Clinton-Laurens-Newberry Tennis Association

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Lions and Tigers and Foot Faults, Oh my!

by Wilson Smith (The Roving Umpire)

How could they call a foot fault – I only stepped on the line a little!

So someone called a foot fault and you are all angry with them for calling it.  Because obviously: 1) I only stepped on the line a little, 2) I didn’t really gain an advantage, 3) I didn’t mean to, 4) It’s just a friendly game – what a jerk for sticking to the rules.

Do you hear yourself? – NOT admitting you broke the rules, but trying to justify breaking the rules and blaming the person that called you on it.  It’s like being angry at the officer who pulled you over for speeding when you were speeding.

And let’s be clear.  If your friendly game partners let you get away with it, not only are you cheating them, but it will really get into your head when you go to a tournament where they will call you on it.  It is better to fix it now.

Here are the rules on foot faults from the ITF Rules of Tennis.

During the service motion, the server shall not:
a. Change position by walking or running, although slight movements of the feet are permitted; or
b. Touch the baseline or the court with either foot; or
c. Touch the area outside the imaginary extension of the sideline with either foot; or
d. Touch the imaginary extension of the centre mark with either foot.
If the server breaks this rule it is a “Foot Fault”.

a) you can’t walk along the baseline and then just hit the ball.  You can’t take a running start (like in volleyball) to hit the serve.
b) you can’t touch the baseline or the court with either foot.  Touch is the key word here.  Not touch a little, not barely touch, you can’t touch it.  There is no “a little bit”.
c) and d) means you have to stay within the bounds of the extension of the center mark and the sidelines.

So now we know the rules but we still want to justify foot faulting?  Do you still think your foot fault is ok because you only touched the line a little?  How about if every ball of yours that hits the line I call out because “it only touched the line a little?”

How can we prevent foot faulting?  I don’t know of a Foot Faulters Anonymous chapter near by.  So first we have to admit we have a problem then we can work to solve it.

Here are my two recommendations as an instructor and official.
1) Practice your serve with a brick on the baseline in front of your foot.  If you are touching the brick before you contact the ball you are foot faulting.  (Disclaimer if you trip over the brick and hurt yourself that is on you.)
2) The Gael Monfils solution.  He starts with his left foot at the baseline then slides it back to the right foot to hit his serve.

There are The Rules, and there is The Code (you must play to both).  The Code says:
23. Avoid foot faults. Players should not foot fault because it violates the ITFRules of Tennis. It is a foot fault when a foot just touches the line, even when the player does not follow the serve to the net.
24. Calling foot faults. The receiver or the receiver’s partner may call foot faults only after all reasonable efforts, such as warning the server and attempting to get an official to the court, have failed and the foot fault is so flagrant as to be clearly perceptible from the receiver’s side.

If because it breaks the rules or if because it is cheating is not enough to deter you, then consider this, if my foot is moving that much then my hitting position will be changing on one of the hardest to hit shots in tennis and it will make me more inconsistent.  Don’t excuse foot faulting in yourself or others.

Play Nice….Wilson Smith