My opponent returned my wide, short serve (that landed out) into the net and called it out. He then walked to retrieve the ball. Since the serve landed really short, the returner had ample time to stop himself from hitting the ball unnecessarily. This threw off my rhythm. Should I have received a first serve as a result?

— Doug Usher, Poughkeepsie, NY

Even though unnecessarily returning serves that are clearly faults can be aggravating to the server, nothing in the Rules of Tennis grants the server a right to “rhythm.” And under The Code, Item 30, it is the receiver’s decision on whether the delay “is  sufficiently prolonged to justify giving the server two serves.” You can always try invoking The Code, Item 1, “Courtesy is expected,” but there’s no real penalty for being discourteous.


Except where noted, answers are based on the ITF Rules of Tennis and USTA's The Code.

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