Oh, it is out

When can you check a mark and call the shot OUT? There is a fine line between what is appropriate and what is not. A friend was playing a tournament match; and in the first game he was serving had an instance, which clearly raises this question again.

He hit his second serve. His opponent hit his return wide. And as my friend was picking up the ball, his opponent checks the mark of the serve and says, “Oh, there is a clear mark. Your serve was long.”

My friend said that he would give him that point; but not to do that again, because it is wrong. And I agree.

I believe the receiver had to call OUT before, during, or immediately after his stoke. Otherwise, he is playing the ball and not calling the shot out (even though, it might have been).

Another friend, who ref’s college matches (but only on hard courts, where you cannot really deal with marks left by the ball, like on clay), disagrees. He feels that if the ball is out, it is out; and that the receiver should have the luxury of checking the mark after his stroke.

But this is like the pros playing with officials on the lines and the video challenge system. They have to stop play IMMEDIATELY to challenge a call – and cannot play the ball (and when their shot flies out, to then challenge the call).

The Rules of Tennis support this position: they say a ball mark can be checked “on either a point-ending shot or when a player (team) stops playing the point during a rally (returns are permitted but then the player must immediately stop).”

7 thoughts on “Oh, it is out

  1. i find this very interesting. in this case, it’s all about timing. suppose, during a serve (or during a rally), you play a ball and you hit the ball long or wide, then you look down and see the mark is out, what you’ve done is give yourself 2 chances to win the point. the reason is, if your shot is a winner, then you could say “I played the ball”, or if you miss your shot, you could say “the ball was out”. you can’t have it both ways. this is why the timing is so important. you have to call the ball out immediately, as soon as you see the mark, regardless of your own shot.
    plus, in regards to marks, i’m a believer in circling close calls on clay, immediately and decisively. when you do that consistently, it gives you credibility and you opponent is less likely to think you are attempting to cheat. he always has the opportunity to “check” your call when you switch sides.
    once again, it’s all about trying to do the right thing while competing your hardest to win.

    Joe – i agree 100%. geo

  2. An “out” call on a serve must be prompt and it’s in the rules. Exactly as Joe said, if not called promptly the receiver has 2 chances. We lost out going to Districts one year when the opposing team hit a return into the net and we all ran on to the court to congratulate our team who apparently won the match. BUT one of the opponents then walked to the mark and found an out mark (spectators from both sides disagreed but couldn’t say anything) and our players unfamiliar with the no two chance rule replayed the point and lost it and the next 2 points and the other team went to Districts. That was 8 years ago and since then I’ve enforced the prompt call rule for our team and the opposing team. Cheerz, Bob

  3. George — Great question. Two thoughts:

    1. best to take and make the calls as they come. I don’t play on clay enough to get into this whole mark circling thing, which at one level I think is a bit pretentious. Just make your calls and move on.

    2. this is more important. I have spoken to numerous ITF, USTA and other officials, including Grand Slam referees: there is no such thing as a conclusive mark on a hard court. let me repeat: there is no such thing as a conclusive mark on a hard court. one may think it’s visible but research has shown that the ball can leave quite tiny filaments that will indeed touch a line. this is why marks are never checked on hardcourts.

  4. It seems to me it falls in the “double jeopardy” category when more than 2 strokes occur before a call is made. If the ball is that close to the line you also put yourself in situation of hitting a poor shot on a ball hitting the line. There are many times you just have to play the ball. The guys we play in tourneys hit the ball out a matter of inches not feet. we ran into a situation at the Intersectionals when our opponent called a ball out after we were on the bench and his partner had called the ball good. But because it was a winner that kept us on serve at 2-3 it turned out to be 3-2 their break in the 3rd set of the finals against The Southern region. The partner then became mute regarding the call. The ball actually landed inside the line and 3 people on the court saw it good. The fellow at the baseline who was scrambling to get the ball, found an out mark about 2 feet away. Because of their being no official his call eventually stood. This was a turning point in the match as tempers were a bit on edge. What would you do? My feeling was that against this particular guy, when a game is very important, it takes 5 points to win a game.

    Bill – i think, regardless of the mark, if one guy calls it good, it is good. geo

  5. I agree with all of the above. The comment in your friends match should have been elongated to: ‘…..crap! Too bad I played it.’ And move on.

  6. Not being a clay court player by any means, I’m just curious. What if my opponent returns my serve, which I saw was out and let up (yes, I know you shouldn’t let up) for a winner. Can I go point to an obvious mark on the other side of the net and say, no, you played an out ball. What if he says, “hey, I couldn’t tell, so I just played it”.

    Mike – that is in fact a question i raised earlier on the blog. The answer appears to be: if your opponent is playing the ball, it is in play (ps you are not allowed to cross the net to point to a mark). geo

  7. This happens in doubles play all the time. Your partner may return serve either good or not and then you as his partner says that the serve was out after the ball was played and you both got to look at the mark. It’s impossible to check the mark while you are returning the ball. If you do, then your not watching the ball. I think that it becomes a gentlemanly thing or rule of conduct at the time. Certainly the call needs to be made as soon as possible and not after you leave the court or play out the point.

    Dick – yes, there is that “instant” when to OUT call is legit and then when it is not. And i think you are right that Dubs is different… that the returner can be free to ‘play the ball,’ while his partner can then call OUT. tks geo

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