Eliminate The Let Serve

How come a ball that ticks the net during a point is played; but during the serve, it is replayed? If you watched Olympic volleyball, you saw that sport changed their rule to speed up the game. Why doesn’t tennis do the same?

In an article for the NY Times, writer Stuart Miller makes a strong case. He points out that both World Team Tennis and NCAA Division I have taken the Big Step, with very little negative consequence. (In the case of college play, it was in reaction to receivers falsely calling Let to eliminate being aced).

According to the article, “As a part owner of the New York Sportimes, a World Team Tennis squad, Patrick McEnroe has seen the rule in action. McEnroe, who is also the general manager for player development at the United States Tennis Association, said that eliminating the let would favor people with the speed to adjust quickly and people with better racket skills.”

On the flip side, former player and Tennis Channel analyst, Justin Gimelstob, said “changing the let serve rule sounds great in theory, but added that the first time a big break point or match point was altered by a hard serve popping up and landing as a floater, there would be an outcry.”

“McEnroe said that would be a rare occurrence and not necessarily a negative one. ‘There’s also a chance that something extraordinary would happen, that a Djokovic or Nadal would scramble and run down the shot,’ he said.”

According to the author, “W.T.T. and the N.C.A.A. do not keep statistics on these serves, but [they] said very few balls just roll over and even pop-ups were rare compared with slight nicks.”

So, maybe we should let the Let go the way of the white tennis balls.

6 thoughts on “Eliminate The Let Serve

  1. I have heard the reason Division 1 eliminated the let was not so much to eliminate players doing end runs around being aced but was for the same reason the NCAA as a whole went to no ad scoring – to speed up college matches. The “I’ll call a let when I think I have been aced” justification sounds good, but if a receiver was going to that end to cheat, he would just as likely be inclined to call the ball out, so I don’t know what the no let rule really accomplishes. I believe I heard the above from David Benjamin himself, then the Division 1 tsar when he was the men’s tennis coach at Princeton when the rule was first proposed, so I think there is credibility to this thinking. That being said, I used to argue that there are reasons to retain the service let rule, but now I am not so sure. My thinking is evolving on this and I guess I would like to see the USTA implement no let serving on an experimental basis for a while – say for a full season of team play – to see what, if any, problems it engenders. My suspicion is people would get used to the new rule and adjust pretty quickly, albeit after some likely grousing from some, and in the end it really will not make much difference.

  2. Do away with the let if for no other reason than to be consistent through the game. It is silly to replay a serve that hits the net and lands fair but then allow that same occurrence be a fair shot during play. How many times has a ball deflected off the net to go over your racquet, or hit and then rolled over unplayable? Let the same drama be part of the service.

  3. Division 1 Mens College tennis changed the let rule many years ago. Great change. We have seen some great athletic points result from the change and I never saw a match outcome determined by a let serve!

  4. Hey, let’s replay any ball whether it’s a serve or not, that touches the net and lands fair!! Nah, just kidding! Even at my ripe old age here in the 60’s, I have to agree with the idea of eliminating replays on lets. But it may be difficult not to yell out “let” and catch the ball, that’s for sure.

  5. Strangely enough…..our tennis rules were derived from the early “lawn tennis” where rules were such that there was NO LET AND NO DOUBLE FAULT.

    ELiminating the let serve would be simply going back to the basics/beginning of our beloved game.


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