The Butterfly Let

butterflyWhen is it legitimate to call a LET on a hindrance that you THOUGHT was going to interfere with play? This is a true experience that happened to me in a non-tournament doubles match …

“It’s a bird. It’s a plane….”

I was serving in the deuce court and coming in behind my first serve. My opponent hit the return cross court to me; but as I was coming in to hit the volley in the air, I saw something yellow coming onto our court from the adjacent one and called “Let.”

It turns out the “something yellow” was a big, yellow butterfly! My friends gladly gave me a first serve anyway; but the discussion followed on the changeover, “What, other than a ball rolling on the court, would really constitute a valid LET call?”…

• When an empty ball can blows off the net post tray?
• When a large piece of paper blows across the court?
• When a pelican lands on the court?
• When a sparrow lands on the court?
• When a bird flies low through the field of play?
• When a squirrel runs across the court?
• When a big, yellow butterfly catches the corner of your eye?

So, where do YOU draw the line?

Indian Wells Reviewed

Some great tennis matches and stories came out of the great Indian Wells tournament last week; but I was impressed by the stark contrast between the women’s and men’s three-set finals.

The match between Halep and Jankovic was one of tentative, nervous tennis. And while I started rooting for the older underdog, I was so turned off byjack sock Jankovic’s constant whining, that I couldn’t wait for her to lose (which she did).

But then came the really high-quality play of The Fed and the incredible Djokovic. Except for three double faults by Djokovic in the second set tie breaker (probably caused by fear of Fed attacking his second serve) and Fed’s little lapse in the middle of the deciding, third set, it was incredibly high quality tennis.

Even though I was happy American Jack Sock and his Canadian partner, Vasek Pospisil won the doubles championship, I really believe that even I know how to play doubles better than those two guys – who won on their power and athletic ability.

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6 thoughts on “The Butterfly Let

  1. Unrelated to the story; but just received from a friend in Connecticut:

    “Hi George,

    I just wanted to let you know that our good friend Bert Juliano passed away this weekend.

    He was in great shape, had been swimming laps all year, indoors and outdoors – playing tennis multiple times per week, dieting, etc. He had a pain in his side this past week, got checked out, it was determined he needed emergency heart surgery (aortic aneurysm situation). He died on the operating table.

    He was just 59. A great guy, always made me laugh. We hung out a lot.

    Ed G.”

  2. Hi George,

    Would seem to me that, in general, about anything that is a legitimate distraction is OK to call a let on. Of course, there will always be people who’ll take advantage of such an approach.

    So, instead of throwing the baby…, you try not to play with these people again!

    Best! Phil

    Phil – A very mature response! But if we only played with mature adults! thanks, george

  3. In a tournament match once, just before he was going to hit a backhand groundstroke from deep in the corner, my opponent thought he saw that a ball from another court was going to roll onto our court. It hit the dividing fence and stopped, but he stopped play and wanted to play it over. I said no way and he didn’t argue too much. Seems to me that you have to keep your eyes on your own court and not worry if something may or may not roll onto your own court. A butterfly?? Isn’t that all part of playing outside?

    Mike – I wrote about that exact happening about five years ago! Hit the search icon in the upper right and type in “Phantom” to see the full story, which happens to come from a good friend who is now not too far from you in AZ. Re you “playing outside,” but so is wind blowing the ball can. is that a Let? thanks for commenting. George

  4. I tend to agree with Mike Lammens, but since I was involved in the “happening” five years ago that George mentioned, I guess I’m biased. In the latter case, the decision went the other way (point was replayed). During the postmortem discussion, it came down to a difference of opinion regarding the timing of the let call. My opponent believed he called the let prior to the beginning of the serve, while I believed the let call was made after the serve began. We shall never know the answer.

    Bruce, yours is one of my favorite stories to tell! Thanks, George

  5. george. i had a butterfly let wednesday at the strand. i was receiving serve
    on the backhand and a ball rolled across the baseline of the next court towards
    the server. i saw it out of the corner of my eye and thought the ball was going
    to roll to right where my opponent was serving.
    there was a fence between the courts and it hit the fence harmlessly
    never rolling anywhere near my court. of course, my worthy opponent (i just can’t reveal his name) refused to grant me a let, and took the ace that he served.
    hence, a butterfly let!

    Joe – that is exactly what happened in the tournament match Bruce Cassella mentions in his comment; but he GAVE the let (i believe). George

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