“But, my serve was out.”

ref chairAt the year-end championships from London, there were a couple of line call/reviews that were interesting and controversial…

In the doubles semi-finals, it came down to a ten point tiebreaker with Kubot and Lindstredt serving down match point at 5-9 vs. Dodig and Melo. Their first serve return was crushed down the line for a winner and seeming match point as they started to celebrate their return to the finals.

“But, my serve was out.”

But Kubot/Lindstredt challenged, claiming THEIR serve was long. The review proved them right… they served a second serve … and SAVED match point! They went on to lose the next point and the match; but that was an interesting challenge.

So even though us hackers don’t have the official replay system, if you don’t play a ball because you think your own serve was long, you may still “question” the call to be sure.

The ruling? Even though an incorrect line call on your opponents part normally results in it being your point, I would think (but don’t know) that the best you would expect on a reversal would be “Second serve.” Yes?

The Fed Unhappy

You don’t often see Roger Federer complain loudly to the umpire; but he did in his marathon match with countryman Stan W in the singles semis. After not losing his serve all week, Roger lost it twice in the first set; but came back to win the second set.

The first point of the third set, Roger serves and volleys… Stan’s return clips the tape and goes wide. Roger then loses the next two points and the umpire calls the score “love-40.” The Fed questions him only to learn that the referee had overruled that first point (very quietly) and Roger had not heard him … otherwise he would have challenged and been vindicated, because the ball was out. He complained; but to no avail and lost that critical first game.

The Umpire Again Intercedes

Later in the third, Roger breaks back and is serving at 5-5. He hits a first serve on the line, which is called Out. He looks to the umpire, who indicates it was “clearly long and he should not challenge.” WRONG… the serve was in and he should have challenged.

All in all, I believe the challenge system has DRAMATICALLY improved the flow of the game; but there is some tinkering that could make it even better. For example, the players should have a short period of time (10 seconds?) to challenge + they should be allowed to look at their box for guidance.

Other suggestions?

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6 thoughts on ““But, my serve was out.”

  1. Regarding the first serve in the double match, what happens when you have line judges or Hawkeye may not always be applicable when you don’t.
    From The Code (from Friend at Court 2014):
    “13. Player calls own shots out. With the exception of the first serve, a player
    should call out the player’s own shots if the player clearly sees the ball out regardless
    of whether requested to do so by an opponent. The prime objective in making calls
    is accuracy. All players should cooperate to attain this objective.”
    See also #28 in The Code.
    My own most recent experience with this rule was when I was returning serve in the ad court with the score love-40. I hit an inside-in forehand into the corner but the server didn’t react. He said the serve was out. I thought it was in. It was a “friendly” match so I said we’d replay the point this one time.

    Of course, now you’re probably wondering what happens if the opponent does not make a good return of your serve and you saw that the serve was out but he/she plays it as in? Has your opponent lost the point even though you know your serve was out? In my reading of The Code, it does not explicitly say what to do in singles but it does say that in doubles the serving team should call that a fault. See #26 in the Code.
    Download a pdf of Friend at Court 2014 here:
    http://www.google.com/url?sa=t&rct=j&q=&esrc=s&source=web&cd=1&sqi=2&ved=0CB4QFjAA&url=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.usta.com%2Fthecode&ei=c3uIVJHhEc_pgwSaj4HoBg&usg=AFQjCNF23IUKMdhccueSgTH3VdWvpyq2GQ&bvm=bv.81456516,d.eXY
    George, I’m getting your book for a holiday present. I “inadvertently” found my significant other’s stash. However, The Code says:
    “299. People who ‘accidentally, inadvertently, or otherwise discover, find, or have revealed to them’ potential holiday gifts must immediately replace said gifts and pretend they were never seen. No one is allowed to use browser history to ascertain whether another user of the computer has been to any tennis-related websites.”

    Scott – Great stuff all around! thanks for your input and enjoy the book. george

  2. I like the thought that you can challenge your own serve, and the correct thing would be for your opponent to say, let me check the mark, and then say you’re right, second serve. Most of the time Ive heard, I played it, and you’re stuck losing the point. To this day I don’t understand why players don’t consistently circle marks that are close so that their opponent has more confidence in their calls. What am I saying, of course I know why they don’t.

    Fred – what gets me even more is when i ask “Do you have a mark?” and they still don’t circle, but just repeat, “it was out.”. PS How are you feeling now?? george

  3. Serves that are just barely out put the returner in a tough spot. If the returner plays the serve, and the server makes an error, often times the server will complain that the serve was out. If the returner calls the serve out, often times the server will complain the serve caught the line. The server should simply always be ready to play the return, even if they think it is out. Wouldn’t it be nice if all the line calls were made electronically?

    Doug, i agree the server SHOULD always be ready; but we usually know when we have hit a serve long and the body just relaxes. Yes, i BEEP would be nice. tks, george

  4. I’ve wondered why there’s no provision for the the chair ump, on point ending shots that are obviously very close calls, to call for the review, himself.

    I agree with the other comments, too. I also find that when I circle close marks, it’s more difficult for the opponent to claim that mark for another shot. 🙂 The lack of good marks is *another* reason not to play on hard courts – nor to live out west. 🙂

    Kevin, I like the idea of the umpire taking the option to call for a review. Thanks, george

  5. Under the theory that there is no heads I win, tails you lose in tennis, the problem with challenging an opponents playing a 1st serve that may have been out is what if instead of a winner return, he hit an error. Are you as likely to ask him to check the mark and be willing to give up the point. The imperfect but current system as I understand it is a returned first serve counts unless the returner calls “out” or the equivalent before he knows the result of his return. If he hits a winner he wins. If his return is in play, I have to play the point. If he hits an error and then says “serve was out”, I say “so what?” If he is returning balls that are not close and I am not prepared to play a return in play (not reasonable), time for to call an official. Again, imperfect but it stops the heads you win, tails I lose scenario.

    Winder – your point is good; but how often do we see (in singles more than dubs) the returner miss the return, look at the mark, and say “out”? Thanks. george

  6. Interesting topic. This year in my first singles round at Sterling Oaks, I am down 6-5 in the first set, but up love-45 to my opponents serve. He hits a hard serve down the middle that I lunge to get and hit a surprising winner through his feet. He stops and says “my serve was out”. There happened to be one of the roving referees standing on the court and I asked her for a ruling. She said “what did you see?”. To which I responded “I thought it hit the center line”. Her response was “I can’t over rule here”! My opponent fumed and lost the set and the next set 6-0. What if I had not returned that serve and called it out!

    Walt, great story! Thanks. George

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