In September the ATP Tour announced it was eliminating the “Let” ball on a serve for the first 3 months of 2013 on the Challenger Circuit. WTT matches at the professional level already play without lets and so does Men’s Division 1 College tennis but for different reasons. WTT eliminated the lets to make the matches more exciting. In WTT matches, where most of the events are doubles events, either player can hit the let serve back. In D1 Men’s the let was eliminated because of cheating. Too many players were calling phantom lets on serves they couldn’t return.
Steve Johnson, a two-time N.C.A.A. men’s singles champion from the University of Southern California who now plays professionally, said, “In college, it’s more an anticheating thing, rather than ‘I think this might be better for the game; it might speed it up.’ ”
During a previous consideration of the rule in the 1990s, the International Tennis Federation conducted a two-year study of some 715 matches, finding that there were an average of 4.1 lets a match, and that in 65 percent of the cases the result of the let did not favor one player more than the other. A majority of serves that clip the net but land in continue to move with roughly the same trajectory and speed; balls that drastically change speed or direction are less frequent.
“I mean that’s the thing, maybe once, twice, not that many,” Johnson said of the number of service lets that changed crucial points in his four-year college career. “Not like a dozen. Maybe like one or two. It doesn’t really change the outcome that much.”