If you have spent any time around a tennis court, you have probably heard the term ‘let’ used fairly regularly. If you are unsure what a let means in tennis, we are here to help!
What is a Let in Tennis?
Essentially, a let describes a situation in tennis where the players replay a point. In most cases, an official calls a let during a serve, but it can occur in other situations during play.
A Service Let
The server aims to earn points by serving the ball into the receiver’s service box in a legal fashion. The server has two attempts to make a legal serve. If a let is called, a server may make more than two attempts.
During a service, the official will call a let when the ball lands on the opponent’s side of the court within the service box, but the ball touches the net.
Whether the ball grazes the net or pops up 12 feet doesn’t matter. If it touches the net before landing in the appropriate service box, it’s a let.
A let does not count as a fault – it does not count as one of the server’s two attempts to legally serve the ball.
If the server makes two faults in a row, it would be considered a double fault, which results in a loss of a point for the server. So, a let is a better result for the server than a fault.
There are no limits to the number of lets that can be called for a point, but it is rare to see multiple lets occur on a single point.
Other Lets / Rally Lets
While the service let is the most common type, officials can also call lets for other situations. A rally let, which is called after the ball is legally served, is when a distraction occurs that is outside of the players’ control.
A let can be called if an outside distraction inhibits either player’s ability to return the ball.
In professional tennis, the umpire can call a rally let if they notice an outside distraction preventing either player from playing properly.
In most cases, this is because of the behavior of the spectators and can include loud noises, distracting movements, or anything else that would distract one of the players on the court. While they are somewhat rare, umpires have the power to call them at any time during the match.
In unofficial matches, a rally let can be agreed upon by both players if they feel a distraction has prevented either player from continuing the rally. Often, this is caused by a tennis ball from an adjacent court landing on the court during a rally.
It is up to the players to determine whether or not to call a (rally) let. Any serious distraction can result in a (rally) let, meaning the point would be replayed.
A let is called to eliminate any unfair disadvantages that a player might experience during a game or to act as an opportunity to replay a serve that struck the net before landing on the opponent’s side of the court.
They are usually non-controversial calls that allow the players to feel as if their match is being played fairly!