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If you are learning how to play tennis, or you are a beginner, then there are a lot of rules and regulations that you have to familiarize yourself with. One of the rules that are not always easy to follow or understand is the ‘let’.
During a tennis match, a referee may ask a player to ‘let the ball’ into their court after serving it. But, what does this actually mean, and what is a let serve in tennis? That’s what we are here to explain! So, what is a let serve?
What Is A Let Serve?
In a game of tennis, a let is an instance where the players replay a point except when it is called on a second serve. There are a few instances when this could happen, where an umpire or a player can call a let. The most common let is a service let, or a let serve.
A service let can happen in three different ways. For instance, a service let could be when the ball hits the net, and lands in the correct service box, or if the server hits the ball before the opponent is ready, or if the ball hits the net and makes contact with the receiver or something that they are wearing before it hits the ground.
The most common of let serves is the first instance, where the ball hits the net. This is typically very easy to notice because the trajectory of the ball will change once it hits the net itself, or you will hear it ricochet off the net.
In most games, when this happens, any player is allowed to call the service let, but it should be called as soon as possible to avoid arguments or any tenseness during the match.
This is why most players will call the let as soon as they spot it or hear the noise. If you are in doubt, then the point should be played without calling the let.
That being said, in professional matches, the service let will be monitored by electronic sensors and the umpire, who will typically call the let themselves.
You should also be aware that if the let serve happens during the first serve, then the players should replay the point entirely.
On the other hand, if it happens on the second serve, then the server will only get one additional serve. During any point, there should be no limits on the number of serve let calls.
In addition to this, if the ball does hit the net, but it does not land in the correct service box, then it will not be a let, but a fault instead.
What Is The Origin Of The Term ‘Let’ Serve?
It is not entirely known why it is called a let serve. Some historians believe that the term let comes from the abbreviation of the French term ‘filet’ meaning net, whilst others state that it originates from the Saxon term ‘lettian’, which means to hinder, which can seem very apt and likely.
What Are The Let Serve Rules?
So, what are the let serve rules? Well, the International Tennis Federation, or ITF states that
‘In all cases, when a let is called, except when a service let is called on a second service, the whole point shall be replayed.’ More in-depth rules and guidelines can be found from the ITF here.
For the most part, the service is considered a let if the ball served touches the net, the band or the strap and is good, or if after touching the net it touches the receiver or the receiver’s partner, or anything that they are wearing or carrying before hitting the ground. It is also considered a let serve if the ball is served when the receiver is not ready.
A service let will not count, and the server will have to serve again, yet a service let also can not cancel a previous fault.
In short, a serve is a let if:
- The ball comes into contact with the net, and lands in the correct service area.
- The server hits the ball, whilst the receiver is not ready or paying attention.
- The ball touches the receiver’s clothing or body before hitting the ground or bouncing.
How Many Let Serves Are Allowed in Tennis?
In a game of tennis, there are no limits to the number of lets that a player can hit. The server is just obliged to repeat the serve until it is made, or it becomes a fault.
Even throughout a whole game, there are countless let serves allowed, and are not limited in any way.
However, you have to remember that if the ball hits the net and does not land in the correct service box, then it will not be considered a let serve.
To conclude, a let is a type of service, where the ball hits the net, or the opposing player without bouncing first. If a ball hits the net and lands in the correct service area, then it is a let serve, and likewise if the server hits the ball when the receiver is not ready then this is also a let serve.
Finally, if the ball touches the receiver’s clothing or body before hitting the ground, then this is also a let serve. During a match, the let can be called by the players or umpire, and there are no limits to the amount of let serves allowed in a single game of tennis.