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Tennis Rules: When Changing Your Call On Your Opponent’s Ball

tennis out call

Tennis Rules

Tennis Rules: When Changing Your Call On Your Opponent’s Ball

Have you (or your doubles partner) ever called an opponent’s ball out, realized you were wrong and then changed your call? What did you do?

I see this ALL. THE. TIME. on the courts, and I also see a few different ways the players handle it. Most players will make the call correction and either let the new call stand (if corrected to “in”) and continue play, or they may offer to replay the point entirely. I’ve also seen players change their call on an opponent’s serve and offer a let of first or second serve. And occasionally, players will correct their call and immediately concede the point to their opponents.

Which scenario is correct? If you said those who conceded the point, then you were right!

There are so many players who are unaware of Section 12 of The Code (The Players’ Guide to Fair Play and the Unwritten Rules of Tennis ). Before it changed back in 2011, Section 12 used to state that, if you “corrected” your call after “mistakenly” calling a serve out, the point would be replayed. But even then, there were some extenuating circumstances:

  • if your return resulted in a “weak sitter,” you were supposed to give your opponent the point;
  • if you failed to make a good return, you were supposed to give your opponent the point; and
  • if your mistaken call was on the second serve, you were supposed to give your opponent two serves.
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Most players didn’t even follow this rule correctly, and for those who did, with the exception of that last one, there seemed to be a lot of room for argument as to what qualifies as a “weak sitter” or “poor return”, so I can see why the change was made.

The revised version of the Code is clear and to the point:

12. Out Calls Reversed. A player who calls a ball out shall reverse the call if the player becomes uncertain or realizes that the ball was good. The point goes to the opponent and is not replayed. However, when a receiver reverses a fault call on a serve that hit the net, the server is entitled to two serves.

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It no longer matters if you attempt to make a return, or what the quality of that return is, or if it’s the first or second serve…if you reverse your call from out to in, your opponent takes the point (except for the serve that hits the net), and even though you’d be giving up a point, it IS the honest and right thing to do.

This can also happen to you, so be prepared. Watch out for those players who change their calls and then graciously “give” you a let. Don’t fall for that! Know the Code…know the rules.

4.5 USTA rated/open champion level tennis player, vegan, fitness freak, animal lover, and smart ass who firmly believes that champagne is anathema for all ills. Right now I'm either up to my eyeballs in paint swatches and fabric samples, or kicking some butt on a tennis court (hopefully the latter).

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