A walkover in tennis is a code violation handed down by umpires in the WTA, ATP, and USTA when a player fails to provide notice of their absence at least 24-hour before a match. In addition to that, a walkover can occur if a player arrives more than thirty minutes late to a game without reason. The opponent automatically advances to the tournament’s next round when a walkover occurs. A win and a loss do not happen since the match didn’t happen, but ranking points appear on the stat line when a walkover happens in tennis.
There is a minor difference in the language for the United States tennis association, as they also consider it a walkover based on an administrative error. Regardless, the player who is late or didn’t provide sufficient notice is the loser, and the other player is the winner without the match ever being played.
Below we discuss more details about the walkover and its relevance in the game of tennis.
When Did the Walkover Rule Start in Tennis?
The word walkover has been in the English language since 1830. Horse racing in the United Kingdom is the first sport to use walkover as a concept, where it meant that for a rider to win a race officially, they had to walk over the finish line. Essentially, this win was easy, and one could walk to the race’s finish line.
With the United Kingdom not too far away from France (believed to be the birthplace of tennis), the term migrated its way into tennis in the early 1900s to signify how a player could not win a match if they did not participate in that match. In tennis, a coin toss occurs to figure out who will serve first. If that player is not there for the coin toss, then the match doesn’t happen, which means, by default, the player who showed up wins.
Does a Walkover Count as a Win for a Player in Tennis?
In tennis, there is a term called “won by walkover,” but winning by a walkover does not affect a player’s win-loss record. For example, during a tennis tournament between Naomi Osaka and Victoria Azarenka, Naomi did not participate due to a hamstring injury, effectively crowning Victoria the “champion by walkover.”
Still, the WTA later clarified that a “win by walkover” does not count as a win, and vice versa does not count as a loss. The other unique thing about this walkover is this match took place in 2020, and since 2018 this has been the only tennis walkover to occur during the final round.
Can a Tennis Game Be Rescheduled Due to a Walkover?
A tennis game can’t be rescheduled when a walkover occurs between two players.
What is the Difference Between Walkovers and Retirement in Tennis?
According to all tennis league rules, a player retires when a player can’t continue a match for either an illness, injury, or personal emergency. Although a walkover can occur for the same reason, the critical difference is that a walkover occurs before a match, and retirement can only occur during a tennis match. The other difference is that a walkover does not count as a match win or a loss, as opposed to a retirement.
In the first round of the 2021 Wimbledon tournament, Serena Williams retired during her match with Aliaksandra Sasnovich due to a leg injury, subsequently losing the game. Once again, a WTA spokesperson came out to indicate that her retirement did amount to a loss which would affect her ranking points, especially in the WTA. In the WTA specifically, if players have a “win by walkover “in the first round, they do not receive the same benefits (ranking points) as if they won regularly.
The prize money, though, stays the same across the board. On the other hand, if the player won by retirement, those rules do not apply, and the ranking points and the prize money remain the same.
What is the Difference Between a Walkover and a Withdrawal in Tennis?
A withdrawal in tennis occurs when a player removes themselves from a tournament before playing their first match and does not continue within the tournament. Some reasons for a withdrawal include an injury, illness, or emergency. Meanwhile, a walkover in tennis occurs when the first match is about to start or later in a tournament.
Both walkover and withdrawal are similar, but the main difference is that a withdrawal has a notice to the referee about a player’s action. A walkover might be more for a player running late to a match without a good reason for being late.
What is the Difference Between a Walkover and a Default in Tennis?
The primary difference between a walkover and a default is a walkover occurs because a player doesn’t show up to play the match. In contrast, a default transpires by that player’s actions before, during, or after a game.
In a default situation, the official can call a game if the player shows verbal abuse to the fans, players, umpire, or shows a level of unsportsmanlike conduct. For instance, if a player took a tennis ball and threw it at a player in frustration, the game goes into default, and that player with unsportsmanlike conduct loses.
Meanwhile, a walkover generally occurs because that one tennis player did not show up to play that tennis match.
Who Has the Most Walkover Wins in Tennis?
Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic have the most walkover victories in tennis, with fourteen wins in 2022. In second place is Illie Nastase with 13, and third place is Raymond Moore with 12.
Conclusion: What is a Walkover in Tennis?
Most fans agree that it can be disappointing when an umpire announces a walkover before a tennis match. Of course, the hearts go out for whatever personal circumstances the player may be going through. However, it is still frustrating after spending money and time getting to the venue for it not to happen.
A win is a win for most players at the end of the day. However, players and spectators would prefer to see the action of a tennis match. But just like school, professional tennis leagues will not put up with lateness for a match. With that being the case, the walkover rule is present.