Jun 6 2014

Tennis, Smartphones, and Tablets, Oh My!

Babolat | Equipment | ITF | League Tennis | Racquets | Rules | Technology | USTA       Clif Render      
A Tennis Player Texting on Court

The Question

Recently my wife came to me with a Tennis question. Her niece was playing a very competitive tennis match in a tournament in North Carolina and at every changeover, her opponent would pull out her smart phone and spend the entire changeover blissfully tapping away. It was really irritating to our niece and a little concerning as well. In our modern connected era, it would be all too easy for her to be texting with a coach or friend to ask for help with the match. Receiving coaching would be a clear violation of the tournament rules but she wasn't sure that was what was happening. So, this brought up the question "Is using a phone during a match legal?"

The Answer

Until this year, the answer would have been a little unclear. Since listening to music during a changeover was legal, who was to say that you were not just looking up a song and listening to it while you were, instead, typing in a question and listening to the sonorous tones of your coach whispering sweet somethings into your ear? Well, thanks to the 2014 update to the ITF Rules of Tennis, things are a good bit clearer. Thanks to the ITF's new Rule No. 31 which was adopted by both the USTA and the ITA, there is no longer any room for misunderstanding. Smartphones, tablets, laptops, and virtually all other electronic devices are expressly forbidden within the bounds of the match play area regardless of what they're being used for.

So, if you were thinking of tweeting on-court updates from your big upcoming local, state, sectional, or national match, think again.


"Are there any exceptions to this rule," you might be asking? Well, yes, as a matter of fact, there are. The first group of exceptions center around events where coaching is allowed. In general, if you are participating in an event that allows coaching, whether it's a junior tournament or a NCAA Division I intercollegiate tennis match, an electronic device such as a smartphone or a tablet can still be used to send and receive messages for coaching purposes. In these cases, however, the device should be completely powered down after use so as to not disturb play. Given the amount of time it can take to completely power up a smartphone or tablet, it is far more practical to consult with a coach face to face if at all possible.

The other exceptions involve the use of new innovative technologies like the Babolat Play Pure Drive racquet (which I have mentioned in previous posts) or the Zepp Tennis Swing Analyzer (an add-on that can be attached to any racquet that collects gameplay data similar to the kind collected by the Pure Drive Play). The ITF decided to create a new category for technologies like these. It calls them Player Analysis Technologies and they are allowed as long as their functioning is non-obtrusive and the data isn't actively uploaded and/or reviewed during match play. They also have to be approved by the ITF (http://www.itftennis.com/technical/player-analysis/approved-products.aspx) before they can be used during match play. The Babolat Play Pure Drive has already been approved by the ITF for use in match play but the Zepp Tennis Swing Analyzer has not so you'll have to avoid using it in sanctioned matches until it is approved. I am not sure if they have begun the approval process or not as they haven't replied to my questions on the subject but I'll be sure to let you know when they do.

So there you have it. Stow the phones, tablets, and electronic devices unless you're in an event that explicitly allows coaching. Player Analysis technologies are okay but only if they've received ITF approval. Just let me know if you have any questions. I plan on reviewing both the Babolat Play Pure Drive and the Zepp Tennis Swing Analyzer in future posts.

Play On!

Comments (2) -

Kim Kim says:

Clif - great post.  I don't think very many people know about this change to the rules.  And I think we'll see more and more equipment with technology embedded into it somehow.  I'm going to test out the Babolat Play Pure Drive soon just to see what that's like.  Finally - I accidentally rated this post with 3 stars when I meant to hit 5.  I'm not sure how to change it but just know, that was me.  This is definitely a 5 star post.


Clif Render Clif Render says:

Aw, thanks, Kim! Your endorsement is most heartily appreciated! No worries about the three stars. I'll see if I can go in and manually update that at your request. Definitely looking forward to your review on the Babolat Play. I've been trying it out for a while, myself, and am looking forward to hearing your take on it. And actually, when it comes to the ITF's new Rule 31, your Tennis Quick Tips number 29: Using An On-Court Tennis “Cheat Sheet” (tennisfixation.com/.../...eet-tqt-podcast-029.html) from back in February was one of the first places that I saw anyone mentioning the ITF's new Rule 31 and talking about it's ramifications. It's a great listen and/or read with some great suggestions for anyone who's interested!

Add comment

  • Comment
  • Preview