Running at the Net

You have an easy sitter just two feet from the net; but as you go to hit it, your opponent runs right at you and then ducks and turns his back … and you flub your shot.  Was that a hindrance or legal play?

That happened in the Pelican Bay doubles tournament to me – but I actually made the shot and won the point.  But what if I didn’t?

Are There Limits?

I can see a player charging the net and sticking his racquet up in the air, with the slim hope of getting the ball back over.  But what are the limits on the kind of actions an opponent can take to distract you?

As you are trying to put away your Sitter, could your opponent intentionally fall onto the ground?  Jump and wave his arms around?  Run off the court?

According to Friend at Court…

  1. HINDRANCE: If a player is hindered in playing the point by a deliberate act of the opponent(s), the player shall win the point.

So, is charging the net a hindrance?

This Week’s Tournament

My LAST tournament of the season is this week at The Meadows CC in Sarasota, where my great partner Hank Irvine and I are seeded #1 and defending champs.

With our seed, we had a round of 16 bye on Tuesday, rainout on Wednesday, and quarterfinals match on Thursday.  Hank and I made only about three unforced errors each in that match and cruised to a 6-2, 6-0 victory.

But Friday’s semifinals, which seemed like a finals, was very different.  It was vs. the strong double-lefty team of Joe Bachmann and Bill Plummer.  The match was a nail-biter throughout.

(Confession: I was really focused on playing this match, so my scoring sequence may be a little off)

Semifinal Results

In the first set, Hank and I went up an early break of serve and held on for a 6-4 finish.  In the second set, we again went up an early break; but Joe and Bill raised their game, with great touch by Master Bachmann and lefty forehand drives by Bill Plummer.

The set went to a tiebreaker, and again Hank and I took the early lead … only to see it disappear.  We were up 4-1 … came back to 4-5 … we then had two match points at 6 serving 4.  Bill and Joe played solid and saved both.

But we took one point and switched sides with Hank serving at 7-6 to lefty Bill in the ad court.  I asked him where he was going to serve, so I could better position myself at the net.  He said, “Where do you want me to serve?”  I suggested down the middle to Bill’s backhand; and he said, “OK, I will ace him on the line!”  Which he did.    🙂

Saturday Finals

At 9:30, Hank will take the court for the singles final vs. Barry Shollenberger.  Then they will both come back at 1 p.m. for the doubles final (Barry teamed with Jay Bortner).

For all results (and to see how many games super senior Gordon Hammes lost), just click HERE

Know someone who should read this?  Send them a link and if you are not on my “new posting alert email list” and want to be (I promise, no other uses of your email address!), just drop me a note at

My Book: if you’d like to get a copy of “Senior Tennis”, just click on the link on the upper right of this web page to go to, look at the list of places under “My Book” on the bar above, or ask me what clubs are carrying it!

6 thoughts on “Running at the Net

  1. I can understand your opponent closing on the net (“running right at you”) to cover a drop shot that you might want to try with that sitter. Certainly not a hindrance.

    Jim, true, if that were the case … but he was just charging to distract me. He got to the net and turned his back. george

  2. What a jerk!! That guy needs to tone it down!! Glad you won the point!!

    Eric, and he cramped up on that move … so, poetic justice! george

  3. Simple solution…hit him in the back! I’m pretty sure this isn’t the first time that he’s done that, so send a message from all past, present and future opponents that his hindrance isn’t cool.

    Jeff. I did aim at him but missed him (but in play). Thanks. George

  4. Sure I respect your perspective George, but in my opinion that’s a call that warrants a request for an official to referee from that point on. Especially in important sanctioned matches. It would put your “win at any cost opponent” on his best behavior.

  5. As is always the case, the key issue in any hindrance call is whether the action is “deliberate.”

    But from your current description there is no doubt you were hindered. So it puts into focus the issue of your opponent’s intentions more directly. That is, accepting that someone running to the net and nearly crashing into you as you try to hit the ball probably did interfere with your shot, the question turns to whether your opponent did it deliberately.

    It would be helpful to hear from your opponent to explain why he ran toward the net and then turned his back as he did. Was he anticipating that you were going to reach the ball and hit a drop shot, so he was running forward to try to intercept it before the shot even occurred? That does seem a bit convoluted, if not implausible, especially because the turning the back part is hard to reckon with this explanation,”. But without seeing the situation personally, I suppose your opponent might offer something like this as an excuse to rebut a claim that he deliberately hindered. Frankly I cannot think of too many other explanations that fit, so by process of elimination it does seem this might really have been an act of hindrance that fits the rule.

    More broadly speaking, however, it should be apparent from my many comments by now that I don’t like the way the hindrance rule is worded, and I think that some players are just too quick to invoke it. The rule categorically does require that an action be deliberate to constitute a hindrance. Therefore, the intention of the party accused of the hindrance is a specific and material part of the offense. Yet in most of these examples where we have had debate, the focus is nearly always not on this issue — which is known as “mens rea” or simply the degree of intent in legal cases — but the focus is on the consequence or how the alleged innocent tennis player claims to have been affected by the occurrence. Yet it is not reasonable, or I submit valid, to be deducing or inferring player 1’s intent from how player 2 interpreted the action. It seems to me that there needs to be some other purely objective element to what happened that can be relied upon to show the deliberateness of the action before the tennis event of a hindrance can validly be claimed.

    If I stand on the opposite side of the court waiving my arms high in the air and jumping up and down while I am also shouting gibberish just as you are trying to hit a ball there is no doubt that is a hindrance. The deliberateness of my conduct can be reasonably inferred from the action itself. No one would validly dispute this.

    But if I happen to cough or sneeze right before you hit your ball, are you going to be able to claim that I hindered you? What if I happen to have a cold or bad allergies and I have been coughing or sneezing the entire match? Wouldn’t you agree that in that scenario even though you might feel you were indeed distracted by my cough or sneeze on this one point, it would be hard for you to claim I acted deliberately?

    However, suppose I had not coughed or sneezed the entire match but I suddenly did it for the first time just as you were swinging. Could you claim a hindrance now? Wouldn’t you agree that the issue of intent or deliberateness gets much harder to claim or infer in that situation? That is, if you really start to think about it, if the sneeze was genuine, how many people do you know who can actually sneeze on demand and not as an involuntary reflex?

    But coughing, of course, can be faked by anybody. So if it was a first time only cough, don’t you agree we would have to start considering a host of other factors to determine whether a hindrance really occurred? How loud was the cough? Precisely when did the cough occur in relation to your swing? Was it just a single cough or did the opponent cough several times in a row? Did he continue to cough after the point was over as if he had swallowed an insect? Did he excuse himself to go get a sip of water and say something to indicate that is what happened? Etc.

    The point of all of this is not to engage in endless debate over where the line between hindrance and non hindrance may be drawn, but to simply get people to be aware that we seem to throw out these hindrance claims awfully easily — almost glibly — but if you read and understand the ACTUAL rule carefully, it should probably be a fairly rare and not frequently invoked call. If you want to be true to the actual language of the rule, the necessity for the action to be deliberate should mean that TRUE hindrances rarely occur, and therefore should rarely be called, in tennis matches.

    Yet as I keep reading this (and other) blogs I cannot help but wonder if what is really occurring is you have a bunch of hyper competitive older guys who are playing high stakes tournament matches against each other, where a lot of emotions are on edge, and somehow guys are just not capable of holding their concentration at a level sufficient to ignore most distractions that may occur naturally on the court. So situations that may not really meet the true definition of a hindrance tend to get called more frequently than should really be the case.

    In short, while the present example of the opponent rushing the net might very well be a situation of true hindrance, it seems from a distance that some of the other examples that we have previously debated are not.

    When I was a kid I grew up playing tennis in a public park on public courts that had nets with holes in them and there were big cracks all over the courts. Other kids would come and ride their bikes on the courts or roller skate while we were trying to play matches. Still other kids would literally kick soccer balls against the outside of the fence while we were in the middle if points. We never gave a thought to calling lets or things like that even if we were distracted in the middle of a point. We just toughed it out and kept playing. Maybe as a consequence, to this day an opponent is going to have to do some pretty egregious stuff for me to claim that I was distracted or “hindered” by anything on the court. As a result, it has always been my belief that too many players let themselves get distracted by too many occurrences on the court that they should otherwise be able to ignore.

    Maybe it is just me who is different, but I do think there are far too many claims of hindrance in these examples that we keep discussing that honestly don’t rise to the level of hindrance. This current example may actually be genuine but others likely were not.

    Marty, believe it or not, i am with you on this one! The key factor is INTENT… why did the player do what he did? Just an accident or intended to bother the opponent? Speaking of “coughing,” it was Camila Giogi’s controversial father who was accused of INTENTIONALLY coughing during her opponent’s service toss. Tough to prove, but probably accurate. thanks, george

Comments are closed.