Clinton-Laurens-Newberry Tennis Association

» News

When in doubt call it out - NOT!

by Wilson Smith (The Roving Umpire)


I’ve heard people quote the mythical Hacker’s Handbook, “When In doubt call it out”.  Unfortunately, I don’t think they were kidding.  Without getting into too many acronyms and governing bodies, suffice it to say that there are two things players should be familiar with, 1) The Rules of Tennis, and 2) The Code.

The Rules specify every little detail down to the size of the ball and the height of the net.  The Code is the unwritten rules and traditions that everyone must follow to make the game fair and fun.  The Code ( isn’t long and detailed and it is definitely worth reading.  Almost all disputes will be resolved or prevented by being familiar with The Code.

Here is an abridged and edited excerpt from the section “Making Calls”.  I’ve used The Code’s original numbering system.

5. Player makes calls on own side of net.

6. Opponent gets benefit of doubt. A player should always give the opponent the benefit of any doubt. When a match is played without officials, the players are responsible for making decisions, particularly for line calls. A player is guided by the principle that any doubt must be resolved in favor of an opponent. A player in attempting to be scrupulously honest on line calls frequently will keep a ball in play that might have been out or that the player discovers too late was out. Even so, the game is much better played this way.

7. Ball touching any part of line is good. If any part of a ball touches a line, the ball is good. A ball 99% out is still 100% good. A player shall not call a ball out unless the player clearly sees space between where the ball hits and a line.

8. Ball that cannot be called out is good. Any ball that cannot be called out is considered to be good. A player may not claim a let on the basis of not seeing a ball. One of tennis’ more infuriating moments occurs after a long hard rally when a player makes a clean placement and an opponent says: “I’m not sure if it was good or out. Let’s play a let.” Remember, it is each player’s responsibility to call all balls landing on, or aimed at, the player’s side of the net. If a ball cannot be called out with certainty, it is good. When a player says an opponent’s shot was really out but offers to replay the point to give the opponent a break, it seems clear that the player actually doubted that the ball was out.


11. Requesting opponent’s help. When an opponent’s opinion is requested and

the opponent gives a positive opinion, it must be accepted.


14. Partners’ disagreement on calls. If one partner calls the ball out and the

other partner sees the ball good, the ball is good. It is more important to give

opponents the benefit of the doubt than to avoid possibly hurting a partner’s

feelings. The tactful way to achieve the desired result is to tell a partner quietly of

the mistake and then let the partner concede the point.


21. Making calls on clay courts. If any part of a ball mark touches a line on a clay

court, the ball shall be called good.


I included the link above to The Code in the hope that it will entice you to read it for yourself.  Doing the right thing is never the wrong thing.


Play Nice….Wilson Smith