Here’s the dilemma…if the ball bounces twice, who has the right to call it? The player on the other side of the net or the player trying to dig the ball out of the court? Typically, any debatable call goes to the player closest to the ball. There shouldn’t be a question as to who calls it but as you well know, when you are in the middle of a point and you’ve already traded 10 shots, you’re either hyper-focused or giddy with delirium trying to finish out the point in your favor. Things can get confusing!
The other day, I was playing at the net. My partner, Christina, sprinted from behind the baseline to return a shot that barely made it to the service line. I know she is speedy and has the wheels to run down any ball and she had no doubt that she could get there either, but to our opponents, who don’t know her, it may have looked nearly impossible. So, the next thing we knew, Christina popped the ball up over the net - the best she was able to do before it bounced a second time. But in her charge to reach the ball, she tripped and fell to the ground. Our opponent, seeing both of these events simultaneously rather than individually, read the situation as a double-bounce and instead of putting away the little floater of a ball that Christina handed to her, she caught it with her left hand in mid-flight. Christina and I looked at each other in confusion as our opponent asked, “Are you ok?” By this time, Christina had already picked herself up and was ready for the ball again.
“Yeah, I’m fine.” Christina responded “But what’s going on? Why’d you catch the ball?”
“Well, it bounced twice and I’m just checking to see if you're alright.” the opponent offered.
“I’m fine. Thanks for asking, but I got to the ball before it bounced twice.” said Christina as she shifted her gaze to me.
I agreed, “Yeah, the ball bounced AND Christina bounced but she got to the ball.”
Well, I don’t have to tell you about the disagreement which naturally ensued. Thank goodness for the rule that allows you to go back to the last score which you all agree on and start play again from there. In the end, we won the match but our opponents were convinced that we cheated.
And in the case of the true cheater, who, we find on the court all too often, I imagine that the conversation in her head might sound something like, “I busted my ass to get to the ball and I think I kind of got there. No one really knows but me. Hell, it may have bounced twice but just barely so I deserve that point.” What do you think? I think that some people might actually have that conversation swirling around their head. I have been in situations and witnessed many more where the ball clearly hits the ground twice but the returner claims to have reached it in time.
All four players had converged at the net and the last to get there was the lady who stopped one step too short of a well-placed drop shot. Her racquet and the ball collided after an unmistakeable double bounce. But in true competitive fashion, Kathy and her partner remained engaged. And in true female fashion, began to multi-task. Not only were they engaged in the point, they also began a conversation regarding the second bounce on the other side of the net.
“I think the ball bounced twice.” Kathy informed her opponents while reaching for a high volley.
“No.” replied the lady whose ball was
in question. “I got to it.” as she returned the ball deeper to the service line.
Kathy’s partner, annoyed, responded with the dreaded, “Are you sure?” while chipping the ball cross-court.
“We are sure!” proclaimed the other opponent as she lofted her return high but short.
Kathy could not let the opportunity go by and slammed the ball down the middle of the court allowing no time for her opponents to react. Kathy and her partner celebrated winning the point but were rudely interrupted by their opponents, “You can’t have that point! You were talking the whole time and distracted us. Voice Let!”
So, what’s the lesson? Consider leaving the calls to the one closest to the action. You’ll want the same courtesy paid to you when it’s your chance to call the ball. And the most important lesson of all is an oldie but a goodie - Cheaters never prosper.
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