What Is a Let in Tennis? A Pro Breaks Down the Call

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Tennis is really having a moment right now, but if you’re not familiar with the sport, you may find yourself confused by some of the jargon used. After all, the language of tennis — from break points to a player’s advantage to how the scoring terminology works — can be a little confusing. Case in point: next time you watch a match, you might hear the official call out “let,” and wonder exactly what they’re referring to.

To break down the call we spoke to USTA pro and coach, Karla Noboa. Here, she answers all of your questions — from what is a let, to when it can occur, and who can call a let. Check out our primer, and be prepared to feel like a pro the next time you spectate.

What Is a Let in Tennis?

Most commonly, a let is what’s called when “the serve hits the net cord but still lands in the service court,” Noboa explains. This allows the server to repeat the serve without it being considered a fault. Lets can also be called when there’s any form of interruption, like if you’re playing on side-by-side courts and the ball from the other game enters your court. A let can even be called for things like the ball being damaged, but whatever the case, it signals a pause and a replay.

Lets only exist in professional tennis. In college tennis, lets are played.

How Many Lets Can You Have in a Row?

The limit does not exist! Or, as Noboa says, “There’s no set limit to the number of lets that can occur in a row.” Serena Williams once had four in a row, although that’s unusual.

Who Can Call a Let?

Interestingly, it’s not just the chair umpire who can call a let. “A let can be called by any player on the court, including the players themselves, or by the chair umpire,” Noboa says. So you might hear the call coming from more people than you’d expect. That said, usually the umpire or the opposing player will call the let. And sometimes, you’ll hear them say “net” instead of “let.”

Can You Call a Let on Your Own Serve?

Yes. “A player can call a let on their own serve if the serve hits the net cord but still lands in the service court, or if there is interference during the service motion,” Noboa tells PS.

— Additional reporting by Alexis Jones

Hedy Phillips is a POPSUGAR contributor.

Alexis Jones is the senior health and fitness editor at PS. Her passions and areas of expertise include women’s health and fitness, mental health, racial and ethnic disparities in healthcare, and chronic conditions. Prior to joining PS, she was the senior editor at Health magazine. Her other bylines can be found at Women’s Health, Prevention, Marie Claire, and more.

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