Clearing The Ball

My beat-me-every-Friday-New Hampshire friend, Bob Wilkie and I have had a running commentary on when you should clear the ball on an errant first serve into the net.

I almost always clear any missed serve of mine that goes into the net and rolls three or more feet back into the court. Bob, on the other hand, will frequently leave a ball sitting in the middle of the service box – or even closer to the service line.

The rule, I believe, is that he would have to pick up that ball, if I asked him to; but I don’t always ask.

And he admits that he frequently leaves the ball there because he knows I think about it.

When he leaves the ball on the court, I try not to let it bother me; but use it to my advantage by aiming near it or giving him a drop shot in that area. Trying to turn his intended distraction for me into a distraction for him.

This past week, we had one of those situations, where he left the missed first serve in the service box and we got into a ground stroke rally. On my first opportunity, I aimed my shot at his “sitting target,” and HIT IT!

The point was mine, because he left the ball on the court. And Bob said, “I guess I’ll have to start clearing the ball.”

7 thoughts on “Clearing The Ball

  1. I say always clear the ball. It’s a distraction plus someone could get hurt by backing up and not seeing the ball!!

    Dick – as usual, i agree with you! geo

  2. In a tournament match balls must be cleared by USTA rule as told to me from an official. he actually stopped our match to tell us about the rule. I have never heard of nor seen this rule. But if asked to clear your request must be met if it is in the playing area and is in any way in the field on play.

    bill: just reading the Q&A in Tennis Mag, and someone was asking if there is a rule that says your second serve has to be slower than your first!! So there are rule interpretations all around! geo

  3. Without looking up the rule, I think that the ball is still in play after it strikes the ball left on the court. If the ball jumps up and is returnable, play continues. Like a ball that strikes the net, it could help you or hurt you. So maybe Bob will continue to roll the dice!


    Keith: if anyone could still stroke the ball after it ricochets off the one on the court, i will gladly give them the point! geo

  4. At the Denver City Open, In the 2nd round of the Men’s 60 doubles, I asked my opponents to move a ball that was close to the net and in-between me and the server. I just have a thing where I don’t want to see another ball other than the one being served. Maybe not logical but it’s my right to have the ball removed. Well, when the server’s partner pushed the errant first serve into the net, I asked him to move the ball off to the side. The server came un-glued, charged up to the net and said he WANTED the ball there, and I could go pound sand. Now, I’ve been through this before with a guy named Larry T. (#1 55 doubles player in world at one time) and I knew the rule. I didn’t want to argue, so I said fine, let’s get the ref and have her tell him the rules. Which she did, and after the match (we beat them 0 and 0 which was immensely satisfying), you would think he would have apologized. No, he stalked off the court as if I had wronged him, or played some mind game on him.

    What’s the point? Am I within my right technically but morally wrong to ask the server’s partner to knock the ball to the side? Is it that big a deal to move the frickin’ ball??

    Mike – so are you saying you can ask the opponent to clear ANY ball on the court — even one right at the base of the net? i used to play with a guy like that in CT years ago. geo

  5. Definitely clear the ball off the court. You wouldn’t take a leftover ball out of your pocket after serving and toss it onto the court in front of you before you receive, or leave your water bottle in the court up against the net. Leaving a ball on the court in clear view and in the visual path of play is a major distraction for some people (yes, including me).

    terry – i will try to remember that! geo

  6. Geo – yes, any ball at all. I personally just have this thing about a ball between me and the server. But I think the ref said you can actually ask your opponent to clear balls that are not on the court proper, but outside the playing lines. Wonder if anyone can confirm that?

    Mike – i would be interested to know the rule too! geo

  7. USTA Comment 25.2: Must a request to remove a ball that is
    lying in the opponent’s court be honored? Yes, but not while the ball
    is in play. Additionally, a request to remove a ball that is outside the
    Court but reasonably close to the lines also must be honored.
    here is how USAT and ITF feels about that request.
    George you should have asked that guy if he had forgotten to take his meds. Sounds like a Bi-Polar disorder.

    Bill – and when i see you down south, i will tell you a story about a tournament opponent of mine, who REFUSED to move a ball when i asked. geo

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