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USTA Rules: Divided We Fall

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USTA Rules: Divided We Fall

I personally can’t stand playing tennis indoors, and what happened this past week is just one (of many) reason why.

My doubles partner was returning a wide ball, but ran into the netting that divides the courts. As she did so, her foot got caught in an existing hole (created by previous players doing the same thing) in the netting, causing her to nearly fall and drop her racket.

She wasn’t hurt, and managed to free her foot, regain her balance and grab her racket, but she didn’t make it to the ball in time. So of course, we assumed the point would be played over since the net divider is a few feet away from the sidelines. But our opponents argued that the netting was part of the court, and that they won the point.

Is There a Rule That Governs Acceptable Surfaces For Match Play?

WTF?! How could they say that?! Obviously, the net is NOT part of the court – it’s more than 2 feet away from the court!

Quick! Someone get out their USTA rules handbook!

Well… Our opponents were right. According to Rule 2, the court dividers are considered to be a “permanent fixture”.

Rule 2: Permanent Fixtures

The permanent fixtures of the court include the backstops and sidestops, the spectators, the stands and seats for spectators, all other fixtures around and above the court, the chair umpire, line umpires, net umpire and ball persons when in their recognized positions.

WOW! I had no idea!

As unfair as this rule seems, at least we were satisfied that our opponents had to deal with the same problem. And with serves out wide and sharply angled shots, we made sure they had to deal with that problem. A lot!

League Tennis Players, Know Your USTA Rules...Especially 21 And 22!

Has this ever happened to you? Do you think this rule is fair? Let’s discuss in the comment section below!

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).



  1. Wendy

    March 26, 2015 at 10:24 pm

    Well a big part of the problem is that these are not properly installed. If the dividing net had all the proper parts it would have vinyl velcroed to the net on the first foot at least. This is here particularly to keep you from getting stuck. Secondly it is perfectly acceptable to refuse to play unless the net is opened. Of course if someone is hitting from a ball machine or doing drills this would not be feasible.

  2. Dana Kalal

    March 26, 2015 at 1:44 pm

    Yes, I think it is fair- it is the same for all. I played once on outdoor courts that had those and my partner opened the dividing screens because I wasn’t running into them. If she hadn’t we might have lost- I was treating them like they were walls. My question is- if you hit the ball into the scorepost and it lands in, isn’t that ball still live?

    • Jen

      March 26, 2015 at 6:14 pm

      Hey there, Dana :-)

      It is the same for all, but I’d rather have the same of something that isn’t an injury waiting to happen, lol!

      And in response to your question regarding the scorepost, whoever hit the ball into it lost the point.

      According to USTA’s Rule 13 (pg. 10):

      If the ball in play touches a permanent fixture before it hits the ground, the player who hit the ball loses the point.

      It’s specifically defined in Comment 13.2 (pg. 10):

      Who wins the point if a player hits a ball that hits an object attached to the net or post (such as the scoring device) and then lands in the proper court? The player who hit the ball loses the point because it hit a permanent fixture before landing in the court.

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