of a world series with the game on the line and 40,000 people are on their feet and screaming. He is expected to deliver, and so should we. Besides golf, which to me is a totally different type of sport where your opponent is really the ball, tennis seems to be the only sport in which one of the major factors distinguishing us from other animal species, namely speech, is frowned upon.  Len

    Len: I agree that tennis fans should be allowed to cheer during points.  And there would not be a problem, IF there was a constant din of noise; but if it is quiet and one person shouts, then it is different to me.  George

  4. Folks, isn’t the answer to this question controlled a little bit by what Bob Mazzola wrote and by what Len Saltzman wrote? Bob wrote, taken from the Code: “If the shout is loud enough to distract an opponent, then the opponent may claim the point based on a deliberate hindrance.” Len wrote: “Excuse me if I chime in and ignore the Code, but shouldn’t we be a little tougher than that, concentrate on the ball and hit the shot?” My takeway from the Code is that the hindrance has to be truly “DELIBERATE” in order to count. Weren’t we all taught that the essence of good doubles is to COMMUNICATE with your partner? How is a team expected to communicate if they doubles partners cannot speak with each other? Hand signals? Come on everybody, that is just ridiculous.

    Here, the allegedly hindering word was a very legitimate word that we have all used as good doubles players: “Switch.” It is meant to tell your partner that you and he (or she) are on the wrong side of the court to set up for the next shot and it is essential to realign in the opposite set up to be prepared — defensively — for the next shot. Just from the context, this is NOT a word that, when spoken in the middle of a point, is designed to, nor should it reasonably be interpreted by the opposing team to be, a “DELIBERATE HINDRANCE.” Trying to figure out if the word was spoken after the opposing team’s ball crossed the plane of the net or not is just putting too fine of a gloss on the issue. Nobody can possibly expect to be that precise.

    There are many doubles teams that I have played (or been a partner on) who talk constantly between themselves in the middle of a match. Words like “switch,” “get back,” “yours,” “mine,” “bounce it,” “let it go,” “up,” “back,” “drop it,” etc. are constantly being spoken throughout the tennis match to allow the team to ….. COMMUNICATE with each other. There is nothing intended to deliberately interfere with the opposing team in any of this.

    Of course, there is a matter of context. I agree that in some situations a team theoretically could abuse this and actually use words that would otherwise be legitimate out of context. THAT would indeed be a deliberate hindrance. One obvious example would be to shout the word “SWITCH” very loudly just as the server is tossing his serve and before he hits.

    So, Len is also right. We can be much too sensitive about this and there needs to be some reasonableness about it all. If there is evidence to suggest that a team is indeed deliberately hindering, why not just ask the opposing team to stop doing that the first time and, if they do it again, THEN claim a hindrance because their ignoring the polite request more or less confirms that the action is being done deliberately to cause a hindrance? But when a team is just communicating with itself to get set up for the next point, I agree with Len that it is being way too sensitive to even think about calling a deliberate hindrance in that situation.

    – Marty

    Marty – Thanks for your thorough thought (as usual!). I agree that calling “switch” is no way a “deliberate hindrance”; but it still can be a hindrance.  If it came on an important point … and the player truly missed the shot because of the noise made by the opponent while the ball was on the hitter’s side of the court, i would think not asking for the point, but just a let would be polite and fair.  – george.

  5. I agree wholeheartedly with Marty’s response. We doh’t live in a perfect world of competition on the court and providing there is no deliberate intention to distract but to instead communicate with a teammate, then we should all just continue to
    PLAY THE GAME of tennis.

    Dag Williamson

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