What happens when you hit the ceiling in tennis? And I mean literally hit the ceiling with your tennis shot, not just figuratively hit the ceiling in tennis improvement. In this episode of Tennis Quick Tips, we're talking about hitting ceilings, chairs, scoring devices and spectators. Yes, we're talking about permanent fixtures. You can listen to this episode by clicking on the media player above or by listening in with your favorite podcast app. You can also subscribe in iTunes by clicking on this link: tennisfixation.com/itunes.
I haven't talked about the rules in a while so I think it's really time for a rules episode. Especially because, here in the United States, the USTA has not only issued the latest edition of it's publication “Friend At Court,” which contains the most recent version of the rules of tennis, but also because the USTA has added some new publications to help in officiating matches and all of these publications are available to all of us here in the United States for free and I want to be sure that all of you know about them and know how to get a hold of them.
When Your Lob Hits the Ceiling in Tennis
But first let's talk about the rules and specifically let's talk about permanent fixtures. In the past, I played in an indoor league which I really loved. For one thing, we played when you were scheduled to play a match, you knew you were going to get to play no matter what the weather was like outside. For another thing, this particular league went on year-round. We would take a very short break in between seasons but it wasn't like most of the other leagues I've played in that come to a complete halt during the summer. So I really loved playing in that indoor league and I had a fun team to play with but, ultimately, I had to leave that team because I was just playing too much tennis. I was on three tennis teams at that time and one of them had to go and it ended up being my indoor team that I left.
Anyway, one of the things that would happen quite a bit and especially at certain clubs would be that people would hit the ceiling with their lobs. So it was important to know what the tennis rules say about this and the rule to know here is the rule on permanent fixtures. Maybe you already know all about permanent fixtures in tennis. But a lot of players don't. So let's talk about the rules here so that, when someone does hit a permanent fixture in your match, you'll know just what to do.
All About Permanent Fixtures in Tennis
So, to start with, just what is a permanent fixture in tennis? Rule 2 of the ITF Rules of Tennis tells us and that rule states:
The permanent fixtures of the court include the backstops and sidestops, the spectators, the stands and seats for spectators, all other fixtures around and above the court, the Chair Umpire, Line Umpires, Net Umpire and ball persons when in their recognised positions.
Rule 2 goes on to make clear that in doubles, the net posts are part of the net and are not permanent fixtures. In singles played with singles sticks, anything outside the singles sticks, including the net posts, is a permanent fixture. If there are no singles sticks, then the net posts are not permanent fixtures. That's a little confusing I know but I think it's just an example of where the rules are trying to be fair since you can imagine a ball touching the area between the net post and the singles side lines and players arguing over whether or not it was inside some hypothetical singles sticks that aren't there. It's easier when there are no singles sticks to just include the net posts as part of the net in singles and in doubles.
And are you surprised to find out that spectators and umpires are considered permanent fixtures? It makes sense but still seems a little weird to think of it that way.
When a Ball Touches a Permanent Fixture
Okay, so what happens when a ball touches a permanent fixture? The consequences of that are explained in Rule 13, which says:
If the ball in play touches a permanent fixture after it has hit the correct court, the player who hit the ball wins the point. If the ball in play touches a permanent fixture before it hits the ground, the player who hit the ball loses the point.
Comment 13.1 goes on to give some further explanation. It says:
What happens if a ball hits an object attached to the net or post (such as a scoring device) or the top of the net outside the singles stick and then lands in the court? The player who hit the ball loses the point because it hit a permanent fixture before landing in the court.
And I think that if a scoring device attached to the net is considered a permanent fixture, we can consider a jacket or towel laying on the net to also be a permanent fixture. So that's a good reason to not be laying your jacket or towel on the net.
So let's go back to my indoor league. According to the rules of tennis, if I hit a lob and it touches the ceiling before it hits my opponent’s court, I lose the point. If I hit a ball that hits my opponent's side of the court and then somehow bounces up and touches the ceiling, maybe because I hit some kind of incredible smash overhead, the ball is good and is still in play.
I think the lesson here is – be aware of permanent fixtures, especially things like low ceilings, scoring devices on the net, trays on the net posts, spectators standing around, etc.
Who Makes the Call When a Ball Touches a Permanent Fixture?
Now, let's talk about one more little nuance to this permanent fixture thing. Who gets to make the call on whether a ball touches a permanent fixture? Imagine the situation of the lob touching the ceiling on an indoor court. While you would think it would be obvious whether or not a ball hits the ceiling, I'm sure you can imagine a ball barely grazing the ceiling and there being a dispute between the players over whether that ball did or did not touch the ceiling.
While we know the outcome when a ball hits the ceiling, the rules do not address the issue of who makes that call. But, good news! We have The Code which, as you know, governs the conduct of players in tennis matches and is all about playing fairly.
Paragraph 5 tells us:
Player makes calls on own side of net. A player calls all shots landing on, or aimed at, the player’s side of the court.
So if your opponent hits the lob, it is obviously aimed at your side of the court, and you get to make the call. And if your call is that the lob hit the ceiling, you win the point.
So have you ever hit a permanent fixture and lost a point? Have you ever hit a spectator or an umpire? Let me know your experience with permanent fixtures by leaving a comment in the comment box below.
RESOURCES AND LINKS FROM THIS EPISODE
You can find a free PDF version of the 2016 Friend at Court as well as other helpful rules and officiating publications by clicking on this link: USTA's Rules and Officiating Publications.
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