Etiquette on returning first serve faults

rufus_smith

Professional
I had a server complain that I was returning his first serve out balls right back at him, thus disrupting his second serve routine. I can understand that to some extent. What is the ruling or etiquette about it?
The first serve was a fast , topspin one that often landed close to the service line. I had to swing early to hit it and it was hard to stop my swing when it was a fault. I would call out just before making contact, btw. Some players don't mind me to hit first serve faults back to them to save time in chasing down balls. I ended up trying to hit the close first serve "out" balls into the net or way wide. What is correct thing to do here?
 

Top Jimmy

Semi-Pro
I had a server complain that I was returning his first serve out balls right back at him, thus disrupting his second serve routine. I can understand that to some extent. What is the ruling or etiquette about it?
The first serve was a fast , topspin one that often landed close to the service line. I had to swing early to hit it and it was hard to stop my swing when it was a fault. I would call out just before making contact, btw. Some players don't mind me to hit first serve faults back to them to save time in chasing down balls. I ended up trying to hit the close first serve "out" balls into the net or way wide. What is correct thing to do here?
Guys a tool, he's just being touchy.
 

zcarzach

Semi-Pro
Well, I'd have a problem with him if he was starting his second serve motion while, theoretically, the first serve is still in play (i.e. you called it long, but the return was already on its way and could have been in play). That seems unreasonably fast to me. If you have the ability to just hit the serve into the net, or just out of the court, that's probably better.

Guys a tool, he's just being touchy.
And this.
 

dizzlmcwizzl

Hall of Fame
This is from the friend at the court for intercollegiate tennis, while not a rule it certainly points out the obvious ... that you should not spray returns if it is clear they are out. Doing otherwise is just not good sportsmanship.

Player should not return obviously out serves. A player should not
return a serve that is obviously out even when the return is
accompanied by an “out” call. This is a form of rudeness or
gamesmanship. A player may return a fast serve that just misses the
line inasmuch as the return is often a matter of self-protection.


I personally do not mind if the serve is hard and close to the line and you return it because you physically cannot do otherwise. But it irritates me when the ball is clearly out and you hit it anyway. All this does is slow down the game and fluff up the balls a little more.
 

sureshs

Bionic Poster
The etiquette is to get it into the net (without it coming back), or your side of the fences (without it coming back), or away from the server (in a controlled way so that it doesn't come back near the server). When the last is not possible, giving it softly back to the server is OK. He can take the ball, or tap it gently to the back, as per his wishes. What you should not do is to hit it right back and deep at the server. One guy in my club hits it as hard as possible back to the server along with a loud noise in order to disturb the second serve. When questioned (by new players), he feigns innocence about being unable to control his swing. To people who know him, he turns around and grins.
 

sureshs

Bionic Poster
This is from the friend at the court for intercollegiate tennis, while not a rule it certainly points out the obvious ... that you should not spray returns if it is clear they are out. Doing otherwise is just not good sportsmanship.

Player should not return obviously out serves. A player should not
return a serve that is obviously out even when the return is
accompanied by an “out” call. This is a form of rudeness or
gamesmanship. A player may return a fast serve that just misses the
line inasmuch as the return is often a matter of self-protection.


I personally do not mind if the serve is hard and close to the line and you return it because you physically cannot do otherwise. But it irritates me when the ball is clearly out and you hit it anyway. All this does is slow down the game and fluff up the balls a little more.
This advice is not too useful because many serves require a reaction before knowing they are out. The challenge is how to control the reaction at late notice.
 

Top Jimmy

Semi-Pro
This is from the friend at the court for intercollegiate tennis, while not a rule it certainly points out the obvious ... that you should not spray returns if it is clear they are out. Doing otherwise is just not good sportsmanship.

Player should not return obviously out serves. A player should not
return a serve that is obviously out even when the return is
accompanied by an “out” call. This is a form of rudeness or
gamesmanship. A player may return a fast serve that just misses the
line inasmuch as the return is often a matter of self-protection.


I personally do not mind if the serve is hard and close to the line and you return it because you physically cannot do otherwise. But it irritates me when the ball is clearly out and you hit it anyway. All this does is slow down the game and fluff up the balls a little more.
I dunno, if you push them into the net, 9 times out of 10 the stupid ball rolls back to the middle of the court and i have to run up and grab it, run back, get reset. If I guide the ball towards the server he can grab it without moving hardly and roll it to the backstop. Sometimes I do try and control and grab a clearly out serve and roll it to my backstop.

If they are close I don't see why you shouldn't be swinging.
 

Cindysphinx

G.O.A.T.
Don't return obviously out balls, OK?

Come on. This is not that difficult. If someone returns 100% of faults, they are violating the Code. If a someone is deliberately not returning some faults, they are complying with the Code.

I have had people tee off on serves that struck the net, jumped up in the air and floated down into the service box. I have partners return serves that hit the doubles sideline.

That sort of thing needs to stop.
 

MrCLEAN

Rookie
If I have time to process the call and not return it, I will. But if playing a good server w/ a lot of pace, I'm hitting the ball about the same time I'm making the call, so those get sent back. What I don't like is the fact that those are usually my best returns...
 

rufus_smith

Professional
The serves that I was returning were no more than 6 inches out and were hit with a dipping topsin at maybe 90 mph from a 4.5 player and I was standing on the baseline. The "dipping" part makes it real tough to judge ahead if the ball is going to catch the service line or not, thus too little time to pull the racquet. The longer first serve out balls I would let go. I have to say that hitting a tough serve return is one of the few edges I have over this guy and he knows it, so there was probably some gamesmanship going on too, from both sides.
 

North

Professional
I dunno, if you push them into the net, 9 times out of 10 the stupid ball rolls back to the middle of the court and i have to run up and grab it, run back, get reset. If I guide the ball towards the server he can grab it without moving hardly and roll it to the backstop. Sometimes I do try and control and grab a clearly out serve and roll it to my backstop.

If they are close I don't see why you shouldn't be swinging.
Yeah, this totally makes sense; most people are fine with this very reasonable approach. I personally have rarely encountered an opponent who returns obviously out calls but it doesn't particularly bother me when it does happen.
 

dParis

Hall of Fame
If I have time to process the call and not return it, I will. But if playing a good server w/ a lot of pace, I'm hitting the ball about the same time I'm making the call, so those get sent back. What I don't like is the fact that those are usually my best returns...
Yes, yes! This is one of the cruelest jokes the Tennis Fates play. :evil:
:lol:
 

rkelley

Hall of Fame
I'm with Top Jimmy, the guy's being a tool. If the serve has any decent amount of speed and spin and it's hitting close to the lines, then your focus is to return it - over the net, inside the lines. Especially on a first serve you're usually doing well just to get there. There's no way I'm losing focus on the return to tap it back to the net when it lands a couple of inches out.

Now if it's way out you can usually see that right off the server's racquet, but you usually can't get to it anyway.

If he wants his errant serves pushed back to the net, he can:
- Make them more obviously out
- Hit them slower
- Forfeit his first serve

Since he's unlikely to do any of the above, he probably needs to be quiet and just be happy that he's getting to hit tennis balls.
 
Catch it, hit it into the net or let it go to the fence behind you, to the best of your ability. It is a skill that can be acquired with practice like any other aspect of the sport. Sometimes it's so close and fast it happens, say "out" loudly so your opponent doesn't have to break his ass trying to return an out ball. If you screw up and throw off the server's rhythm, apologize and offer two. Don't hit a mulligan into your opponent's corner, if it ricochets off the fence and upsets the server's rhythm you will have to offer him to take two.
 

chopstic

New User
As far as I'm concerned, once I put my racket into motion for a return, I'm making the return. Reaction time is EVERYTHING on the return, I'm not going to slow that down by complicating it with "etiquette"
 

LuckyR

Legend
I think everyone agrees that the OP is fine if the serve is close to being in. The real issue is what does he do on obviously out balls (which are the vast majority of faults). If he is hitting them back to the server or even over the net, that is an opportunity for improvement, to put it charitably. Depending on the type of fence/backstop and net, the serve can be let go or quickly disposed of in the net such that no one needs to retieve it.
 

blakesq

Hall of Fame
tell the complainer that you will stop returning out first serves if he either: (a) slows down the serve; or (b) makes his out serves at least 2 feet or more out.

I had a server complain that I was returning his first serve out balls right back at him, thus disrupting his second serve routine. I can understand that to some extent. What is the ruling or etiquette about it?
The first serve was a fast , topspin one that often landed close to the service line. I had to swing early to hit it and it was hard to stop my swing when it was a fault. I would call out just before making contact, btw. Some players don't mind me to hit first serve faults back to them to save time in chasing down balls. I ended up trying to hit the close first serve "out" balls into the net or way wide. What is correct thing to do here?
 
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Tennishacker

Professional
It's been my experience that high rated players could care less.

Returning out serves does not faze those with mental toughness.
 
This is from the friend at the court for intercollegiate tennis, while not a rule it certainly points out the obvious ... that you should not spray returns if it is clear they are out. Doing otherwise is just not good sportsmanship.

Player should not return obviously out serves. A player should not
return a serve that is obviously out even when the return is
accompanied by an “out” call. This is a form of rudeness or
gamesmanship. A player may return a fast serve that just misses the
line inasmuch as the return is often a matter of self-protection.


I personally do not mind if the serve is hard and close to the line and you return it because you physically cannot do otherwise. But it irritates me when the ball is clearly out and you hit it anyway. All this does is slow down the game and fluff up the balls a little more.
I completely agree with this. Players know when it's out and it's rude to do this. I've encountered a few players that return every single long serve back after telling them not to do this so it interrupts play. Anyone who does all the time is a real jerk and idiot. It's gotten so out of hand that tournament umpires let you know before the tourney starts that it is not good sportsmanship and server will get first serve again if this happens.
 
Catch it, hit it into the net or let it go to the fence behind you, to the best of your ability. It is a skill that can be acquired with practice like any other aspect of the sport. Sometimes it's so close and fast it happens, say "out" loudly so your opponent doesn't have to break his ass trying to return an out ball. If you screw up and throw off the server's rhythm, apologize and offer two. Don't hit a mulligan into your opponent's corner, if it ricochets off the fence and upsets the server's rhythm you will have to offer him to take two.
 

Cindysphinx

G.O.A.T.
Here's another reason not to hit obviously out serves.

I have seen matches where a returner clearly doesn't know the rule. She hits back obviously out serves over and over.

Then one time the server hits a serve that the server things is out. The returner, true to form, returns it but the server does not play it. Why? Because the returner has conditioned the server that when the returner hits the ball back over the net, it is not necessarily in play. Then the returner cannot understand why the server was fooled.

I guess the way to deal with this is to play the crap out of any ball the returner sends back over the net. Maybe eventually they will get the message that if you are sending the ball back over, the serving team is obligated to play it.
 

blakesq

Hall of Fame
Assuming the ballsa are not obviously out, tell your opponent to serve slower and you won't need to return his out balls.

I had a server complain that I was returning his first serve out balls right back at him, thus disrupting his second serve routine. I can understand that to some extent. What is the ruling or etiquette about it?
The first serve was a fast , topspin one that often landed close to the service line. I had to swing early to hit it and it was hard to stop my swing when it was a fault. I would call out just before making contact, btw. Some players don't mind me to hit first serve faults back to them to save time in chasing down balls. I ended up trying to hit the close first serve "out" balls into the net or way wide. What is correct thing to do here?
 
I'm struggling to understand why anyone would get upset over this. If the returner hits my fault back to me, I can catch it for my second serve to save anyone the hassle of fetching it later, or I can simply let the ball hit the fence behind me. Either way makes little difference to me.
That's a big "IF". Most rec players who don't understand the reasoning behind this also don't have the ability to hit the ball back to the server. It's rude as the USTA code states and it screws up the server's rhythm for their second serve. Also, it's taking a practice swing which is not fair--maybe the server should be allowed a practice serve to even it out--there are NO mulligans in tennis.
 

MathGeek

Hall of Fame
Given time on balls that are out, I will abide by the server's preferences. Until/unless they complain, most folks around here hit a soft ball back to the server to reduce time chasing balls.

However, I often have to react and get my body and/or swing in motion, long before it is clear that the first serve is out. In that case, the chips fall where they may. I have one common opponent who gets upset that having taken a couple steps toward the sideline chasing a wide (but close) serve, I walk back to my preferred return spot and am not ready as soon as they are. Tough turnips, baby. I feel no need to run back into position because they served wide.
 
I was taught to "return first and call second". This way I don't have to worry about not playing a serve that turned out to be in. This has led to situations where an opponent will get annoyed but I'm not doing it to annoy anyone; it's just the way I was taught.

If I can figure out the ball is going out as it's crossing the net, sure, I don't hit it. But if it's a fast, flat serve, I may not be able to tell FOR SURE: I start my RoS motion regardless because if I wait until I'm sure, it's too late. At that point, muscle memory takes over and I swing. Other people are definitely better than I about making the correct judgment.
 

lilac8bd

New User
I had a returner (ripping the first serve return) peg me in the shoulder when I was at net. It was an obviously out serve, no reason to return it. I wasn't expecting a return so I did not move out of the way. Had the appropriate apology followed I would have blown it off. I don't like to be this person, however, I felt compelled to hit the first over-head right at him.
 

kingcheetah

Hall of Fame
Unless you blast it at an opponent, I don't see much of an issue with it. If the opponent doesnt want the ball back, they dont have to take it. As far as rhythm, if they would be serving by the time that return of the missed first serve arrives, they're serving way too quickly.
 

GlennK

Rookie
Unless you blast it at an opponent, I don't see much of an issue with it. If the opponent doesnt want the ball back, they dont have to take it. As far as rhythm, if they would be serving by the time that return of the missed first serve arrives, they're serving way too quickly.
The problem with it is it wastes time. If it is obviously out, then catch it (via hitting backspin to get it to come back to you) and pocket it or toss back by the fence. When you return the obvious out serve, it takes time to travel over, the server may or may not be able to catch it, etc. If it goes to your opponents' back fence on your return, then you have to wait to see if it rolls or stops.
 

MathGeek

Hall of Fame
I was taught to "return first and call second". This way I don't have to worry about not playing a serve that turned out to be in. This has led to situations where an opponent will get annoyed but I'm not doing it to annoy anyone; it's just the way I was taught.

If I can figure out the ball is going out as it's crossing the net, sure, I don't hit it. But if it's a fast, flat serve, I may not be able to tell FOR SURE: I start my RoS motion regardless because if I wait until I'm sure, it's too late. At that point, muscle memory takes over and I swing. Other people are definitely better than I about making the correct judgment.
At my age, I have to think about what I just saw to make a good call.

I always get everything moving before I make the call.
 
... If the opponent doesnt want the ball back, they dont have to take it.

... As far as rhythm, if they would be serving by the time that return of the missed first serve arrives, they're serving way too quickly.
That doesn't make any sense, they don't have any choice about "wanting" the ball back, you just gave it back.

They lose their rhythm when you've mis-hit the ball and it ricochets all over the place and they have to scurry to pick it up--in that case YOU must offer them two since it was your fault. They may also deliberately bungle your ball forcing you to give them two, why put yourself into that position? Catch it, hit it into the bottom of the net if you're good enough to do that without the ball rolling back, or let it go behind you. You can do this, you just have to work at it. If you ever play with real players they will appreciate it and ask you to play with them again.
 
Against players who serve well, I tend to just let any ball that's much out go because I can't reliably bunt it back to the server. Against players with weaker serves, I tend to just hit it softly back to the server to save the time of fetching the ball later. Most people I play with do the same, more or less.

That said, I agree with Stretchy upthread. I can understand having a preference, but I don't understand at all anyone getting seriously annoyed by anything other than the returner hitting the ball over the fence and out of the court entirely. It just plain doesn't matter that much. If it's getting to you mentally, that's a bigger sign that you need to be mentally stronger than a sign that the other guy needs to be more courteous.
 

kingcheetah

Hall of Fame
That doesn't make any sense, they don't have any choice about "wanting" the ball back, you just gave it back.

They lose their rhythm when you've mis-hit the ball and it ricochets all over the place and they have to scurry to pick it up--in that case YOU must offer them two since it was your fault. They may also deliberately bungle your ball forcing you to give them two, why put yourself into that position? Catch it, hit it into the bottom of the net if you're good enough to do that without the ball rolling back, or let it go behind you. You can do this, you just have to work at it. If you ever play with real players they will appreciate it and ask you to play with them again.
1) I'm a college player, I play with "real" players all the time, but thanks for the concern.
2)I'm saying if they want the ball at that moment, they have it. If not, they can let it go. If something's way out, I'll pop it up so it lands at my back fence, but if it's a fast serve and it was close, so I've already committed to the return, it's going to be hit. In YEARS of doing this, I haven't shanked one to cause a hindrance, or hit an opponent. To hinder their motion, they'd have to have a second ball out as the serve landed. They won't get a thing from me as far as a new first serve if they fumble a ball I'm giving them, as it's their fault.
3) The key to having "real" players like you is not having an ego about things, complimenting them for a nice shot, honest calls, etc. Whether I win or get smacked I try to have an authentic conversation with the opponent, whether I previously knew them or not, wishing them luck, etc. That's the best way to be popular with players at any level-- be a good person.
 

Cindysphinx

G.O.A.T.
1) I'm a college player, I play with "real" players all the time, but thanks for the concern.
2)I'm saying if they want the ball at that moment, they have it. If not, they can let it go. If something's way out, I'll pop it up so it lands at my back fence, but if it's a fast serve and it was close, so I've already committed to the return, it's going to be hit. In YEARS of doing this, I haven't shanked one to cause a hindrance, or hit an opponent. To hinder their motion, they'd have to have a second ball out as the serve landed. They won't get a thing from me as far as a new first serve if they fumble a ball I'm giving them, as it's their fault.
[/QUOTE]
If you are only trying to be thoughtful and considerate when you return obviously out serves, why don't you just ask the server at the beginning of the match how he would like you to handle it?

You could say, "Hey, I know the Code says I shouldn't hit obviously out serves over the net, but I don't want to abide by that. So what is your preference -- when one of your serves is obviously out, do you want me to hit it back to you, or would you rather that I pocket it or let it go behind me? Your wish is my command."

Nope, no one ever asks the server, because the returner is doing what the returner wants to do because the returner wants to.

Have some class -- play by the Code.
 

kingcheetah

Hall of Fame
The problem with it is it wastes time. If it is obviously out, then catch it (via hitting backspin to get it to come back to you) and pocket it or toss back by the fence. When you return the obvious out serve, it takes time to travel over, the server may or may not be able to catch it, etc. If it goes to your opponents' back fence on your return, then you have to wait to see if it rolls or stops.
I agree that it's best to catch it yourself if possible, but at a certain level reaction times are limited and there aren't that many "obviously" out balls... Again, in years of returning close but clearly out balls, I have yet to hinder an opponent, it takes a fraction of one second for it to cross to the opponents side.
 
I agree that it's best to catch it yourself if possible, but at a certain level reaction times are limited and there aren't that many "obviously" out balls... Again, in years of returning close but clearly out balls, I have yet to hinder an opponent, it takes a fraction of one second for it to cross to the opponents side.
Unfortunately, unlike you, I don't have this control. I definitely have hindered my opponent when returning an out serve, not because I was trying to be a jerk but because that's how I was trained. But if I have to choose between potentially annoying an opponent and making sure I return every in serve even if it means returning some out serves, I choose the latter. Mea culpa in advance.
 

kingcheetah

Hall of Fame
The code also says grunting and loud noises are a hindrance... And we all know those are very common. I agree with S&V, I'm not going to cost myself a point by misjudging an in serve and not playing it.

If an opponent was ever crazy enough to lip off about me returning a few missed serves, my response would be "don't miss."
 

jga111

Hall of Fame
I dunno, if you push them into the net, 9 times out of 10 the stupid ball rolls back to the middle of the court and i have to run up and grab it, run back, get reset. If I guide the ball towards the server he can grab it without moving hardly and roll it to the backstop. Sometimes I do try and control and grab a clearly out serve and roll it to my backstop.

If they are close I don't see why you shouldn't be swinging.
Just keep the ball, put it in your pocket and proceed- simples, no?
 
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