Monday, November 7, 2011

Tennis Rules – they are there for a reason (all of them)

I’ve been called pedantic, which isn’t the worst one can be accused of, I suppose, because I’m not one of those that believe rules are made to broken, that they’re arbitrary or optional. This has at times caused others dismay, even disdain, and it’s hard to understand why.

Much of our society operates best on so many “unwritten rules” of manners, ethics and etiquette; much of sport requires rules. In fact, tennis isn’t possible without written rules about the size of the court, the height of the net, regulations about the racquets and balls, and how to keep score. So the United States Tennis Association has compiled “Friend at Court: The USTA Handbook of Tennis Rules and Regulations”, and the 2011 edition is a 324 page PDF file. Additionally, there is “The Code: The Players' Guide for Unofficiated Matches”, a 7 page supplement. ALTA, in turn, has spent 40 years refining their 4 page document which details how to conduct league matches.

Even after all these years of development and refinement, there are some tennis players and team captains that feel they have a choice as to whether to apply or follow these rules. Their attitude toward those of us who respect the rules and try adhering to them is that “we” are the problem or the “bad guy”. Sometimes they even act like rebellious children to an adult parent, their own or someone else’s (“you can’t tell me what to do” or “you’re not the boss of me”); it’s laughable. Recently, an opponent of mine tried to make me feel guilty for enforcing a rule – “I’ve never had anyone apply that one before” – by pleading he’d been generous to my partner and I while ignoring an earlier rule (a false claim, in any case).

If everyone would take the time to learn the rules, and then play by them, there wouldn’t be as many controversies as there are in many league tennis matches; perhaps everyone could focus on improving their attitudes and tennis skills and be grateful for being able to participate in this great lifetime sport of ours.

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