Another Bad Word?

With Rambo

In another variation of what you can or cannot say on the court, here is a situation from Newk camp fellow Wanker, Mike “Rambo” Rennels about using the word “let” …

Let it Go!

George, I played recently with my very competitive fun bunch of doubles guys.  I was serving at 4-5, ad out and put a first serve in.  My opponent rifles a shot close to the side lines.  I charge in to knife a volley cross court.

My partner yells out “Let it….not quite Go” – this is what he uses to tell his partner the ball is going out.

I hit a 5% volley cross court and my opponent attempts a lob that is short and gets smashed down for a winner.

Deuce right?  The other team claimed that they stopped play because my partner yelled “let.”

We asked a teaching pro waiting to give a lesson two courts down and he said it was a “hindrance” – play the point over again.  We did and lost the point.    We strongly disagreed but took our losers court and played singles.

Your thoughts?

My Opinion …

I disagree with the teaching pro for two reasons …

  • Your opponents did NOT stop play, but continued play by putting up that short lob, and
  • Saying something like “Let it go” should be perfectly acceptable and not a hindrance. – even though it includes the word “let” in the phrase.

Other opinions?

PS Who can call a “Let” on a serve?  This came up on the court the other day… the answer is: anyone on the court can call a “Net ball” (saying the serve ticked the net) … but only the receiving time can designate it a “Let”, as in “It landed in the service box and the server gets a redo.”

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9 thoughts on “Another Bad Word?

  1. Although I agree with you on a call of “let” or “net” the USTA code of regulations rule 27 says any player may call a let. It doesn’t make sense to me that the serving team can call a let because only the receiving team can decide if the serve was in, or out. The serving team should only be allowed to decide if the ball hit the net on the serve, but not call a let. However, that is not what the USTA rule book says.

    Michael, i think the rule book may be referring to calling a Let DURING play, if a ball should roll onto the court. george

  2. No, George. Rule 27 is under serving only. Check the rule book.

    Michael, strange. thanks, george

  3. If the partner says “let it go” all in one breath, that might be clear, but as the writer above presents it, there is a hesitation. I side with the opponents as in the heat of play the word “let” has a lot of weight. I suppose only the opponents know if they “let” up due to the call. Can we depend on good sportsmanship?

    For a situation where the server’s partner call his own team’s serve out, check out the very first point of this match between Denver University and Santa Barbara. An interesting situation as there was a chair umpire too.

    Mike, good sportsmanship (or is it now, “good sportspersonship”?) counts. thanks, george

  4. Your column on the word “let” brought to mind a discussion I had this weekend when playing doubles. Our opponent’s serve aced my partner. It came to mind that if I quickly had called a let, i.e. claiming that the serve touched the net, if no one else heard the “tick” of the ball touching the net (which it really didn’t), does the call still stand? The other three players thought that it would stand and the point would be replayed. If so, it seems that this type of let call could be used to negate a great serve on a crucial point. Probably couldn’t use this tactic more than once per match.

    Jack, That is the EXACT reason college tennis has eliminated calling lets on serves. The players were regularly cheating. Not that we seniors would ever do that! 🙂 Thanks, george

  5. Comment 4

    My partner and I invalidated the set and we will resume play soon – with Beers on the line!

    Rambo, go for it! george

  6. A simple suggestion that works for me and most of my partners…….yell “NO”…..short and unambiguous.

    John, i use that one and “Bounce it”. One little problem i had playing with Hank Irvine was when i was going back to chase a lob, he would yell, “You’d better GO!” (meaning it was going to be in); but what i heard was “Let ‘er GO!” George

  7. they called a let. they didn’t mean to, but that’s what it sounded like to the opponents. i had a partner (who i admire and greatly respect) who says “out” when indicating to me that i should let a ball bounce. the word doubles players should use is “bounce”, not “let it go” or “out”. imo.

    JoMac, i am with you on the “bounce it”. george

  8. George,
    Rambo should change his call to “Leave it”, which is commonly heard in doubles. Unfortunately, the young teaching pro was incorrect. To claim a hindrance your opponents must immediately stop play. Once they attempt to return the ball, your opponents may not ask for a let.
    I had to make a similar call in the finals in St. Pete. If my memory serves me right, it was Men’s 70’s. On match point the gentlemen from Georgia is positioned inside the service box. Just as he is about to hit a ball down the line for the point, a ball rolled well behind his opponent, near the fence. I observed him looking at the ball. He struck the ball into the net. He walked to the net and requested a let, claiming that the rolling ball had distracted him. Match complete! Let should have been called immediately.
    Hope this is helpful.

    Gerry (former USTA official), thanks for your expertise. I bet i can guess who “the gentleman from Georgia” was! thanks, george

  9. George:

    The basic rule is Rule 26 as set forth in the ITF Rules of Court. It provides as follows:

    “If a player is hindered in playing the point by a deliberate act of the opponent(s), the player shall win the point. However, the point shall be replayed if a player is hindered in playing the point by either an unintentional act of the opponent(s), or something outside the player’s own control (not including a permanent fixture).”

    Other relevant principles would be paragraphs 33, 34 and 36 in the Code, which provide as follows:

    “33. Claiming a hindrance. A player who claims a hindrance must stop play as soon as possible.”

    “34. Talking when ball is in play.

    • Singles players should not talk during points.
    • Talking between doubles partners when the ball is moving toward them is allowed.
    • Doubles players should not talk when the ball is moving toward their opponent’s court.
    • When talking interferes with an opponent’s ability to play a ball, it is a hindrance.

    For example, if a doubles player hits a weak lob and yells ‘get back’ and the yell distracts an opponent who is about to hit the ball, then the opponent may claim the point based on a deliberate hindrance. If the opponent chooses to play the lob and misses it, the opponent loses the point because the opponent did not make a timely claim of hindrance.

    For example, if a player yells after an injury or getting stung by a bee, this is an unintentional hindrance that would entitle the opponent to claim a let.”

    “36. Let due to unintentional hindrance. A player who is hindered by an opponent’s unintentional act or by something else outside the player’s control is entitled to a let only if the player could have made the shot had the player not been hindered. A let is not authorized for a hindrance caused by something within a player’s control. For example, a request for a let because a player tripped over the player’s own hat should be denied.”

    Applying these rules and principles to the facts as stated by Rambo, and assuming there would be no disagreement among the four players on the court that the facts really WERE as Rambo has described, it would appear the following outcomes are accurate:

    1). Rambo’s partner committed no “deliberate” act of hindrance by shouting something to Rambo about leaving the ball or not hitting it before Rambo struck his volley – no matter how the words that he used may have sounded like gibberish to anyone else, including the opponents – and therefore the opponents were NOT entitled to claim the point as there own.

    2). But the key fact that dictates the result in # 1) is whether Rambo’s partner shouted his gibberish call before or after Rambo hit his volley. If it was before the volley, then the words were uttered when the ball was still moving toward Rambo and his partner and it was perfectly acceptable for Rambo’s team to say anything between themselves, as allowed in paragraph 34 of the Code. But, if the words were uttered after Rambo actually hit the volley, then the opponents would have a case that they were intentionally hindered because, again under paragraph 34 of the Code, Rambo’s team spoke when the ball was moving toward the opponents.

    3). However, assuming the latter – i.e., that Rambo’s partner DID speak after Rambo hit his volley – does this necessarily mean that the opponents should be automatically entitled either to win the point or to replay the point? While the rules and principles cited above could be clearer, I actually think that under the facts that Rambo has described it was not necessary or appropriate for the point to be replayed as a let. This is because of something else that Rule 26 says that pretty much everybody who has to deal with the issue of a hindrance seems to constantly ignore when applying this rule. (And by the word “everybody,” I really do mean EVERYBODY seems to get this issue wrong, including tournament referees and officials, teaching pros, nationally and locally ranked players, and everyone else.) The point is this: IN ORDER TO BE ENTITLED TO CLAIM A HINDRANCE, A PLAYER OR TEAM HAS TO ACTUALLY HAVE BEEN HINDERED!!!

    4). I will repeat the point: IN ORDER TO BE ENTITLED TO CLAIM A HINDRANCE, A PLAYER OR TEAM HAS TO ACTUALLY HAVE BEEN HINDERED. Now, the rules themselves never actually state this as a core principle, but if you read and reread them carefully as I have quoted them above, this is the underlying premise of what they are trying to get to. It is so obvious of a point that pretty much everybody ignores it or forgets that it is there.

    5). For example, in cases where there has not been a deliberate hindrance, Rule 26 provides in relevant part that “the point shall be replayed if a player is HINDERED in playing the point by either. . . .” (Emphasis added.) So, it is not so much whether either of the two unquoted examples have occurred that allows an opposing player to replay a point because of a perceived unintentional hindrance but, rather, whether the player has actually been “hindered” by whatever occurrence took place on the tennis court. In other words, the outcome (of being entitled to replay the point) is not automatic. A “hindrance” must actually have occurred before a player claiming a “hindrance” is even entitled to invoke the rule. If no underlying hindrance can be shown – because it does not exist – then under Rule 26 the party seeking to replay the point has no basis to claim that relief, and however the point actually played out should in fact stand. In Rambo’s case, and based on his summary of the facts, the opposing team continued to play the point even after his partner uttered his gibberish, so it would seem quite obvious that the opposing team was not “hindered” by the utterance, and their claim – and the nearby teaching pro’s recommendation – that the point be replayed was not only unnecessary but it was not consistent with Rule 26.

    6). That this is the correct interpretation and application of Rule 26 can also be seen by the examples provided in paragraphs 33, 34 and 36 of the Code that I have quoted above verbatim.

    a). First, paragraph 34 states that “A player who claims a hindrance must stop play as soon as possible.” Here, as described by Rambo, the opposing player did NOT stop play as soon as possible but, instead, tried to hit a lob which it turns out was weak and that Rambo’s team smashed away for a winner. The mere fact that the lob was weak says nothing about whether the opposing team was hindered, nor does it suggest by itself that the team was prevented from stopping play “as soon as possible.” If the opposing player had truly been hindered, then he should have not attempted to even hit a lob. The fact that he did attempt this demonstrates, by his own actions, that nothing Rambo’s team actually hindered him. He was just the victim of Rambo’s good volley.

    b). Paragraph 34 further states that “When talking interferes with an opponent’s ability to play a ball, it is a hindrance.” However, this is nothing more than a reiteration of the same basic point that I have made above. It is not the mere fact that talking may occur on the court that entitles a player to claim a hindrance. Instead, it is only when talking actually “interferes with an opponent’s ability to play a ball” that a hindrance can be validly claimed. So, let’s assume hypothetically that, just as Rambo’s cross court volley came into the opponent’s reach, Rambo’s partner had shouted to the opposing player “Watch out” because he feared the player might accidentally step on someone’s tennis bag that was left to the side of the court. Now THAT would be an example of what the quoted language in paragraph 34 is trying to get at, not what Rambo described actually occurred.

    c). Paragraph 34 also provides two examples of hindrance situations, and the first one is directly applicable here. In that example, an opposing player HAS committed a deliberate hindrance by shouting the words “get back” to his doubles partner after hitting a weak lob (in other words, while the ball is traveling to the opponents’ side of the court) for which the example concludes would entitle the opposing team to claim the point had the lob simply not been played. BUT, in this example paragraph 34 goes on to state the following: “If the opponent chooses to play the lob and misses it, the opponent loses the point because the opponent did not make a timely claim of hindrance.” This is almost exactly what Rambo described occurred in his match. He hit a cross court volley, as to which the opposing team MIGHT have been able to claim a deliberate hindrance if it can show that Rambo’s partner spoke after he hit the volley and not before that volley was struck. BUT, instead of simply stopping play immediately, the opposing player tried to return Rambo’s volley and wound up hitting a weak lob. This is exactly the situation that the example tries to get at. The “opponent loses the point because the opponent did not make a timely claim of hindrance.”

    d). Finally, paragraph 36 is also pertinent. It provides in relevant part that “A player who is hindered by an opponent’s unintentional act or by something else outside the player’s control is entitled to a let only if the player could have made the shot had the player not been hindered.” So, even assuming Rambo’s partner’s gibberish call off to Rambo could be claimed to have somehow unintentionally interfered with the opposing team – although the above analysis shows categorically that it could not and did not interfere at all – the fact that the opponent attempted to and in fact reached Rambo’s cross court volley would seem to bely any claim that the opponent “could have made the shot had the player not been hindered.”

    Please forgive me for another long and very detailed comment. However, as you are aware, this whole issue of talking on the court and claiming hindrances really riles me because so many, many people seem to misunderstand and misapply the rules all of the time. And this includes not only players like us, but also tennis pros and even tournament officials. Admittedly, the rules are overly complex, some may say ambiguous, and their many exceptions, qualifications, and exceptions to exceptions to the rules can sometimes seem as complicated as the Internal Revenue Code. But as an attorney, it really drives me crazy to have to continually hear about these situations – or even encounter them myself on the court – where an opposing player (or even an official) is misapplying a rule, whether from ignorance or otherwise.

    – Marty

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