Good tennis etiquette is not about wearing “whites” (amazingly there are still some clubs that insist on this) or saying “well played” at the drop of a straw hat! It is about the little things that help a match go smoothly, don’t spook your opponent and show consideration to players on other courts. Most of what follows is common sense.
Occasionally the points overlap with the written rules of the game and if you really want to get your advanced tennis driving license you could do a lot worse than spending a little time with the rule book: you can read it in all its glory here.
But follow these guidelines and you will find friendly, competitive tennis more fun than ever.
That ball was out!
You call the ball on your side of the net. If you saw the ball out, it is out and your opponent has to accept it with good grace. But you have to be sure. If you are in any doubt, the ball is in! Don’t suggest to your opponent that you will play a let (i.e. play the point again) and don’t agree to do so if he or she asks. For a start it lengthens the game, then it undermines your ability to make a judgment and at worst a dominant player has an opportunity to steamroll his or her opponent.
You may of course challenge your opponent's call. The most effective approach is to ask if he or she is quite sure. If they are not, then the point is yours.
Here are some more thoughts from a tennis official and good friend of the Leagues (thanks Jane)
1. If you aren't sure, the ball is in
2. Most people want to be thought of as a fair caller so try to accept that calling when you are on the move is an art. Get an honest mate to watch your calling from their end and rate them out of 10.
3. Remember people make mistakes all the time (especially from bad angles) don't assume they are cheating deliberately; instead assume they are bad at calling. It helps you to cope!
There’s a ball on court
Err... remove it. And while you are at it, get into tidy ball habits! Any balls on your side of the court are your responsibility, and if you are receiving it is your job to make sure they are returned to the server. In fact, your opponent should never need to come to your side of the court (and some players would think it ill-mannered if you did). If a ball heads off to a neighbouring court, don’t rush after it. Wait till a suitable break in your own match and crucially, wait till whoever is playing on the neighbouring court has finished their point.
Let’s play a let...
Just say no if it is a disputed line call (see above), but if the point is interrupted in another way, this is the fairest thing to do. So, if a ball, small child, or asteroid rolls onto court, either one of you can call a let. Simply replay the point when the court is clear.
This is the server’s responsibility and the easiest way is to announce the score at the beginning of each point. If your opponent disagrees try to track back the points. If you really can’t agree on the score, you must go back to the last point you both agree on. (By the way, if you are receiving, don’t call out the score yourself – when you know the etiquette it is funny how irritating this can be!)
I need to let off steam
Fine, but be careful. Tennis is a tense, adrenaline-fuelled game and no one expects it to be played in silence. Emotions are part of the game, but if you swear and shout – even if it is only at your racket – you will probably put your opponent off their game and may well offend them with your language. And that’s just not cricket. (I once witnessed a match where a player’s opponent walked off court. Her normally nice-as-pie opponent was getting so worked up she feared for her safety. Naturally, he was mortified but the damage was done.)
The best players keep the chit chat, the screaming and the shouting to a minimum. Think Roger Federer and you won’t go far wrong.
I want to bring my supporters
It can be nice to have some support from the wings, but if your coach, mum, dad, significant other, dog and entire fan base do want to watch, check it out with your opponent first. If they are uncomfortable with that, give them the benefit of the doubt and ask your team to adjourn to a local cafe and await the result! Common courtesy in any case demands that spectators remain outside the courts and show their support respectfully - and they should never get involved in line calls!
Courts and cancellations
Booking arrangements for courts vary widely, but if you are the one who has to cancel, it is your responsibility. So if there is a court fee to pay, pay it! Even if there is no booking fee to lose, if the court has been reserved, do let the centre know. With players fighting for courts, it is very annoying to see a reserved court lying empty.
If courts are free to use, or don't have booking arrangements:
- Don't queue jump or ask someone else to keep your place in the queue.
- Wait outside the courts.
- Don't ask players on court when they are going to finish, or otherwise interrupt their match. You may politely ask the score at a suitable break in play.
- If there are lots of people waiting, keep your warm up to a minimum (warm up off court)
- Never hold a court for another player (either your opponent or by private arrangement a second set of players).
- Use your best judgment as to what is fair - if lots of people are waiting to play, you might want, by agreement with your opponent, to play one hour and reconvene to finish the match.
- Always observe local customs!