Tennis Disqualification Rules

Tennis Disqualification Rules

At all levels of the game, tennis players are expected to follow a code of conduct. This code requires them to behave in a certain way, and if they do not do so, a range of penalties applies, extending from a warning to an immediate default. So, what are the tennis disqualification rules, and what kind of behaviour might see a player ejected from a tournament?

Tennis Disqualification Rules And How They Are Applied

An umpire or referee will judge the seriousness of any breach of the code of conduct and determine what penalty to apply.

Typically, each offence will bring an escalating punishment beginning with a warning, then a point penalty, a game penalty, and finally disqualification. A particularly egregious breach will result in immediate default, but this is rare.

For professionals, being disqualified from a match has repercussions beyond simply the loss of that contest. On the ATP and WTA Tours, a player is likely to be withdrawn from all other events at the tournament, and they will lose all prize money, ranking points and hotel accommodation.

The only likely exception to this is where only one of a doubles pair is deemed to have been at fault, in which case the additional penalties apply solely to the guilty party.  

What Might Cause A Disqualification?

Questioning the Umpire
Questioning the Umpire” by Jennifer Liquido is licensed under CC BY-ND 2.0.

At professional level, most disqualifications occur due to verbal or (often accidental) physical abuse of an official.

Players very rarely get defaulted for an accumulation of offences, as when they receive a game penalty they realise that their next code violation is likely to result in an expensive disqualification and tend to control their behaviour accordingly.

More often, a disqualification will result from intemperate remarks made to the umpire, or a ball or racket propelled in anger inadvertently striking someone.

Famous Disqualifications

Given the fact that disqualifications are relatively rare, some instances are very well remembered. You will have seen that even the greats of the game like Novak Djokovic and Serena Williams have been defaulted from major events in the past. Here, I will look at a few cases with which you may be less familiar, illustrated by YouTube videos.

Nalbandian disqualified at Queen’s

At Queen’s Club in 2012, former Wimbledon finalist David Nalbandian angrily kicked the wooden frame around a line-judge’s chair.

Unfortunately for both parties, the wood splintered and cut the official’s leg. Although there was some discussion  afterwards, it was inevitable that the Argentinian would be disqualified.

Medvedev suggests Young is a friend of the umpire

Daniil Medvedev is now one of the very top players in the game, but in 2016 he was still scrapping his way up the rankings, playing against former American golden boy Donald Young at the Savannah Challenger in the USA.

After a ruling from the umpire with which he disagreed, Daniil demonstrated his tendency to make ill-judged comments when frustrated by implying that the official was favouring Young because they were of the same ethnicity. This soon led to his being disqualified for making remarks with racist connotations.

Shapovalov strikes umpire with ball

At a Davis Cup tie in 2017, a young Denis Shapovalov was in the process of losing to Great Britain’s Kyle Edmund. A missed backhand caused his frustration to boil over, and he struck a ball hard, with the intention of hitting it out of the arena.

Unfortunately, on that day, he could not even do that accurately, and the ball struck the umpire in the eye, leaving the shaken official no option but to default the Canadian.

Disqualification Compilation

If you enjoy watching the different ways in which players have managed to get themselves defaulted, you will like the following 12 minute Disqualification Compilation.

In addition to the three examples above, you can see Darian King accidentally felling a line judge as though she were a small oak tree.

My personal favourite is seeing the perceived bad boy of tennis, Jeff Tarango, look on in horror as the supposedly saintly Tim Henman demolishes a ball girl who found herself in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Tennis Disqualification Rules Summary

The tennis disqualification rules are somewhat subjective, but there are certain things players know they cannot do, including:

  • Verbally abuse an official
  • Make racist remarks
  • Strike an official with racket or ball

If any of the above occur, they are on borrowed time.

If a professional is disqualified, they are likely to be punished by:

  • Removal from other events at the tournament and loss of hotel accommodation
  • Loss of ranking points
  • A fine
  • For really serious incidents, a ban may also be considered.

Have you ever been involved in a disqualification at a tournament? Tell us about it via the comments.

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