Overruling Your Partner

Art: Warwick.ac.uk
Here is a good reader question: “When is it acceptable to overrule your partner? For me I back up my partner on all calls, unless he asked for a second look. I feel it is better for the team and the last thing I want to do is make him feel like crap. Naturally, if there are constant egregious mistakes, I might look on it differently but that rarely happens.”

Sorry, I am on the other side of that issue. I feel you should check the mark on every close call and/or overrule immediately during a point, if you think your partner has made a wrong call.

Some people will argue, that having a good doubles relationship dictates “going along” with an occasional mistake; but I believe making the correct call is the only fair thing to do.

A solid 98 out of 100 guys we play with do not intentionally make bad calls; and welcome (accept) the correction. For the other two guys, I would then choose not to play with them.

11 thoughts on “Overruling Your Partner

  1. One tennis pro suggests the way to avoid undermining your partner if you believe he blew a call is to tell your partner quietly that you believe the call to be in error and let him (or her) correct the mistake and preserve the team unity.

  2. Some guys (and gals) let ego get in their way. But when you see the mistakes cleared up on Hawkeye there is no way we don’t make some, too. Plus, last I looked around we weren’t getting any younger. So, I think we should all welcome being asked, in the spirit of making the right call, by our partner whenever there is a hint of uncertainty. But I do mean ‘by our partner’, not the opponents, or at least rarely. Another situation that comes up is when one partner is not sure but the other partner is….in that situation I always support a partner who is sure. What I do also is just tell my partner when I didn’t see it, or that I wasn’t sure. Just so he knows. If he says ‘maybe I pulled the trigger too fast’ then we change our call. Showing one’s own uncertainly is a way of asking without impugning partner….it just says the call is on you, which seems perfectly legitimate to me. On the few occasions that I play with someone whose ethics I (come to) deplore I overrule when I’m sure they’re wrong…..but mostly I just avoid them like the plague in the future.

  3. George!

    You are right on with your comment. Always check the mark if there is one on close calls and always overrule your partner if a bad call is made. I once let a questionalble call go in a crucial regional match and will not make that mistake again!
    Ron Mishko

  4. I believe I have to be positive the ball is out to call it out. Also, I have to be positive to overrule my partner.
    Timely topic George. My match yesterday had three instances, one my partner called a ball out, I was close but running hard so I really didn’t see it clearly so couldn’t overrule. The second, my partner’s serve to add side clearly on sideline called out & wrong mark circled “not seen by opponent’s partner “, and match point same as the first except I was right on the ball, saw it in,and overruled my partner…ouch
    Now is the rub, I believe we do not get to “replay the point”, so the match was over. My partner agreed you only “replay” on missed service calls, as do I.

    Now, my shot was a winner, not a sitter.

    So George & everyone, do you “replay the point” if we call a ball out, hit it back in the court, but discover by the mark or agreement that the ball was really good. During play, not a service?

    Jeff – the rule is pretty clear… if your next shot was a sitter after the incorrect call, it is your opponent’s point. But if you returned solidly and the call was bad, then it is a replay of the point. geo

  5. Add my voice to the opinion that one should overrule one’s partner when the partner makes a mistake. This applies not only to line calls, but also to applying the rules. It is amazing how many long time tennis players simply do not know or understand all of the rules. My way of thinking about it is this — a doubles team is not two individual players but, rather, an organic entity by itself. So it is the team which makes the call and not either player. There is a bit of subtlety to this, but if you think about it in this fashion it is easy to understand why the partner who sees the ball correctly or understands the rules when the other partner does not needs to be in the position to overrule. Three scenarios are illustrative: (1) Partner A makes the call as out and Partner B clearly sees that the ball hit the line. Treating the team as an organic whole, this is no different than playing singles and admitting that you are unsure. In that singles situation the rule always is, when in doubt the call goes to the opposing player. Thus, it really does not matter that there is a conflict between the two doubles players in this scenario, nor does it really matter who is right and who is wrong. There is doubt within the organic whole — the team — and properly applying the rules, the call has to go to the other team. (2). Player A calls the ball out and Player B, being unsighted, is just not sure. This situation is different from the first scenario. Here, Player B is admitting that he was not able to make a call one way or another so he just cannot tell where the ball landed. In this case, the only person on the team — the organic whole — who was in a position to make any call is Player A. In that case, Player B has to defer to Player A (unless the ball is so clearly out that nobody could reasonably dispute that, sighted or unsighted) and the team call is made by Player A alone. (3) Player A calls the ball in but Player B says the ball is out. Both players feel they had a good line of sight on the ball. Functionally, this situation is no different than the first example as there is inherent conflict within the organic whole — the team — and the proper thing to do would be to admit to the other team that there is doubt and award them the point, despite Player B’s insistence that the ball was out. Admittedly, this third scenario is more likely to engender disagreement within the team because Player B, psychologically, has stuck his neck out to call a ball out when his partner is already on record, in front of the other team no less, saying the ball was good. So the outcome here is more of a slap in the face of Player B than the outcome is insulting to Player A, but both players need to let their egos go and play a fair match. If you trust your partner and get along, these little conflicts will actually strengthen your partnership in the long run. If you don’t trust your partner or get along, and this kind of situation causes internal strife, then I suggest that you might want to rethink whether that is the best partner for you generally.

    Marty – great perspective! essentially, what you are saying is, “you let your partner make a bad call, YOU have made a bad call.” tks, geo

  6. i agree with dr. valentine. get the call right. if you are positive (important) your partner made the wrong call, correct it. it’s not easy to overrule your partner to begin with, but, as usual, a player of integrity will always try to do the right thing. your partner should thank you for it.

  7. thanks George…but just doesn’t “feel” right. Like I took away my opponents’ advantage (me running away from net & throwing up desperation lob, even though it was good deep lob) and them in good net position, then we start the point over with me serving another 1st serve.

    I gotta give my opponents all benefit of the doubt when I/we make a mistaken call. Then, I gonna try my damnest to still beat them.

    Jeff – i know the feeling. i did the same thing (gave my opponent the point) in one of the USTA singles tournaments last January. geo

  8. George, On the subject of overruling one’s partner, I agree with you. During a supposedly friendly match a few years back I overruled my partner and he came back (to my great surprise) with the comment that I shouldn’t do that and that I was hurting the team. I let it go, but still watched his calls, all of which were accurate – but he did have a problem with eyesight or close calls in the past, both as my partner and my opponent. My reasoning was, perhaps, selfish. Winning is important, but not so important that I could justify to myself that I had won (we lost, as I recall) on the basis of line calls. Putting team harmony above the cleanness of the game doesn’t make sense.

  9. As an added thought: if you see the ball as good and do not correct your partner’s errant call, he is unintentionally making a bad call; but your are INTENTIONALLY making a bad call!

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