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Eliminate the Net Cord
By: Randy Cummings

Tennis is contemplating many rule changes to make the game more interesting to fans at home and at the stadiums. They want to slow down the game's pace, while speeding up its playing time. One rule I would love to see changed is the let call on service net cords. It won't speed up the pro game significantly, but it will make play a lot fairer and more exciting. It will also make recreational play a little less exasperating.

As it stands now, when a serve strikes the net cord, no matter how minutely, and still lands in the service box, a let is called and the server gets to serve that serve over. Some of these lets are barely perceptible and hardly affect the ball at all. Others strike the net with force, bounce high in the air, and then fall in the service box. No matter, they are all lets and another serve is rewarded. Apselfly, this is called in order to give the receiver a fair and unimpeded chance to return the serve.

Contrast this with a groundstroke that strikes the net. It can strike the net in the same way the serve does, but as long as the ball lands within bounds play continues. No let is called. Why in the service case is a let warranted, while for a groundstroke play continues? The ball is travelling at nearly the same speed in both cases, and the receiver is faced with the same difficulties in returning this hindered ball. Yet one is a let and the other is accepted as part of the game.

What would elimination of the let call on service net cords do? At the pro level it would speed things up slightly by omitting several let serves each set. It would also make the game a little more exciting, because on some net cords the ball would be inhibited enough to force the receiver to make a quick dash toward the net to return this ball before it bounces twice. It would also force the server to come forward in anticipation of a drop shot or sharply angled ball by the receiver. For some players, this might be the only time they come to the net during an entire match! In doubles, it could be really exciting, because you would get at least three of the four players scrambling for a short ball at net. To make it even more interesting, you could make a rule change allowing the receiver's partner to return the net cord ball.

Some say changing the let call on service net cords will ruin the game. World Team Tennis, NCAA college tennis, and other organizations have used the no let call on service net cords for more than 2 years now and most players have accepted it gladly, with no adverse effects whatsoever to the game. Most serves are playable, and as mentioned above add some excitement to the game. Sure, a few serves hit the net and then just trickle over for a service winner. But are these any more unplayable than a Sampras 130 mph serve? The unplayable net cord serve elicits a groan of frustration from the returner, a sheepish shrug and apology from the server, and lots of chuckles from the fans. It's good theater!

The real benefit of eliminating the let call, however, comes at the recreational level and in non-officiated matches. How many times have you served an ace or a service winner, only to have your opponent call a let. It happens too often in both singles and doubles. " I heard it nick the net. Didn't you hear it? Hmm, well, take two anyway." These imaginary net cords are the bane of all recreational players. They should be eliminated.

While I don't favor many of the other rule changes being bandied about, I believe that elimination of the let call on service net cords is a necessary and a welcome change.

Randy Cummings
Match Point Racquet Sports, inc
364 Bunn Hill Road
Vestal NY 13850
(607) 785-0176