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"THE CODE" is not an antidote for willful cheating, instead, it constitutes a way for honest players to employ the same approach to various situations so that neither takes advantage of the other. The following sentences have been taken from it and included here with the objective of making tennis more enjoyable.



Any doubt must be resolved in favor of the opponent.

Any ball that cannot be called out is presumed to have been good.

Once an out or let call is made play stops, regardless of what happens thereafter.

All points should be treated with the same importance, and there is no justification for considering match point any differently from the first point.

The prime objective in making line calls is accuracy and all participants should cooperate to attain this objective. When a player does not call an out ball against himself when he clearly sees it out he is cheating.

Don't interrupt other's play to retrieve or return a loose ball. Don't hit it aimlessly out of your court; do pick it up and direct it to one of the players so it goes to him on the first bounce.

Don't complain of the type of shots an opponent hits; they are his business as long as they are legal. Don't slam the ball in anger. Don't sulk when you are losing.

Above all, try to make tennis a fun game for all participants.



When a server requests three balls prior to each serve, the receiver should comply when the third ball is readily available. The receiver should not be required to get the third when it is a distance away. Distant balls should be retried at the end of a game. Even if no ethics were involved, from the practical view it behooves a player to avoid foot faults. Many players want to practice their serves just before they serve the first time; once a match has started there is no basis for practice of any sort.

In returning service in doubles, the receiver's partner must call the service for him, with the receiver aiding his partner in calling the center line and the alley line. Returning a service that is obviously out is a form of rudeness (or gamesmanship). At the same time it must be expected that a fast service that just misses the tape will frequently with justification be returned as a matter of self-protection, even though an out call is made. The server's net man should not make an out call of his partner's first service even though he thinks it is out, because the receiver may think the service is good and hit his for a placement. However, the net man should volunteer a call on any second service he clearly sees to be out, for in this instance his call terminates the point.



A player will frequently keep in play a ball that "might have been out" and was out. Even so, the game is much better played this way. In making a line call, a player should not enlist the aid of a spectator. It is both the obligation and prerogative of a player to call all balls in his court, to help his opponent make calls when the opponent requests it, and to call against himself (with the exception of a first service) any ball that he clearly sees out on his opponent's side.

No player should question another's call unless he is asked, but a player should always ask his opponent's opinion when the opponent is in a better position to see a ball. The law of parallax being what they are, the opinion of a player looking down a line is much more likely to be accurate than that of a player looking across a line.

When time and the court surface permits, a player should take a careful second look at any point-ending placement that is close to a line. Calls based on a "flash look" are often inaccurate and unfair to an opponent. A driven ball -- in contrast to a ball dropping vertically -- will leave a mark in the shape of a ellipse. If you cannot see court surface between the ellipse and the line, the ball is good. If you can see only part of an ellipse on the ground the missing part is on the line or tape. Some players will call this kind out - this thinking is fallacious as a ball 99% out is still good. On courts which have tapes for lines, occasionally a ball will strike the tape, jump an inch, then leave a full ellipse. The receiver should give the point, the out ellipse not withstanding.



A player cannot claim a let on the basis that he did not see a ball. When you ask for a replay because you say your opponent's shot was really out but you want to give him "a break", you are deluding yourself; you must have had some small shred of doubt, and that doubt means the point should be your opponents.

A replay should occur only on rare occasions. Your opponent's ball appears out and you so call, but return the ball to his court. Inspection reveals that your out call is in error. Since you actually returned the ball a let is authorized.

Any call of "out" or "let" must be made instantaneously; otherwise the ball is presumed good and still in play. "Instantaneously" means before either an opponent has a chance to hit the return or the return has gone out of play. This requirement will quickly eliminate the "two chance" option some players practice, i.e., to go ahead and hit a ball under "let" conditions, and then if you've missed the shot to demand the "let".



A player who hits a weak shot and before the ball has crossed the net utters an exclamation such as "lousy shot" entitles his opponent to a let. Conversation between partners while the ball is in play on their opponent's side of the net is taboo. Even on their own side conversation should be minimized, only words permitted being such exhortations as "run" or to let a ball pass "out".

Avoid the practice of some players who in loud tones have a post-mortem on each point, to the dismay of the players on the adjoining courts.

But a player, when a ball is in play or about to be in play, is entitled to feint with his body. He may change position on the court at any time. He may not wave his racket or his arms nor may talk to make noise in an attempt to create a distraction.


The Code:

The Code, a summary of procedures and unwritten rules that custom and tradition dictate all players should follow. No system of rules will cover every specific problem or situation that may arise. If players of good will follow the principles of The Code, they should always be able to reach an agreement, while at the same time making tennis more fun and a better game for all.

—Col. Nick Powel