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Posts Tagged ‘line calls’

PostHeaderIcon Three Helpful Tips from the USTA Frontlines

Monitoring the courts at Valley Vista

Monitoring the courts at Valley Vista (courtesy USTA Norcal)

It’s been a busy January in terms of my USTA and ITA “Official” duties. Between Junior events, Adult League Mixed events, and the Cal Winter Invitational, every weekend has been booked with time spent watching some great matches. While doing so, I’ve noticed a few things that might be helpful to others as they prepare for the 2014 Adult league and tournament season. Here are three tips to help your upcoming USTA season be more productive and sporting.

Come prepared for a five-minute warm-up!

One of an official’s duties is to time the player warm-up prior to matches in officiated league events and tournament play. While doing so, I’m often struck by how unprepared many players are for the quick pace of their five-minute warm-up. Five minutes seems like a good amount of time until you think about all of the tasks you might want to accomplish in your warm-up.

Here’s a short list of what most people include in their warm-up:

  1. Short court balls to start
  2. Easy baseline shots to start
  3. Stronger baseline rallies
  4. Volleys at the net
  5. Overheads
  6. Practice serves

When you attempt to do all of these things with one or more other people on the court also trying to do them, the results can be less than satisfying.

Remember that the five-minute warm-up is NOT your match warm-up. If you come to the court without having warmed up in some other way prior to the match, it’s not your opponent’s job to do that for you; nor is it the official’s job to give you extra time.

If possible, grab a side court to hit with a friend or doubles partner. If no courts are available, you can still do shadow swings and footwork drills to prepare yourself for the match. When you go to court for your match, know exactly what you want to accomplish so that you can stay focused and not lose time. And prioritize! You may not get to do everything you want to do, but you can at least make sure that your basic needs are met to start play.

Call out the correct score before every point

A lot of time is spent in matches correcting scoring errors. Whenever officials hear talking, then see players conversing at the net, it’s almost always a scoring discrepancy. This can easily be alleviated by calling out the score before each point in a manner that’s loud enough for your opponent to hear. If he disagrees, you can fix it before the point instead of creating more confusion “after the fact”.

Also, it’s extremely helpful for all if you use the correct terms for calling out the score. If the score is 15-40 and you say 5-4, or you say 3-5 for 30-15, you’re probably going to run into some issues. Remember, keep it loud, and avoid shorthand scoring.

Be honest with your opponent on line calls

This isn’t just about making correct line calls, it’s also about being honest with your opponent when asked about the call if it was out. Often, an opponent may balk at a close call of “out”, or ask as an FYI how far out the ball landed.

If asked, be honest about the distance. If the ball landed one inch outside of the line, don’t say, “It was WAY out”. You’re not being honest, and you’re also not contributing to an environment of “good sportsmanship”. Say it was close, or a couple of inches, or something along those lines. Your opponent will appreciate the honesty, and will less likely think that you are cheating on calls.

PostHeaderIcon A Growing Trend Of “Wishful Thinking” (Bad) Line Calls?


Maybe it’s just the guys with, but I’ve noticed a growing (and disturbing) trend of “When in doubt, call it out!”

Most players make fair line calls, and typically only err when facing the loss of a critical game, set, or match point. I refer to these as “wishful thinking” line calls, because they genuinely see the call based on what they want to believe. But now it seems that the overwhelming need to win is overtaking the need for fair play, even in the social tennis ranks.

I play social doubles with a great group of guys here in San Francisco. Though there have been a couple of occasions where someone’s made some pretty bad calls, most of the time everyone else is pretty good with them.

On Monday, I was at the tail end of a tight set, serving at 8-7 in the tiebreaker, when I received one of the worst calls I’ve ever seen on a clear service winner. It was a great serve into the body of the receiver that had skidded off the service line. However, to the utter amazement of my partner and me, his partner called it out.

I immediately stopped play and had what I will only describe as a “frank conversation on bad line calls made in order to prevent a loss”. After some back and forth, we ended the conversation by agreeing to “take two”. I did that only because one of the guys in the group had his young son courtside, and I didn’t want to model secondary “jerk” behavior in front of him. But to be honest, the set was over for me.

When someone crosses that line in a match, I’m “done”. I promptly lost the next two points en route to losing the set. Though I could barely bring myself to shake hands afterward, I did so anyway. I wasn’t going to compound the sour ending by being a bad sport.

I’ve been hooked before on calls, but this time was different. My umping work has given me such a strong desire for fair play (in order to promote the best tennis/fun) that I struggle in situations like this where the win comes at the cost of good sportsmanship. Tennis is supposed to be fun, especially social tennis is supposed to be fun. Calls like the one I got the other day make me want to immediately walk off the court. If it can’t be fun, I don’t want to be there.

There are a lot of cool guys (and a couple of women) who play in this group, so it’s easy to avoid playing with someone you’d rather not. We’ll see how it goes the next time I see him there, but odds are that we won’t be playing again anytime soon.

Some might question why I let a bad call get under my skin to this extent, and the answer is simple. Tennis is fun for me, so any time spent on court with someone who kills that buzz by hooking line calls is wasted time. Others might not be bothered at all by this type of behavior, and God bless them… but I’m not one of them!

I’m posting this to make people think about their own calls. Or at the very least, maybe I can embolden someone to call out players who try to make clearly bad calls on important points. If we don’t, the offenders will think that it’s okay to ruin other’s enjoyment of the game for the sake of winning. And then we all lose.

I’ll end with two great line call mottos to live by:

1. A ball that’s 99% OUT is 100% IN.

2. If you can’t clearly see the ball out, the ball is good.

Take your pick, and take it to heart! 😉

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