returning faults?

Cindysphinx

G.O.A.T.
I am guessing that people do this mostly to make sure that they as the receiving team don't have to mess around with that ball on their side of the court or in their pocket... but I've never asked why they do it. They just do, and for me, it's a "when in Rome..." situation.
I think there are a variety of reasons why people don't comply with the Code on this. Ignorance is one, of course.

But as you say, people do it because other people do it, which means it can't be that important.

Also, I think people disregard it because it doesn't clearly impact play like so many other Code provisions do. Hooking, foot faulting, calling lets, giving benefit of the doubt . . . all of those affect who gets a point. This rule -- which does not even come with a remedy -- does not affect who wins the point. So folks kind of figure it doesn't matter.

Another reason why people ignore the rule is because it does feel good to get a mulligan, right? The serve is obviously out, so you get a free "practice return." Even if you don't rip it, you get to hit a ball that isn't in play. That actually doesn't happen often in a real match, right? I mean, can you imagine if the opponents sent the balls over to my side and I took a practice cut at it? So it's tempting to treat an obvious fault as a chance for a free swing.

Anyway, OnTheLine's experience has emboldened me. I'm going to start mentioning this to obvious offenders, be they opponents or partners.

I'll report back here, assuming I don't get strangled.
 

R1FF

Semi-Pro
I think there are a variety of reasons why people don't comply with the Code on this. Ignorance is one, of course.

But as you say, people do it because other people do it, which means it can't be that important.

Also, I think people disregard it because it doesn't clearly impact play like so many other Code provisions do. Hooking, foot faulting, calling lets, giving benefit of the doubt . . . all of those affect who gets a point. This rule -- which does not even come with a remedy -- does not affect who wins the point. So folks kind of figure it doesn't matter.

Another reason why people ignore the rule is because it does feel good to get a mulligan, right? The serve is obviously out, so you get a free "practice return." Even if you don't rip it, you get to hit a ball that isn't in play. That actually doesn't happen often in a real match, right? I mean, can you imagine if the opponents sent the balls over to my side and I took a practice cut at it? So it's tempting to treat an obvious fault as a chance for a free swing.

Anyway, OnTheLine's experience has emboldened me. I'm going to start mentioning this to obvious offenders, be they opponents or partners.

I'll report back here, assuming I don't get strangled.
Line faulters drive me nuts also.

I don’t understand how thry think they should be allowed to get away with it. They’re basically serving from 6” shorter of a court.
 
I just want to play on these magical courts where unreturned serves don't go all over the place before finding its way into the middle of the court. I'm just a Park pleb, but everything I do is in an effort to keep the game fun and moving. I'm sure my Park is similar to everyone else's preferred place of play, people that are miserable to play with don't get to play very much. I find that most issues tend to fix themselves
 

Cindysphinx

G.O.A.T.
I just want to play on these magical courts where unreturned serves don't go all over the place before finding its way into the middle of the court. I'm just a Park pleb, but everything I do is in an effort to keep the game fun and moving. I'm sure my Park is similar to everyone else's preferred place of play, people that are miserable to play with don't get to play very much. I find that most issues tend to fix themselves
We should consult some of the higher level players about this.

I came down from 4.0 and mixed 8.0. I swear, I saw more players who seemed to understand the rule at the higher levels. Skilled players stop the ball with their rackets or let it go by if it is out of easy reach, even sometimes using a stylish backspin slice so it comes back to them. I just didn't see them returning obvious faults habitually.

Here's the weird thing. Say a first serve is way out and comes to rest such that it needs to cleared. I pick it up. It would be objectionable if I then sent it back over to the server, even if I could feed it directly back to her. Why? Because i would be needlessly slowing down the game and delaying her second serve. By that logic, you are doing the same thing when you return it; and you are way more likely to miss the target if you are hitting the serve.

Come on. Try it my way, or more accurately, the Code's way, and see how much better things go.
 

R1FF

Semi-Pro
We should consult some of the higher level players about this.

I came down from 4.0 and mixed 8.0. I swear, I saw more players who seemed to understand the rule at the higher levels. Skilled players stop the ball with their rackets or let it go by if it is out of easy reach, even sometimes using a stylish backspin slice so it comes back to them. I just didn't see them returning obvious faults habitually.

Here's the weird thing. Say a first serve is way out and comes to rest such that it needs to cleared. I pick it up. It would be objectionable if I then sent it back over to the server, even if I could feed it directly back to her. Why? Because i would be needlessly slowing down the game and delaying her second serve. By that logic, you are doing the same thing when you return it; and you are way more likely to miss the target if you are hitting the serve.

Come on. Try it my way, or more accurately, the Code's way, and see how much better things go.
What’s the code say about the 3rd ball?

I played a guy that was constantly requesting that I retrieve the random 3rd ball. He already had the other two he needed for first serve. I hated retrieving the ball for him on every damn point.
 

MathGeek

Hall of Fame
My reaction time is simply too slow to pull off paced serves once I have committed to returning them, even if they end up out. Since hitting the racquet is inevitable, I do modify my swing to put it closer to the server with a bit more arc if I can. This way the server has the option to grab it if they want or let it go to the fence behind them. Due to the arc, very few take bad bounces away from the fence and need to be cleared. Play resumes as soon as the server wants, which is actually faster than on many faults that I can't reach. Faults I can't reach usually have a lot of pace when they hit the fence behind me, and many require additional attention.

I'm not returning the fault in the sense of taking a free swing. Given my limited reaction time, I am taking the approach that keeps play moving along.
 

Cawlin

Semi-Pro
What’s the code say about the 3rd ball?

I played a guy that was constantly requesting that I retrieve the random 3rd ball. He already had the other two he needed for first serve. I hated retrieving the ball for him on every damn point.
You tell that guy to get fooked. As long as he has 2 to start serving, and the 3rd isn't in a problem area, that guy can STFU about it.
 

Mongolmike

Hall of Fame
You tell that guy to get fooked. As long as he has 2 to start serving, and the 3rd isn't in a problem area, that guy can STFU about it.
I might be wrong, but I THINK that either player can ask that any ball on EITHER side be picked up.
 

Cawlin

Semi-Pro
I might be wrong, but I THINK that either player can ask that any ball on EITHER side be picked up.
The Code said:
22. Server’s request for third ball. When a server requests three balls, the receiver shall comply when the third ball is readily available. Distant balls shall be retrieved at the end of a game.
...
42. Retrieving stray balls. Each player is responsible for removing stray balls and other objects from the player’s end of the court. Whenever a ball is not in play, a player must honor an opponent’s request to remove a ball from the court or from an area outside the court that is reasonably close to the lines. A player shall not go behind an adjacent court to retrieve a ball or ask a player on an adjacent court to return a ball while a point is in play. When a player returns a ball from an adjacent court, the player shall wait until the point is over on the court where the ball is being returned and then return it directly to one of the players, preferably the server.
So really it would come down to whether or not the 3rd ball was readily available or in a problem area.

I'm not walking from the baseline to the benches to get a 3rd ball that has bounced in there and is lying safely off court among the bags and stuff unless the server doesn't have 2 balls to serve and the other ball(s) is/are farther away... if the server wants that 3rd ball when he already has 2, he can go get it himself.
 
Last edited:

Cawlin

Semi-Pro
The most classic situation is this: You hit a down the line shot with direct visibility of the line, or a sideways volley from close to the net, and clearly see the ball in. Your opponent is on the opposite side of the court (the reason why you chose that particular shot) and just cannot make a determination, and may even have been running or looking the other way. The Code demands that he make a determination. The requirement to clearly see space between ball and line is moot when you cannot see the ball or line clearly, or even be turned to look in that direction. In such cases, the Code requires the opponent to call the ball in. However, I see no problem in the opponent saying: I could not see the ball, did you see it in? and go with that decision. Sometimes I have called my own ball out as the opponent was in no position to judge, but the Code does not allow that! Sometimes I myself have hesitated, and when my opponent asked how I saw it, I would say, it was close but I am not sure, let us call it out. These are the truthful ways of addressing such problems, acknowledging the reality of who can better see the ball and establishing mutual trust and respect, instead of harping on the Code.
The Code said:
11. Requesting opponent’s help. When an opponent’s opinion is requested and the opponent gives a positive opinion, it must be accepted. If neither player has an opinion, the ball is considered good. Aid from an opponent is available only on a call that ends a point.
...
13. Player calls own shots out. With the exception of the first serve, a player should call out the player’s own shots if the player clearly sees the ball out regardless of whether requested to do so by an opponent. The prime objective in making calls is accuracy. All players should cooperate to attain this objective.
 
I used to have a bad habit of calling it OUT, then hitting it back to the server.
This interrupts his flow for the 2nd serve, since he needs to retrieve that 1st ball.
One guy I hit with calls interference on me, LOL.
 

dsp9753

Rookie
Shrug, in high school I was taught to play EVERY ball and decide as I am hitting it if its out or in. The upside is that I am always getting ready to hit/return every ball and I rarely have those, I thought it was going out but it actually landed in moments. I see a lot of rec players make this mistake. They just think the ball is going out but it actually lands in and they are not ready to play it.

Also, I was told that if I ever play the ball then call it out, my opponents wont think I am trying to cheat them just because their ball was too good. And then again, if the ball is called out and I play it, but call is overruled by an umpire, the umpire may call for a redo since I played it and got it back in.

Now, its just a habit. I end up trying to return almost every close serve. I have gotten better over time on not returning really out serves but I still cant help myself sometimes.
 

kevrol

Hall of Fame
We should consult some of the higher level players about this.

I came down from 4.0 and mixed 8.0. I swear, I saw more players who seemed to understand the rule at the higher levels. Skilled players stop the ball with their rackets or let it go by if it is out of easy reach, even sometimes using a stylish backspin slice so it comes back to them. I just didn't see them returning obvious faults habitually.
Higher level players have better reflexes and racquet control? Who knew?
 
Last edited:

Big_Dangerous

Talk Tennis Guru
I "return" most faults, but I'm not blasting them down the line. Usually I just hit it back to the server to prevent having to chase down balls after every point. In 15+ years of playing nobody has ever complained, occasionally there's a bit of confusion if it's a close call but a verbal and hand signal typically avoids that. If it's way out or out of my reach, then I'll let it go to the back fence or pocket it. In doubles I'll try to hit it to the net person so they can pocket it. If somebody ever did indicate they didn't like it, I'd stop without discussion.

If this is the most annoying thing you encounter on the courts, consider yourself very lucky.
See this is my thing too. I feel like with rec level play, you don't have the luxury of ball boys, so if you refuse to return any close but out serves, then it causes a delay on the back end having to retrieve balls after the point. And to be honest, I feel like it probably takes just as much time to stop and grab the ball that was a fault, pocket it or roll it out of the way, then it does to simply return the fault serve to your opponent's side of the court. Not to mention that when playing rec level tennis, chances are pretty good you are using a single can of 3 balls and you ain't changing balls every 6-7 games either.
 

ChaelAZ

Legend
I ma old and slow so I tend to hit more back than I should, but I can htme as soon as my eyes process the information and my brain can tell my mouth to say it.
 

Big_Dangerous

Talk Tennis Guru
Shrug, in high school I was taught to play EVERY ball and decide as I am hitting it if its out or in. The upside is that I am always getting ready to hit/return every ball and I rarely have those, I thought it was going out but it actually landed in moments. I see a lot of rec players make this mistake. They just think the ball is going out but it actually lands in and they are not ready to play it.

Also, I was told that if I ever play the ball then call it out, my opponents wont think I am trying to cheat them just because their ball was too good. And then again, if the ball is called out and I play it, but call is overruled by an umpire, the umpire may call for a redo since I played it and got it back in.

Now, its just a habit. I end up trying to return almost every close serve. I have gotten better over time on not returning really out serves but I still cant help myself sometimes.
Yeah that's another good point as well. On close serves that miss the box by a small margin, many players glare at you or mutter some **** when you don't play it back and just call it out. That gets rather annoying. I'd rather be glared at or have my opponent mutter something about me returning a fault serve than to think that I am a line cheat. It's definitely a Catch 22 though. I guess the best thing is to just take the lesser of two evils. I'd rather my opponent be bitchy about having to walk a few feet bend them to pick up a ball than to think that I am cheating them with bad line calls.
 

kylebarendrick

Professional
I think of it this way - if you have time to control the ball in some manner rather than hit it back to the server, then don't hit it back. Nobody is (or should be) talking about fast serves that are close. As I wrote earlier, the ones that bother me most are the ones where the serve hits the tape, loses most of its momentum, and lands well out. There's no reason to hit that ball.

I'll also make the argument that once you as the returner hit an out serve, you become responsible for any delays caused by where the ball ends up. On the other hand, if you just let it go by then even if it bounces onto the next court that's on the server (because they touched it last) and it is still a second serve.
 

Mongolmike

Hall of Fame
Played 2 sets last night, league doubles so I of course did not receive all the serves, but without a hard count I'd say I hit 3 "out" serves back...and even those were more of a controlled swing.

I thought about this thread on one wide serve (I was on AD side). It was to the outside and wide out by a couple inches, but I had to lunge for it to my backhand. Even so, I was able to take some off my backhand but not able to stop my swing. The ball looped over the up man and landed in the court near the server. The other one was down the T to my FH, good pace, I thought it was deep but swung away and let my partner make the call.

There might've been one other, but I still contend that at rec level, most players have time to adjust their swing, even if they recognize the serve is out. The majority of the time I block the ball to the net or let it go to my back net, a minority of the time I stop the ball with my racquet, grab the ball and pocket it.

I don't think I've got lightning reflexes either. To me, for the most part, I don't buy it that people are not able to control their swings and have to hit every serve back. As a server, I don't want my out serve ball back. Bunt it into the net, or let it go to your back net.

If we all utilized ball kids to chase these returns down like the pros, that's different.
 

Moveforwardalways

Hall of Fame
I really don’t think this is a huge problem, and I don’t think that people abuse it. If the ball is clearly out, like 2 feet on a slow serve, then sure don’t return it. But as you progress to higher levels, serves get heavier and no one really misses by that much, and almost every fault is close by definition. At this level, returning faults is a non-issue because you have to call them all out as you are swinging. It’s unavoidable.
 

Big_Dangerous

Talk Tennis Guru
I really don’t think this is a huge problem, and I don’t think that people abuse it. If the ball is clearly out, like 2 feet on a slow serve, then sure don’t return it. But as you progress to higher levels, serves get heavier and no one really misses by that much, and almost every fault is close by definition. At this level, returning faults is a non-issue because you have to call them all out as you are swinging. It’s unavoidable.
I also look at this way - at the higher levels when the serving gets harder and guys put more kick and spin on the ball, you might actually be doing them and yourself a favor by simply chipping the return back to their side, especially on wide serves. If you have people playing on an adjacent court, then serves out wide that are faults you don't really want to to let go because they'll just roll into the other court.
 
Last edited:

Cindysphinx

G.O.A.T.
I played four hours of doubles just now -- *Four!*

To occupy my mind, I watched whether any of my six competitors had a habit of returning obviously out serves. Mostly, no. Most of the ladies made an effort to control obviously out serves (catching them or letting them go by).

One lady, though. Oh, she stuck out like a sore thumb. Hit every single fault back over the net for two hours. At times, it looked like she knew it was out but hit it anyway, but not as hard as her usual return. But she never once caught the serve or let it go. And many of these returns of obvious faults required the server to move to catch or clear that ball.

She's nice, but newer to tennis than the rest of us. I think she just doesn't know any better.
 

Bluefan75

Professional
See this is my thing too. I feel like with rec level play, you don't have the luxury of ball boys, so if you refuse to return any close but out serves, then it causes a delay on the back end having to retrieve balls after the point. And to be honest, I feel like it probably takes just as much time to stop and grab the ball that was a fault, pocket it or roll it out of the way, then it does to simply return the fault serve to your opponent's side of the court. Not to mention that when playing rec level tennis, chances are pretty good you are using a single can of 3 balls and you ain't changing balls every 6-7 games either.
Here's my view on it: If I hit a serve and it is obviously long, if the guy lets it go and it bounces back onto the court, he has to clear it, no problem. But if he hits it back, and then it bounces back and I have to clear it, now it's getting into the state where I should be taking a let. The server shouldn't have to move much between a first and second serve.

And just how long does it take you to grab balls that are at the back fence? I'd rather be waiting a moment for a ball between points than have things mucked up between serves.
 

Mongolmike

Hall of Fame
Here's my view on it: If I hit a serve and it is obviously long, if the guy lets it go and it bounces back onto the court, he has to clear it, no problem. But if he hits it back, and then it bounces back and I have to clear it, now it's getting into the state where I should be taking a let. The server shouldn't have to move much between a first and second serve.

And just how long does it take you to grab balls that are at the back fence? I'd rather be waiting a moment for a ball between points than have things mucked up between serves.
But possibly, isn't that part of the "oh, I can't possibly stop or amend my swing" intent... to muck up the server's rhythm? People who do that won't admit it, but they can't be that clueless... they have to see that the server has to corral the ball and pocket it, or watch it to make sure it is in a safe spot. So they know it mucks up their rhythm.

Maybe the people who return obvious faults should get the same treatment back. EVERY serve they hit, in or out no matter where, gets hit back to their GENERAL direction with no comment. See if they say anything.
 

kevrol

Hall of Fame
I played a 3 set match for fun yesterday against a good friend. He hit every single out serve back to me. Would have been very annoying if it was a real match.
 

Big_Dangerous

Talk Tennis Guru
Here's my view on it: If I hit a serve and it is obviously long, if the guy lets it go and it bounces back onto the court, he has to clear it, no problem. But if he hits it back, and then it bounces back and I have to clear it, now it's getting into the state where I should be taking a let. The server shouldn't have to move much between a first and second serve.

And just how long does it take you to grab balls that are at the back fence? I'd rather be waiting a moment for a ball between points than have things mucked up between serves.
I was talking about serves that roll over into the adjacent courts... :rolleyes:
 

Big_Dangerous

Talk Tennis Guru
But possibly, isn't that part of the "oh, I can't possibly stop or amend my swing" intent... to muck up the server's rhythm? People who do that won't admit it, but they can't be that clueless... they have to see that the server has to corral the ball and pocket it, or watch it to make sure it is in a safe spot. So they know it mucks up their rhythm.

Maybe the people who return obvious faults should get the same treatment back. EVERY serve they hit, in or out no matter where, gets hit back to their GENERAL direction with no comment. See if they say anything.
I don't think that players who return obvious faults are intentionally trying to hit the server with the ball though. I mean I'll agree that unless your opponent needs the ball or has a hangup about having all 3 balls on his/her side when serving, then you can just let an obvious fault go. However, let's not assume that all players who do return blatantly obvious faults have some sort of malicious intent to peg the server with a ball.
 

boilerfan

New User
I also look at this way - at the higher levels when the serving gets harder and guys put more kick and spin on the ball, you might actually be doing them and yourself a favor by simple chipping the return back to their side, especially on wide serves. If you have people playing on an adjacent court, then serves out wide that are faults you don't really want to to let go because they'll just roll into the other court.
I have to agree with this regarding the question about how high level players handle out serves. In high level doubles, the serves are usually not missing by much and the returners are trying to be aggressive, so they are swinging on everything. The goal is to not disrupt the server, whether that means you have time to react and hit into the net, by the fence, directly to the server, or block to the net player. The flow of higher level doubles might not be exactly what the code says, but it is efficient and tries to not disrupt other courts and the server. There are always exceptions based on reactions and how far the ball is out, but in general what I see done:
1: Out wide serves generally are blocked into the net in front of the opposing net player or to the opposing net player for them to catch
2: T servers that require a lunge are blocked into the net , where the net players quickly retrieve the ball or move it to the side.
3: Most other serves are just hit into the net, directly to the server for them to catch, or angled cross court if you have a side fence.

One thing I think you would notice if you watched some high level doubles is the speed at which players react to clearing the ball. Both net players will react to clear the ball or put it into their pocket, and the server has a sense pretty quickly if they need to react to move the ball. It seems like when I watch some newer players, the net players will watch the ball roll around hoping it stops in a good spot, or if the returner lets the serve go, they all watch as the ball rolls around hoping it doesn't go onto another court or back to the feet of the returner. Just take 2 or 3 steps and move the ball to a good spot or put it in your pocket. And please don't just let the ball roll onto another court. When I see a serve hit out, the returner blocks the serve into the net and the net player just watches the ball roll onto another court just boggles my mind.
 

Mongolmike

Hall of Fame
I don't think that players who return obvious faults are intentionally trying to hit the server with the ball though. I mean I'll agree that unless your opponent needs the ball or has a hangup about having all 3 balls on his/her side when serving, then you can just let an obvious fault go. However, let's not assume that all players who do return blatantly obvious faults have some sort of malicious intent to peg the server with a ball.
2 things- not sure where I gave the impression that I would try to peg the server with an out serve, or that I think others are trying to do so. Might SOME players be hitting out serves back to the server to disrupt their rhythm? I think that is a possibility for some.

#2- I'm of the group that tries NOT to hit faults back over the net. I think I'm pretty good about hitting outs into the net, stopping the ball and pocketing it, or letting it roll to my back fence/curtain.
 

Cindysphinx

G.O.A.T.
Fun fact. Remember the new lady who returned obvious faults?

I returned as many as I could reach, from baseline or net. I wanted to see whether this would have any impact on her behavior.

Nope. It never dawned that if she played the ball I would also play the ball.
 
Top