A Let in Tennis is when the tennis rules require that a point be replayed because one of a number of events has occurred during the point e.g. a second ball is on the court.
When a let is called, neither player wins the point and the point is simply replayed.
Tennis Let Rules
When can a let occur?
There are three main reasons are on serves, when a ball rolls on the court, and due to some other unintentional hindrance.
1. Let called on serves
This occurs when a server hits the ball and it hits the top of the net but still lands in the appropriate service box on their opponent’s side of the net.
This is probably the most common type of let you will hear called and is a common occurrence at the pro and recreational levels.
A let can occur on both your first and second serve and there is no limit to the number of lets you can hit in a row (see the video below showing Serena Williams hitting four lets in a row).
2. Let called when a ball rolls on the court
This occurs when a ball rolls onto your court from an adjacent court and the point you were playing when the ball came on the court is replayed.
If the player serving had previously hit a second serve to start the point, they will be able to start the replayed point with a first serve.
You won’t see this often at the pro level but you will encounter it frequently at the recreational level as you will likely be playing at a tennis club with multiple courts side by side.
3. Let called due to unintentional or intentional hindrance
This occurs when a player believes that something has occurred during the point that has hindered their ability to play.
This hindrance can be unintentional or intentional and the player claiming hindrance should stop play as soon as possible.
Examples of hindrances include a player shouting loudly to their partner to “GET BACK” when their opponents are about to hit an overhead.
This would be considered an intentional hindrance.
An example of an unintentional hindrance would be if a player shouted loudly after injuring their leg.
Another example of a hindrance would be if your opponent’s mobile phone started ringing during a match.
Examples of situations that would not be considered a hindrance would be a player’s movement in doubles where they make a fake pouch.
You can also not claim a hindrance if your own hat or shoes fall off or your racket falls out of your hand.
However, in these situations, your opponent may call a let due to hindrance if they wish.
Shouts of “Out” and other noises made by a crowd watching your match are not considered hindrances.
Who can call a let?
Scenario 1 — A Let Serve
Any player on the court can call a service let but the call must be made before the return of serve goes out or before the return is hit by the server of the server’s partner.
Any call should be done as quickly as possible.
Scenario 2 — A ball rolls onto the court
When a ball rolls onto the court, any player on the court can call a let as soon as they become aware of the other ball on the court.
You lose your right to call a let if there is a long delay in making your call e.g. if you continue to rally and you only call a let once you lose the point.
Scenario 3 — Unintentional or intentional hindrance
Any player who believes they have been impeded in their play can call a let with any call being made as quickly as possible.
Can you call a let on your own serve?
Yes, you can. Any player on the court can call a let on a serve but it should be done as quickly as possible.
How many lets can you have in a row on a serve?
There is no limit on the number you can have in a row.
Can you play tennis with no lets on the serve?
Certain formats such as Fast Four Tennis have no lets on the serve, so for example, if you hit a serve and it hits the net and falls dead on your opponent’s side of the net, you will win the point.
Can you call a let if you couldn’t see whether a ball was in or out?
A player can not claim a let on the basis of not seeing the ball.