Tennis Rules for When the Ball Hits a Player

Female tennis player
A tennis player is swinging her racket. (Image: SolisImages/iStock/Getty Images)

Tennis presents a variety of situations where a player can get hit by the ball. Each scenario has clearly defined rules on how to score the point. These rules are set by the United States Tennis Association for domestic matches, and by the International Tennis Federation for matches that involve players from different countries. In the case of a ball touching a player, both the USTA and ITF provide the same rules on how to score the point.

Receiver During Serve

The USTA awards a point to the server if the served ball hits the receiver -- or, in a doubles situation, the receiver's partner -- before it touches the ground. Even if the serve is clearly not going to hit its designated serving area, if the ball hits the player before the ground, the point goes to the server. The play is ruled a let if the ball first touches the net, strap or band, and then touches the receiver or the receiver's partner, or any clothing, before it touches the ground. If a service let is called, the point is replayed, but it does not cancel out a previous fault.

Server During Serve

A service is ruled a fault if the served ball touches the server or the server's partner, or any clothing either one is wearing, as well as any items they may be carrying, including the racket. A server can catch the ball after tossing it into the air for a serve. He can grab it either with his hand or catch it with his racket. He can also let the ball bounce if he wants. For example, this might happen when the server tosses the ball in the air to serve and finds himself staring directly into the sun.

During Play

A player loses a point when the ball hits him or anything he is wearing or carrying besides the racket. The only way to score a legal point in tennis is by using your racket. The moment a ball hits your body or clothing, the play is deemed over and the point is awarded to your opponent.

Catching the Ball

If a player standing outside the court catches a ball before it bounces, that player loses the point. The ball must hit the ground first for the ball to be ruled out before a player can catch it or stop it with his body.

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