Playing in a tennis league, you come across all sorts of players, but the ones I can’t stand the most are those who are losing and who will do anything to try and take you down with them.
One such opponent, “Carol,” will not serve if she does not know where the 3rd ball is. Furthermore, if she knows you have it, she will ask that you send it to her. And if it’s nearby or over in the next court, she’ll also hold up play for that one. Before she begins serving, she must look for and/or retrieve that damn third ball – EVERY TIME.
Once during a league match, Carol served and we returned a winner that ended up rolling along the fence and stopping two courts down. Other team members were playing on those courts, and rather than continue with two balls, Carol wanted to wait until those courts were finished playing their points so she could have the third one too. Why, Carol? Having all three balls isn’t helping you win. This tactic is nothing more than stalling to piss us off… and it was working.
My partner and I finally called her out on her BS, telling her to stop stalling and that two balls were enough when one was three courts down, and she needed to just play. The woman had the balls (pun intended!) to tell us that per the USTA rules, she was entitled to all three balls every time she served… no matter what.
What the… ??
Fortunately, my partner had the newest version of the UTSA rules in her bag, so we made Carol wait until we could look it up and settle this once and for all.
As it turns out, there actually is a rule that covers what she was saying:
RULE 22: Server’s request for third ball. When a server requests three balls, the receiver shall comply when the third ball is readily available. Distant balls shall be retrieved at the end of a game.
Um, yeah, Carol! You can have the third ball if it’s nearby and doesn’t cause 3 ongoing matches to stop first. You will also have to serve with two, Carol until the third one is readily available.
Then there is the issue of stalling, Carol. That falls under another rule:
RULE 40: Stalling. Stalling violates the continuous play principle of the ITF Rules of Tennis (the part that’s applicable for this post is rule #29 Continuous Play (a) Between points, a maximum of twenty-five  seconds is allowed). A player who encounters a problem with stalling should contact an official. The following actions constitute stalling:
- Warming up longer than the allotted time;
- Playing at about one-third a player’s normal pace;
- Taking more than 90 seconds on the odd-game changeover or more than 2 minutes on the set break.
- Taking longer than the time authorized during a rest period;
- Starting a discussion or argument in order to rest;
- Clearing a missed first service that doesn’t need to be cleared; or
- Excessive bouncing of a ball before any serve.
Stalling is subject to penalty under the Point Penalty System in a sanctioned match, but in a regular league match, all you can do is point out the rules and hope that they stop.
There was no doubt that Carol was stalling as she often took well over the maximum allowed 25 seconds to locate and retrieve the third ball. Thankfully, she accepted (albeit begrudgingly) that she had a set time to serve and played out the rest of the match without any issues — and yeah, my partner and I totally kicked their butts!
The lesson here? In a world full of league ladies, don’t be a Carol!
Actually, the real lesson is don’t hit the courts for a league match without the latest copy of your league rules – you never know when Carol might show up!