Calling Foot Faults

foot fault3Probably a quarter of club players foot fault on their service motion. Does it make a difference and when/how do you call it?

Naples tennis friend Ron Bartlett writes:

In an un-officiated match the server hit a possible ace on set point but the receiver yelled out foot fault and did not attempt to return the serve. The server argued the receiver must FIRST give a warning then he can subsequently call a flagrant foot fault. After a decent argument the server then served his first serve again and he did not attempt to take the point.

The server should have taken the point and set- correct?

In a Tournament

When playing a match where there IS a roving official, the steps are pretty clear:

• Warn your opponent
• If he continues, call an official

But what do you do in an UN-officiated match?

According to the USTA:
24. Foot Faults. A player may warn an opponent that the opponent has committed a flagrant foot fault. If no official is available, the player may call flagrant foot faults. Compliance with the foot fault rule is very much a function of a player’s personal honor system. The plea that a Server should not be penalized because the server only just touched the line and did not rush the net is not acceptable. Habitual foot faulting, whether intentional or careless, is just as surely cheating as is making a deliberate bad line call.

It appears pretty clear that there must be a warning first, but that warning would normally come AFTER a point has been played. I have never heard of anyone stopping play to call a foot fault.

Could it be like a hat-falling-off hindrance, that you play a Let on the first occurrence? I do not know.

Does anyone know??

By the way, in singles matches, it usually does not have an impact on the game; since the server usually stays back and thus gains very little advantage. But in doubles, the foot faulting will help them get to the net faster and DOES give them an advantage.

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4 thoughts on “Calling Foot Faults

  1. George, I disagree that it is only an advantage if the server comes in behind his serve. This is a game of fractions of an inch. How many times does your serve barely tick the net for a let? Or hit the top of the tape and fall back for a fault? If I stand at the service line to serve I guarantee I will never miss a serve, so the flagrant several inch foot fault by one or both feet might certainly make a difference in whether the serve goes in or not. (Especially with a flatter first serve that is barely clearing the net)
    Tom David

    Tom – I agree, The Bigfoot Foot Faulter does gain an advantage. thanks, george

  2. This is a much more fun issue than is generally appreciated. 🙂 Most of us actually have no idea whether we foot fault or not. Most will declare that they absolutely do *not* foot fault. If you haven’t seen yer serve on video, you probably have no idea what yer feet do during yer serve. I was surprised to learn that my front foot generally moves backward an inch or two. Lots of weight shifting going on that we probably don’t know about.

    You ain’t thinkin about what yer feet are doing whilst trying to figure out what kind of adjustments you need to make to make up for how far or little that toss was off. A lot of foot faults are from a pivot of the front foot that is generally unknown to the server. However, I often carry a camera around the courts at a tournament. I would say that the percentage who are foot-faulters is closer to 75%. With that sort of culture, expecting anything to change in that regard may just be silly.

    However, it’s pretty amazing how often the chronic foot faulter suddenly *stops* foot faulting when he sees the guy with the camera next to the court. 🙂 So, maybe some *do* know they foot fault, and some don’t. . . With the ease of videoing with a smart phone these days, it wouldn’t take but a minute to find out if you or buddies foot fault.

    The way I look at it, the advantage that one gains by the slight foot fault is by not having to *think* about whether he is within the rules. Were he to have to consider that issue, he might not be able to concentrate on the other aspects of his serve as well. On the other hand, if he were to step back far enough from the baseline so that the minor foot movement would not cause that infraction, the problem would be solved. See how far you get with suggesting that to the chronic foot-faulter. It they *truly* believed that there were no advantage to the “slight” foot fault, then they would *also* believe that starting back a few inches wouldn’t be any real *disadvantage*. How many servers do you see start back even a couple of inches (as I do)?? 🙂

    Get those smart phones out and see what yer feet do, and adjust accordingly. 🙂 Simple, common courtesy. It would get the folks who walk by yer court thinking what a fair and honest player you must be, and possibly even inspire them to adopt a similar philosophy. A gentelman’s game. . . 🙂

    Kevin – Well said! george

  3. george.
    25 years ago, when i was playing only singles in tournaments, i played
    this guy who had a huge serve, and did not rush the net (he was a
    baseliner). however, he was a major foot faulter. what his constant foot faulting
    serve did for him was set up his second shot. he had a big, topspin
    forehand that he would hit after i returned the ball (usually putting
    me on the defense).
    needless to say, it was a very contentious match. we had a referee, and
    my opponent was warned several times, but the referee couldnt be
    there for every point.
    i dont have a problem with a guy foot faulting who is not gaining an advantage
    (it’s still “cheating’). but, it’s not an issue. once again, it’s all about
    sportsmanship, doing the right thing.

    Joe – yes, the USTA words clearly state that “foot faulting is cheating” just like bad line calls. thanks, george

  4. Hi George!

    This foot fault issue I think is sometimes blown out of proportion. I agree with Kevin that about 75% or more of the club players foot fault. Every time I go up to Daytona for the sectionals, I always ask the lead referee about calling foot faults.
    Their answer is that if they start calling them, they would not be able to finish the
    sectional, so they just don’t call them until some player brings it up.
    Here is where I disagree with USTA rule 24. Most of your foot faults are when the front foot goes one to two inches before the ball is struck. This foot fault I do not consider cheating. It is not gaining an advantage, so who cares. If it bothers the opponent, then he can mention it nicely to the server to back up a bit.

    On the other hand, I have seen servers run into the court 2 or 3 feet and then strike the ball. This I consider a flagrant foot fault, and should definitely be corrected. This is gaining an advantage.

    When I go on the court this week, I probably will back up 2 or 3 inches because of this topic. Thanks, George.

    Ron – Yes, this is one rule where a “little cheating” is ok 🙂 george

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