Tennis is a game with many components that can make the game last longer, and a let is another one of those components. A let rule during a tennis match is when the players will replay the last point. It can occur during a serve or a rally for many reasons, such as a distraction in the crowd or ball boy. The end goal of a let is to allow all tennis players a fair chance at a point. One player should not have a disadvantage because of something not in their control.
So, why do they call it a “let” during a tennis match? Who is responsible for calling a let during a tennis game? What is the difference between a let and a fault? Who holds the record for the most lets during a tennis match?
Below we will get deeper into the meaning of a let and how it applies to the game of tennis.
Why is it Called a Let in a Tennis Game?
There are several origin stories about where and when let was adopted into the game of tennis. One origin story claims that the word let came from the Old Saxon word lettian, whose meaning is “to hinder.”
Another origin story leads to the idea that when they first played tennis in England, they adopted the French word Filet which translated to English means net, and shortened it to let.
The final story is a simpler version of why it’s called let, and it goes off the idea that a let is “letting a player replay for a point.”
Who Calls a Let During a Tennis Match?
In professional tennis, it is the responsibility of the umpire to call a let when he sees a reason to do so. However, during a circumstance such as a tennis ball rolling or bouncing from a different court, a player would have the opportunity to call a let. Still, generally, an umpire will handle those responsibilities.
When a let occurs during a tennis match, the umpire will be the one that indicates the fault. For example, the referee will say something like “let, first serve,” or something like that.
What are the Rules of Let During a Tennis Match?
The rules of a let work accordingly; if a player commits a let during a serve or a rally, they will have to repeat their serve. So, if they achieve the let on their first serve, they will have two more attempts at serving for the point as they would restart from the first serve. However, if it were to occur during the second serve, they would only have one chance to serve for the point as they do not restart from the first serve.
When Do Service Lets Occur in a Tennis Match?
A service lets can occur for three different reasons during a match. The first is when the ball hits the net cord at the top of the net and falls into the correct service box.
The second scenario can occur if the ball were to hit the net and then hit the other players’ clothing or anything else on their person before bouncing off the ground.
And the last occurrence of a service let happens when the server hits the ball before their opponent is ready. This call-in particular, is a judgment left up to an umpire call to decide as a receiver is to play at the pace of the server and should generally be ready at all times. Still, if the umpire deems that the player was unaware of the impending serve, a service let will be announced.
What is the Difference Between a Let and Fault in Tennis?
The main difference between a let and a fault is that a let occurs when the ball hits the net but still finds its way into the service court, while a fault is when a ball hits the net but lands outside the service court.
The other difference is in regards to double faults, where if a player were to make the same error mentioned above on their serve twice, they would lose the point, but with a let, they will keep repeating the moment until someone wins the point.
How Many Lets Can Occur in a Tennis Match?
In the rules of tennis, there is no limit to the number of lets during a tennis match.
There has been experimentation with the “no let “rule in which the umpire would not call lets during a tennis match. Typically this would only occur during a casual game between two players, but the ATP tried it out in one of their youth tournaments in 2018 but decided to abandon the idea in 2019.
Who Holds the Record for the Most Number of Lets During a Match?
Serena Williams and a Chinese player named Di Wu hold the record for most lets in a tennis match, each recording four lets. In 2013 during the Australian Open, Serena Williams did so, while Di Wu accomplished the feat in 2017 at the challenger’s tournament.
Conclusion: What is a Let in Tennis?
One of the complaints often mentioned in regards to tennis is its runtime. Tennis matches can often drag on for hours, and with little things like let calls, or deuces extending the runtime, it can often be an annoyance for the average fan or a player.
However, it is all in the name of keeping the game fair. Although tedious, it can often be the primary catalyst in distinguishing a beginner from a veteran. A veteran would already be able to handle the grind, and different calls tossed at them that could force them to play for the same point.
A let on a surface level may seem unnecessary, but when you watch a match and see a let called, it’s one of those moments when you understand why those rules are in place the way they are.