Do you really know the rules of tennis? When Carolyn and Erin started playing, we didn’t! 10+ years later, we still have questions which is why we thought it would be helpful to update a rules card (to make it more simple) and record this Tennis Rules for Rec Players episode.

We posted the card in our Resources section and you can download the rules card here. We *highly* suggest you keep a copy of it in your tennis bag.

Here’s a complete transcript of our episode:

Carolyn: 0:06
Hi, this is Carolyn and I’m here with Erin, and Erin is an amazing graphic designer, if any of you guys don’t know. She is, and she has redesigned a rules card to make it really simple if you’re trying to find certain rules. So we thought it would be helpful for other players if we go through the 10 rules that we didn’t know when we first started playing and we wish we would have, because we lost a point because of it not knowing the rule. Okay, there’s 10 of them. Let’s start with number one. You cannot call a double bounce on your opponent.
Erin: 0:36
Right. A lot of people don’t know who can call the double bounce right and a lot of people feel like they get to a ball and I think this rule is kind of weird, but it is the rule. You have to call it on yourself. The problem is is a lot of times you can’t see if it’s happening or not. So I think either your I mean I’m sorry, your doubles partner should call it if you’re in doubles, if you’re in singles, you don’t have a choice, but which they never would, because they wouldn’t be like oh you just double bounced, we’re giving up that point. Or your opponents should call it. But I guess the reason why they don’t is because then they could just be like oh, you could argue with someone whether it was a double bounce or not. But I think, as the player who’s running for the ball, it’s very hard to see if you get it on the first bounce or not. But the rule in rec tennis is you have to call it on yourself.
Carolyn: 1:23
That’s right, and even though you want to call a double bounce on your opponent, you can’t Right Exactly.
Erin: 1:28
Which also leads into the next one, right? So the next one says you cannot call a foot fault on your opponent unless all reasonable efforts, such as warning and attempting to get an official, have failed. We’ve talked about this one a lot. We have. We actually did an episode. Where wasn’t it a crazy situation with Mike Not your Mike, but a different Mike that said an opponent called a footfall on him in a match tiebreak and he didn’t know that they weren’t allowed to do that and so they conceded the point and they lost that match.
Carolyn: 1:58
Yes, yes, it was like 10-9 in match tiebreak and he served an ace and the opponent said, no, that’s a footfall. So I think the point of this rule is like you can’t do that, you can’t initially say that’s a footfall, so sorry.
Erin: 2:13
And there are. I’ve seen a lot of people egregiously footfall. It’s just part of their routine. I hate to say that, but I also feel like at our level and I will say our level from two, five to four or five even, like our listeners is, I don’t it doesn’t make a huge difference in your serve If you’re half a step inside the baseline or stepping on the baseline. It might make a difference in pro. For pros Like I know a lady who plays out of my club and she foot faults on every serve. It’s literally her routine and some people get really irritated with her and you just. We just let it go because it’s not like she has an amazing serve, that she’s just acing everybody because she’s stepping on the line.
Erin: 2:55
So, but anyway, yes, you cannot call it on your opponents. Part of that rule is you can if you’ve warned them enough and attempted to get an official. But in rec tennis they’re unofficiated matches, so that’s why that rule kind of goes out the window.
Carolyn: 3:14
That’s right. That’s right. Okay, Onto number three. You may not catch or stop a ball before it bounces. I know I want to do that Like I’m a foot behind the baseline. Here comes a ball. You don’t want to chase it to another court, so I use my racket to stop it. Well, that’s not allowed, right? Depending on who you play, they will say that’s my point. Yeah, I’ve seen a lot of men do that though.
Erin: 3:30
Like I watched a match the other night and literally like someone knew it was going to bounce out and so they just grab it.
Erin: 3:41
And then but nobody compl ball could have dropped in. No, it was flying 18 feet out. But you know we like to argue right. Okay, what’s our next one? For If you’ve served first in a set, tie break. Your opponent will serve first in the next set. And we actually reworded this based on our last rules card. We simplified everything. That’s why we’ve put out this new rules card. We’ve just simplified everything to who serves and what side we go on.
Carolyn: 4:10
Yes. Do you remember what the answer is yes. So if you serve first in the set tie break, the opponents will serve first in the next one. Right, exactly.
Erin: 4:18
Oh, you know what I was thinking of? Sides of court.
Carolyn: 4:20
I was thinking of when someone, when you change ends, and that’s another one that we didn’t include on this, but we probably should have, because that’s a big one. And what’s the rule on that?
Erin: 4:29
Erin, the rule is you look at your feet when you end the set and you put your feet on the other side of the court, right? That’s the most simplified way of looking.
Carolyn: 4:38
It’s the end, not the beginning. It’s where you end the set tie break and then you switch.
Erin: 4:43
Exactly. And Rebel Good, our rules guru guy who helps us with our rules card.
Carolyn: 4:47
We always have him check it over before we and answers all our questions the crazy questions we have.
Erin: 4:52
Yes, and he answers a lot of them. He always says look at your feet and walk to the other side of the court and that’s where you will begin the next set. Yes, that’s right. Very simple, okay. Number five If a racket is dropped or a shoe comes off, play on. That is not what like people like to call a let, not what like people like to call a let you. Literally, it is part of the game. If you lose your shoe or you lose your racket, you are now at a disadvantage, but everybody plays on until the point is over. Yes, you could actually still win the point by dropping your racket or losing your shoe If the other team, I guess, is distracted, and maybe, or you know, they don’t even have to be distracted let’s say, they just don’t get the ball on your side of the court as a winner. But yeah, you play on in that situation.
Carolyn: 5:35
That’s right. Okay, number six you win the point if a serve hits your opponent before it bounces or if the ball hits a player before it lands out. So I know I’ve actually served and hit my opponent’s partner.
Erin: 5:51
Like someone at the net.
Carolyn: 5:52
Yes, I felt terrible and then I took the point.
Erin: 5:55
And then she fist pumped and was like yes, that’s my point, right right, and I’ve had the opposite happen to me.
Erin: 6:01
So I’ve actually never been hit, but I know I told this story on one of our 200 plus podcasts we played years ago. We played a team and I think my partner served so long that actually hit the baseliner. That was the receiver. It didn’t hit the net person, I don’t know. Actually, now that I think about it, I don’t know if it was a serve or just a shot and we said, oh, we felt bad. The woman got hit, it was like on her leg or something, and we were like that’s our point. And she was like, well, I tried to get out of the way point.
Erin: 6:30
And she was like, well, I tried to get out of the way and we’re like, well, trying to get out of the way and actually getting out of the way I mean you see a lot of players jump out of the way of the ball because you cannot get hit with the ball before it lands out and is basically the point is dead.
Carolyn: 6:44
And I even had a friend who said that. Somebody said, you know, the ball flew out. But the woman asked did that touch your hair?
Erin: 6:52
Oh, because if it touched your hair, if it touches your hair, it says anything, right yeah?
Carolyn: 6:56
Then you lose the point. Wow, and she was like no, it didn’t touch my hair.
Erin: 7:00
Well, if it was like a swinging ponytail? Or something, maybe that’s funny. Number seven if you win the toss or the racket spin. But we said, if you win the toss you can choose one to serve or receive, two end of court. Or three you can defer, which requires your opponent to make the choice. How many times have you had anyone defer? Never.
Carolyn: 7:21
We almost did.
Erin: 7:22
I played a match last night. We almost deferred. So I said to my partner last night when we just couldn’t decide what we wanted to do, I said if it made a difference of which side her and I were playing, we would serve first because we could kind of check out our opponents and then decide who I wanted to hit against or who my partner wanted to hit against. But it really didn’t matter. Plus, it was a trial level match, it’s summertime, we’re having fun, hopefully. So we were just like eh, whatever, I think we chose to receive because we wanted to just get in the match and get a couple returns and you know, see what they were like.
Carolyn: 7:54
But yeah, I normally always choose server receive, but I think from now on I’m gonna defer, just to make it so that people are like what is wrong, exactly?
Erin: 8:02
person and I also did say this on our podcast. But, um, several months ago I don’t even know what match I was watching, a pro match on tv that I was watching the warmup, and then you know they were spinning and taking their photo and all that stuff One of the pro players deferred, and I want to say Martina Navratilova or someone, some famous person that knows what they’re talking about on TV said I have never seen someone defer.
Carolyn: 8:27
We’ve got to start doing that I know Right, just to rattle people.
Erin: 8:31
But you know what else I do I’m going to receive and I’ll stay here, and someone has said to me that’s two choices.
Carolyn: 8:40
I’m like, oh sorry, yes, okay. Well then, someone did that to me too. I had to be like, oh, you can’t choose which one? Do you want to choose Right, exactly yes that has happened and I actually saw men arguing about it at the state championship in a court beside me, because the person said they wanted to defer and someone said you can’t do that.
Erin: 8:58
Yes, you can.
Carolyn: 8:58
Absolutely, and you can. It’s on our rules card you can absolutely defer.
Erin: 9:01
Please go to our rules card.
Carolyn: 9:02
So people are confused about it. So I think that’s important. Yeah, that’s funny. That’s kind of like a gotcha.
Erin: 9:08
It’s like you get the choice, but you’re like I’m going to give the choice back to you.
Carolyn: 9:13
I love it of the doubt when making line calls.
Erin: 9:17
Yep, you should not say when in doubt, call it out.
Carolyn: 9:25
I know that’s what I always say, unless it’s the playoffs. No, I’m just kidding. Or the benefit of the doubt goes down the more serious you are. But yes, your opponents get the benefit of the doubt, so you can’t say, oh, I didn’t see it. Let’s replay the point.
Erin: 9:35
Never replay the point. That’s a really good point, Carolyn. The other thing too is and I’ve had this happen and it is infuriating and I should have argued it at the time I don’t know who wants to get in an argument, Right? I don’t have the energy. I’m just trying to get a ball on the other side of the court, hopefully more than one time Keep track of scoring.
Erin: 10:00
But I have had someone tell me in singles I think the ball was out, and so she took the point. And now what I say, even in practice and I’m not trying to be a jerk but you can’t think the ball is out. You either know the ball is out or you’re unsure and you give up that point, right. I mean, there it’s very cut and dry, right. But people like to like.
Carolyn: 10:13
Oh, let’s repay the point. I’m not sure, yeah. Or somebody will ask you like did you? You think that ball was out? What do you think? Yeah? And you say or I thought it was in, and they still call it out. Exactly, you know, even though they’re not supposed to, because if they ask you, you’re then supposed to go with what the opponent says. See, we could have had a million other rules on this rule yeah, there’s so many other rules.
Erin: 10:34
We’ll do Keep it to 10 and be as simple as possible. So okay, number nine. In order to claim a hindrance, you must stop play immediately. So give us an example.
Carolyn: 10:46
Oh, man, okay. Somebody throws up a lob and says watch out. I’ve had this happen so many times. The person then at the net goes for an overhead and hits you know, right as they’re saying watch out, it messes them up, but they still hit the ball into the net and then they say you can’t do that.
Erin: 11:03
Yes, so that’s too late. You have to catch the ball. I’ve literally never seen anyone do it. I haven’t either. You know what? I can’t think that quickly on my feet. That’s the problem.
Carolyn: 11:11
Yes, Like in my head I’m going you’re not allowed to do that. And then you’re hitting the ball, and then I hit the ball and then I’m like I shouldn’t have hit it. This is all going through my head and I lose the point.
Erin: 11:21
Yes, exactly. But if you are calling a hindrance which you are allowed to call hindrances on your opponents if they’ve distracted you somehow, you have to catch the ball before you hit it, before you hit the next ball. You can’t decide that you were hindered after you’ve played out the point, even if you hit the next one and then the play.
Erin: 11:39
Even if you didn’t mess it up or hit it into the net or hit it out, you still can’t play the next ball. And then the ball comes back to you and then you’re like I was hindered two balls ago.
Carolyn: 11:49
Right right, which I think happens a lot. It does. People then say something and you’re like well you played it Exactly, so okay.
Erin: 11:55
Last one, at least on this rules card, is if a ball hits a permanent fixture like a scoreboard or a bench and lands in the correct court, the ball is out and I’ve had this happen to me, a lot of people A couple times. Yeah.
Carolyn: 12:09
And every time we didn’t know. After the first time I knew the rule. Right but everybody else on the court didn’t know it.
Erin: 12:15
Yes, so there is a caveat to this, which there are, to all the rules which we’re going to talk about. But someone contacted us, I think Leah, who we did her questions at one point Remember we had a whole list of questions from Leah. Oh, yes, so she contacted me and there are local courts that she plays at that. The scoreboard is part of the net, so it’s not like the one that we might bring. You can order off Amazon or something and stick on the top of the net. It’s one that’s actually affixed to the net and we contacted Rebel about that specifically. And if it is part of the net, even if it’s the scoreboard and somehow crazy rolls over, spins over to your opponent’s side and it’s a winner, that’s considered part of the net. That ball is still good.
Carolyn: 12:58
Yeah, they consider it part of the net, not an actual scoreboard. They don’t consider it a permanent fixture. No, that is a permanent. Oh yeah, it’s not a permanent fixture, because if it hits a permanent fixture you lose the point.
Erin: 13:10
But the other scoreboards that we generally see in our area are the ones that come out of the post that are tall right that, like everybody can see from courts far away, those, if it hits that scoreboard and lands in the correct court, it’s out. Or if it hits a like it says a bench or what else would be sitting there, I don’t know a light pole. Last night someone hit a shot on our court and it went up and it hit the lamp like way up in the air. Whatever, you know.
Carolyn: 13:42
Whatever, however, high lamps are light poles and came down in our court but we’re like okay, that was a, it’s not your point. You can find our rules card under the resources section of our website, which is SecondServePodcastcom. If there are any rules you wish you would have known when you started playing USTA matches, please contact us so we can include them in our next card. Also, if you’re enjoying our podcast, we would greatly appreciate a five-star rating wherever you listen to podcasts, so others can find us. Thanks so much for listening and hope to see you on the court soon.