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View Full Version : More Line Calling Problems At Lower Levels?


Cindysphinx
10-06-2010, 01:10 PM
I'm a 3.5, but I've played at USTA levels ranging from 2.5 ladies up to 8.0 mixed. I can't say I've seen it all, but I've seen a lot.

Many times on this board, someone has suggested that lower-level players are more likely to make a bad call in their favor (that is, hook) than higher-rated players. Now that I'm playing with more 4.0s and even some 4.5s, I'm starting to think there may be some truth in it.

This is not to say that lower-level players are dishonest or cheat more or any of that. I think there might be more bad line calling in lower-level matches for a bunch of reasons.

The biggest culprits, I think, are spin and speed. When I play players who are rated lower than me, I hit a ball that they are perhaps not used to (that's what they say afterward, anyway). It comes a bit faster (and in doubles it might be coming off of my racket at net, which makes it seem faster). And it's likely to have slice or topspin, which makes the ball behave in ways the opponent does not expect.

Surprise, more than anything, seems to cause a bunch of bogus "out" calls. I mean, if your experience has always been that a ball X feet over the net will fly long, maybe it gets easy to assume that result will hold even if the ball has spin.

Or maybe the superior ball-watching skills of higher-level players help them see the lines better or judge the likely flight of a spinny ball better? I don't know.

What's weird is that I have the opposite problem when I play at higher levels: I am constantly surprised that people are calling balls in without much hesitation. I will hit a topspin lob or good slice serve -- the kind of shot that drops at the last moment -- and I will brace myself for the hook that never comes. All I get is "Good shot."

What do you think?

coloskier
10-06-2010, 02:06 PM
You ought to go see a college match sometime. It will make USTA line calling look like Shotspot.

Kick_It
10-06-2010, 02:17 PM
It really depends on the character of the person playing. Levels really don't matter.

Case in point - there was a time over the past 5 years where the #1 nationally ranked player in Men's 35s (not Andy Lake) was known to many as "The Hook". He would repeatedly call "lets" (that weren't) on my aces against him in a tier II national tournament ;-)

K_I

Nor'easter
10-06-2010, 03:04 PM
I played both USTA 3.5 and 4.0 league this summer. I found that the women who drive the ball, use heavy topspin and serve flat with a lot of pace (me) get hooked more often than those that tend to use more slice (my partner). It also seems to happen more often during critical times during a match...eg serving out a game at 40-30, or serving for the set...etc...you get the picture.

Perhaps this can be attributed to nerves, poor eye-sight, bad judgement, lack of match play experience...you name it.

Players at every level should use common sense when it comes to calling the lines. This is old news for many but a receiver's partner should never call a ball that is served out wide to her partner. Players that are lobbed with a well placed topspin lob as they are both closing in on the net cannot possibly see a ball that hits a sliver of chalk at the baseline and call it out with 100% certainty. The player on the ad side cannot possibly see a down the line drive on the deuce side....etc etc.

What I did notice is that teams at the higher 4.0 level are more generous with line calls as well as more willing to let possible bad line calls go...rather than resorting to the the famous question "are you sure?".

jswinf
10-06-2010, 03:09 PM
He would repeatedly call "lets" (that weren't) on my aces against him in a tier II national tournament ;-)

K_I

Good idea. "Let!"...me have a chance at another serve, hopefully not as good...

dudeman01
10-06-2010, 03:38 PM
What I did notice is that teams at the higher 4.0 level are more generous with line calls as well as more willing to let possible bad line calls go...rather than resorting to the the famous question "are you sure?".

Drama and pettiness in matches become less severe in 4.5+ level based on my personal observations, but you can find a bad apple anywhere. Case in point, there is a 5.5 man in my section who hooks people like no other. On balls that hit the back half of the baseline (but still hits the line) are always called out. He also owns his own tennis club, but details, details.

sureshs
10-06-2010, 03:47 PM
Agree with Cindy. It takes experience and quick reflexes to conclusively call fast and spinny balls in or out. That is why there are umpires and Hawk Eye. People will try to be fair, but they are also reluctant to agree to a very low threshold of accuracy out of fear they will lose many points, and because they don't know the threshold which their opponent is going to apply.

Couple of days back I played against a guy with probably the best serve in the club. Fat guy who doesn't move, but his upper body is built like a tank. Too much spin and pace for me. If I was sure about my line calls, I would also be returning most of the serves, which I wasn't. Luckily he called me and wanted to hit and play points with me, not a match, so the issue never came up.

r2473
10-06-2010, 03:47 PM
You ought to go see a college match sometime. It will make USTA line calling look like Shotspot.

I wonder why they play lets / lets aren't called :oops:

Collegiate matches are sometimes ridiculous.

Cindysphinx
10-06-2010, 03:58 PM
What I did notice is that teams at the higher 4.0 level are more generous with line calls as well as more willing to let possible bad line calls go...rather than resorting to the the famous question "are you sure?".

Yes, exactly. The most you will see -- the most -- is the player who doubts the call will move just a tad more slowly or will hesitate just a bit. Just those few extra ball bounces. Or they will look at their partner and smile.

I think they will assume the best, mostly out of a desire to "just get on with it already." I'll bet if it got chronic they might say something, but I haven't seen it yet.

I was talking to a 3.5 friend about this issue of hooking at lower levels. She has a topspin serve with a lot of pace, and she thinks she gets hooked a lot. She thinks she gets hooked on the center line calls.

I think I get hooked more on the sideline calls. With the center line, I think players hesitate to call balls out more because their partner is standing right on that line. With the sideline call, there is no one else standing near that line so players can get away with calling it tighter.

dudeman01
10-06-2010, 04:04 PM
^ The worst type of call, IMO, are out calls when the player isn't even looking directly at the ball. I've seen way too many of those around my neck of the woods..

pyrokid
10-06-2010, 04:27 PM
I don't think it's that lower level players call badly, I think it's that the worse player on the court is more likely to call badly. Maybe because they're not used to the spin, maybe because they don't wanna lose. Level doesn't play into it. Unless you count getting 1st or 2nd in the match.

CrispyFritters
10-06-2010, 04:27 PM
It's amazing the difference between playing on a far court (with no one around) vs playing on a near court where spectators are just on the other side of the fence...watching every point.

The social pressure makes the bad line calls go away.

dudeman01
10-06-2010, 04:31 PM
^ Some people have a thick skin..

clintontiger
10-06-2010, 06:47 PM
Just would like to give my opinion on this topic. I am a 3.0 and right now am playing 6.5 combo and play usually 1 tournament a month. During league play for the mosty part i will say the line calling is pretty consistent, meaning if its close they usually give the benefit of the doubt that it's in. Tournaments on the other hand or a different story. In fact I'm sick and tired of getting hooked during these events, especially when you are up 40-30 or vice versa and you are about to break. I played a tournament this weekend that every close call was out. Back of the line, it was out, on the line it was out. After about 7 close points I finally asked him what the deal was especially since some of them were clearly on the line. His answer was they were like a inch out. I said are you serious, hell if it's a inch out that's good on my side of the court, running after the ball you can't honestly tell if its that close. Plus all this happened after i served a ace down the T in my first service game that he called out that was probably in by 4 inches from the side and 5 inches from the service box line. After a short argument, because I was not relenting on this early call someone from the stands that was his friend finally spoke up and said Fred (not real name) that ball was clearly in. I mean after that how can you live with yourself calling balls out that were in his words a inch out. Anyway just had to vent a little.

Angle Queen
10-06-2010, 06:51 PM
I am also in a similar situation as Cindy and tend to agree...although I've generally gotten good calls at all the levels I've played at.

I think there might be more bad line calling in lower-level matches for a bunch of reasons.

The biggest culprits, I think, are spin and speed.
Yep. As I moved up the ranks (and improved my own ability to hit with speed and spin), I'm seeing more inexperienced players even admit to misjudging a ball...that they ultimately end up calling good. Had it happen to us three times today. Opponents were knocking themselves for "just standing there...watching it fall in." (As an aside, we were playing a team from the highest-end Country Club in our area that has a real reputation for being snooty and always right. The ladies we played were nothing but polite, even friendly and gave generous/appropriate line calls.) And I've done it too; swear a ball is going out...but then drop my jaw, when the bottom drops out of the heavy topspin shot...and it lands in.

But here's how/where I think the higher rated/skilled players deal with it. First time something like that happens, they just tell themselves...don't let it happen again. They have the wherewithal to recognize it and adjust.

What's weird is that I have the opposite problem when I play at higher levels: I am constantly surprised that people are calling balls in without much hesitation. I will hit a topspin lob or good slice serve -- the kind of shot that drops at the last moment -- and I will brace myself for the hook that never comes. All I get is "Good shot."
Same here. See earlier example from just today.

I was talking to a 3.5 friend about this issue of hooking at lower levels. She has a topspin serve with a lot of pace, and she thinks she gets hooked a lot. She thinks she gets hooked on the center line calls.Another +1. As the server, I think I have the best view (if not most biased as well ;) ) of a serve up the middle/T. The returner is trying to react, their partner is usually on the service line. But, eh, I don't hit what I believe to be an ace very often and if I don't get the call, well then...oh well. Try again next time.

But I do think it's the call I get hooked on the most. :)

Kick_It
10-06-2010, 08:26 PM
I wonder why they play lets / lets aren't called :oops:

Collegiate matches are sometimes ridiculous.

Men play lets in D1 college because at least one coach actively coached his team to call lets on aces (like the opponent I wrote about above) and they put this rule in place to counter-act it.

Steady Eddy
10-06-2010, 08:41 PM
I think the OP is basically right. At lower levels people aren't used to the opponent hitting shots they cannot reach. When it happens, they just assume, "I can't get there, so it must be out." I noticed this when my friends got to the level where some of our serves had decent pace. When someone got aced they sometimes just assumed that the serve had to be out.

Being newer to tennis, their eye probably doesn't track the ball as well, either. Contrary to what people might think, I really doubt many players ever say to themselves, "Wow!, that shot was in, but I'm going to LIE and call it out, so that I can win the point." True, they should see it out, to call it out. But that's still a long way from deliberate cheating, which I don't think many normal people do.

michael_1265
10-07-2010, 09:15 AM
Cindy,
You and many of the rest of the posters make sense. Your line-calling skills are likely to improve as you get better. In another thread, I took exception to someone stating, in essence, that lower ranked players are more likely to be cheaters, which is an entirely different issue.

LuckyR
10-07-2010, 12:01 PM
While I don't disagree that calling skills can change over time and that balls with more pace and spin are more difficult to call correctly, IMO the observed difference (which I agree with), is more due to increased maturity and perspective over time rather than line calling skills. That is folks who have been around the block are familiar with the fact that a ball can look (and actually be) 95% "out" and should be called: "in".

Of course there are the observed a55holes as mentioned above who don't ever mature, but while they can win points in meaningless tennis matches, they are jerks all the way to the core in every facet of their lives.

jdawgg
10-07-2010, 12:12 PM
Being someone that generally hits with monster topspin, I find lower level players call some of my balls out that hit the line. No one wants to hit a ball with extreme topspin that hits the baseline. Not only that but they have no clue how much the ball that I hit can drop. It's like their mind is saying theirs no way that can go in. It happens on my kick serve a lot too, thing looks like it will sail long and it just dives and hits the line opponent calls it out and I'm like "really!???". That being said once they get the point their calls start adjusting during the match.

cigrmaster
10-07-2010, 05:32 PM
It really comes down to this.........if you are not sure and it was that close you should always call it in. People who have no honor always call the close ones out. If someone intentionally tries to cheat me, I will call them a cheat and walk off the court. I refuse to play with people who have no honor, which is why I no longer play in leagues.

People in leagues are some of the most disgusting human beings I have ever run across and give tennis players a bad name. I would rather lose than call a close one out.......but that's just me.

larry10s
10-08-2010, 06:19 AM
lower levels are less likely to give you the point because every point is life and death. as you go up the attitude is ill get the next one.
lower levels havent learned "when in doubt call it IN"lol
also with experience if you think there is deliberate cheating you have learned ways to deal with it

Wakenslam
10-08-2010, 08:40 AM
My 2 cents...

Low level players often do not know the rules, so if they aren't sure, they just call it out. They also are not used to spin and pace, which also leads to bad calls. They want to win just as bad as anyone. 3.0 women get as much enjoyment from a win as 5.0 men. I've seen a certain beginner lady routinely call balls out before they bounce. When she moves up to a higher level she is going to run into a lot of trouble using this tactic.

Higher level players hook too, they just do it differently. They'll sometimes wait until they get a close baseline bounce, or for a big point.

Of course college is the WORST!

I think it boils down to a person's character.

Steady Eddy
10-10-2010, 09:59 PM
While I don't disagree that calling skills can change over time and that balls with more pace and spin are more difficult to call correctly, IMO the observed difference (which I agree with), is more due to increased maturity and perspective over time rather than line calling skills. That is folks who have been around the block are familiar with the fact that a ball can look (and actually be) 95% "out" and should be called: "in".

Of course there are the observed a55holes as mentioned above who don't ever mature, but while they can win points in meaningless tennis matches, they are jerks all the way to the core in every facet of their lives.
I think this maturity and perspective come down to the fact that they've played enough to realize that you can't get by with a bad reputation. A newbie might cheat, then gets the point, and feels, "Hey, I got away with that." But, really, he didn't, even if nothing happens immediately. There's different kinds of paybacks, if your line calling improves, then it gets forgiven. But naive players think you can cheat without consequences.

(This is for playing in a regular mixer group. Playing tournaments and leagues can be a different matter, when you play an opponent once, and then never see them again.)

michael_1265
10-11-2010, 04:47 AM
Although low level players likely make MORE errors than high level players, the most egregious errors I have seen have come from the top of the pile. In one mixed match last year, a 4.0 male opponent called a fair match for two sets and most of the third set tiebreak, then hooked us badly at 8-7 to get a match point. Lower level players tend to sprinkle their bad calling all over the match, whereas the high level cheaters are very aware of the most impotant points.

rh310
10-11-2010, 05:18 AM
You ought to go see a college match sometime. It will make USTA line calling look like Shotspot.

This. Worst line calls ever, and it's deliberate cheating.

workhurts
10-11-2010, 11:06 AM
Some better line calling might result from maturity but for me, at the ripe old age of 35, I can't see a damned thing. :)

So I call just about everything in. If you hit a shot down the line and I'm on that line then I can usually get a really good call in. If you're hitting 100+ mph serves .. chances are that I'll call them in if they're within 2-3" of the line.

What I find interesting is that people tend to call my deep balls in more than my down the line shots. I often feel that I've hit a ball out only to have it called in and on shots that I know hit the side line ... I get them called out by someone not looking down the line.

I also find that the more generous you are being with your calls, the more generous I'm going to be.

LuckyR
10-12-2010, 08:36 AM
Some better line calling might result from maturity but for me, at the ripe old age of 35, I can't see a damned thing. :)

So I call just about everything in. If you hit a shot down the line and I'm on that line then I can usually get a really good call in. If you're hitting 100+ mph serves .. chances are that I'll call them in if they're within 2-3" of the line.

What I find interesting is that people tend to call my deep balls in more than my down the line shots. I often feel that I've hit a ball out only to have it called in and on shots that I know hit the side line ... I get them called out by someone not looking down the line.

I also find that the more generous you are being with your calls, the more generous I'm going to be.


I don't disagree with your assessment of your visual acuity, but your attitude about it, is the exact level of "maturity" that I was refering to. A lot of significantly younger players with your eyesight would call balls "out" cuz' I dinnint see it lan in.

Ambivalent
10-12-2010, 10:22 AM
You ought to go see a college match sometime. It will make USTA line calling look like Shotspot.

Just watch a couple of the Stanford matches that are on youtube in HD.

sphinx780
10-12-2010, 11:15 AM
I think asking 'are you sure' is the way to go if you feel you're getting hooked.

On the other side of things, one of the more frustrating things I tend to see at lower levels more often than higher is the expectation that they are getting hooked on a baseline call you make. I had a partner that I decided to reinforce the poor perspective we have from our side of the court on the opposite base line. I had her stand on our baseline, I placed the ball 6 different places, ranging from 4 inches in to 6 inches out on the opposing baseline and had her tell me when she was sure it was out or in. She was sure it was in at 4 inches out. Not until that point or further did she think the ball had gone long.

Cindysphinx
10-12-2010, 11:45 AM
I don't think it's obnoxious to ask "Are you sure?" The Code specifically authorizes it.

In the situation where you feel you are being repeatedly hooked, I think it's a good idea to bring it up on a changeover. Something like, "Hey, guys. There have been some calls that looked like they probably should have gone the other way. Let's be careful with our line calling, 'kay?"

Only the most hard-core cheater will keep calling tight lines after such a statement.

Angle Queen
10-12-2010, 01:25 PM
I had a partner that I decided to reinforce the poor perspective we have from our side of the court on the opposite base line. I had her stand on our baseline, I placed the ball 6 different places, ranging from 4 inches in to 6 inches out on the opposing baseline and had her tell me when she was sure it was out or in. She was sure it was in at 4 inches out. Not until that point or further did she think the ball had gone long.That's a great exercise.

Way back when, our high school coach did the same thing with us. And even now, if the pros/coaches don't do it during practice, I ask them to. They never seem to mind and it's helped my "perception" and accuracy (I hope).

sureshs
10-12-2010, 01:36 PM
I don't think it's obnoxious to ask "Are you sure?" The Code specifically authorizes it.


There is a company which sells "Are you sure?" tennis shirts.

spiderman123
10-15-2010, 12:59 PM
What's weird is that I have the opposite problem when I play at higher levels: I am constantly surprised that people are calling balls in without much hesitation. I will hit a topspin lob or good slice serve -- the kind of shot that drops at the last moment -- and I will brace myself for the hook that never comes. All I get is "Good shot."

What do you think?

I am a 3.5. If I play against a 2.5, I will say a lot of "Good shots" too without worrying too much about it.

rh310
10-25-2010, 04:48 AM
I don't think it's obnoxious to ask "Are you sure?" The Code specifically authorizes it.

In the situation where you feel you are being repeatedly hooked, I think it's a good idea to bring it up on a changeover. Something like, "Hey, guys. There have been some calls that looked like they probably should have gone the other way. Let's be careful with our line calling, 'kay?"

Only the most hard-core cheater will keep calling tight lines after such a statement.

One of the bozos I recently find myself playing with must be a hard-core cheater, then. Really the first one I've encountered.

I do a 2-hr drills session every Saturday that ends with a set of match play, singles or doubles depending on how many people have shown up for the drills. One of the other guys in the drills is someone I played social doubles with a couple of years back, who even in social dubs was just notorious for making terrible line calls. If it lands near-inside or on the line, he calls it out.

"Are you sure?" doesn't work on him. "Yeah, I'm sure," is the reply in all cases. "Win if you can, cheat if you must," is his motto, and there is no such thing as social play. Tennis is war.

The first time we played in the drill set it was a 6-1 thrashing even with his bad calls, so for the last few times I've tried to use the time more for practice (e.g, hit all twist / kick serves, aim all shots with pace but very specific placement, etc.). So the sets have been closer as I make more errors and the bad calls have become more of a factor in the set score.

I'm trying not to let it **** me off, but it's not working. Now I'm worried that I'm going to be so eager to thrash him again that I'm going to play with too much ego involvement and screw up. :(

origmarm
10-25-2010, 06:53 AM
Just watch a couple of the Stanford matches that are on youtube in HD.

All the ones I can find seem to have umpires (!)...

Not that I'm doubting the bad calls but would be interesting to watch one.

coloskier
10-25-2010, 12:34 PM
I wonder why they play lets / lets aren't called :oops:

Collegiate matches are sometimes ridiculous.

Because many times players will call a let when they know they can't return the serve.