During a match I was watching on TV, the server hit a fault and her opponent hit the ball right back to her. The server grabbed the ball and then hit it underhand, over the net, to the ball girl on the other side. She then proceeded to serve her second serve. No one said anything, but should hitting a ball over the net—whether intentionally trying to serve or not—have counted as her second serve, and therefore a double fault?

— Chris Terrell, Greensboro, NC

I think not. Intent is what’s important here. Rule 19, Case 1, deals with a server tossing the ball and then catching it after deciding not to serve. This does not count as a serve and is legal because there was no intent to serve. By extension, corralling a stray ball and knocking it away after a fault displays no intent to serve, no matter the direction the ball travels.


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

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