Monday, April 10, 2006


It was a USTA (tennis association) team match between my gay team and a team from Golden Gate Park. This, and USTA sponsored tournaments are the most “official” matches players at my level can play. Records are kept. Winning teams go to post season play leading to a national championship. Individuals’ playing-level ratings go up and down based on a computer’s analysis of results.

Early in my doubles match my partner hit a ball that went way past our opponents’ baseline, but, before it landed, it hit one of our opponents. He looked up with a sheepish expression.

“If that hit you, it’s our point,” I declared. He started to ask for me to cut him some slack, but I insisted.

It’s a well known rule. Frequently we see pros, well behind their baseline, jumping or contorting themselves to avoid a ball that’s going long. Afterward, I discussed with one of my teammates who said that given the circumstances (the opponent standing in “out” territory) it might have been good sportsmanship to concede the point.

What I hate about this point of view is that it’s more complicated than simply following the rule. There are enough judgment calls without adding another. And there are enough rules without having to remember a whole bunch of unwritten exceptions.

Or, if there are some aspects of some rules that “everyone” knows are chickenshit, let’s state them so we all know they aren’t in effect.

Getting hit by a ball when you're in out territory rarely happens. It's kind of basic, like not falling for the hidden ball trick. It happened on my court once before. People didn’t know the rule. The only other time I witnessed it was an Open Division men’s singles match. One guy had a weird flat serve that sort of sailed, like a fastball. One of his long serves hit his opponent in the foot. No argument, both knew the rule. Server's point.

Ok. If it’s my six year old niece who’s already crying because the ball hit her, I’m not going to lean over and say, “And by the way, you lose the point.”

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