Correcting the Call

It kills me to admit this, but…I’m not perfect.

Tennis offers me so many opportunities to be humbled by my fallibility. There are all those unforced errors. All the times I can’t remember the score.

And of course, there’s the line calls.

On the face of it, calling a ball in or out really shouldn’t be too hard. You look at the line. You see the ball bounce. A kindergartner ought to be able to get this right.

But even professional line judges err, which is why we now have HawkEye and the challenge system. I’ve seen chair umpires overrule the line judge–something they’re not supposed to do unless it’s a clear error–and then get proven wrong themselves when a player challenges the call.

What we think we saw is not always what actually happened. I don’t know why this should be so, but it is. I make mistakes. You make mistakes. My opponents also make mistakes, but in almost every instance, I believe they’re doing the best they can.

Fortunately for me, I play doubles and have a second set of eyes watching the lines. My usual partner will promptly overrule my “out” call if she saw the ball in. And she doesn’t mind when I do the same. We just say something like, “No, it was in. It was close, but it was in. Nice shot.”

It never occurred to me that anyone could take offense at being corrected by her partner, but apparently I’m wrong here, too. The Code offers this advice on how to properly correct a partner’s line call:

14. Partners’ disagreement on calls. If one partner calls the ball out and the other partner sees the ball good, the ball is good. It is more important to give opponents the benefit of the doubt than to avoid possibly hurting a partner’s feelings. The tactful way to achieve the desired result is to tell a partner quietly of the mistake and then let the partner concede the point.”

I’ve played a lot of doubles, and I don’t think I’ve ever seen line call disagreements handled this way. It seems very strange–both overly formal and time-consuming. And how infantilizing to the partner who made the “wrong” call! After having been pulled aside and corrected, the poor partner is sent back out, tail between her legs, and forced to say…what, exactly? “On second thought, I believe the ball may have been in”? Ridiculous.

To my mind, this approach makes too much fuss out of ordinary human fallibility. Just correct the call and move on.

What do you think of the Code’s advice? How do you handle this situation in your own matches?

6 thoughts on “Correcting the Call

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  1. Since posting this blog, I’ve had a number of people whisper in my ear that they never correct their partner’s bad calls!

    Tsk, tsk… 🤣🎾

    1. You raise a good point. I was playing a few “practice” games with my partner at that time. Our coach was standing along the side of the court. I was standing on the service line, as my partner was receiving serve. She called a serve long, and I corrected it to “good.” And then our coach said, “No, that ball was out”! I’ve since become more circumspect in correcting calls. But as I said above, even the chair umpires overruling calls sometimes get it wrong. Maybe I should just keep my big mouth shut!

  2. My first dbh partner had old eyes and a highly competitive spirit. Her calls were awful. I did both. I told her that her calls were off frequently, and I sometimes overruled her. She didn’t love this, but it was to embarrassing for me to have a bad call potentially affect the game. Also Deb,you aren’t perfect, but you are as close we get 🙂

    1. I love this: “I told her that her calls were off frequently.” Not “wrong,” just “off.” Ever the model of diplomacy! 😅

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