Foot Fault: The Rule Nobody Likes

Remember Serena’s outrageous tirade over having a foot fault called on her? In the pros, USTA tournaments, and club tennis it is a call that is rarely made; but when it is, it causes controversy.

There are three versions of the call:

1) The server’s toe (or more) touches the baseline before he strikes the serve,
2) The server’s front or back foot cross the imaginary line BEHIND the service line created by the edge of the “T”
3) And an even rarer one… the server stands beyond the singles sideline (in singles) or doubles sideline (in doubles).

Roving USTA referees will usually warn senior tournament players that either they are “watching for foot faults” (which usually means they see it happening; so watch out) or they will warn the server to “watch his feet” before making the call on him.

In club play, it is the call of the receiver to make against the server. And in singles, that is almost impossible to do, if you are trying to return serve.

In one crazy interpretation, a New Hampshire friend was playing in a USTA league championship and was called for a foot fault BEFORE HE EVER SERVED. According to the referee, he was in “his serving motion” and his foot was touching the line; so he called it even before the serve was made.

In my opinion, that call is premature. He hadn’t served yet; therefore he cannot foot fault.

On the call in general, if I were a real tennis purest, I would say that a foot “slightly touching the line” is the same as a ball “being just out.” But, it really doesn’t bother me if my opponent’s toe is constantly on the line when he serves.

What DOES bother me is the net rusher who gets an unfair advantage by getting a running start toward the net, with half his foot over the line on every service motion.

One frustrated friend of mine once took extreme action when he couldn’t get someone to stop foot faulting. When it was his serve, he stood five feet INSIDE the service line and served an ace. The opponent of course challenged him; but my friend said, “it is just a matter of degree.”

1 thought on “Foot Fault: The Rule Nobody Likes

  1. Being “the New Hampshire friend” I am still confused…USTA Comment 18.3 tells me after your feet are at rest but before you strike the ball if your foot touches the baseline it is a fault…I accept my guilty charge until I read USTA Comment 18.4 which tells me if you make no attempt to strike the ball (which I did not because the ball never left my hand)” it is not a foot fault as long as the server makes no attempt to strike the ball”…most USTA officials I have spoken with tell me they would have waited until I struck the ball before calling the fault

    To make matters worse it happened at a USTA Championship match serving at 30/40 on a second serve…the official was at the net watching the match on the next court and must of turned just as I was starting to toss the ball…ouch

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