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The Code of Tennis – PRINCIPLES

The Players Guide for Tennis Matches When Officials are Not Present


1. Courtesy. Tennis is a game that requires cooperation and courtesy from all participants. Make tennis a fun game by praising your opponents good shots and by not:

  • conducting loud postmortems after points;
  • complaining about shots like lobs and drop shots;
  • embarrassing a weak opponent by being overly gracious or condescending;
  • losing your temper, using vile language, throwing your racket, or slamming a ball in anger; or
  • sulking when you are losing.

2. Counting points played in good faith. All points played in good faith stand. For example, if after losing a point, a player discovers that the net was four inches too high, the point stands. If a point is played from the wrong court, there is no replay. If during a point, a player realizes that a mistake was made at the beginning (for example, service from the wrong court), the player shall continue playing the point. Corrective action may be taken only after a point has been completed.

Shaking hands at end of the match is an acknowledgment by the players that the match is over.

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The Code of Tennis – PREFACE

The Players Guide for Tennis Matches When Officials are Not Present

Section 1 – PREFACE

When your serve hits your partner stationed at the net, is it a let, fault, or loss of point? Likewise, what is the ruling when your serve, before touching the ground, hits an opponent who is standing back of the baseline. The answers to these questions are obvious to anyone who knows the fundamentals of tennis, but it is surprising the number of players who don’t know these fundamentals. All players have a responsibility to be familiar with the basic rules and customs of tennis. Further, it can be distressing when a player makes a decision in accordance with a rule and the opponent protests with the remark: Well, I never heard of that rule before! Ignorance of the rules constitutes a delinquency on the part of a player and often spoils an otherwise good match.

What is written here constitutes the essentials of The Code, a summary of procedures and unwritten rules that custom and tradition dictate all players should follow. No system of rules will cover every specific problem or situation that may arise. If players of good will follow the principles of The Code, they should always be able to reach an agreement, while at the same time making tennis more fun and a better game for all. The principles set forth in The Code shall apply in cases not specifically covered by the ITF Rules of Tennis and USTA Regulations.

Before reading this you might well ask yourself: Since we have a book that contains all the rules of tennis, why do we need a code? Isn’t it sufficient to know and understand all the rules? There are a number of things not specifically set forth in the rules that are covered by custom and tradition only. For example, if you have a doubt on a line call, your opponent gets the benefit of the doubt. Can you find that in the rules? Further, custom dictates the standard procedures that players will use in reaching decisions. These are the reasons we need a code.

Col. Nick Powel

Note: The Code is not part of the official ITF Rules of Tennis. Players shall follow The Code in all unofficiated matches. Many of the principles also apply when officials are present. This edition of The Code is an adaptation of the original, which was written by Colonel Nicolas E. Powel.