I don't know about you, but I have played numerous matches where, at some point, the players can't figure out what the score is. Or who's turn it is to serve. Or even what just happened. This is especially true in a doubles match where four players may come up with four different versions of what's happening on court. So what do you do in this situation? Continue playing with the error, even though you know it's wrong? Start all over again? In this episode of Tennis Quick Tips, I'll tell you how to deal with errors in your tennis matches. 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.
SHOW NOTES AND EDITED TRANSCRIPT:
Today I am talking about correcting errors in a tennis match. This topic came up in a recent question I got from Tennis Fixation follower, Stephania. Here is what she asked about:
I have a real question for you that I am not able to resolve using the USTA rules. We had a situation in a match yesterday. Our opponents served out of order and we did not notice until the game score was 15-15. We agreed to start the game over with the correct server but I would like to know what the rule is for the future.
The good news there actually is a rule on this. If we go to the ITF Rules of Tennis, Rule 27 is called “Correcting Errors” and that rule addresses this specific situation. It says and I quote here:
As a principle when an error in respect of the rules of tennis is discovered all points previously played shall stand. Errors so discovered shall be corrected as follows:
c. If a player serves out of turn during a standard game, the player who was originally due to serve should serve as soon as the error is discovered. However, if the game is completed before the error is discovered, the order of service should remain as altered.
So in Stephania's case, the players discovered the error in the middle of the game when the score was 15-15. As soon as they discovered it, they did do the right thing by immediately correcting their service order error and switching to the proper server. Where they messed up was in starting the game over. They should have continued to play with the servers in the correct order but with the score at 15-15.
Now, you may wonder why would you correct part of the error and not correct the whole error. In other words, those points were earned with the wrong server so why wouldn’t you just start the whole game over? Well, if you look to the comments for Rule 27 you can see what the basis of this rule is.
The comments at issue for for Rule 27 and I am looking to the USTA’s version of the rules here. The comment says:
Errors as to Ends, Sides, Rotation and Service Order, Etc. The general guiding philosophy regarding any mistakes made by players in failing to change ends, serving from wrong ends, serving to the wrong court, receiving from the wrong court etc. is this. Any such error should be rectified as soon as discovered but not while the ball is in play and any points completed under the erroneous conditions shall be counted.
So that is the general guiding philosophy that the USTA gives us. The point that they are trying to make is while fairness is the most important thing in a tennis match, not wasting time is also very important. This is especially true in tournaments.
When the players have played points in good faith, those points stand and the error is corrected but you don’t go back and replay those points. You may have experienced an application of this philosophy when players disagree on the score in a match. In Stephania’s case, they agreed on the score but their error occurred in the service order. But I have been in a lot of situations where at some point players actually disagree on the score. The rules tell us in that situation you back up and the score becomes the score that all of the players agree that at some point that was the correct score and now you go forward and replay those disputed points.
Again, the rule is seeking fairness but they don’t want you wasting time by replaying points that everyone agrees are valid points. If you get in a situation where you know some kind of error has occurred on your court, especially if you get in a situation where an error seems to have occurred during a tiebreak, I highly recommend that you whip out your copy of the tennis rules because there are a lot of exceptions especially in the tie break situations and they are set out extensively in the tennis rules, in the comments.
In fact, just this year a new comment was added. It is Comment 27.12. It talks about what happens if a match or a pro set is supposed to be played with a 7 point tiebreak and the players mistakenly play a 10 point tiebreak. Then it walks through the potential situations that could happen depending on the score.
What is interesting in this particular comment is that the last sentence is “This could result in unusual situations in which the player who first reached 7 points and was ahead by at least 2 points up losing the set.” It took me a while to think about this and figure out how that could occur and clearly from the way they have state it in this comment , what should happen , it can occur but what I am telling you is be sure when an error occurs that you know what the rule is and if you have a particularly unusual situation take out your rules and make sure that if it is addressed in the comments that you apply the rule properly.
Do you have rules questions? Let me know in the comments below and maybe I'll answer your question on a Tennis Quick Tips podcast episode!
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