Let’s Chat

geo-tomsWhich tennis rule has precedence… you play at the pace of the server or you can’t serve until the returner is ready? That question came into play this weekend as Bob Wilkie and I are attempting to defend our Pelican Bay Open Doubles title against three other very solid teams.

Here’s The Situation

We are in the sixth game of one of the three round-robin sets being played and I am serving into the deuce court. I go back to the service line, see the returner is in position and put my head down (a side-bar factor in this conversation: once I get my partner’s signal, put my head down and bounce the ball my regular three times, I go into my service motion without ever looking back up). I serve the ball and come to the net only to see my serve hitting the returner’s partner in the back – because they are having a strategy talk.

I apologize and go back and serve again. The next time when we are back in the deuce court, I go to the line to serve and the returner holds up his hand and his partner comes over for another chat!

After the match, we had a brief discussion that went something like this:

ME: “Sorry about serving into you guys, but the rule is you play at the server’s pace; so you can’t have regular strategy chats.”

THEM: “Yes we can. You can’t serve until we are ready.”

ME: “No you can’t.”

THEM: “Yes we can.”

Well, here is the relevant wording according to The Code:

21. WHEN TO SERVE & RECEIVE
The server shall not serve until the receiver is ready. However, the receiver
shall play to the reasonable pace of the server and shall be ready to receive
within a reasonable time of the server being ready.

USTA Comment 21.2: Once ready, can the receiver become unready? The receiver cannot become unready unless outside interference occurs.

Well, it would seem to me that a “reasonable pace of the server” would preclude the opponents having regular strategy chats.

What do you think?

P.S. Bob and I won that set and the two others we played; to move into the finals a week from Sunday. Stay tuned.

US Davis Cup

I think I am going to stop watching our team until we can come up with some men who can actually play this game. Very frustrating.

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10 thoughts on “Let’s Chat

  1. I always err on giving my opponent as much time as i deem necessary; unless they just get ridiculously slow or appear to be trying to stall.

    PS – I ordered another copy of your book. I left my other one in Ohio and want one down here that I can reference when needed. Your advice about stringing the racket lighter has been a great move for me. Thanks.

    Larry – Great… leave your books all over the country and keep buying more!! Thanks. george

  2. http://usnta.com/Tips_tennis/Rule_pages/serv-rule.html

    The above is a link to the proper rule.
    It is the responsibility of the server to wait until the receiver is ready, by being in position, and making eye contact with the server.
    In tournament play, if the receiver(s) are taking too long between serves, causing a delay of game, the referee should be contacted to adjudicate.

    Michael – That is an excerpt from the rule and leaves out the part about playing at the server’s reasonable pace. Thanks. george.

  3. Brief communication while passing one another, the serving team or the receiving team is acceptable. having a conversation interferes with normal play and does not allow the server to play at his pace. I have played against doubles teams who talk at length , they should know better.
    Anthony Rasile

    Anthony – You and i agree! tks, george

  4. As usual, George, you are correct. The receivers should play at the server’s pace, but according to USTA rules, the receiver must be ready before the server can serve, and that is where the referee must make a decision, if the receiver(s) take too long.

  5. George -you are spot on. This happened in last year’s league finals at the Olympic Club. An ex-collegiate player on the Oclub team down 5-6 in the third set tiebreak called time out in the middle of my teammates serve to have a chat with his partner ready to receive in the add court. My teammate who was serving was very annoyed and double faulted the match point. Then, after many deuces a ball came into the court similar to two other balls that had come onto the court earlier in the match and the team would not grant two serves. Another double fault. The poor sports win that match but our team win the other two matches and we went on to post season.
    Tennis brings out the best and worst of character.

    Rambo – a double whammy of doubtful sportsmanship! Thanks, george

  6. I have always understood you play to the server’s pace. Seems obvious to me !!
    I don’t know these fellows but it appears to be a little of the gamemanship we discussed in the last post???

    PS I bought your book and am now just getting into reading. Thanks for all you do for tennis.

    Ron – These two are friends and nice guys. They are also, regularly “chatty” on the court (to each other); so i am sure the first incident was totally natural. I am not sure about the second time. Thanks for the nice comments in your PS… i really appreciate both. george

  7. Your partner should also be aware of the pace and who is ready and advise the server, “me thinks”. Also, I think that too many conversations can be had on the receiving team, me guilty once in a while for sure.
    So, both right, but pace of play is important for sure.

    Howie, my partner really can’t help me much because I truly put my head down and don’t look up! See you Monday. George

  8. George – I once played a team that, when serving would “get ready” and I would “get ready”, then they would go talk strategy, come back to another formation(as in Australian) and quickly serve before I could adjust my position & “get ready” again. SO, I would hold my racket up to delay the service(which breaks up my normal routine). They got very indignant because I was not playing at their pace…I gave them a piece of my mind & ignored their complaint & continued to refuse to play until I was ready…

    Jeff – sounds like a pro football maneuver at the line of scrimmage! tks, george

  9. If the server announces the score prior to serving it should be a decent sign that play is about to begin. This is especially important in senior tennis since keeping the correct score can be challenging.

    Chuck – Great suggestion! tks, george

  10. I would suggest two changes. No lets and once a ball leaves the servers hand it’s in play.

    Ted – I like! tks, George

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