The USTA Website for Rules of Tennis,
Code of Conduct and a
Friend at Court.
The Singles Game:
The Doubles Game:
The Singles Game
1. The Court
The Court shall be a rectangle 78 feet (23.77m.) long and 27 feet (8.23m.)
USTA Comment: See Rule 34 for a doubles court.
It shall be divided across the middle by a net suspended from a cord
or metal cable of a maximum diameter of one-third of an inch (0.8cm.),
the ends of which shall be attached to, or pass over, the tops of two
posts, which shall be not more than 6 inches (15cm.) square or 6 inches
(15cm.) in diameter. These posts shall not be higher than 1 inch (2.5cm.)
above the top of the net cord. The centres of the posts shall be 3
feet (.914m.) outside the Court on each side and the height of the
posts shall be such that the top of the cord or metal cable shall be
3 feet 6 inches (1.07m.) above the ground.
When a combined doubles (see Rule 34) and singles
Court with a doubles net is used for singles, the net must be supported
to a height of 3 feet
6 inches (1.07m.) by means of two posts, called "singles sticks",
which shall be not more than 3 inches (7.5cm.) square or 3 inches (7.5cm.)
in diameter. The centres of the singles sticks shall be 3 feet (.914m.)
outside the singles Court on each side.
The net shall be extended fully so that it fills completely the space
between the two posts and shall be of sufficiently small mesh to prevent
the ball passing through. The height of the net shall be 3 feet (.914m.)
at the centre, where it shall be held down taut by a strap not more than
2 inches (5cm.) wide and completely white in colour. There shall be a
band covering the cord or metal cable and the top of the net of not less
than 2 inches (5cm.) nor more than 21/2 inches (6.35cm.) in depth on
each side and completely white in colour. There shall be no advertisement
on the net, strap, band or singles sticks.
The lines bounding the ends and sides of the Court shall respectively
be called the base-lines and the side-lines. On each side of the net,
at a distance of 21 feet (6.40m.) from it and parallel with it, shall
be drawn the service-lines. The space on each side of the net between
the service-line and the side-lines shall be divided into two equal parts
called the service-courts by the centre service-line, which must be 2
inches (5cm.) in width, drawn half-way between, and parallel with, the
USTA Comment: The following is an approved method for obtaining proper
net tautness. First, loosen the center strap. Next, tighten the net cord
until it is approximately 40 inches above the ground, being careful not
to overtighten the net. Finally, tighten the center strap until the center
of the net is 36 inches above the ground. These measurements should always
be made before the first match of the day.
Each base-line shall be bisected by an imaginary
continuation of the centre service-line to a line 4 inches (10cm.)
in length and 2 inches
(5cm.) in width called the "centre mark" drawn inside the Court,
at right angles to and in contact with such base-lines. All other lines
shall be not less than 1 inch (2.5cm.) nor more than 2 inches (5cm.)
in width, except the base-line, which may be not more than 4 inches (10cm.)
in width, and all measurements shall be made to the outside of the lines.
All lines shall be of uniform colour. If advertising or any other material
is placed at the back of the Court, it may not contain white, or yellow.
A light colour may only be used if this does not interfere with the vision
of the players.
If advertisements are placed on the chairs of the linesmen sitting at
the back of the court, they may not contain white or yellow. A light
colour may only be used if this does not interfere with the vision of
ITF Note 1: In Davis Cup, Fed Cup and the Official Championships of
the International Tennis Federation, specific requirements with regard
to the space behind the baseline and at the sides are included in the
respective Regulations for these events.
ITF Note 2: At club or recreational level, the space behind each baseline
should be not less than 18 feet (5.5m) and at the sides not less than
10 feet (3.05m).
2. Permanent Fixtures
The permanent fixtures of the Court shall include not only the net,
posts, singles sticks, cord or metal cable, strap and band, but also,
there are any such, the back and side stops, the stands, fixed or
movable seats and chairs round the Court, and their occupants, all
around and above the Court, and the Umpire, Net-cord Judge, Footfault
Judge, Linesmen and Ball Boys when in their respective places.
ITF Note: For the purpose of this Rule, the word "Umpire" comprehends
the Umpire, the persons entitled to a seat on the Court, and all those
persons designated to assist the Umpire in the conduct of a match.
3. The Ball
The ball shall have a uniform outer surface consisting of a fabric
cover and shall be white or yellow in colour. If there are any seams
shall be stitchless.
The ball shall conform to the requirements specified in Appendix I (Regulations
for making tests specified in Rule 3.) Section iv for size and be more
than two ounces (56.7 grams) and less than two and one-sixteenth ounces
(58.5 grams) in weight.
The ball shall have a bound of more than 53 inches (134.62cm.) and less
than 58 inches (147.32cm.) when dropped 100 inches (254.00cm.) upon a
The ball shall have a forward deformation of more than .220 of an inch
(.559cm.) and less than .290 of an inch (.737cm.) and a return deformation
of more than .315 of an inch (.800cm.) and less than .425 of an inch
(1.080cm.) at 18 lb. (8.165kg.) load. The two deformation figures shall
be the averages of three individual readings along three axes of the
ball and no two individual readings shall differ by more than .030 of
an inch (.076cm.) in each case.
For play above 4,000 feet (1219m.) in altitude above sea level, two
additional types of ball may be used. The first type is identical to
those described above except that the bound shall be more than 48 inches
(121.92cm.) and less than 53 inches (134.62cm.) and the ball shall have
an internal pressure that is greater than the external pressure. This
type of tennis ball is commonly known as a pressurized ball. The second
type is identical to those described above except that they shall have
a bound of more than 53 inches (134.62cm.) and less than 58 inches (147.32cm.)
and shall have an internal pressure that is approximately equal to the
external pressure and have been acclimatised for 60 days or more at the
altitude of the specific tournament. This type of tennis ball is commonly
known as a zero-pressure or non-pressurised ball.
All tests for bound, size and deformation shall be made in accordance
with the regulations in Appendix I.
The International Tennis Federation shall rule on the question of whether
any ball or prototype complies with the above specifications or is otherwise
approved, for play. Such ruling may be taken on its own initiative, or
upon application by any party with a bona fide interest therein, including
any player, equipment manufacturer or National Association or members
thereof. Such rulings and applications shall be made in accordance with
the applicable Review and Hearing Procedures of the International Tennis
Federation (see Appendix II).
ITF Note: Any ball to be used in a tournament which is played under
the Rules of Tennis must be named on the official ITF list of approved
balls issued by the International Tennis Federation.
4. The Racket
Rackets failing to comply with the following specifications are not
approved for play under the Rules of Tennis:
a. The hitting surface of the racket shall be flat and consist of a
pattern of crossed strings connected to a frame and alternately interlaced
or bonded where they cross; and the stringing pattern shall be generally
uniform, and in particular not less dense in the centre than in any other
area. The racket shall be designed and strung such that the playing characteristics
are identical on both faces.
The strings shall be free of attached objects and protrusions other than
those utilised solely and specifically to limit or prevent wear and tear
or vibration and which are reasonable in size and placement for such
b. For professional play, the frame of the racket shall not exceed 29
inches (73.66cm.) in overall length, including the handle, as from 1st
January 1997. For non-professional play, the frame of the racket shall
not exceed 29 inches (73.66cm.) in overall length, including the handle,
as from 1st January 2000. Until 1st January 2000, the maximum length
of a racket for non-professional play shall be 32 inches (81.28cm). The
frame of the racket shall not exceed 121/2 inches (31.75cm.) in overall
width. The strung surface shall not exceed 151/2 inches (39.37cm.) in
overall length, and 111/2 inches (29.21cm.) in overall width.
USTA Comment: Professional play refers to tournaments conducted under
the regulations of the ATP Tour, ITF, and WTA Tour. This includes Satellite
and Challenger tournaments.
c. The frame, including the handle, shall be free of attached objects
and devices other than those utilized solely and specifically to limit
or prevent wear and tear or vibration, or to distribute weight. Any objects
and devices must be reasonable in size and placement for such purposes.
d. The frame, including the handle and the strings, shall be free of
any device which makes it possible to change materially the shape of
the racket, or to change the weight distribution in the direction of
the longitudinal axis of the racket which would alter the swing moment
of inertia, or to deliberately change any physical property which may
affect the performance of the racket during the playing of a point.
The International Tennis Federation shall rule on the question of whether
any racket or prototype complies with the above specifications or is
otherwise approved, or not approved, for play. Such ruling may be undertaken
on its own initiative, or upon application by any party with a bona fide
interest therein, including any player, equipment manufacturer or National
Association or members thereof. Such rulings and applications shall be
made in accordance with the applicable Review and Hearing Procedures
of the International Tennis Federation.
Case 1. Can there be more than one set of strings on the hitting surface
Decision: No. The rule clearly mentions a pattern, and not patterns,
of crossed strings.
Case 2. Is the stringing pattern of a racket considered to be generally
uniform and flat if the strings are on more than one plane?
Case 3. Can vibration dampening devices be placed on the strings of
a racket and if so, where can they be placed?
Decision: Yes; but such devices may be placed only outside the pattern
of crossed strings.
Case 4. In the course of play, a player accidentally breaks the strings
of his racket. Can he continue to play with the racket in this condition?
USTA Comment: If after play has begun it is discovered that a player
has been using an illegal racket or an illegally strung racket, all points
played stand. The player must find another racket immediately. If the
discovery occurs after the match is over, the match still counts.
5. Server & Receiver
The players shall stand on opposite sides of the net; the player who
first delivers the ball shall be called the Server, and the other
Case 1. Does a player, attempting a stroke, lose the point if he crosses
an imaginary line in the extension of the net,
a. before striking the ball,
b. after striking the ball?
Decision: He does not lose the point in either case by crossing the
imaginary line and provided he does not enter the lines bounding his
opponent's Court (Rule 20(e)). In regard to hindrance, his opponent may
ask for the decision of the Umpire under Rules 21 and 25.
Case 2. The Server claims that the Receiver must stand within the lines
bounding his Court. Is this necessary?
Decision: No. The Receiver may stand wherever he pleases on his own side
of the net.
6. Choice of Ends & Service
The choice of ends and the right to be Server or Receiver in the first
game shall be decided by toss. The player winning the toss may choose
or require his opponent to choose:-
a. The right to be Server or Receiver, in which case the other player
shall choose the end; or
b. The end, in which case the other player shall choose the right to
be Server or Receiver.
Case 1. Do players have the right to new choices if the match is postponed
or suspended before it has started?
Decision: Yes. The toss stands, but new choices may be made with respect
to service and end.
USTA Comment: The toss shall be made before the warm-up. Choices should
be made promptly after the toss and are irrevocable, except when the
match is postponed or suspended before the start of the match.
7. The Service
The service shall be delivered in the following manner. Immediately
before commencing to serve, the Server shall stand with both feet
behind (i.e. further from the net than) the base-line, and within
the imaginary continuations of the centre-mark and side-line. The
shall then project the ball by hand into the air in any direction
and before it hits the ground strike it with his racket, and the
shall be deemed to have been completed at the moment of the impact
of the racket and the ball. A player with the use of only one arm
may utilize his racket for the projection.
USTA Comment: There is no restriction regarding the kind of service
which may be used; that is, the player may use an underhand or overhand
service at his discretion.
Case 1. May the Server in a singles game take his stand behind the portion
of the base-line between the side-lines of the Singles Court and the
USTA Comment: In singles, the server may stand anywhere in back of the
baseline between the imaginary extensions of the center mark and the
Case 2. If a player, when serving, throws up two or more balls instead
of one, does he lose that service?
Decision: No. A let should be called, but if the Umpire regards the action
as deliberate he may take action under Rule 21.
8. Foot Fault
The Server shall throughout the delivery of the Service:
a. Not change his position by walking or running. The Server shall not
by slight movement of the feet which do not materially affect the location
originally taken up by him, be deemed "to change his position by
walking or running".
b. Not touch, with either foot, any area other than that behind the base-line
within the imaginary extensions of the centre-mark and side-lines.
USTA Comment: The key to understanding this rule is to realize that
the Server's feet must be at rest immediately before beginning to serve.
Immediately thereafter, the delivery of the service begins with any arm
or racket motion, and ends when the racket contacts the ball (or misses
the ball in attempt to strike it).
If either foot touches the Court, including the baseline, or the imaginary
extension of a line specified in Rule 8b. after his feet are at rest
but before he strikes the ball, he has committed a foot fault.
There can be no foot fault if the Server does not attempt to strike at
the ball. As long as the Server makes no attempt to strike at the ball,
it is immaterial whether he catches it in his hand or his racket or lets
it drop to the ground.
USTA Comment: This rule covers the most decisive stroke in the game,
and there is no justification for its not being obeyed by players and
enforced by officials. No official has the right to instruct any umpire
to disregard violations of it. In a non-officiated match, the Receiver,
or his partner, may call foot faults after all efforts (appeal to the
server, request for an umpire, etc.) have failed and the foot faulting
is so flagrant as to be clearly perceptible from the Receiver's side.
It is improper for any official to warn a player that he is in danger
of having a foot fault called on him. On the other hand, if a player
asks for an explanation of how he foot faulted, either the Line Umpire
or the Chair Umpire should give him that information.
9. Delivery of Service
a. In delivering the service, the Server shall stand alternately behind
the right and left halves of the Court beginning from the right in
every game. If service from a wrong half of the Court occurs and
is undetected, all play resulting from such wrong service or services
shall stand, but the inaccuracy of station shall be corrected immediately
after it is discovered.
b. The ball served shall pass over the net and hit the ground within
the Service Court which is diagonally opposite, or upon any line bounding
such Court, before the Receiver returns it.
10. Service Fault
The Service is a fault:
a. If the Server commits any breach of Rules 7, 8 or 9(b);
b. If he misses the ball in attempting to strike it;
c. If the ball served touches a permanent fixture (other than the net,
strap or band) before it hits the
Case 1. After throwing a ball up preparatory to serving, the Server
decides not to strike at it and catches it instead. Is it a fault?
USTA Comment: As long as the Server makes no attempt to strike at the
ball, it is immaterial whether he catches it in his hand or his racket
or lets it drop to the ground.
Case 2. In serving in a singles game played on a Doubles Court with
doubles posts and singles sticks, the ball hits a singles stick and then
hits the ground within the lines of the correct Service Court. Is this
a fault or a let?
Decision: In serving it is a fault, because the singles stick, the doubles
post, and that portion of the net, or band between them are permanent
fixtures. (Rules 2 and 10, and note to Rule 24.)
USTA Comment: The significant point is that the part
of the net and band "outside" the singles sticks is not part of the net over
which this singles match is being played. Thus such a serve is a fault
under the provisions of subparagraph c. above. By the same token, this
would be a fault also if it were a singles game played with permanent
posts in the singles position. See Case 1 under Rule 24 for difference
between "service" and "good return" with respect
to a ball hitting a net post.
11. Second Service
After a fault (if it is the first fault) the Server shall serve again
from behind the same half of the Court from which he served that
fault, unless the service was from the wrong half, when, in accordance
Rule 9, the Server shall be entitled to one service only from behind
the other half.
Case 1. A player serves from a wrong Court. He loses the point and then
claims it was a fault because of his wrong station.
Decision: The point stands as played and the next service should be from
the correct station according to the score.
Case 2. The point score being 15 all, the Server, by mistake, serves
from the left-hand Court. He wins the point. He then serves again from
the right-hand Court, delivering a fault. This mistake in station is
then discovered. Is he entitled to the previous point? From which Court
should he next serve?
Decision: The previous point stands. The next service should be from
the left-hand Court, the score being 30/15, and the Server having served
12. When to Serve
The Server shall not serve until the Receiver is ready. If the latter
attempts to return the service, he shall be deemed ready. If, however,
the Receiver signifies that he is not ready, he may not claim a fault
because the ball does not hit the ground within the limits fixed
for the service.
USTA Comment: The Server must wait until the Receiver is ready for the
second service as well as the first, and if the Receiver claims to be
not ready and does not make any effort to return a service, the Server's
claim for the point may not be honored even though the service was good.
However, the Receiver, having indicated he is ready, may not become unready
unless some outside interference takes place.
13. The Let
In all cases where a let has to be called under the rules, or to provide
for an interruption to play, it shall have the following interpretations:
a. When called solely in respect of a service that one service only
shall be replayed.
b. When called under any other circumstance, the point shall be replayed.
Case 1. A service is interrupted by some cause outside those defined
in Rule 14. Should the service only be replayed?
Decision: No, the whole point must be replayed.
USTA Comment: If the interruption occurs during delivery
of the second service, the Server gets two serves. Example: On a second
service a linesman
calls "fault" and immediately corrects it, the Receiver meanwhile
having let the ball go by. The Server is entitled to two serves, on this
ground: The corrected call means that the Server has put the ball into
play with a good service, and once the ball is in play and a let is called,
the point must be replayed. Note, however, that if the serve is an unmistakable
ace-that is, the Umpire is sure the erroneous call had no part in the
Receiver's inability to play the ball-the point should be declared for
If a delay between first and second serves is caused
by the Receiver, by an official or by an outside interference the whole
point shall be
replayed; if the delay is caused by the Server, the Server has one serve
to come. A spectator's outcry (of "out," "fault" or
other) is not a valid basis for replay of a point, but action should
be taken to prevent a recurrence.
Case 2. If a ball in play becomes broken, should a let be called?
USTA Comment: A ball shall be regarded as having
become "broken" if,
in the opinion of the Umpire, it is found to have lost compression to
the point of being unfit for further play, or unfit for any reason, and
it is clear the defective ball was the one in play.
14. The "Let" in Service
The Service is a let:
a. If the ball served touches the net, strap or band, and is otherwise
good, or, after touching the net, strap or band, touches the Receiver
or anything which he wears or carries before hitting the ground.
b. If a service or a fault is delivered when the Receiver is not ready
(see Rule 12).
In case of a let, that particular service shall not count, and the Server
shall serve again, but a service let does not annul a previous fault.
15. Order of Service
At the end of the first game the Receiver shall become Server, and
the Server Receiver; and so on alternately in all the subsequent
of a match. If a player serves out of turn, the player who ought
to have served shall serve as soon as the mistake is discovered,
points scored before such discovery shall stand. A fault served before
such discovery shall not stand. If a game shall have been completed
before such discovery, the order of service shall remain as altered.
16. When Players Change Ends
The players shall change ends at the end of the first, third and every
subsequent alternate game of each set, and at the end of each set
unless the total number of games in such set is even, in which case
is not made until the end of the first game of the next set.
If a mistake is made and the correct sequence is not followed the players
must take up their correct station as soon as the discovery is made and
follow their original sequence.
17. The Ball in Play
A ball is in play from the moment at which it is delivered in service.
Unless a fault or a let is called it remains in play until the point
USTA Comment: A point is not decided simply when, or because, a good
shot has clearly passed a player, or when an apparently bad shot passes
over a baseline or sideline. An outgoing ball is still definitely in
play until it actually strikes the ground, backstop, or a permanent fixture
(other than the net, posts, singles sticks, cord or metal cable, strap
or band), or a player. The same applies to a good ball, bounding after
it has landed in the proper Court. A ball that becomes imbedded in the
net is out of play.
USTA Comment: When a ball is hit into the net and the player on the
other side, thinking the ball is coming over, strikes at it and hits
the net he loses the point if his touching the net occurs while the ball
is still in play.
Case 1. A player fails to make a good return. No call is made and the
ball remains in play. May his opponent later claim the point after the
rally has ended?
Decision: No. The point may not be claimed if the players continue to
play after the error has been made, provided the opponent was not hindered.
USTA Comment: An out call on A's shot to B's Court must be made before
B's return has either gone out of play or been hit by A. See Case 3 under
Rule 29 regarding this situation in an umpired match.
18. Server Wins Point
The Server wins the point:
a. If the ball served, not being a let under Rule 14, touches the Receiver
or anything which he wears or carries, before it hits the ground;
b. If the Receiver otherwise loses the point as provided by Rule 20.
19. Receiver Wins Point
The Receiver wins the point:
a. If the Server serves two consecutive faults;
b. If the Server otherwise loses the point as provided by Rule 20.
20. Player Loses Point
A player loses the point if:
a. He fails, before the ball in play has hit the ground twice consecutively,
to return it directly over the net (except as provided in Rule 24(a)
or (c)); or
b. He returns the ball in play so that it hits the ground, a permanent
fixture, or other object, outside any of the lines which bound his
opponent's Court; or
c. He volleys the ball and fails to make a good return even when standing
outside the Court; or
USTA Comment: A ball hitting a scoring device or other object attached
to a net post results in loss of point to the striker.
d. In playing the ball he deliberately carries or catches it on his
racket or deliberately touches it with his racket more than once; or
USTA Comment: Only when there is a definite "second push" by
the player does his shot become illegal, with consequent loss of point.
The word "deliberately" is the key word in this rule. Two hits
occurring in the course of a single continuous swing are not deemed a
e. He or his racket (in his hand or otherwise) or anything which he
wears or carries touches the net, posts, singles sticks, cord or metal
cable, strap or band, or the ground within his opponent's Court at any
time while the ball is in play; or
USTA Comment: Touching a pipe support that runs across the Court at
the bottom of the net is interpreted as touching the net. See USTA Comment
under Rule 23 for a ball which hits a pipe support.
f. He volleys the ball before it has passed the net; or
g. The ball in play touches him or anything that he wears or carries,
except his racket in his hand or hands; or
USTA Comment: This loss of point occurs regardless of whether the player
is inside or outside the bounds of his Court when the ball touches him.
h. He throws his racket at and hits the ball; or
i. He deliberately and materially changes the shape of his racket during
the playing of the point.
Case 1. In serving, the racket flies from the Server's hand and touches
the net before the ball has touched the ground. Is this a fault, or does
the player lose the point?
Decision: The Server loses the point because his racket touches the net
whilst the ball is in play (Rule 20(e)).
Case 2. In serving, the racket flies from the Server's hand and touches
the net after the ball has touched the ground outside the proper court.
Is this a fault, or does the player lose the point?
Decision: This is a fault because the ball was out of play when the racket
touched the net.
Case 3. A and B are playing against C and D, A is serving to D, C touches
the net before the ball touches the ground. A fault is then called because
the service falls outside the Service Court. Do C and D lose the point?
Decision: The call "fault" is an erroneous one. C and D had
already lost the point before "fault" could be called, because
C touched the net whilst the ball was in play (Rule 20(e)).
Case 4. May a player jump over the net into his opponent's Court while
the ball is in play and not suffer penalty?
Decision. No. He loses the point (Rule 20(e)).
Case 5. A cuts the ball just over the net, and it returns to A's side.
B, unable to reach the ball, throws his racket and hits the ball. Both
racket and ball fall over the net on A's Court. A returns the ball outside
of B's Court. Does B win or lose the point?
Decision: B loses the point (Rule 20(e) and (h)).
Case 6. A player standing outside the service Court is struck by a service
ball before it has touched the ground. Does he win or lose the point?
Decision: The player struck loses the point (Rule 20(g)), except as provided
under Rule 14(a).
Case 7. A player standing outside the Court volleys the ball or catches
it in his hand and claims the point because the ball was certainly going
out of court.
Decision: In no circumstances can he claim the point:
i. If he catches the ball he loses the point under Rule 20(g).
ii. If he volleys it and makes a bad return he loses the point under
iii. If he volleys it and makes a good return, the rally continues.
21. Player Hinders Opponent
If a player commits any act which hinders his opponent in making a
stroke, then, if this is deliberate, he shall lose the point or if
the point shall be replayed.
Case 1. Is a player liable to a penalty if in making a stroke he touches
Decision: No, unless the Umpire deems it necessary to take action under
Case 2. When a ball bounds back over the net, the player concerned may
reach over the net in order to play the ball. What is the ruling if the
player is hindered from doing this by his opponent?
Decision: In accordance with Rule 21, the Umpire may either award the
point to the player hindered, or order the point to be replayed (see
also Rule 25).
Case 3. Does an involuntary double hit constitute an act which hinders
an opponent within Rule 21?
USTA Comment: "Deliberate" means a player did what he intended
to do, although the resulting effect on his opponent might or might not
have been what he intended. Example: a player, after his return is in
the air, gives advice to his partner in such a loud voice that his opponent
is hindered. "Involuntary" means a non-intentional act such
as a hat blowing off or a scream resulting from a sudden wasp sting.
22. Ball Falls on Line
A ball falling on a line is regarded as falling in the Court bounded
by that line.
USTA Comment: In a non-officiated match, each player makes the call
on any ball hit toward his side of the net. If a player cannot call a
ball out with certainty he should regard it as good. In doubles, normally
the Receiver's partner makes the calls with respect to the service line,
with the Receiver calling the side and center lines, but either partner
may make the call on any ball he clearly sees out.
23. Ball Touches Permanent Fixtures
If the ball in play touches a permanent fixture (other than the net,
posts, singles sticks, cord or metal cable, strap or band) after
it has hit the ground, the player who struck it wins the point; if
it hits the ground, his opponent wins the point.
USTA Comment: A ball in play that strikes a pipe support running across
the Court at the base of the net is treated the same as a ball landing
on clear ground. See USTA Comment under Rule 20 e. for a player who touches
a pipe support.
Case 1. A return hits the Umpire or his chair or stand. The player claims
that the ball was going into Court.
Decision: He loses the point.
24. A Good Return
It is a good return:
a. If the ball touches the net, posts, singles sticks, cord or metal
cable, strap or band, provided that it passes over any of them and
hits the ground within the Court; or
b. If the ball, served or returned, hits the ground within the proper
Court and rebounds or is blown back over the net, and the player whose
turn it is to strike reaches over the net and plays the ball, provided
that he does not contravene Rule 20(e); or
c. If the ball is returned outside the posts, or singles sticks, either
above or below the level of the top of the net, even though it touches
the posts or singles sticks, provided that it hits the ground within
the proper Court; or
d. If a player's racket passes over the net after he has returned the
ball, provided the ball passes the net before being played and is properly
e. If a player succeeds in returning the ball, served or in play, which
strikes a ball lying in the Court.
USTA Comment: Paragraph e. of the rule refers to
a ball lying on the Court at the start of the point, as a result of
a service let or fault,
or as a result of a player dropping it. If a ball in play strikes a rolling
or stationary "foreign" ball that has come from elsewhere after
the point started, a let should be played. See Case 7 under Rule 25 which
pertains to an object other than a ball that is being used in the match.
ITF Note: In a singles match, if, for the sake of convenience, a Doubles
Court is equipped with singles sticks for the purpose of a singles game,
then the doubles posts and those portions of the net, cord or metal cable
and the band outside such singles sticks shall at all times be permanent
fixtures, and are not regarded as posts or parts of the net of a singles
A return that passes under the net cord between the singles stick and
adjacent doubles post without touching either net cord, net or doubles
post and falls within the court, is a good return.
USTA Comment: In doubles this would be a "through"-loss
Case 1. A ball going out of Court hits a net post or singles stick and
falls within the lines of the opponent's Court. Is the stroke good?
Decision: If a service: no, under Rule 10c. If other than a service:
yes, under Rule 24(a).
Case 2. Is it a good return if a player returns the ball holding his
racket in both hands?
Case 3. The service, or ball in play, strikes a ball lying in the Court.
Is the point won or lost thereby?
Decision: No. Play must continue. If it is not clear to the Umpire that
the right ball is returned a let should be called.
USTA Comment: A ball that is touching a boundary
line is considered to be "lying in the Court".
Case 4. May a player use more than one racket at any time during play?
Decision: No. The whole implication of the Rules is singular.
Case 5. May a player request that a ball or balls lying in his opponent's
Court be removed?
Decision: Yes, but not while a ball is in play.
USTA Comment: This request must be honored.
25. Hindrance of a Player
In case a player is hindered in making a stroke by anything not within
his control, except a permanent fixture of the Court, or except as
provided for in Rule 21, a let shall be called.
USTA Comment: See Rule 13 and its USTA Comments regarding lets.
Case 1. A spectator gets into the way of a player, who fails to return
the ball. May the player then claim a let?
Decision: Yes. If in the Umpire's opinion he was obstructed by circumstances
beyond his control, but not if due to permanent fixtures of the Court
or the arrangements of the ground.
Case 2. A player is interfered with as in Case No.1, and the Umpire
calls a let. The Server had previously served a fault. Has he the right
to two services?
Decision: Yes. If the ball is in play, the point, not merely the stroke,
must be replayed as the Rule provides.
Case 3. May a player claim a let under Rule 25 because he thought his
opponent was being hindered, and consequently did not expect the ball
to be returned?
Case 4. Is a stroke good when a ball in play hits another ball in the
Decision: A let should be called unless the other ball is in the air
by the act of one of the players, in which case the Umpire will decide
under Rule 21.
Case 5. If an Umpire or other judge erroneously calls "fault" or "out",
and then corrects himself, which of the calls shall prevail?
Decision: A let must be called unless, in the opinion of the Umpire,
neither player is hindered in his game, in which case the corrected call
Case 6. If the first ball served-a fault-rebounds, interfering with
the Receiver at the time of the second service, may the Receiver claim
Decision: Yes. But if he had an opportunity to remove the ball from the
Court and negligently failed to do so, he may not claim a let.
Case 7. Is it a good stroke if the ball touches a stationary or moving
object on the Court?
Decision: It is a good stroke unless the stationary object came into
Court after the ball was put into play in which case a let must be called.
If the ball in play strikes an object moving along or above the surface
of the Court a let must be called.
Case 8. What is the ruling if the first service is a fault, the second
service correct, and it becomes necessary to call a let either under
the provision of Rule 25 or if the Umpire is unable to decide the point?
Decision: The fault shall be annulled and the whole point replayed.
26. Score in a Game
a. If a player wins his first point, the score is called 15 for that
player; on winning his second point, the score is called 30 for that
player; on winning his third point, the score is called 40 for that
player, and the fourth point won by a player is scored game for that
player except as below:-
If both players have won three points, the score is called deuce;
and the next point won by a player is scored advantage for that player.
the same player wins the next point, he wins the game; if the other
player wins the next point the score is again called deuce; and so
a player wins the two points immediately following the score at deuce,
when the game is scored for that player.
b. Optional Alternative Scoring System
The No-Ad System of Scoring may be adopted as an alternative to the traditional
scoring system during the period 1 January 1999 to 31 December 2000
provided the decision is announced in advance of the event.
In this case, the following Rules shall be effective:
If a player wins his first point, the score is called 15 for that player;
on winning his second point, the score is called 30 for that player;
on winning his third point, the score is called 40 for that player,
and the fourth point won by a player is scored game for that player
except as below:
If both players have won three points, the score is called deuce; one
deciding point shall then be played whereby the receiver shall choose
whether he wishes to receive the service from the right-half of the court
or the left- half of the court. The player who wins the deciding point
is scored the game.
In doubles a similar procedure to that for singles shall apply. At deuce
the Receiving Team shall choose whether it wishes to receive the Service
from the right-half of the court or the left-half of the court. The
team who wins the deciding point is scored the game.
In mixed doubles, a slightly different procedure will apply as follows:
At deuce, with the male player serving, he shall serve to the male
player of the opposing team irrespective of which half of the court
he is standing, and when the female player is serving, she shall serve
to the female player of the opposing team.
USTA Comment: In a non-officiated match the Server should announce,
in a voice audible to his opponent and spectators, the set score at the
beginning of each game, and point scores as the game goes on. Misunderstandings
will be avoided if this practice is followed.
USTA Comment: USTA Regulation I.U.9. authorizes the referee to switch
to No-Ad scoring without prior notice in all tournaments other than national
championships when weather or other factors cause the tournament to fall
behind its published schedule.
27. Score in a Set
a. A player (or players) who first wins six games wins a set; except
that he must win by a margin of two games over his opponent and where
necessary a set is extended until this margin is achieved.
b. The tie-break system of scoring may be adopted as an alternative
to the advantage set system in paragraph (a) of this Rule provided the
decision is announced in advance of the match.
In this case, the following Rules shall be effective:
The tie-break shall operate when the score reaches six games all in
any set except in the third or fifth set of a three-set or five-set match
respectively when an ordinary advantage set shall be played, unless otherwise
decided and announced in advance of the match.
USTA Comment: USTA Regulations require that a tie-break be played in
The following system shall be used in a tie-break game.
i. A player who first wins seven points shall win the game and the set
provided he leads by a margin of two points. If the score reaches six
points all the game shall be extended until this margin has been achieved.
Numerical scoring shall be used throughout the tie-break game.
ii. The player whose turn it is to serve shall be the Server for the
first point. His opponent shall be the Server for the second and third
points and thereafter each player shall serve alternately for two consecutive
points until the winner of the game and set has been decided.
iii. From the first point, each service shall be delivered alternately
from the right and left Courts, beginning from the right Court. If service
from a wrong half of the Court occurs and is undetected, all play resulting
from such wrong service or services shall stand, but the inaccuracy of
station shall be corrected immediately it is discovered.
iv. Players shall change ends after every six points and at the conclusion
of the tie-break game.
v. The tie-break game shall count as one game for the ball change, except
that, if the balls are due to be changed at the beginning of the tie-break,
the change shall be delayed until the second game of the following set.
In doubles the procedure for singles shall apply. The player whose turn
it is to serve shall be the Server for the first point. Thereafter
each player shall serve in rotation for two points, in the same order
previously in that set, until the winners of the game and set have
Rotation of Service
The player (or pair in the case of doubles) whose turn it was to serve
first in the tie-break game shall receive service in the first game
of the following set.
Case 1. At six all the tie-break is played, although it has been decided
and announced in advance of the match that an advantage set will be played.
Are the points already played counted?
Decision: If the error is discovered before the ball is put in play for
the second point, the first point shall count but the error shall be
corrected immediately. If the error is discovered after the ball is put
in play for the second point the game shall continue as a tie-break game.
Case 2. At six all, an advantage game is played, although it has been
decided and announced in advance of the match that a tie-break will be
played. Are the points already played counted?
Decision: If the error is discovered before the ball is put in play for
the second point, the first point shall be counted but the error shall
be corrected immediately. If the error is discovered after the ball is
put in play for the second point an advantage set shall be continued.
If the score thereafter reaches eight games all or a higher even number,
a tie-break shall be played.
Case 3. If during a tie-break in a singles or doubles game, a player
serves out of turn, shall the order of service remain as altered until
the end of the game?
Decision: If a player has completed his turn of service the order of
service shall remain as altered. If the error is discovered before a
player has completed his turn of service the order of service shall be
corrected immediately and any points already played shall count.
28. Maximum Number of Sets
The maximum number of sets in a match shall be 5, or, where women take
29. Role of Court Officials
In matches where an Umpire is appointed, his decision shall be final;
but where a Referee is appointed, an appeal shall lie to him from
the decision of an Umpire on a question of law, and in all such cases
decision of the Referee shall be final.
In matches where assistants to the Umpire are appointed (Linespersons,
Net-cord Judges, Foot-fault Judges) their decisions shall be final on
questions of fact except that if in the opinion of an Umpire a clear
mistake has been made he shall have the right to change the decision
of an assistant or order a let to be played. When such an assistant is
unable to give a decision he shall indicate this immediately to the Umpire
who shall give a Decision. When an Umpire is unable to give a decision
on a question of fact he shall order a let to be played.
In Davis Cup matches or other team competitions where a Referee is on
Court, any decision can be changed by the Referee, who may also instruct
an Umpire to order a let to be played.
The Referee, in his discretion, may at any time postpone a match on account
of darkness or the condition of the ground or the weather. In any case
of postponement the previous score and previous occupancy of courts shall
hold good, unless the Referee and the players unanimously agree otherwise.
USTA Comment: See fourth USTA Comment under Rule 30 regarding resumption
of suspended match.
Case 1. The Umpire orders a let, but a player claims that the point
should not be replayed. May the Referee be requested to give a decision?
Decision: Yes. A question of tennis law, that is, an issue relating to
the application of specific facts, shall first be determined by the Umpire.
However, if the Umpire is uncertain or if a player appeals from his determination,
then the Referee shall be requested to give a decision, and his decision
Case 2. A ball is called out, but a player claims that the ball was
good. May the Referee give a ruling?
Decision: No. This is a question of fact, that is an issue relating to
what actually occurred during a specific incident, and the decision of
the on-court officials is therefore final.
Case 3. May an Umpire overrule a Linesman at the end of a rally if,
in his opinion, a clear mistake has been made during the course of a
Decision: No. An Umpire may overrule a Linesman only if he does so immediately
after the mistake has been made.
USTA Comment: See Rule 17, Case 1 regarding non-officiated matches.
Case 4. A Linesman calls a ball out. The Umpire was unable to see clearly,
although he thought the ball was in. May he overrule the Linesman?
Decision: No. An Umpire may only overrule if he considers that a call
was incorrect beyond all reasonable doubt. He may only overrule a ball
determined good by a Linesman only if he has been able to see a space
between the ball and the line; and he may only overrule a ball determined
out, or a fault, by a Linesman only if he has seen the ball hit the line,
or fall inside the line.
Case 5. May a Linesman change his call after the Umpire has given the
Decision: Yes. If a Linesman realises he has made an error, he may make
a correction provided he does so immediately.
Case 6. A player claims his return shot was good
after a Linesman called "out." May
the Umpire overrule the Linesman?
Decision: No. An Umpire may never overrule as a result of a protest or
an appeal by a player.
30. Continuous Play & Rest Periods
Play shall be continuous from the first service until the match is
concluded, in accordance with the following provisions:
a. If the first service is a fault, the second service must be struck
by the Server without delay.
The Receiver must play to the reasonable pace of the Server and must
be ready to receive when the Server is ready to serve.
When changing ends a maximum of one minute thirty seconds shall elapse
from the moment the ball goes out of play at the end of the game to the
time the ball is struck for the first point of the next game.
The Umpire shall use his discretion when there is interference which
makes it impractical for play to be continuous.
The organisers of international circuits and team events recognised
by the ITF may determine the time allowed between points, which shall
not at any time exceed twenty (20) seconds from the moment the ball goes
out of play at the end of one point to the time the ball is struck for
the next point.
USTA Comment: The 20 second rule applies only to certain international
circuits and team events recognized by the ITF. When practical, in USTA
sanctioned tournaments using a certified official in direct observation
of the match, the time which shall elapse from the moment the ball goes
out of play at the end of the point to the time the ball is struck shall
not exceed 25 seconds.
b. Play shall never be suspended, delayed or interfered with for the
purpose of enabling a player to recover his strength, breath, or physical
However, in the case of accidental injury, the Umpire may allow a one-time
three minute suspension for that injury.
c. If, through circumstances outside the control of the player, his
clothing, footwear or equipment (excluding racket) becomes out of adjustment
in such a way that it is impossible or undesirable for him to play on,
the Umpire may suspend play while the maladjustment is rectified.
USTA Comment: If equipment other than a racket becomes unusable through
circumstances outside the control of the player, play may be suspended
for a reasonable period and the player may leave the Court to correct
the problem. If a racket or racket string is broken, Rule 30 does not
permit play to be suspended. A player who leaves the Court to get a replacement
is subject to code violation(s) under the Point Penalty System.
USTA Comment: Loss of, or damage to, a contact lens or eyeglasses shall
be treated as equipment maladjustment. All players must follow the same
rules with respect to suspending play, even though in misty but playable
weather, a player who wears glasses may be handicapped.
d. The Umpire may suspend or delay play at any time as may be necessary
e. After the third set, or when women take part the second set, either
player is entitled to a rest, which shall not exceed 10 minutes, or in
countries situated between latitude 15 degrees north and latitude 15
degrees south, 45 minutes and furthermore, when necessitated by circumstances
not within the control of the players, the Umpire may suspend play for
such a period as he may consider necessary. If play is suspended and
is not resumed until a later day the rest may be taken only after the
third set (or when women take part the second set) of play on such a
later day, completion of an unfinished set being counted as one set.
If play is suspended and is not resumed until 10 minutes have elapsed
in the same day the rest may be taken only after three consecutive sets
have been played without interruption (or when women take part two sets),
completion of an unfinished set being counted as one set.
Any nation and/or committee organising a tournament, match or competition,
is at liberty to modify this provision or omit it from its regulations
provided this is announced before the event commences. With respect to
the Davis Cup and Fed Cup, only the International Tennis Federation may
modify this provision or omit it from its Regulations.
USTA Comment: When a match is resumed after a suspension of more than
ten minutes, it is permissible for the players to engage in a re-warm-up
that may be of the same duration as that at the start of the match. The
preferred method is to warm-up with other used balls and then insert
the match balls when play starts. If the match balls are used in the
re-warm-up, then the next ball change will be two games sooner. There
shall be no re-warm-up after an authorized intermission or after a suspension
of ten minutes or less.
f. A tournament committee has the discretion to decide the time allowed
for a warm-up period prior to a match but this may not exceed five minutes
and must be announced before the event commences.
USTA Comment: When there are no ballpersons this time may be extended
to 10 minutes.
g. When approved point penalty and non-accumulative point penalty systems
are in operation, the Umpire shall make his decisions within the terms
of those systems.
h. Upon violation of the principle that play shall be continuous the
Umpire may, after giving due warning, disqualify the offender.
During the playing of a match in a team competition, a player may receive
coaching from a captain who is sitting on the court only when he
changes ends at the end of a game, but not when he changes ends during
A player may not receive coaching during the playing of any other match.
The provisions of this rule must be strictly construed.
After due warning an offending player may be disqualified. When an approved
point penalty system is in operation, the Umpire shall impose penalties
according to that system.
Case 1. Should a warning be given, or the player be disqualified, if
the coaching is given by signals in an unobtrusive manner?
Decision: The Umpire must take action as soon as he becomes aware that
coaching is being given verbally or by signals. If the Umpire is unaware
that coaching is being given, a player may draw his attention to the
fact that advice is being given.
Case 2. Can a player receive coaching during an authorised rest period
under Rule 30(e), or when play is interrupted and he leaves the court?
Decision: Yes. In these circumstances, when the player is not on the
court, there is no restriction on coaching.
USTA Comment: Coaching is not permitted in the USTA Adult and Senior
League Program except during authorized rest periods.
ITF Note: The word "coaching" includes
any advice or instruction.
32. Ball Change
In cases where balls are to be changed after a specified number of
games, if the balls are not changed in the correct sequence, the
be corrected when the player, or pair in the case of doubles, who
should have served with new balls is next due to serve. Thereafter
shall be changed so that the number of games between changes shall
be that originally agreed.
The Doubles Game
33. The Doubles Game
The above Rules shall apply to the Doubles Game except as below.
34. The Doubles Court
For the Doubles Game, the court shall be 36 feet (10.97m.) in width,
i.e. 41/2 feet (1.37m.) wider on each side than the Court for the
Singles Game, and those portions of the singles side-lines which
the two service-lines shall be called the service side-lines. In
other respects, the Court shall be similar to that described in Rule
the portions of the singles side-lines between the base-line and
service-line on each side of the net may be omitted if desired.
USTA Comment: The Server has the right in doubles to stand anywhere
in back of the baseline between the center mark imaginary extension and
the doubles sideline imaginary extension.
35. Order of Service in Doubles
The order of serving shall be decided at the beginning of each set
The pair who have to serve in the first game of each set shall decide
which partner shall do so and the opposing pair shall decide similarly
for the second game. The partner of the player who served in the first
game shall serve in the third; the partner of the player who served
in the second game shall serve in the fourth, and so on in the same
in all the subsequent games of a set.
Case 1. In doubles, one player does not appear in time to play, and
his partner claims to be allowed to play single-handed against the opposing
players. May he do so?
36. Order of Receiving in Doubles
The order of receiving the service shall be decided at the beginning
of each set as follows:-
The pair who have to receive the service in the first game shall
decide which partner shall receive the first service, and that partner
continue to receive the first service in every odd game throughout
that set. The opposing pair shall likewise decide which partner shall
the first service in the second game and that partner shall continue
to receive the first service in every even game throughout that set.
Partners shall receive the service alternately throughout each game.
Case 1. Is it allowable in doubles for the Server's partner or the Receiver's
partner to stand in a position that obstructs the view of the Receiver?
Decision. Yes. The Server's partner or the Receiver's partner may take
any position on his side of the net in or out of the Court that he wishes.
37. Service out of Turn in Doubles
If a partner serves out of his turn, the partner who ought to have
served shall serve as soon as the mistake is discovered, but all
and any faults served before such discovery, shall be reckoned. If
a game shall have been completed before such discovery, the order
of service remains as altered.
USTA Comment: For an exception to Rule 37 see Case 3 under Rule 27.
38. Error in Order of Receiving in Doubles
If during a game the order of receiving the service is changed by the
Receivers it shall remain as altered until the end of the game in
which the mistake is discovered, but the partners shall resume their
order of receiving in the next game of that set in which they are
Receivers of the service.
39. Service Fault in Doubles
The service is a fault as provided for by Rule 10, or if the ball touches
the Server's partner or anything which he wears or carries; but if
the ball served touches the partner of the Receiver, or anything
which he wears or carries, not being a let under Rule 14(a) before
the ground, the Server wins the point.
40. Playing the Ball in Doubles
The ball shall be struck alternately by one or other player of the
opposing pairs, and if a player touches the ball in play with his
contravention of this Rule, his opponents win the point.
ITF Note 1: Except where otherwise stated, every reference in these
Rules to the masculine includes the feminine gender.
ITF Note 2: See Rule 26(b) with regard to the Optional Alternative Scoring
System in Doubles and Mixed.
USTA Comment: The partners themselves do not have
to "alternate" in
making returns. In the course of making one return, only one member of
a doubles team may hit the ball. If both of them hit the ball, either
simultaneously or consecutively, it is an illegal return. Mere clashing
of rackets does not make a return illegal unless it is clear that more
than one racket touched the ball.
If you have a rules problem, send full details, enclosing a stamped
self-addressed envelope, to USTA Tennis Rules Committee, c/o Officials'
Department, 70 West Red Oak Lane, White Plains, NY 10604-3602.