What is the Rule?

How many dampeners?

Frequently during matches, questions come up about the rule governing a play that just happened.  There is now an app available for Smart Phones that can help answer most questions.  More on this and a couple of rule questions …

ITF Provides Answers

Thanks to a tip from Naples pro Steve Diamond, the International Tennis Federation (ITF) has recently released a thorough app for use on Smart Phones.  Called “Rules of Tennis,” it can be found on Google Play for Android devices and the App Store for Apple devices.

It will provide a handy, on-court resource to answer most burning questions during or after a match.

Multiple Dampeners?

And a question comes from local player and good friend Willy Hoffmann, asking whether his friends use of multiple vibration dampeners is legal.  According to the ITF app, dampeners are allowed to be used “outside the pattern of crossed strings.”  So, I would interpret that as a YES to multiple pieces, as long as they are all below the bottom cross string.

Asking for help on line calls? 

Dave Spilseth writes, I found the following on the NSMTA website: “If you are unsure whether a ball landed in or out, you should ask opponents if they can make the call. If they can’t, then it’s in. It is a newer rule and not known by many players.”   I always thought asking your opponent if the ball was out was a big no-no.  What do you think?

Dave, if I have any question about a line call, I am not afraid to ask my doubles partner or the opponent (if they had a good view of the shot); but the basic rule of tennis is: if you are in doubt, the ball is called IN.

What do YOU think about these or other rules?

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11 thoughts on “What is the Rule?

  1. I remember Luke Jenson saying ” If the ball clearly appears to be in, but your opponent calls it out, don’t bother asking them if they are sure if it was out, because THEY ARE SURE!!!

    Jim, except if you are playing on clay and can politely ask them to look for a mark. But i have had opponents simply ignore that request too. thanks, george

  2. Multiple vibration dampeners – With the Gamma Big Bubba gigantic racquet mentioned in this forum earlier this year, there is a wide space between the top cross string and the top of the frame – this can cause mishit string breaks more easily than normal spacing. I use the long, wide vibration dampener both below the bottom cross string and above the top cross string. In researching the “legality” of this, my interpretation of the plural “dampeners” you quoted means multiple dampeners permitted but all need to be “outside the pattern of crossed strings”. Having a dampener above the top cross and below the bottom cross seems “legal” to me.

    Winder, i am with you on that interpretation. george

  3. As we age and our court coverage diminishes. there seem to be more occasions when I and my partner are not in good position to make a call. For example, when I am at the net and the opposing player goes for a passing shot down my alley. Hard for me to pivot fast enough to see where the ball lands and my partner is on the opposite side of our court. Fortunately, the great majority of players at the Haddon Field Club in NJ routinely call their own shot “Out” when they see it as such. Also, the same players give the benefit of the doubt to the opposition on close calls when they can’t be sure the ball is out. As a result, there are very few arguments about calls at the Haddon Field Club! I give much of the credit for this serendipity to our Director of Tennis, national 80s competitor Mark Forrester – always a gentleman and sportsman.

    Sean, sounds like a great tennis environment! thanks, george

  4. I didn’t know that asking an opponent for a call when you weren’t sure was a new rule. I always thought the over-riding principle was that this is a “gentlemen’s game”, and the goal of ALL players is to ensure that all calls are correct. I’ve been asking opponents for years if they saw the ball out when I wasn’t sure. Of course they never do see the ball out, but maybe some day, on a big point……:). Good luck with that?

    Mike, i have found most opponents to be honest when asked. More often, their answer is “I didn’t have a clear view. Your call.” Which almost by definition, you then have to call IN. thanks, george

  5. Multiple Dampeners – my interpretation of “outside the pattern of crossed strings” includes the bottom, the top, and both sides. I also got this from a tournament official. See Don Mathias’ racquet. Wendall Walker

    Wendall, i agree. thanks, george

  6. I think the rule for dampeners is as follows: You may have as many dampeners as you want ( one or ten ) as long as the dampeners are outside of the string pattern . Does not matter if on bottom , top , right side , or left side as long as they are on the outside.

    Paul, thanks, george

  7. George, do you or others remember the small red and black “foam cylinders” called Vibrazorbs? They were vibration dampeners made by Donnay. I remember using them in the mid 80s. They were a pretty popular accessory used by many players. Now, there are so many varieties on the market. Currently I prefer using the “button type” rubber dampener below the bottom crosstring. But there are occasions I still see the “old reliable” rubber band, like Aggassi used to use. With newer technology, racquet manufacturers have built in dampening properties to the frames to give better shock absorption than actual vibration dampeners.
    Just out of habit and personal preference, I’ll continue using the rubber dampener, just because the ping and the feel is too annoying without one.

    Glenn, yes, I remember! Thanks. George

  8. Just remember…..once you ask an opponent for help with a call, you have to be bound by their decision. You can’t ask them for their opinion and then cavalierly ignore or override it!….or keep looking for a ball mark you like! The very fact that you’re asking is an admission of uncertainty which—unless your opponent is honest enough to call their ball out—means the shot is presumed to be good. And if they are uncertain, it’s still good.

    And an opponent should never—our of a misguided sense of fair play— offer to replay the point. The shot is either good or bad. There are no “do overs”.

    I still see a few players doing “do-overs” for bad service calls, despite the USTA rule being changed several years ago. I was next to a court yesterday where the receiver called a serve out and then—upon closer examination—said it nicked the line. So he magnanimously said, “sorry, take two”. Obviously, he should have awarded the point to his opponents for his bad call. I stoically bit my tongue and didn’t intervene.

    Jerry, exactly right on every point made! Thanks. George

  9. Hi George. I just downloaded the app. Thanks to you and Steve for the recommendation.

    Bob. Enjoy. George

  10. I was receiving serve, when my partner called it out so my opponents ignored my successful return; then my partner called it in. Do-over 1st serve, or 2nd serve? Probably not my point tho. ??

    Mike, no question on this one … new rule (4-5 years ago), wrong call is server’s point. george

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