A first serve that clearly landed in was called out by my partner after I hit a clear winner. I
decided to give another first serve but said, “I disagree with my partner; the ball was in.” Our opponents claimed that since we disagreed on a call, they should get the point. The fact that our disagreement was in the best interest of the opposing team didn’t seem to matter to them. What should happen?
— James Ousey, Woodland, CA
This scenario illustrates that the rulebook isn’t equipped to handle every situation. First, let me tell you what “should” happen: second serve. “Should” because the general underlying principle of making calls is that opponents should get the benefit of the doubt. Most of us understand that principle to mean that the decision should accrue to the advantage of the opponents.
However, because the authors of The Code didn’t anticipate this anomalous situation, it leads us to a totally different answer: the team in disagreement wins the point. The Code doesn’t deal with “correcting” a call from “good” to “out,” nor does it contemplate that an “out” call on a first serve would be better for the serving team if the receiver’s return was otherwise struck for a clear winner. Instead, The Code, Item 14, states: “If one partner calls the ball out and the other partner sees the ball good, the ball is good.” In this case, if the ball is good, the subsequent clear winner would also be good, since the disagreement by the
receiver’s partner didn’t come until after the ball had gone out of play. This sentence of The Code should perhaps be rewritten: “If partners disagree on a call, the call that is to the advantage of the opponents stands.”
Except where noted, answers are based on the ITF Rules of Tennis and USTA's The Code.
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