Eliminate Service Lets?

maria sService lets can be a contentious and game-stopping action in a tennis match. Should they be eliminated, like they have been in much of college tennis?

From “Totally Tennis Magazine” (January 2010), Rick Westhoff, a USPTA teaching pro from the Bath & Racquet Club in Sarasota makes this case:

“What would happen to the game of tennis if service lets didn’t exist? For one thing, the opportunity to negate a great serve or a clean ace by a dishonest or frustrated opponent would disappear.

“Also, the game would move along at a better pace. Play is slowed down while the serve is redone and it also sets up a chance for a double fault. Play is intended to be continuous, but with service lets the flow of the match is interrupted each time one occurs.

“Let’s face it, we don’t stop play during a point if the ball touches the net, we
just react and do our best to return the shot. Why the discrepancy? Eliminating the let would allow everyone to concentrate on playing the point,
keep things moving and wouldn’t allow the receiver to discount an otherwise good serve.

“No one gets an advantage by eliminating the service let. The serve
hitting the net could become a ‘sitter’ thus favoring the returner or it could
skid off a line and favor the server. Either way, it adds a new level of excitement to the game because the returner and server both have to be alert and ready for whatever happens.

“College tennis and World Team Tennis have done away with the service
let. So why not follow their lead, create a situation where there’s less chance for conflict and speed up the game while keeping it neutral? I think it should be seriously considered.

“If we start the new approach to service lets now, with all tournaments and
leagues, it will be much easier to incorporate this into the ATP and WTA
tours as the juniors move into the professional ranks. That will be the norm for them. I believe it will make the great game of tennis even better!”

Your thoughts?

PS Why the picture of Maria? Well, i thought it was more interesting than another one of a plain tennis net! 🙂

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16 thoughts on “Eliminate Service Lets?

  1. The game is fast enough. Players stall for more time to catch their breath or are tired from a long point etc. Their are times when players wipe their face after every point, tennis is the only sport where it is done, that I know of. The serve shows a high level of skill, at the highest level of the game, that is most important, let’s not reduce it to a luck shot. Where would you stand to return serve, there are many challenges in serve and its return. There is enough luck in our game, let the rule stand as it is and think of other ways to speed up the game if needed.

    Anthony – Good argument for the other side! thanks. george

  2. Only DI Men play the let. All of the rest of college tennis does not play lets.

  3. “If it ain’t broke don’t fix it.” I am not sure a compelling case can be made that anything is broken. At the level I play, USTA senior tournament and league tennis, it is frankly rare to see someone calling false lets as a means to negate a service winner or ace, or even just a strong serve. It is far more common for a ball that lands on or close to the line to be wrongly called a fault, but eliminating lets would do nothing to fix that problem. Maybe it is a function of the fact that none of the seniors serves all that fast anymore so aces and service winners are less common. Maybe we seniors are just more honest. I am aware of the explanation that a primary reason why college tennis (Division 1) eliminated the service let is because returners were using the key as a way to cheat, by negating aces and winners on critical points, but that just does seem to happen where I play all that often. Now if we could come up with a foolproof rule that fixed the problem of people regularly calling in balls out – i.e., hooking – I would be all for it. But I view the no let proposal as mainly a solution in search of a problem and, frankly, unnecessary.

    Marty – a good (and surprisingly succinct) argument. tks, George

  4. I like eliminating the “let”, but I also agree with Anthony about the toweling off after every single point in professional tennis. It has gotten absurd, and just annoying to watch. What other sport allows players to summon their “towel people” every few seconds to wipe off a little sweat in the middle of a game? None. It is now just a habit. Wear a couple of wrist bands!

    Jim, the sport with the worst offenders is baseball batters. Let us see if The Clock has an impact on that one. George

  5. I am ambivalent on this potential change. If adopted, court maintenance would need to include making sure the nets were tight enough. Having a serve hit the net, fall over and die without any chance of getting to the ball would be a demoralizing event for the returner(s). Less chance of that if net has sufficient tension.

    Winder, yes, you see net tension as a factor on balls that hit the net during rallies. Thanks, George

  6. D1 college made a big mistake, because they were too chicken to call out cheating. So they quit calling lets. As if cheating would stop or even slow down. Umpires are too lazy to call college lets even though they’re all over the place; even in some chairs. Service lets belong in tennis. Big Martina should take a break on this subject…

  7. Why should service lets be treated any different than a shot during play that hits the top of the net?

    Scott – that is the key question. george

  8. I think the NCAA DI men eliminated lets because too many aces were being called lets (the players make their own calls until tournament time). At my level and age, this doesn’t happen very often. Bad line calls are more common (but not that common). Losing a point to a crappy serve that dribbles over the net would happen more often (and be more demoralizing).

  9. Maria was a good editorial choice!

    Ron – I knew someone would appreciate it! 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

  11. I want to second the other Ron’s call on Maria,even if you are not interested in the subject the photo made the effort worth my while!!
    I played basketball in the era when the morons in running the NCAA outlawed the dunk, we all adapted. Correcting a problem that really does not exist.

    Ron, while are split on the lets, we seem to be unanimous on Maria! Thanks, George

  12. The reason for no lets was cheating not slow play. In senior tennis there are very few lets called because of aces. As one other person mentioned it requires tight nets. We have trouble just getting net sticks. We could live with it , but don’t like that luck becomes a bigger factor. It’s not a problem, so why change it?

    Larry, that is the other side of the issue, so why have it during a rally? George

  13. One other factor to consider in supporting playing let serves or not is the court surface. The let serve will be unplayable (undesirable) the most on grass, least on hard court and in between on har tru type courts. Most DI matches are on hard court and the athletes are younger faster to get to the ball more often. We older, slower players would have more unplayable let serves and losing a big point with no chance to get to it would be very unsettling. However, adapting and learning to return serve closer to the service line would allow you to have a better chance (like when an opponent occasionally uses an underhand short serve). Again, I am ambivalent and would accept the change fine but do not support it actively.

    Winder, another factor! Thanks, George

  14. I would vote first for Maria and also to eliminate lets. I play a lot of USTA tourneys and occasionally have had lets called on what I thought were perfectly good serves. Losing lets would eliminate that possibility. Also I have had fellow seniors whose hearing seems worse than mine give me a “I didn’t hear anything” which is not fun. I personally would enjoy a new challenge of learning to return net serves. Though in non tourney play I would gladly play with nets if the others preferred.

    Paul, what, I cant hear you! 🙂

  15. Who feels the need to speed up the game so badly? I do not see the pro doubles matches having any more spectators, ostensibly the reason they went to no ad scoring and super breakers to speed up the game, nor that many more top 20 players in the mix. Tennis has a long tradition that has worked very well. The decision to not play lets in D1 college was about cheating, not pace of play. And I love to watch the server step back up to the line after a second serve let and see if they handle the pressure!

    Geoff – you join the side of “if it ain’t broke…” Thanks, george

  16. Reading all the comments no one mentioned the server bouncing the ball ten to fifteen times before serving. The time given to serve is constantly not observed. Why does the speedo group look the other way on this.

    Anthony – another good perspective! thanks. george

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