“Your Time is Up!”

(By the way, this watch is available for just $1,350!)

What do you do when you arrive at your court at the scheduled time and the players on that court are still playing?  That question comes from a reader (and lifelong friend of mine).

Time is Up!

“George, what is the USTA proper etiquette when you arrive at your court at the correct time?  Do you allow the players on the court to finish their point or game?

“When I suggested to the people on the court their time was up, one of the players approached me and said he was involved with USTA and that policy was to allow them to finish. We did wait until I became a bit frustrated and said something. I can understand allowing them to finish their current point and speaking to my partner he agreed. However, we both felt finishing a game could easily take up to 10-15 minutes and we felt that was not fair to us.  Thank you for your response and I will take your advice into consideration.”

Ken Weissleder, Sarasota, Florida

My View

I am not sure the USTA has an official position on this; but I do … I always say “finish your game.”  (and hope that others would do the same for me). 

I was once the on-court players when our “time was up,” and without saying a word, the players in the next group just walked onto our court during a point!

It would be a different situation up north in the winter, where you are paying for limited court time (and you would likely be bumped off at the end of your session); but being retired in the sunny south, my attitude is more relaxed.

How about YOU … let them play or urge them off?

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11 thoughts on ““Your Time is Up!”

  1. I fully agree with both of you. Here in Italy we’re really relaxed during outdoor season, no problem at all (anyway, no more than 5 minutes of extra-time). But from October to March, when we pay a lot of money for indoor courts, the time is the time…

    Maurizio, the indoor pay-to-play environment is surely different. thanks, george

  2. I’ve played on the Central Park courts in NYC a few times. There the players are so aggressive that—when the bell rings—the new players will walk right out on your court in the middle of a point! No place like the Big Apple!

    Jerry, as a native New Yorker myself, i can attest to the natural aggressiveness of the beast! thanks, george

  3. This situation happens many times at our club especially when whole teams are involved. What makes it worse is that we have to be at least one court away
    before we can go on a court. I just tell our team and the opposing team players to just chill out and be patient. Most understand and it is a non issue. I try to schedule our matches so that their is no conflict, but that doesn’t always seen to work. This is a small price to pay to enjoy our wonderful fun game of tennis.

  4. when you are paying to play indoors, and you have paid for 1 and 1/2 hours (say 10:30 to 12), in my experience, the players on the court before you (if it is 10:30) will finish the point they are playing and then stop. we stand quietly at the curtain until they finish.

  5. If others are on my assigned court, I try to find another court to start my warm up and then move. If no courts available then most players will try to get off after the last point has been played. Certainly different in Florida where you can play everyday.

  6. The Berkeley Tennis Club has had a no-reservation, two-set rule forever. This would not work for public courts, but, with a few exceptions, works well at the BTC. You can’t reserve a court. You show up and take the next court available. You can hit for one hour or play two sets. Then, you must leave the court if players are waiting. Office staff monitors when players go on the court and whether they have excessive warm up times. Office staff might inquire about the score to better predict when players will be finished with two sets. This system has two advantages: You don’t have to call or go on line for reservations, and the system is respectful of the game, eliminating the possibility that at 4-5 in the second, you must stop playing. There are disadvantages: Some players abuse the rules. They hit for, say, 30 minutes, then start playing their two sets. Office staff watch for this. Some players have tight time schedules and don’t want to wait for a court. Now, during Covid, the BTC has gone to a reservation system to better maintain social distancing. Only recently could members sit, socially distanced, on the deck, and members may still not enter the clubhouse except to use one bathroom, so waiting for a court is not possible. Maybe this Covid experience will result in some changes in the no-reservation, two-set policy, but I hope it won’t be a wholesale abandonment.

    BJ, there is a lot of people trust involved in that system! thanks, george

  7. I agree that we should allow the game to finish down here in Florida.
    During the winter in Delaware when indoor courts were used, we left the court as soon as the next group of players arrived.

  8. At my club, we always allow the players to finish a game or tiebreak before stopping play. It’s an unwritten rule, and in my opinion the way to proceed. We are probably a little more accommodating down south. Plus, I don’t think it would end well if the waiting players walked on the court in the middle of a point.

  9. This year with COVID, we had to implement a system of reserving courts online ahead of time at my outdoor, red clay club near Philadelphia. Everyone is admonished to stop playing 5 minutes or so before their hour and a half is up so they can sweep the courts and the lines for the next group coming on. The system has worked very well and there have been no issues, as far as I am aware, of any prior players staying on past their time slot when other players are waiting to play. This being said, the club is comprised of a lot of friends and acquaintances and everyone is normally very polite and understanding with each other anyway, so I am not sure this is a typical scenario.

    However, here in the Northeast, it gets too cold to play in the late fall and winter outdoors so we all have to pay to play on indoor courts. That is where the issues usually arise, if they arise at all. I have personally stood for as much as 5 or 10 minutes into my own reserved time slot watching inconsiderate players ahead of us who, instead of just playing one or two more points to finish their match (which I don’t mind waiting for) have insisted on playing out a third tiebreaker right in front of us. Whenever something like this happens, I and my other tennis buddies will usually give it another few minutes for the group ahead of us to finish, and if they cannot be done in that time frame then we state our apologies but do not hesitate to just walk onto the court and tell the earlier group that they are done. Usually, this ends without any arguments or other problems because they know full well that they cannot expect to keep playing during our reservation. But once or twice there have been some minor words.

    What is REALLY galling however, is when I have been on the court still playing during my own reserved time slot and inconsiderate players have walked on the court prematurely on me. At the several indoor clubs that I normally play at, the club owners have installed clocks on all of the courts and they always keep them accurate and well calibrated with each other. So, those are the clocks that everyone knows to use to determine when time is up. But every now and then, some players will show up and demand to be allowed on the court early — or maybe just walk on without invitation — even though it is obvious from the clocks that their watches are not keeping accurate time and they are, in fact, several minutes early. Usually, just a gentle “you’re early, let us finish our time slot” is all that is necessary to resolve the issue.

    However, there was one guy a few years back who used to do this regularly with my doubles group, even when he was alone and his playing partners had not even shown up yet. Therefore, not only did he walk on the court too soon, but he would actually stand on the baseline behind us, or sometimes even walk around to the sideline to go wait there, while we were still in the middle of playing points and had, say, 5 to 7 more minutes left of our own time on the clock.

    Frankly, this guy would get me so pissed off that I secretly wanted to rip his head off, but I always held my tongue. Even if I and my playing partners would ask him politely to wait outside the court until our time was up, he would never listen, saying something completely ignorant like, “Don’t mind me, I can get out of your way if the ball comes near me.”

    So one day, I simply had enough of the guy. It happens that I was up at net and he was standing behind the baseline where our opponents were playing, when one of them hit me a short lob. You can guess what happened. Instead of hitting the overhead for an easy winner, I lined up to hit a line drive smash right at the guy’s head. I managed to miss him, but mostly because he saw that the ball was coming and jumped to get out of its way. Of course, I held up my hand and offered an apology, but he knew full well what really happened because I could see him glaring at me afterward (although he said nothing). However, it worked. He never walked onto the court prematurely for the remainder of our indoor season, and I and my doubles mates never saw the guy again after that season.

    My only regret is I did not actually tag him. It would have been fun if I did.

    Marty, a nice belly shot would have made your point even stronger! thanks, george

  10. Living here in paradise (Naples!), it’s easy to just say, “finish your game…or tb.” Stay safe, everyone, and Go Braves!

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