Highlights of ITA Regulations

NEITA tennis matches follow the rules for competition determined by the United States Tennis Association and the Intercollegiate Tennis Association; the latter is the governing body of college tennis in the U.S.

The complete ITA Regulations, along with "The Rules of Tennis" and "The Code" can be found in Friend At Court, published each January by the USTA. The NEITA strongly recommends all coaches have a copy of Friend At Court and familiarize themselves with "The Rules of Tennis" and "The Code." All NEITA players should be familiar with "The Code" as well; click here for a print-ready copy of "The Code" suitable for posting.

I. Individual Competition in Singles and Doubles

A. The Code

All . . . match play will follow the principles set out in "The Code" except where these rules provide otherwise.

B. Calls in Matches with a Solo Chair Umpire or with no Chair Umpire and no Line Umpires

Many . . . matches are played without the assistance of a chair umpire and line umpires. Some matches are officiated by a solo chair umpire. In all these matches, the players have the primary responsibility for making the calls. The following principles apply in these matches.

1. Player makes calls on his side of the court. Each player shall make all calls on his side of the court.

2. Opponent gets benefit of the doubt. Whenever a player is in doubt he shall make the call in favor of his opponent. Balls should be called "out" only when there is a space visible between the ball and the line. A player shall never seek aid from a solo chair umpire, spectator, teammate, or coach in making a line call.

3. Disagreement between partners over a call. A doubles partner is obligated to disagree with his partner if an erroneous "out" call is made. When doubles partners disagree on a call, the point goes to the opposing team. The point is never replayed.

4. Balls that a player does not see. There are no "unsighted" calls. If a player does not see his opponent's shot, he shall call the ball good. A player shall never seek aid from a solo chair umpire, spectator, teammate, or coach in making a line call.

5. Solo chair umpire and roving umpires shall not give assistance on unsighted balls. The solo chair umpire and roving umpires shall not give assistance on balls that a player does not see.

6. Out calls must be made immediately. "Out" calls must be made immediately. The call shall be made before either an opponent has hit the return or the return has gone out of play. If no immediate audible or visible call is made, the ball shall be considered good.

a. Clay court procedure. A player may quickly check a mark before making a call on his side of the net.

7. Correcting an erroneous "out" call--opponent wins point. A player shall reverse his "out" call if he realizes that he has made a mistake or if he is uncertain of the call. The point goes to the opponent. It is never played over.

8. Obligation of player to call his own ball out if he clearly sees it out. A player shall call his own ball out if he clearly sees that it is out. This rule does not apply to a player's first serve. See rule C.2. and C.3.

9. How to challenge an opponent's call. An opponent's call may be challenged by the query: "Are you sure of your call?" No further discussion or delay is permitted. If the player making the call is uncertain, he loses the point. It is never played over.

10. Players shall not cross the net to point out a mark or discuss a problem. A player shall not cross the net to point out a mark or discuss a problem. A player who does shall be penalized under the ITA Point Penalty System.

11. Touches, invasion of opponent's court, reaching over the net, and double bounces. Calls involving a ball touching a player, a player touching the net, a player touching his opponent's court, hitting an opponent's return before it has passed the net, and a double bounce must be called by the player committing the infraction. If there is a solo chair umpire, he also may make these calls. If appealed to, a roving umpire may make the call if he directly observed the incident.

12. Lets. There are no lets in college tennis except for a service let, an interruption by an official or a spectator, and when play is interfered with by an outside object. Either player may call a service let if the player does so at the instant when the let occurs. A solo chair umpire may call service lets. Requests for lets may not be made after a point is ended. The solo chair umpire shall call a let if he concludes that a player is unaware of an invading object that is endangering him.

13. Only a coach or player may request a line umpire or referee. Only a coach or the player involved may request the presence of a line umpire or referee. The coach may physically go get the line umpire or referee. Play may be temporarily halted while the coach or the player seeks a referee or line umpire. Nonetheless, play must resume within five minutes, even if attempts are still being made to obtain a line umpire.

14. Foot fault judges. A player or coach may request a foot fault judge. A player may request that an opponent avoid foot faults. A player shall not call a foot fault on an opponent. A player shall not call a foot fault on an opponent. All foot faults must be called by an umpire, referee, or roving umpire. A roving umpire or referee need not be stationed on the baseline in order to call foot faults so long as his position gives him a clear view of the fault.

15. Server shall call score before each point. The server shall call the score before each point except when there is a solo chair umpire or scorekeeper assigned to the match.

16. Settling disagreements over the score. If a disagreement over the score occurs, the methods for settling the dispute in order of preference are:

  • Count all points and games agreed upon by the players, with only the disputed points or games being replayed;
  • Resume play from a score mutually agreeable to the players;
  • Use a coin flip.

17. Solo chair umpire shall not overrule call unless player immediately appeals for overrule. A solo chair umpire shall not overrule a call unless it is challenged verbally at that moment (not at the end of the point) by the opposing player. The solo chair umpire shall not prompt the request for an appeal.

18. Overrules by certified roving umpires. If appealed to, a certified roving umpire may overrule a call if he is on that court, or if he directly observed the call.

19. Player who has been overruled twice shall thereafter be penalized under the Point Penalty System. If the solo chair umpire has overruled a player or doubles team twice, the umpire shall penalize each subsequent overrule under the ITA Point Penalty System. The failure to have an appeal upheld is not treated as an overrule.

20. Excessive appeals for the apparent sake of disrupting play. A solo chair umpire shall caution any player making excessive appeals for the apparent sake of disrupting play. Thereafter, if the solo chair umpire determines that the player is making appeals for the apparent sake of disrupting play, he may penalize the player under the ITA Point Penally System.

C. Service and Service Returns

1. No more than twenty-five seconds between points. Both the server and receiver must be ready to begin the next point within twenty-five seconds of when the ball went out of play. Each player has the right to the full twenty-five seconds to prepare for the next point.

2. Server's appeal of a serve that receiver calls good. The server may make a first volley or half-volley of the return of an out serve which was played before appealing to the chair umpire or roving umpire for an overrule. But if the server remains n the back court, the appeal must be made before hitting the ball.

  • If the appeal is granted, the server gets a second serve.
  • If the appeal is not granted, then the point goes to the receiver.

A server whose appeal is denied is not subject to penalty under the Point Penalty System by virtue of the failure of his appeal.

3. Feinting, changing position, and intentional distraction. A player may feint with his body. He may change position on the court at anytime including while the server is tossing the ball to serve. In doubles the server's partner and the receiver's partner may do the same. A player may not wave his racquet or arms, nor may he talk or make noise in an attempt to create a distraction. The receiver's partner shall not stand in the receiver's service box before or during the serve. If a player does so, he shall be warned that if he does so again he is subject to being penalized under the ITA point penalty system.

4. Player should not return obviously out serves. A player should not return a serve that is obviously out even when the return is accompanied by an "out" call. This is a form of rudeness or gamesmanship. A player may return a fast serve that just misses the line inasmuch as the return is often a matter of self-protection.

5. Receiver who corrects his fault call to good loses the point. If the receiver returns a ball and simultaneously calls a fault and then changes his call to good, the receiver loses the point because of interference of play, even if the return is good.

6. If receiver is ready, then his partner is deemed ready. If the receiver has indicated that he is ready and the server serves an ace, the receiver's partner cannot claim a let because he was not ready. The receiver's indication of being ready is tantamount to indicating that his team is ready.

I. Rest Periods, Continuous Play and Time Between Matches

1. No rest periods between second and third sets. There shall be no rest period between the second and third sets. Extreme Heat: If the temperature is 90 degrees at the start of the match, the players shall be offered a 10 minute rest period between the second and third sets. Extreme heat situations do not apply to dual meets.

2. Ninety seconds allowed for changeovers. When changing ends, a maximum of ninety seconds shall elapse from the moment the ball goes out of play at the end of the game to the time the ball is struck for the first point of the next game. Umpires, if any, should call "Time" after one minute in order to get the players back on the court if they haven't' already left their chairs.

J. Coaching

1. When coaching is allowed. A coach may coach a player any time during the match so long as he does not interfere with play.

3. Who may coach in men's tennis. In men's tennis, coaching is allowed by the head coach, an assistant or a registered volunteer coach, or a designated player who is not competing at that moment. Only two coaches may coach at any one time during the team meet. Only one coach may be on court at one time.

5. Where coaches may coach. A coach must sit (or stand if the facilities dictate) near the net post. A coach may change courts when his movement will not interrupt play. Coaching is permitted by coaches standing anywhere outside the fence perimeter. On an empty adjacent court, the coach may stand at the doubles sideline on the same side as his own player. On the opponent's side, he must remain at midcourt. Coaches may coach with the lines of the court only during a changeover or set break.

6. Conversations of coach with opposing player banned. A coach shall not initiate a conversation with the opposing player or in any way get involved with an on-court problem, except at the request of the solo chair umpire, tournament referee, or the player or the coach of the player involved. At no time should a player initiate a conversation with an opposing coach. Violation of these provisions by the coach are subject to the Coach's Code of Conduct. Violations by the player shall result in the application of the Point Penalty System.

7. On court problems. If a coach needs to be consulted due to a problem on the court, it is desirable for the opposing coach to be present.

M. Seeding Ratio of 1 to 4

Players may be seeded in a ratio of one seed per four players. Additional players may be placed using a ratio of one to four. The position of a placed player in the draw shall be determined by lot.

II. Team Competition: Dual Meet Matches and Team Tournaments

A. Formats for Team Play

2. Three Doubles followed by Six Singles (3-6 Format). The format is three eight game pro set doubles matches with a 12-point tie-break at eight games all followed by six best-of-three set singles matches.

3. Team Point formats.

a. Seven team points. Each singles match is worth one point. The team that wins two or more of the three doubles matches receives one point. Four or more points are required to win the team match.

4. Matches shall be played to completion. All matches shall be played to completion. Once the outcome of the team match has been decided, a shortened format shall be played unless both coaches agree otherwise. Matches still in the second set shall play a Match Tiebreak for the third set. Any match already in the third set shall play it to completion. A match that has not started shall be the best of three sets with a Match Tiebreak in lieu of the third set.

B. General Rules

1. Rules for individual competition apply unless stated otherwise. The rules for individual competition shall apply for team competition unless specifically stated otherwise.

6. Bona fide institutional representative. Each team should be accompanied by a bona fide institutional representative at all matches.

7. Home coach is responsible for spectator conduct. The home coach shall make sure that the behavior of the spectators remains fair and non-abusive. Under no circumstances may alcoholic beverages be permitted at the site of a . . . tennis match. Failure of the coach to ensure proper behavior shall result in the application of the ITA Point Penalty System against the home team and in extreme cases, forfeiture of the match.

9. Order of play on fewer than six courts. If fewer than six courts are being used, start the singles with the number one match and continue starting matches in numerical order.

11. Unfinished matches don't count. Unfinished individual singles and doubles matches shall not count in any way toward the final team scores.

K. Team Line-ups

2. Only physically able players shall be listed in the line-up. Coaches shall list players in the line-up only if they are able to play.

3. Players must play in order of ability. The line-up shall always be based on order of ability. "Matching up" is prohibited. In singles, players must compete in order of ability with the best player on the team playing at the No.1 position, the second best at No.2, and so on through all positions. In case of injury or sickness, all players must move up. This rule shall also apply to doubles play with the strongest doubles team at No.1, etc.

a. A player who has established a winning record at a team position in six team matches and whose ITA Rankings and results show that he clearly is stronger than the players below him may not be moved down.

b. If a top-six player (or team) is clearly stronger than the player immediately above him, then the player must be moved up a position.

c. Players of equal ability and equal record may alternate between two adjacent positions so long as the alternating is not done for the purpose of "matching up."

d. A player shall not be moved down in the line-up because of:

i. An injury which has lasted and forced the player out of the line-up for less than three weeks;

ii. Disciplinary measures;

4. Line-up changes in back-to-back dual matches. In back-to-back dual meet matches (two consecutive dual meet matches played regardless of time between matches), the team line-up (as played) may be changed. A player may move up or down one position in this situation. The line-up must stay in order of ability.

5. Team that is short on players. A team appearing with an insufficient number of players shall default matches at the bottom of the line-up (i.e. the six-man team appearing with five players must default at the No.6 singles position and in doubles at the No.3 position). If the No.1 player is not available to compete, all players must move up one position. The No.1 singles match cannot be forfeited. The minimum number of players for a dual-meet match is four physically able players.

6. Removing players from the singles line-up. Before the start of an individual team match, the coach may remove any player from his singles line-up. All players shall then move up a spot. If individual matches have begun, and this prevents players from moving up, then the withdrawn player forfeits that match.

9. Starting time for second round of matches.

a. Men's Division I (3-6 format). In men's Division I, the singles players must be ready to play within 5 minutes of completing their doubles matches.

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Last revised: April 8, 2004