What's The Call?

May 2013

By Dennis Mallast

One of our regular readers submitted the following:  During a USTA League doubles match, one of the players broke a string while hitting an overhead.  His partner returned the next ball with a high lob that gave the player time to leave the court and pick up his spare racquet laying on his racquet bag.  His partner continued to buy time by hitting the next shot with another lob. There was sufficient time for the player who initially broke the string to return to the court and help his partner win the point.  Needless to say, a discussion ensued & we all didn’t know quite what to do @ this point;  Should the point stand or not?  Can you please clarify whether a player is allowed to leave the court during a rally to replace their racquet and can a replacement racquet be used during a rally?     What’s The Call?

Ruling:  Believe it or not, yes, what your opponent did is permitted, as long as the act of changing rackets does not involve a hindrance: for example stomping of the feet, waving arms, or shouting out during the point.

April 2013

By Dennis Mallast

A regular reader to this column writes:  Thank you for all your "Calls".  In case you're short on material, I had a situation during a playoff. Our opponent hit a ball for a winner, but ran into the net afterward. Neither my partner nor I knew whether his ball had landed before or after he hit the net.  We definitely both saw him in the net.  My partner didn't know whose call it was to make so we had to call the official over.  She said itwas our opponent's call.  So we lost the point.    What’s The Call? 

Ruling:  The officials interpretation was correct - it is your opponents call.  More importantly, the key factor in what you described is whether his ball bounced twice before he ran into the net.  Merely hitting a winner doesn't end the point until it bounces twice.  If he ran into the net after it bounced twice, his running into the net would be inconsequential since the point was already over.  Hope that makes sense.

March 2013

By Dennis Mallast

A fellow who has responsibilities overseeing high school tennis shares the following:  The girls HS coaches are suggesting adding a rule to the conference rules whereby a player on court #1 could call a let on court #2 if their ball is rolling onto court #2 and creating what they deem an unsafe situation.  Seems crazy to me as kids don't call lets on their own courts in HS tennis much of the time when a ball rolls thru, plus would seem to open up a can of worms for misuse.  Your thoughts please.   What’s The Call?

Ruling:  Thankfully, you seem to have a very good understanding of why players from another court should not become involved in calling lets on an adjoining court.  From my experience of officiating H.S. matches, there are very few H.S. coaches who really know the rules & how to apply them properly.  The players need to play under a consistent set of rules - The ITF Rules of Tennis, USTA Comment 23.4 clearly addresses the issue.  Let's not create another potential problem where one does not exist.  USTA Comment 23.4:  Who may call a let?  Only an official or player may call a let.  A player may call a let only on the player’s court. 

February 2013 

By Dennis Mallast

What are the guidelines that officials and players adhere to in regards to the use and length of medical timeouts taken by players?

The 2013 Australian Open was certainly not lacking for drama & memorable results.  We saw the championship trophy being lifted on both sides of the draw by last year’s winners.  Victoria Azarenka  & Novak Djokovic successfully defended their crowns & maintained their world #1 rankings.  In this day & age, that is no small feat.  However, the tournament was fraught with controversy surrounding the use & length of the medical timeouts (MTO’s) taken by players.  What exactly are the guidelines that officials & players must adhere to?   What’s The Call? 

Ruling:  In the 2013 Friend @ Court which serves as the USTA Handbook of Tennis Rules & Regulations, five pages are dedicated to clarifying various nuances that require proper implementation of a medical timeout.   Obviously, space does not permit citing all possible scenarios.  Basically; A medical timeout consists of evaluation time as determined by the Referee plus a maximum of 3 minutes treatment time for a treatable medical condition.  The maximum time allowed for evaluation & treatment is 15 minutes. 

The women saw MTO’s involving Serena Williams rolling her ankle in her 1st match, Jamie Hampton suffering back issues during her 3rd round match vs Vika Azarenka, Na Li rolling an ankle coupled with her falling & hitting head during the finals & the most controversy involved Azarenka in her semi-finals match against Sloane Stephens.  In all of the above instances, the time off the court ranged from 7-10 minutes.  Typically in non-professional USTA events, you will see 2 minutes for evaluation & 3 minutes for treatment (total of 5 minutes).  Azarenka actually took 2 timeouts which consumed 10 minutes to treat 2 separate issues during her time away from the court.  Although consecutive timeouts are very unusual, this was perfectly within the rules. Stacey Allaster, the Chairman & CEO of the WTA, reassured everyone that;  It’s the judgment of the medical experts & it’s their responsibility to ensure the health & well-being of the athlete.  They made a determination that she needed a medical treatment & followed it in accordance to the rules.  It’s not Vika’s fault it took 10 minutes.

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