During a doubles match, our weaker opponent was having a difficult time returning serve. The partners huddled and then planted her in the alley in no man’s land. It baffled the server enough that she was no longer able to place her serve. That compelled us to wonder, do both partners need to physically remain on the court, or can one sit out until a point is over?

— Celeste Manolas, Ojai, CA

The game is called “doubles” for a reason. All players need to be standing and within the playing area on their side of the net when the point begins. Rule 8 specifically says that “players/teams stand on opposite sides of the court.” While Case 1 to that rule says they can “take any position inside or outside the lines” on their side, that is not interpreted to mean being outside the playing area. Theoretically you could start a point standing on the court and then grab a seat in the bleachers, but let’s not make a travesty of the game.

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

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