What’s The Score?

As we age, both memory and hearing tend to be impacted.  That combination can sometimes play havoc with tennis score keeping.  Here is a situation and a rule question as a result …

What Was the Correct Score?

“Rules question from a 65 and over USTA league match.   My partner was serving at 2-1, 40-30, when he hit a passing shot that appeared to bounce off the baseline tape.  We tossed the remaining two balls to our opponents. 

The new server called a game score of 2-2, which I corrected to 1-3.  The server held and then posted a 2-3 score in our opponents’ favor on the changeover.  

When we indicated the score was 3-2 in our favor, we learned that our opponents had called my partner’s shot out in game four, but that we hadn’t heard the call.  Ironically, they hadn’t heard my score correction to 1-3. 

We decided that since the game, five points were played in good faith, the  game should stand.  We then went back and picked up game four at 40-40 which was the score when we fast-forwarded to game five. 

Notwithstanding 200 years of combined tennis experience, none of us had ever run into this situation before.   Was our solution in compliance with the rules of tennis?”   Harry Liedke

My Opinion

Harry, if I understand correctly, you finished game four, but still counted game five.  If that is the case, I do not think that was the correct solution.  I believe you would have to go back to game four at deuce (and not count game five as played).

Anyone else have a ruling??

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14 thoughts on “What’s The Score?

  1. What a mess! So when you thought the score was 2-1, and your partner hit the passing shot to make it 3-1, your opponent thought the score was 2-2 after calling your partner’s shot out that nobody heard? WOW! There’s something to be said for the server to call out the score (and line calls) loud and clear before each serve. Not sure how you would straighten this out and what specifically the rules state when this happens! Curious what others here have to say about this senior moment on the court! lol.

    Jim, that is the prime reason i am a big advocate of always calling out the game and point score loud enough so all can hear. It is frustrating to have to frequently hold my hand up and ask the server, “What’s the score?” thanks, george

  2. I agree, George. Calling the score out loud eliminates any confusion. I have often had “top players” tell me they don’t call the score because good players know it. BALONEY!! If my team is receiving, I will ALWAYS ask the score if they don’t call it out loud before they serve and ALWAYS make sure I call the score. Why risk problems when they can easily be avoided, especially when as we age, BTW, what was the question?

    Steve, 🙂 george

  3. George,

    I was at this match, playing in another line. My interpretation was that game five was played in good faith and all points played in good faith shall stand via The Code and The Rules. If that is true game five stands, game four is finished and game six begins. If you in fact wipe out game five “all points played in good faith would Not stand”.

    Patrick, yes, i agree that “all points played in good faith stand,” but it is also the rule that if you cannot agree on the score, you have to go back to the point in the match where you do agree. I would love to hear from an official on this one. thanks, george

  4. And to Steve’s point. When I’m receiving I will often call out “SCORE PLEASE?”

  5. I am not entirely sure the following is the best way to resolve this, but here goes:

    If all agreed the score was 2-1, 40-30 in the fourth game when the server believed his passing shot hit the baseline but the opponents purportedly called it out that no one heard, then presumably all would have to agree the score was really 2-1, deuce after that call.

    In other words, there is no way logically the opponents could have possibly won the game if the server was serving at 40-30 even if the passing shot on the base line HAD been long. So, even the opponents would have to agree that claiming they won that game was a mistake.

    Therefore, I think George you are right that, in keeping with the rule about reverting to where everyone last agreed, one would have to pick up the match again at 2-1, deuce with the same server and finish that fourth game. Then, the issue becomes whether the fifth game that had already been played and that the opponents had concededly won fair and square should itself be replayed. This is, I think, the part of this that is the most confusing.

    On the one hand, having now refinished the fourth game, one could take the position that the already played and undisputed fifth game still needs to be replayed even though there was no issue or controversy about what happened in that game itself. This is certainly one interpretation of the rule about going back in time to the point in a match where all agreed upon the score. However, this outcome really does not seem all that fair given that the fifth game was indeed played without any dispute or controversy, and in good faith.

    So, why couldn’t the two teams just agree among themselves that the fifth game, having already been played in good faith, would just get added back on to whatever the score turned out to be after the fourth game was replayed, and the match would restart as normal at what would then be the sixth game?

    Even though I am not certain the rules actually allow this outcome, it seems to be the fairest overall result and it certainly would be in keeping with the other rule that you cite George, about all points standing that were played in good faith.

    Marty, if i understand both their description of what went down and your piece… they DID follow your advice! thanks, george

  6. As luck would have it, I just played against a certified referee who has overseen numerous USTA matches. His position on this matter is as follows. The server called a 2-2 game score. Said server did not hear my 1-3 correction and consequently there was no agreement that the score wasn’t 2-2. Therefore, we should not have gone back and finished game four at the conclusion of game five. Game four would count as a won game for our opponents.

    Harry, sounds weird to me! thanks for the update. george

  7. I think that the key to this scoring disagreement (and to perhaps other disagreements in life) is the concept of “in good faith”…that should rule the day. Tennis is a game…we’re all lucky to be healthy enough to play it, so let’s always give each other the benefit of the doubt….”in good faith”. Scoot

    scoot, AMEN! george

  8. Hi George,
    Harry wrote:-
    ‘The new server called a game score of 2-2, which I corrected to 1-3.’
    So before serving the opposition had accepted the score as 1-3.

    The match should have proceeded from that point with no redo of points which may have been scored erroneously.
    Interestingly, I was having a little difficulty in understanding the rational for a rule interpretation on a similar issue.
    Players are arguing about the score after the 5th point. One side thinks it is 40-30 and the other 30-40. They discuss the situation and agree they cannot recall who won the 4th point. The correct way of resolving this is replay the 4th point to the add court. After that point thay resume at 40-30 or 30-40 again serving to the add court. Two consecutive serve to the add court…. seems counter intuitive… but it is correct!
    Of course, if both players cannot agree on which point was counted incorrectly, they could go back to an agreed score of 30-30 and play on from there…. or if they cannot agree to do that, they can always ‘toss a coin’ – yes it is allowed!

    Allan, thanks for the “official” response. george

  9. Hi, George

    Another take with rule attribution.

    From the 2020 Friend at Court, “The Code” (p 40):
    32. Disputes. Disputes over the score shall be resolved by using one of the following methods, which are listed in the order of preference:
    • Count all points and games agreed upon by the players and replay only disputed points or games;
    • If the players do not agree on the court in which the disputed point started, toss a coin to select the court.
    • If the players do not agree on who served a disputed point in a tiebreak, toss a coin to select the server. (A coin toss may also be needed to determine the side in which the point is played and the end from which the server serves.)
    • If the players do not agree on who served a disputed game, toss a coin to select the server.
    • Play from a score mutually agreeable to all players;
    • Spin a racket or toss a coin.”

    The players discovered their disagreement about the score after the fifth game was complete and before the sixth game started.

    The first and fifth bullets above provide the path forward. The first three games and the fifth game were agreed by the players. Counting those games, the set score is 2-2.

    The outcome of the fourth game was not agreed. The serving team thought they won the sixth point and the game on a placement at 40-30. To claim the game after winning the sixth point, the receiving team must have believed the score was 30-40?!! If the receiving team wins a 40-30 point the score is deuce!

    Resolution: if the players agree that the fourth game score was 40-30 and receiving team won the next point, the score is deuce and the players should immediately play out the game from there. But if score is not agreed to have been 40-30, the players should work backwards to find the most recent score upon which they do agree and play to game completion from there, crediting appropriately any previously played points upon which they do agree. (Play all disputed points from their proper court.)

    After completing the fourth game the set score will be either 2-3 or 3-2. The players change ends and start the sixth game.

    Since I turned in my USTA Chair Umpire card and World Team Tennis officials uniform long ago, I verified the above with a friend who is a practicing, ITF-certified Division I collegiate official.

    The 2020 Friend at Court is here: https://www.usta.com/content/dam/usta/officiating/2020%20Friend%20at%20Court.pdf. A hardcopy you can carry in your bag is available in the USTA online store.

    Bruce, the most thorough answer yet! thanks, george

  10. Thank you for the expert input; Allan and Bruce. Allan has addressed the same point raised by the referee I spoke with. However, he has come to the opposite conclusion. The referee I spoke with said that the called game score of 2-2 stands unless the server agrees that it is incorrect. In our situation, he didn’t hear my correction and consequently didn’t agree that the score wasn’t 2-2. The inference is that the calling of an uncontested game score precludes addressing any prior disputed points or games. Is this inference correct?

  11. Harry,
    The object of calling the score after every point is to confirm with everyone what the score is. It is not enough simply to say the score. Everyone has to acknowledge they heard it.
    If the score is not ‘contested’ by anyone and the next point is played, it is not unusual for there to be an ‘enlightening moment’ when it is realised the called score was incorrect. Usually, all parties agree this is the case and the score is corrected. However, calling and agreeing the score before proceeding has to mean something.

    Allan, correct … many players “say the score”; but don’t “call out the score”… a big difference in avoiding future arguments. When my partner is serving, I have started repeating the score call from my position at the net to help soft talkers. thanks, george

  12. In further researching this, I came across USTA Officiating, Scenarios and Interpretations. Page 2 D covers scoring disputes. If there is a dispute over who won a particular point in a game, the point should normally be replayed. However, #4 contains a scenario in which the players have played six points in the game and disagree over who won the second point. “The receiver acknowledges that the server called the score after each point and that the receiver did not express disagreement with the score until now. What should happen? The score as announced by the server should prevail because the receiver did not object. Note, however, if the receiver denied hearing the score, then the normal 3-step process of Code 32 is used to settle the dispute. (rule 5)”

    And, the beat goes on! thanks, george

  13. Based upon the above referenced USTA officiating booklet and the referee’s adamant position that the 2-2 score stood, it appears there may be an exception to going back to the last agreed upon score. It appears that an unchallenged point or game score called by the server precludes addressing any points that have already been played. I may be playing against said referee this Friday and will advise him of the group’s posts. I will see if he can reference any rules material that supports his position.

    Harry, and the beat goes on … george

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