Tennis has its official rules, then it has The Code of Tennis, the unofficial rules of good tennis sportsmanship. Any serious player should take the time to read both. Plays who don’t understand the rules, or worse, The Code, are more likely to experience a gradually shrinking pool of opponents.
Besides the rules of tennis there are also some important unwritten laws which some under the title of tennis etiquette. Tennis is a social game, a game involving simple politeness and consideration. Everyone will enjoy the game so much more if those standards are maintained.
Here are some of the rules that are most important:
- Talk quietly when standing near tennis courts that are in use. Keep speech and noise down to calling the scores. Use hand signals for in and out balls. We do this in consideration to the neighbors next to the courts. We have been warned and can be sure we do not want to lose our morning playing privileges.
- Never walk behind a court when a point is still in play. Wait until the point is over then cross the court as fast as possible. If you have to cross the court wait for a break in play and quickly cross over either at the net or at the back. By not waiting for a break in play you become a distraction to the players, they may not see you and run into you or be hit by the ball in play.
- If people are already on your court, do not disturb them until their time is up.
- Always come prepared. Bring towels and water to drink when it is hot.
- Wear sneakers for tennis. Other shoes may wear out quickly, hurt your feet, or damage the court.
- When you are ready to play, put racket covers, ball cans, jackets, etc. out of way.
- Keep your warm up to 15 minutes if there are others waiting to play.
- To determine server, spin your racket or a coin toss. If you win the toss, the choice is yours. You may who serves first, or you may choose which end of the court you want to start playing on. As a third choice you may make your opponent choose.
- Roll balls when sending balls back to a neighboring court. Never send them back while play is in progress.
- Retrieve balls from your partner and your opponent.
- Do not criticize your partner, offer encouragement.
- Call your own lines and let your opponent hear the call. If the ball is good say nothing and play on.
- Always respect line calls if your opponent.
- If there is a disagreement, offer a let. In other words, replay the point, even if it was a second service.
- If your ball goes to the adjoining court you are not to go on their court to retrieve the ball, use the remaining balls. Wait for a break in the adjoining game and ask to have your ball returned. By going to the next court you not only distract the players but they may not see you, run into you, or be hit by a ball in play. If you are returning the ball hit it to the back of the court and not on the playing surface, as we do not want the players to step and accidentally trip over the ball.
- Do not under any circumstance run on to the adjoining court to play a ball. It is better to loose the point than to cause an accident by running into the next player or interrupting their game.
- Coaching should not be done during a game as it distracts your partner and opponents.
Even the most efficient players spend more time between points than playing points. Getting the balls in the server’s hand is the biggest time waster. While a brief rest between points is often needed, many players slow the game down by a factor of tow or three by failing to collect balls and get them to the server efficiently.