The Back Foot Fault

foot faultMost people think of the “foot fault” call as being a factor of the server’s front foot touching the baseline before the serve is struck; but there is also a foot fault with the BACK foot crossing the extension of the center line.

A Rare Call

In the ladies quarterfinals of this year’s Indian Wells tournament, Flavia Pennetta was called on that error at a critical time in the first set (serving 3-4, 30-30). And the call was made by the center linesman on THE FAR SIDE OF THE COURT (the one calling the center line for the incoming serve).

The rule is that your rear foot cannot touch the court on or beyond the extension of the baseline T before you strike the ball.foot fault2

But as you can see from the close-up, her rear foot is definitely across the extension of the center T… and she didn’t really argue the call.

Do you have any other “foot fault rule problems”?

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6 thoughts on “The Back Foot Fault

  1. Are you saying that she didn’t move her rear foot before striking the ball? That seems highly unusual! Almost impossible for her to serve with her back foot in that position, don’t you think?

    Fred – what would happen if someone tossed the ball to serve, stepped on the baseline, drew it back during the motion, and served with it behind the line… foot fault?? thanks, george

  2. Hi George,

    Since, at least in singles, not many pros serve and volley, this has no real effect on their game.

    Where it really is rampant and does have a major effect is platform (or paddle) tennis!


    Phil – and at our level in singles, almost nobody serves and comes to the net; so there is no advantage either. thanks, george

  3. It’s also a foot fault when a foot touches the court beyond the imaginary extension of the singles sideline in singles and the doubles sideline in doubles. This usually happens when a player is trying to pull the opposing player off the court with the serve. Most often it’s a right-handed player’s rear foot when serving to the ad court.

    Keith – Good add on! thanks, george

  4. When Martina N. was called for a foot fault, and was told it was her back foot that committed it, she exclaimed, “I don’t have a back foot!”

  5. George, as to your response to Fred’s comment, it’s a foot fault. The key is that rule addresses any time during the service motion.

    During the service motion, a server may not:
    1.Change position by walking or running. Although slight movements of the feet are allowed.
    2.Touch the baseline, or the court, with either foot.
    3.Touch the area on the other side of an imaginary extension of the sideline.
    4.Touch the imaginary extension of the center mark with either foot.

    If the server commits any of these actions, a foot fault may be ruled.

    Keith – so therefore, the answer to Fred’s questions is: foot fault, even if she drew it back. tks, george

  6. And Keith got it exactly right. Unlike the center stripe, you *can* touch an extension of the sideline – just not *beyond* it.

    As to “no advantage”, I vehemently disagree. If the chronic foot faulter suddenly must serve *without* foot faulting, watch him fall apart. While he’ll *claim* it’s no advantage, watch and see what he’ll say about backing up a foot or so before serving. Surely *that* would be no real “disadvantage”. 🙂

    I matched up with a fellow for doubles in a tournament in which the opponents noted that he chronically foot faulted and called for an official. He absolutely *could not* serve once called for foot faulting. He must have caught twenty tosses. 🙂

    Wesley Cash used a unique footwork technique when serving at the National 55’s Clay Courts here a few years back. His front foot was about a foot into the court as he was bouncing the ball. He pulled it back before his service toss, well behind the service line. Nobody said anything about it the whole tournament. I asked one of the officials at our Challenger tournament about it a few months later. The key, he said, was whether he was touching inside the court after the *start* of his service motion. I asked what defined the start. Interestingly, as in the pic above of Pennetta, he said he goes by when the “hands are brought together”. Wesley didn’t bring his hands together until after he’d stepped back. I don’t know whether Pennetta uses a “pinpoint” (bringing the back foot up) or “platform” (leaving the back foot where it is) technique, but if she’s brought her hands together with that foot touching the center line, it’s a foot fault once she hits the ball – at least the way I understand it.

    Kevin – another interesting question! thanks, george

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