I broke a string in my tennis racket recently. This is a pretty common occurrence with tennis players, especially if you don't have your racket restrung when it's time. But this incident reminded me of the time I broke a string during a match which led to me looking into the rules on string breaking and other equipment malfunctions. So in this episode of Tennis Quick Tips, we'll answer the question about just what you do when you break a racket string. 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.
Not too long ago, I broke a string during a match. I think what happened is I mishit a return. I wish I could say I hit the ball so hard that I broke a string, but I'm pretty sure it was just a bad return on my part. And the strings on my racket were already worn. I had even thought about getting that racket restrung earlier in the week but was sure that somehow my racket could make it a little bit longer. Wrong. The good news is that I actually do carry a second tennis racket in my bag so I was able to switch rackets, keep playing and, ultimately, win the match (Hooray!).
Now, here's the timing on all of this. The string broke as I hit my return on the last point of an odd game. When we lost that point, we lost the game and had to change ends of court. I just switched out my racket during this changeover.
What I thought was interesting about all of this was the reaction of one of my opponent's to my situation. As I switched rackets, she said, “Good thing you've got that second racket so you don't have to forfeit.” Forfeit? I hadn't even considered that possibility. It made me realize I don't know anything about the rules of tennis regarding broken racket strings.
Naturally, I did some research and it turns out there is not an obvious answer to the question of whether you have to forfeit when you break a racquet string. But I think I came up with the answer and I'm going to walk you through it so YOU don't wrongly forfeit a match because you don't know the rule and someone else convinces you that they do.
Rule 4 of the USTA's Official Rules of Tennis addresses “The Racket.” The rule states that “Rackets, which are approved for play under the Rules of Tennis, must comply with the specifications in Appendix II.” And Appendix II, entitled “The Racket,” says:
a. The hitting surface, defined as the main area of the stringing pattern bordered by the points of entry of the strings into the frame or points of contact of the strings with the frame, whichever is the smaller, shall be flat and consist of a pattern of crossed strings connected to a frame and alternately interlaced or bonded where they cross. The stringing pattern must be generally uniform and, in particular, not less dense in the centre than in any other area.
Bottom line – there's no way a racket with a broken string or strings is going to have a flat pattern of crossed strings that is generally uniform. So it appears that, once you break a string, you no longer have a racket that can be used to play tennis and you might, in fact, have to forfeit your match.
HOWEVER . . . going, back to USTA Rule 4, the “Cases” accompanying the rule provide some interesting explanation:
Case 4. During a point, a player accidentally breaks the strings. Can the player continue to play another point with this racket?
Decision. Yes, except where specifically prevented by event organisers.
So, even if I didn't have a second racket, I wouldn't have to immediately forfeit just because I broke my racket string. I could continue playing the point where my string broke and, according to Case 4 above, at least “another point” with that racket, although I'm sure that would be pretty laughable. But maybe my partner could just run everything down and we wouldn't have to forfeit at that moment.
The USTA comments to this rule give even more guidance. Comment 4.2 states:
What may a player who has broken a string or racket do if the player does not have a replacement racket? Unless prohibited by a published rule adopted by the tournament, the player may play with the broken racket. The player may leave the court to get a replacement racket. The player may ask someone else to get a replacement racket. The player is subject to code violations for delays under the Point Penalty System. Rule 29b permits a player “reasonable extra time” to leave the court only in those cases where “clothing, footwear, or necessary equipment (excluding racket) is broken or needs to be replaced.”
So, what this comment is telling us is that you don't forfeit a match just because you break a racket string. It's actually OK for you to use your broken racket or broken-stringed racket throughout the match or at least until you get a replacement racket. And you can leave the court to get a replacement racket but you have to do that very quickly, especially in a tournament, when you might be subject to code violations for delaying your match.
The important thing, in my opinion, is to avoid all of these problems by having that second racket right there on the court with you, ready for you to grab between points or on a changeover. Sure, you can keep your one and only racket well-strung, but you never know when you're going to mishit some ball and break your strings. Like me. Better to have that second, back-up racket ready so that you don't have to borrow someone else's racket or send someone out to your car to get your second racket.
If you're interested in learning how to pick out a tennis racket or how to have your racket strung, check out the other Tennis Quick Tips episodes that I've linked to below.
RESOURCES AND LINKS FROM THIS EPISODE:
I've got lots of episodes on tennis rackets and strings. Just click on any of the titles below to check them out:
- When to Restring Your Tennis Racket – Tennis Quick Tips Podcast Episode 82
- How to Demo a Tennis Racket – Tennis Quick Tips Podcast Episode 56
- All About Tennis String Gauge – Tennis Quick Tips Podcast 47
- All About Tennis Rackets – Tennis Quick Tips Podcast 43
- What's the Best String Tension for Your Tennis Racket? Tennis Quick Tips Podcast Episode 34
- What Kind of Tennis String Should You Use? Tennis Quick Tips Podcast Episode 13
Looking for fun holiday gifts for your favorite tennis player? Check out my 2015 Holiday Gift Guides:
- Best Holiday Gifts for Tennis Players – 2015 Fitness Edition
- Best Holiday Gifts for Tennis Players – 2015 Women's Edition
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