Code Violation Tennis 

All competitive sports have a set of rules and regulations that govern how the game should be played, and tennis is no exception. These rules define how a player wins or loses points, how the players should dress for the game and the kind of equipment that they can bring to the game. 

There is also a code of conduct that defines how a player should behave while playing in the court and also when are are off-court. 

Ever so often, in the heat of the game, a player may ignore or go against these rules. 

What is a code violation? 

A code of violation occurs when a player intentionally or unintentionally breaches the code of conduct. This results in the player getting a warning or even being penalized. The penalty’s severity depends on the type and number of offenses committed. 

Who determines if a violation has been committed? 

An umpire oversees the tennis matches and makes the call on whether or not the code has been breached. In the absence of an umpire, a court supervisor or a referee can make these calls. 

Who sets the code of conduct? 

The general rules of tennis are made by the International Tennis Federation (ITF) and are supposed to be followed in every competitive game of tennis. 

For professional games, on top of the rules set out by the ITF, there is also a code of conduct that is set by the Association of Tennis Professionals (ATP) and the Women’s Tennis Association (WTA). 

What happens when a code has been violated? 

When a player commits their first violation, they get a warning from the umpire who raises his finger to indicate that he has given a warning. The broadcaster also announces that a warning has been given to a player. 

If the player ignores the warning and commits another offence, they get a point penalty. This means that the player loses their next point, or the game if they were facing a break point when they committed their second offense. 

If the player commits yet another offense after getting the point penalty, they then get the harsher punishment, which is a game penalty. This means that they automatically lose the game that they are currently playing. If the player was in between games when these violations were committed, they automatically lose the next game that they were supposed to play. 

If the player still misbehaves after these warnings they then get disqualified from the tournament. A player can also be disqualified for committing a very serious violation that leaves the umpire with no other choice. Such violations can include physical violence or racial abuse to opponent, officials or spectators. 

In the event of the disqualification of a doubles player, both the offender and their partner get disqualified. 

What constitutes a code violations in tennis?    

There are several kinds of code violations, some of which occur more frequently than others. 

Severe violations such as physical assault and racial abuse that result in players being directly disqualified are very rare. 

The most common code violations are discussed below. 

Audible obscenities 

Players may be throw a few obscene words to their opponents out of frustration or to the umpire if they think they are being judged unfairly. If this words can be heard, a player will get penalized. If the obscene word gets picked up by the radio or TV broadcasters the penalty can be much worse. 

There are also some obscene words that can lead to an automatic disqualification. 

Ball abuse 

Frustrated player can slam or throw tennis balls in anger. This may be ignored or result to a warning from the umpire. However if the slammed ball ends up hitting a person, the player can be immediately disqualified from the tournament. 

Best effort   

This violation occurs if it appears that a player is not putting in enough effort in the game. Such a violation rarely occurs but when it does, it can be open to translations such as the player being involved in match fixing or in some form of gambling. 


This violation occurs when a coach communicates audibly or visually with a player during a match. 

If the umpire notices that this is happening he can issue a warning or penalize the player. 

This rule is however changing and there are instances which a coaching is allowed if it does not interrupt the game. Whenever this is allowed, the coach has to be on the same end of the court as the player. 

Time violation 

Turning up late for matches is a violation. This not only ruins the entire schedule of the tournament but it also indicates a certain level of unprofessionalism in the player. It can also be translated as a disrespect to the game. 

Another kind of time violation occurs when a player tries to take more than the 30 seconds allotted in between points. It can also occur when a player tries to take a lot of time when switching ends between games. 

Failing to turn up for a tennis match without giving prior reasons results in a default. 

Racquet abuse 

This happens to be the most common code violation among tennis players. A player may smash their racquet on the ground as a sign of frustration in losing the game. They may also throw the racquets around, drop and kick them, or even break them. 

It should be noted that winners can also do the same as a sign of celebration. 

Unsportsmanlike Conduct 

This covers a wide range of violations which can range from inappropriate celebrations, rudeness and aggression, showing any form of disrespect to the umpire, opponent or even spectators, kicking or throwing the balls away, cursing loudly, and making obscene gestures. 

The code requires that players should behave in a manner that shows respect to the game and to everyone around them. 

No Press 

This violation occurs when a player fails to brief the press after a game. Failing to attend the post-match conference does not get the player penalized like they are after committing the other violations. Instead these players are made to pay hefty fines that can be in thousands of dollars. 

How often do these violations occur? 

A New York Times research on the frequency of these violation at the four major tournaments between 1998 and 2018 showed that racket abuse was the most common violation, happening 646 times in men’s tournaments and 99 times in women’s tournaments.

The other violations included; audible obscenity at 344 from men and 140 from women, unsportsmanlike conduct at 287 from men and  67 from women, coaching at 87 from men and 152 from women, ball abuse at 50 from men and 35 from women, verbal abuse at 62 from men and 16 from women, visible obscenity at 20 from men and 11 from women, no press at 6 from men and 10 from women, time violations at 7 from men and 3 from women, best effort at 2 from men and 0 

from women, default at 3 from men and 0 from women, doubles attire at 2 from men and 1 from women, late for match at 1 from men and 1 from women, first round retirement at 2 from men and 0 from women.  

All these totaled to 2054, with 1519 violations from men and 535 violations from women. 

Do the other violations attract monetary fines? 

Yes, almost all code violations result in hefty fines in professional tennis. 

Why are these rules enforced? 

First of all these rules give structure to the game. A game that is structured around something is better to watch than one where people can just do whatever they want. 

These rules are also there to protect the people involved. Without these rules, players would try to use under hand methods such as opponent intimidation in order to easily win a game. 

Codes such as best effort are there to prevent things such as match fixing and illegal gambling. 

Tennis is also a family friendly sport that is watched by people of all ages. The rules and codes are put in place to avoid exposing minors to obscenities and violence. 

How can a player avoid these violations? 

The first thing step is knowing each and every one of the rules and codes of the game. Ignorance is no excuse. 

The next thing a player needs is to have self-control. The adrenaline rush from the game can make anyone act irrationally. However, by learning how to control their temper, players can avoid getting into situations that may leave their career in ruins. This can be done by frequent meditation and also by attending anger management classes. 

Where can I learn more about these rules, regulations and codes of conduct? 

This information can be found in most tennis books. You may also find these rules in articles online or more specifically at the sites that are run by the associations that organize and govern the game of tennis. 

Also, your mentor or tennis instructor can be of great service. 

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