I just played a doubles match where one of my opponents stood in the doubles alley (behind the baseline of course) when hitting her serve. She did this on both sides of the court, throughout the match and was really good at placing her serve all over the service box. Since this is such an exaggerated and unusual place to stand, I wanted to be sure and let you know what the rules have to say on this particular stance. In this episode, we'll look at ITF Rules 17 and 18 which give you the answer. 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.
Where can you stand when you're serving in tennis? ITF Rules 17 and 18 address this. Rule 17 says:
When serving in a standard game, the server shall stand behind alternate halves of the court, starting from the right half of the court in every game.
Rule 18, the rule on Foot Faults, gives more detail, explaining exactly where you should stand when serving in relation to the lines on the court. It states:
During the service motion, the server shall not: . . .
b. Touch the baseline or court with either foot; or
c. Touch the area outside the imaginary extension of the sideline with either foot; or
d. Touch the area outside the imaginary extension of the centre mark with either foot.
If the server breaks this rule it is a “Foot Fault”.
The comments to the rule tell us exactly where we're allowed to stand in a singles match vs. where we can stand in a doubles match. USTA Comment 18.1 says:
Where may the server stand? In singles, the server may stand anywhere behind the baseline between the imaginary extensions of the inside edge of the center mark and the outside edge of the singles sideline. In doubles, the server may stand anywhere behind the baseline between the imaginary extensions of the inside edge of the center mark and the outside edge of the doubles sideline.
So in my doubles match, my opponent was standing in a completely legal spot when she served from the doubles alley. For more explanation of this rule and how my match went, be sure and listen to the podcast episode!
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