A foot fault occurs when a server steps onto the baseline or into the court before he serves the ball. It also happens when a server steps onto the imaginary extension or the sideline.
I’ve never seen a player intentionally foot fault to gain an unfair advantage. Never. Actually developing and practicing such a tactic is absolutely ridiculous.
Yet I’ve seen many opposing receivers call “foot fault” at the slightest infraction, real or imagined. In officiated matches, a foot fault is occasionally called but only if it’s flagrant. By flagrant I mean a huge jump into the court before the ball is served. This foot fault is obvious to everyone in the stadium at the U.S. Open.
I think the reason we hear “foot fault” so often in recreation tennis is that someone is trying to upset someone else. And certainly, repeat accusations clearly irk the server to the point of confrontation. Maybe that’s the underlying reason in the first place. So unless you think a few inches is giving your serving opponents a tremendous advantage, live with those micro foot faults. Those players who consistently call foot faults from across the net are up to something.
Gary Sherby is tennis director at Racquets and Togs Tennis Center, 115 Bradford St., just off the downtown square. His tennis tips appear Sundays.