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Posts Tagged ‘social doubles’

PostHeaderIcon Calling Foot Faults in Social Doubles


I play social doubles with a group of guys pretty much every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday in SF’s Mission District. And though I love playing with these guys, our sets sometimes provide perfect fodder for discussions of “Tennis Etiquette”! Today was one of those days.

While serving at 5-4 for the set, the receiver said, “Hey Kevin, you should watch your feet on the line.” Bugged by his intrusion, I responded, “Hey…everybody out here’s been on the line.”

The fact of getting called out for a foot fault doesn’t bother me. In fact, it’s something I’m well aware that I need to watch for whenever I step up to the line (because of my bad knees and wonky toss). What bothered me was that the guy who said that had stepped on the baseline at the start of every serve he hit in the set. I also felt like this was only an issue because he couldn’t get a racquet on my serve. I’m all for playing by the rules with respect to foot faults, but not selectively.

I stepped backed, then proceeded to hit my hardest serves “just because”, ending the set with an ace that sailed under my opponent’s racquet. Not quite vindication, but definitely a step to take the bad taste out of my mouth from his comment.

Was I wrong for being peeved at (selectively) being put on foot fault notice? Should foot faults even be called in a social doubles match that’s supposed to be fun? Let me know what you think by answering this two-question survey. Thanks.

Question 1

* Do you think foot faults should be called in social doubles?

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PostHeaderIcon Personal Integrity in the Social Game

Vincent Jannink / AP

Vincent Jannink / AP

I woke up in a funky mood today because of an incident that happened yesterday on the courts. In a series of Friday tweets, I described an egregiously bad call that was made by one of my opponents during a set of social doubles, and the subsequent questionable behavior to that call by his partner.

More than just a rules issue, this incident bugged me so much that it clearly warrants a greater discussion on the broader issue of personal integrity within the game. This is how it all went down.

My partner was serving to the deuce court and hit a first serve wide that landed about a foot inside the sideline. The net man on the opposing team, confused by the ten and under lines on the court, called the serve out. Though we immediately stopped play to protest the ridiculousness of the call, he honestly believed he made a correct call.

I pointed out several previous bad calls, including an impossible call of a ball going under the net a few weeks ago, that he’d made in recent weeks and he relented, suggesting that we “Take two.”  I said, “No. The ball was clearly in and the call was bad, and you know it. It’s our point.”

(This type of dispute is outlined in Friend at Court – The Code, Part 2, #12 – Out calls reversed.)

That’s when his partner, the returner for the contested point, finally decided to chime in. Not to admit the bad call on a serve he knows landed well in, but to fight me on the point by saying with a straight face: “Well that’s just your opinion. I didn’t say anything. It was out in your opinion.”

Needless to say, his brazen “lying by omission” didn’t help the discussion. Particularly since this was the second instance in which he was dishonest about a clearly blown call during a set. Also, it must be added that this isn’t a newbie. This guy has been around the game for years. For someone of his level, his behavior was actually pretty outrageous!

My partner and I finally settled on up playing the point over so as to avert WW3. After all, this was just a tennis game and not worth a protracted fight. We went on to win the game, but the damage to the social aspect of the set was done. We lost the set, and then both moved over to the second court to avoid playing with them again.

I’ve said it before and will surely say it again: we all make bad calls. Even veteran officials, with training, make errant calls. The point is in how you deal with the call. Thankfully, the USTA has rules to deal with most of these types of issues in sanctioned events. In social settings, however, all you have is the integrity of the participants.

I’d much rather play with someone who makes the occasional (and unintentional) bad call than the guy who looks me in the eye and then lies to me to justify the cheating response after the call. Some may say this is extrapolating too much, but that action – good or bad depending on your point of view – tells me an awful lot about what someone’s willing to do in order to win a point.

In the end it’s all about what’s personally more important to you. For me, foot faults and minor stuff like that don’t really matter. Trying to make good calls (and being honest when you don’t) does. If you can’t trust the person on the other side of the net, then why bother?

If those things don’t matter to you AND you can keep the game social and fun, then more power to you! Also, I’ve got a bridge to sell you…

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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