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By Bob Unetich
Questions from readers are always welcome, and as I travel around to various tournaments as a referee, I am often asked questions by players and spectators. Another source of questions is referee training sessions. Over the last couple of years, online referee training has emerged and each week there are several well-attended referee discussion groups meeting online using Zoom and other meeting software.
A couple of months ago, I asked one of the certified referees doing a weekly online session, Bob Swisshelm, if he had some questions that refs and ref students have posed that he felt would be of interest to the community of players who read this magazine. He responded enthusiastically about providing some examples for publication on this page, so I am pleased to present several questions and answers contributed by Certified Referee, Referee Trainer and frequent Tournament Referee Coordinator Bob Swisshelm…
Q. Are quick serves illegal?
A. Yes, a quick serve, or serving before the opponents are ready, is illegal. The server (or referee) has several responsibilities:
Must wait until the receiver is (or should be) in position and all players are (or should be) ready before calling the score. (4.C, 4.D)
Must call the score clearly after the players are ready (or should be ready). (4.D)
Must call the complete score before the ball is served. (4.A.1, 4.M.11)
In 2021 the rules were changed to allow a server to start the service motion while the score is being called. However, the server must wait until the complete score has been called before striking the ball.
In a refereed match, if you serve the ball before the referee starts calling the score, the ball is dead (3.A.19) so it is a replay. If you serve while the referee is calling the score, it is a fault (4.M.11).
Q. What questions can I ask the referee before the serve? How should the referee respond?
A. This is covered by rule 4.B.8. Any player may ask about the score, correct server/receiver, or correct position. The specific wording of the questions was removed to give players more flexibility. Referees will stop play, completely answer your question, then re-call the score. They will only answer the question that you ask. Examples:
Player: Is my partner the correct server? Referee: Yes.Player: Am I the correct server? Referee: Yes. (If you are in the incorrect position, the referee will not tell you because you did not ask.)
Player: Who is the correct server? Referee: Your partner is.
Player: Am I good? Referee: Yes or no, as appropriate. If the answer is no, you need to ask more detailed questions.
Q. In the new Mini-Singles format, can receivers be out of position?
A. Yes, but a receiver being out of position will result in a service fault if the server serves to the incorrect side.
In Mini-Singles, the receiver’s correct position is based on their score, just as the server’s correct position is based on the server’s score. There are four possible position combinations:
Diagonal on right sides
Straight up on the server’s right
Straight up on the server’s left
Diagonal on left sides
If the receiver is out of position and the server serves to them, the serve will go into the incorrect service box prior to the receiver striking the ball, so the fault is on the server. If the server recognizes that the receiver is out of position and wants to get an easy point, serve to the correct service box. Since the receiver is on the other side of the court, they probably won’t get to it in time. •