What is Let in Tennis? Let Rules You NEED To Know.

By Lin
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what is a let in tennis

What is let in tennis, and why is this an important aspect of the game? During a let serve or let ball, you may hear someone call out that phrase and permit the match to continue. Of course, this doesn’t always happen, but we’ll cover that below.

A let is when the tennis ball hits the net cord but lands in the service court during a match. You typically see these after a serve, which is why they are also called let serves. This isn’t considered a fault, and the player is allowed to repeat the service attempt.

Are you curious about lets in tennis and why these matter? Luckily, we’ve done plenty of digging and have more information to share!

What Happens During A Let In Tennis?

If you hear “let” in tennis, the ball has likely hit the net during a serve but still landed on the correct side of the court (within bounds). This is an instance where players replay an entire point except when it’s called on a second serve. Instead of being penalized, a let allows the game to continue and the athlete to retry their serve.

Moreover, a let in tennis means that the preceding serve, or partial rally, shall be ignored, and the point started again. You won’t have to forfeit the point and potentially lose the match with one. Some of the fastest serves result in lets, as they will hit the court net occasionally.

You don’t want to get these often, but it’s not the end of the world if you do. You could even consider lets an unforced error in tennis, as you don’t purposely mean to connect with the divider net.

Tennis Let Serve Rules

With an understanding of a let in tennis, here are the rules for them:

Rule 22 covers service lets, saying that a serve “that touches the net and is otherwise good shall not count, and the server shall serve again.”

This states that during a let, the game continues, and the server can go ahead and try another serve. Of course, on the second serve let, you would continue the match as usual, moving back to the other player. There are also no limitations on how many let serves you can have in a match. That has been a topic of frustration for some athletes over the years but remains as of present.

Again, lets are quick disruptions in a tennis match, but they aren’t faults. You will not be penalized for them, regardless of how many.

It is a fault if your serve doesn’t land in the correct service box.

The No Let Rules

The “Not Let“ or ”No Let“ rule is sometimes implemented to help speed up play. Under the no-let rule, a service let is counted as fair play, which means players must treat a let as in bounds and play the point.

The no let rule was implemented as a trial at the 2018 Next-Gen ATP Finals. However, while the experiment added unpredictability to serves, it didn’t stick around, and the ATP scrapped the rule in 2019.

Although rarely used in professional tennis, you’ll find this rule referenced in Appendix Five of the ITF official rules of tennis.

Our post on switching sides in tennis is also worth checking out.

How Many Lets Are Allowed In Tennis?

There are no limits to how many lets can happen in a tennis match. The server continues to repeat their serve until they make it or hit a fault.

You have two chances at a proper serve in tennis, so with a let, you get to retry the first one without penalty, and then if the second hit the net but ends up in the correct service box, you can do it again.

Lets don’t typically happen every serve, but they often pop up during matches. Especially in pro play, lets happen occasionally and are usually not a big deal. Regardless, you have an unlimited number of them.

When Can A Let Be Called?

The most appropriate time to call a let in tennis is if a noticeable distraction interferes with play. In recreational tennis, lets are often called after a ball from a nearby court comes onto yours.

This is treated as an interference; with the ball removed, the game paused and started as usual. Whenever this type of thing happens, it is best to call a let promptly.

By not calling a let in time and waiting too long, it may not be valid. That is something to remember, even when serving. Call it the second you see it.

Reaching over the net in tennis is another grey-zone issue that we cover in this article.

What Is The Origin Of The Word Let In Tennis?

As we mentioned, the origin of “let” in tennis comes from a few languages. The most believed origin of let in tennis is thanks to the Old Saxton word, “lettian,” which means to hinder. This makes the most sense, as a let does cause a brief disruption in a match, with the serve having to be redone.

This isn’t a major deal, but it can cause confusion and throw someone off their game if they don’t stay focused. Moreover, the French word “filet” translates to net, which could also be it.


Who Can Call A Let?

Any player during a tennis match can call a let. The minute you see something that qualifies as one, you are free to call it. Remember, even the person who hit the net but landed the ball in the service box can call a let.

Do You Get Two Serves After A Let?

Because when a let is called, the serve does not count; players get another shot at serving. That said, if the let occurs during a second serve, it does not cancel out the fault, and the server only gets another second serve.

What Is It Called When You Miss Two Serves?

If your first serve doesn’t go into the correct box, it’s called a “fault.” If this happens a second time, you receive a “double fault.” Your opponent then wins the point.

Final Thoughts

When a let happens in tennis, you get a second chance at serving your ball. You can retry and hopefully win the point if the ball hits the net and reaches the correct service box. Don’t be afraid to call one if you see it, even if it’s only a ball rolling into your court!

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Editor of All Points Tennis and a huge Roger Federer fan, I've spent countless hours studying his moves, especially his forehand and one-handed backhand. I also love writing about all the technical stuff like rackets and strings. I'm super pumped to share my insights with fellow tennis lovers here.