Ringing Cell Phone

Marty Judge
Marty Judge
If a cell phone rings during a point, can you call a hindrance? Marty Judge had that happen and here is his story…

In a USTA league mixed doubles match that I was playing, my partner and I won a long point, that would have put us up break point on our opponents’ serve. Apparently, my cell phone went off in my bag near the court at some time during the point. (I had stupidly forgotten to switch it to silent mode before the match began; clearly my mistake.) However, our opponents did not stop play, they did not call a let, and in fact they played on as if for all appearances they did not even hear it.

It was only after the point was over — after they had lost the point — that our opponent complained about the phone ringing, saying that it had distracted her during the point. From an adjacent court, our opponents’ team captain gratuitously shouted out “Loss of point,” which then became our opponents’ mantra.

I argued that it was neither a loss of point nor should we play the point over because, even if it was otherwise a hindrance, our opponents had not called it immediately and they continued to play the point to conclusion. But I did not have a rule book in my possession to support this position and, ultimately, my partner and I acceded to the male opponent’s suggestion to replay the point simply to stop the argument.

We did, we lost the replayed point, then we lost the game and also lost the match. Had we won the game in which this point occurred, we would probably have won the second set after losing the first and we would have pushed the match into a third set. It turns out in hindsight this was a pivotal point in the match.

After the match was over, I found the following Q&A on the USTA’s web site:

Q. We were in the middle of a USTA match, 30-40 our opponents’ serve. The opponent’s cell phone rings in the middle of me returning serve which I missed due to distraction. What is the rule?
A. In a sanctioned event, the referee may ban cell phones. If posted no cell phones, then the opponent may claim the point due to hindrance.
Otherwise, if a cell phone goes off, the player whose phone is ringing cannot call a let. A player cannot hinder himself. If the opponent stops immediately and calls a hindrance, the point should be replayed. If the opponent asks the player to turn off the phone and then the phone goes off again during a point, it could be deemed intentional hindrance, loss of point

I believe this supports my position that the point should not have even been replayed because our opponents did not stop the point “immediately” nor did they call a hindrance until the point was over. (Also, this was a USTA league match, not a sanctioned tournament. Nor was there a referee. Nor did the club hosting the match or the league or the captains have any known policy prohibiting cell phones on the court.)

We cannot turn back the past, but what do you and your readers think about this. Was I right or wrong?

Marty Judge

Marty, in my opinion it is clear: you were wrong to leave your cell phone on; but they did not stop play to call a Let or Hindrance… so the point should have stood.

Other thoughts?

Tonidandels win National Clay, complete sweep
ron-t-and-son-2Congrats to Jeff and Ron Tonidandel who won the 2016 USTA Nat’l Ultra Sr. Father-Son Clay Court Championship Nov 18 at The Landings in Sarasota, FL to complete a sweep of all three 2016 Nat’l Ultra Sr. Father-Son Championships– Hard Court in June, Grass Court in Sept and Clay Court in Nov.

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6 thoughts on “Ringing Cell Phone

  1. Marty – you were right. If your opponents had won that point it is highly unlikely would have said anything.

  2. In response to Jim Marcus: Ironically, the guy who called me left a voice mail message asking if I could play tennis the following day.

  3. To all: I originally contacted George with my story on this because — and this may not be a huge surprise to anybody familiar with USTA league tennis, especially mixed doubles — but there was a strong difference of opinion on who was right and who was wrong about this after the match was over.

    Although the outcome of the match had been decided and any further debate was basically moot, my partner continued to be upset because she had played very well during the particular point in question and we had won the point mainly because of her efforts. In a word, she felt cheated.

    I was more philosophical about it, because I knew that we were right and the point should have stayed as played, but I also knew that our opponents also felt strongly that they were right although they were mainly just ignorant of the rules. So, to them, offering to play the point over must have felt like a major concession even though it was not.

    But what I found very interesting was that, among the other tennis players on both teams (the point was talked about a lot after the match because my partner’s and my match loss also meant that our team lost 1-2, and there were other spectators from other teams who watched the matches who also weighed in), there were a lot of players who had no clue about the actual hindrance rule and most got it completely wrong.

    Specifically, among the various league players, both male and female, who discussed the point after the match, only myself and one other female who had sanctioned tournament experience actually knew the proper rule. (Not even my own partner was sure I was right.)

    Everybody else, and I do mean everybody, thought the rule was different than it actually is. Some thought that it was a do over point situation (effectively agreeing with our male opponent’s solution during the match). A few — strangely, only women; I don’t know what to make of that — sided with our female opponent and took the position that it was our opponents’ prerogative either to call an immediate hindrance OR to play the point out and wait to see the outcome of the point before deciding whether to call a hindrance or not (in effect, having it both ways). And a few others didn’t see the situation as a hindrance at all. They basically said, “So what if a cell phone rings? You should be able to concentrate well enough not to let it bother you.”

    I have to assume that a lot of this is because in league tennis, especially mixed doubles which tends to be very husband and wife oriented, the players tend to be less serious about the game than among those who play actual tournaments, and they just are not as familiar with the rules. But it also points up the wisdom of having a rule book in your tennis bag, which I think I will start doing in the future in these kinds of matches.

    Marty, if it is a “fun” match, none of this matters; but if a tournament or league play, knowing the rules helps. george

  4. At the USTA national indoors in Seattle about 8 years ago, Michael Beautyman was playing Canadian Ken Dahl in the semi final. At 4-3 in the third while both players were changing sides and on their benches, Ken Dahl’s phone rang. He answered briefly and the chair umpire let it go as the point was not being played. However, at 4-5 in the third set tiebreaker ( Ken Dahl serving) , his phone rang during the point. The umpire called point penalty ( mini break and match point for Beautyman ). As you can imagine Ken was not happy with the call, the umpire or Americans in general. But after the referee backed up the umpires rule interpretation , Beautyman won the next point and the match.
    Apparently both calls were from Ken’s wife checking to see how he did in his semifinal. As far as I know the marriage survived

    Hugh, great story! george

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