I was serving in a match and was holding two balls in the shorts under my skirt. During play of one point, a ball fell out of my shorts and was rolling around my feet at the baseline (I know, I should have been up at the net). I was well aware that I'd dropped that ball but kept on playing. After the point was over and won by my partner and I, one of the opponents said, “Where did that ball come from?” referring to the stray ball I'd dropped. I said I had dropped the ball and my opponent responded with, “Well, you caused a let so you lose the point.”
I was shocked and, since I'd only been playing a few months, had no idea how to respond or what the rule on lets was. So – here's the painful part – I agreed and gave them the point!
And that's why you should know your tennis rules. If I knew anything at all about lets at that time, I'd know that Rule 23 of the Official Rules of Tennis tells you about lets and says that, “In all cases when a let is called, except when a service let is called on a second service, the whole point shall be replayed.” So, had my opponent properly called a let when I dropped a ball on my side of the court, the right thing to do would have been to replay the point. My bad for just giving up the point (I'm still cringing over my timidity back then!).
But was she right when she called a let after we had finished the point? Definitely not. Rule 24 discusses situations where you lose points and gives this comment on a similar situation in USTA Comment 24.3:
If a player's hat falls off during a point, may the opponent stop play and claim a let? Yes. The opponent's immediate request should be granted. A let should not be granted after the point nor should a request from the player who lost the hat.
While I dropped a ball and not a hat, the situation is pretty darn similar. Had my opponent immediately called a let during play, we could have replayed the point. But she should not have waited until the point was over to call a let just as I could not have called a let because of a situation I myself had caused.
So what should have happened? Nothing. The point should have stood. I couldn't call a let and my opponent shouldn't have waited so long to call a let. And did I bring this up when I saw the same thing happen to someone else recently? Not until after the match was over. See, I'm now also very familiar with “The Code” which states in Principle 17 that, “Spectators never to make calls. A player shall not enlist the aid of a spectator in making a call. No spectator has a part in the match.”
The take-away lesson here? Learn your tennis rules so you don't get taken advantage of!
© Kim Selzman 2009
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