Changing Your Mind?

When can you change your mind on who is serving for your team or after tossing the racquet at the start of a match?  We had a prime example on the doubles court this past Wednesday at The Strand.

Who is Serving?

It was a mid-day, bright sun day and I was teamed with a strong server, Dave Hull.  We had him start serving the match for our team (on the shady end of the court) and I took the sunny side.  We won the first set 6-4 and were to start serving from the side where the sun was in its worst position.

I asked Dave if he could deal with the sun and start serving the second set.  He said “Sure.”  But when he went to the baseline and tossed the ball to serve, he couldn’t see anything; so we switched and I continued to serve into the sun.


It was a non-league match and our opponents let us do it; but suggested that we would not be allowed to in a sanctioned match.  Full disclosure… Dave did not “test toss” the ball; he tossed in order to hit his first serve, but caught it instead.

So, what’s the ruling?  We think he didn’t swing; so he didn’t put the ball in play and we could switch.

Related to that “changing your mind,” after you toss the racquet for serve/receive/side choice, can the deciders change their mind after making their decision?  Or is it like playing chess/checkers: once you take your hand off the piece, that is your move?

I have several times faced opponents who make the serve/receive choice and then within a minute or two say, “No, we change our mind and want to…”

Kosher?  I think that once you make your declaration, that it stands and you cannot change your mind.

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4 thoughts on “Changing Your Mind?

  1. The rules are a little vague on this and I am sure that Marty will give a lawyers interpretation but they state, “In doubles, the team due to serve in the first game of each set shall decide which player shall serve for that game. Similarly, before the second game starts, their
    opponents shall decide which player shall serve for that game. The partner of the player who served in the first game shall serve in the third game and the partner of the player who served in the second game shall serve in the fourth game. This rotation shall continue until the end of the set.”
    I would assume that means when you line up in your positions that constitutes your decision but technically the game/point doesn’t start until the ball is hit. So, what sayeth Marty?

    Mark, i think not until the ball is swung at. george

  2. It’s pretty normal to see both players on a doubles team walk back to the baseline and decide, however they decide, who will serve first. I see no problem with, for example, the two players on a team walking back to the baseline before the first serve of the match and both trying a toss or two, and noting the sun’s position in their eyes, in order to make the decision as to who serves first for their team. This happens in outdoor matches due to the sun’s impact. As an umpire I would not think twice about letting that happen prior to the actual start of the match (when the first serve is struck). I’ll ask around and see what other officials say. I believe the rules allow such diverse approaches to happen before the match starts, and before each team selects their first server in the rotation.

    Paige, but the key question is: when does “play start” and they cannot change their minds? And when you toss the coin, can they change their minds? thanks, george

  3. My opinion would be that the game starts when the server strikes (or attempts to strike) the first serve – not when he tosses the ball.

    As far as someone changing their mind after the spin – I would just let them. It’s easier than arguing about it – and why start a match with an argument?

    And not to complicate matters, but I was playing with a guy that used to play on the pro tour, and he commented that the returning teams players could switch sides after the first game had started if the server had not yet had a serve land in bounds. For instance, if the server were to double-fault on the first point of the first game of a set, the receiving teams players could switch sides before the second point.

    Terry, on your secondary point, I do not believe that is true. Thanks. George

  4. I have no friggin idea.

    Marty, your shortest and most honest reply ever! George

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