Fun facts about tennis rule (1)

3 minute read


These days I mostly play competitive tennis, so my opponents usually have sufficient understandings of the rules and we do not get into disputes. However, debates and disputes sometimes occur in recreational play, which could be annoying. So in a series of posts, let me talk about some rules that could be overlooked by recreational players. The official rules can be found in the “Friend at Court” here.

Can players talk during a point? This is covered in ITF Code 34:

34. Talking when ball is in play.

  • Singles players should not talk during points.
  • Talking between doubles partners when the ball is moving toward them is allowed.
  • Doubles players should not talk when the ball is moving toward their opponent’s court.
  • Any talking that interferes with an opponent’s ability to play a ball is a hindrance.

Players should not talk during points in singles. So,

  • You cannot say “Double bounce!” to the opponent. The opponent should admit double bounce; otherwise wait to complain until the point is over.
  • You cannot scream “Yes!” after hitting a winner (until the ball bounces twice etc.) or “Sh*t!” after committing a likely unforced error. I have seen players yelling after hitting a ball thinking it was going out, only to see the ball is good. These days I warn the player that that is a hindrance (which entitles me the point).
  • You cannot say “Sorry” to the opponent (until the ball is out of play) even if you think you smashed the ball into their body. This point is almost a joke, but it happend during the Medvedev-Bublik match in Toronto Open 2021. Medvedev hit an overhead, which he thought hit Bublik’s body and said “sorry”. But in fact the ball hit Bublik’s racquet (not body), so the ball was still in play and Medvedev lost the point for hindrance.

In doubles, players can talk only when the ball is moving toward them. So you can say “You!”, “Me!”, “Switch!”, etc. to indicate who is going to take the ball or convey positioning, but you cannot say “Nice shot!” (to praise your partner’s winner), “Move back” (to prepare for an opponent’s overhead), or “Sh*t!” (for your unforced error) until the ball is out of play.

Grunting when you hit the ball hard does not necessarily count as talking, though distinguishing grunting from talking could be ambiguous. In fact this is covered in ITF Code 37:

37. Grunting. A player should avoid grunting and making other loud noises. Grunting and other loud noises may bother not only opponents but also players on adjacent courts. In an extreme case, an opponent or a player on an adjacent court may seek the assistance of an official. Grunting and the making of loud noises that affect the outcome of a point are hindrances. Only an official may rule that these actions are hindrances and order that a let be played or a loss of point, depending on whether an official had previously warned the offending player.

Let’s remember to be quiet during points.