"THE CODE" to Increase Rhythm in Your Game
What if I were to tell you that there is a sure way to increase the rhythm in your game? Furthermore, it wouldn’t require a change in your swing pattern or your footwork, and it wouldn’t cost you a dime out of your pocket or a bead of sweat on your brow. Would you be interested?
If you are, my suggestion is to get yourself and those you play with familiar with The Code. The Code is the “official unofficial” rules of tennis. It is a guide for conducting matches that are unofficiated - that is almost all of the matches we play. Written by Colonel Nick Powell it is a “summary of procedures and unwritten rules that custom and tradition dictate all players should follow.”
Click photo to see the code of tennis.
All sports have a certain rhythm to their play. This is based not only to the specific actions of the sport but also in the way the game has been laid out in terms of scoring and the rules of the game. The way the game is divided into time blocks, changeovers, warmup periods, point intervals, and rulings all help to create a the rhythm of the game. These rhythms become part of the fabric of the game.
At the recreational level these intrinsic aspects of the game can take on some very peculiar characteristics. Take the common practice of “first-ball-in” on the serve. This is a widely accepted custom that denotes a certain magnanimous nature of the bequeathed (unless offered by the server’s partner) and a declaration that “we are all out here just for fun and let‘s not take things too seriously.” But just how far does one go in stretching the rules to either prove or accommodate a generous nature? Does the server get three, four, five serve attempts and what happens if he hits an ace on serve number six?
Foot-faults are a perfect example. Rarely do we enforce foot-faults at the club
level but they are as much as infraction of the rules as hitting the ball on the
second bounce. If a player can serve from three inches over the line does that mean
that someone who serves properly from behind the line gets to hit the ball three
inches over the line and have it be considered good?
Now I am not suggesting that we call our friends for foot faults but I would suggest that it might be responsible to give our friends permission to point out our own foot-faults. This will help us to monitor our own bad habits and at the same time encourage an awareness of the rules.
Playing “lets” is another personal peeve of mine. In no other sport is there so much eagerness to “start over.” “Lets” are tossed around like candy at Halloween. Every time a ball rolls anywhere near the court a let is declared. Once again players tend to think that this is in someway enhancing the experience for the other players involved but what it can do is create delays and uncertainty on when a let is actually warranted. Players should make every effort to avoid playing a let whenever possible. Interfering balls should be dispatched with as promptly and neatly as possible by both the server and the receiver and neither should be anxious to start the point over after the server has missed the first serve.
Click Photo: Rarely do we enforce foot-faults at the club
level but they are as much as infraction of the rules as hitting the ball on the
Certainly delays are unavoidable and stoppages during the middle of a point should always resume with the first serve, but constantly “playing two” is an unwelcome interruption that is a nuisance to the proper flow of the game.
The same can be said for line calls. Delays in line calls, requests for help
from the opponent, and suggestions to “take two” when in doubt, are all annoying breaks in the rhythm of the game (as well as violations of rules). Again, this is sometimes deemed as a courtesy by the line caller but in fact it is doing no favor to the opponent at all since the ball must be considered good if there is any doubt on the call. In fact, both players should do their best to ensure proper line calls regardless of what side of the court the ball lands on and the exact way to guarantee this is carefully explained in The Code.
Fundamental to keeping a proper rhythm to the game is knowing the amount of time allowed between points and games. Some doubles players feel that as long as they are discussing strategy with their partners then the clock has magically stopped. I guess they feel they are still “playing” but they seem to forget that there are two other players that are patiently waiting for them to wrap up their palaver. Changeovers are not opportunities to check on the dog at home or to make office calls but are designed to give you a chance to refresh and switch ends in a reasonable amount of time - the same time for everyone.
More than just explaining rulings, The Code also covers almost all aspects of behavior ranging from how to warm up properly to where to place a towel. For example, when warming up serves before the start of a match did you know that it is considered inconsiderate to return your opponent’s serve until you have finished warming up your own service or that “movements or sounds that are made solely to distract an opponent, such as waving the arms or racquet, stamping the feet, or talking are prohibited?”
Changeovers are not opportunities to check on the dog at home or to make
The Code, in fact, has been adopted as part of the USTA Regulations as delineated in their publication “Friend at Court; The USTA Handbook of Tennis Rules and Regulations.” This is the essential manual for tennis rules and The Code has been included because “ no system of rules will cover every specific problem or situation that may arise.” The USTA handbook further explains; “If players of good will follow the principles of The Code, they should always be able to reach an agreement, while at the same time making tennis more fun and a better game for all. Tennis is a game that places a large onus on players to make line calls and rulings. For it to be a game that can be enjoyed by those who play it, it is necessary that there is an underlying respect of the game and personal integrity of the players.
Wherever you go you will tend to find local customs and rules of play, whether it is catching certain balls on the fly that are sailing long due to a missing backstop or playing a let whenever the adjacent Volunteer Fire Siren blasts off. In some clubs there may be time restrictions that have turned warm-ups into a forgotten luxury while at other clubs players may preface every match with a 15 minute gabfest that becomes an oncourt ritual. The Code is not intended to supplant some of these practical necessities and pleasantries but it does create a common basis for play that assures a standard of behavior that allows the game to progress with a minimum of delays, interruptions, and disputes. The development of a “culture” of respect for tennis and those that play the game starts with an understanding of the rules and is the responsibility of everyone that plays the game to become familiar with them. When learned and properly applied The Code will help keep the game flowing at the rhythm the game should be played at.
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