How Many Lets Are Allowed In Tennis?

Tennis is one of those sports where players will still debate rules in the middle of a match even after years of playing the game. The let rule tends to spark debate on the court, with some players arguing that only a certain amount of lets is allowed in a tennis game. So, how many lets are allowed in a tennis match?

There is no limit to the let calls allowed in a tennis match. Theoretically, a player could perform an endless amount of let serves in a row without consequence. Some tournaments have tried out a “no-let” service rule where serves that hit the net are played on. 

Though it may annoy many tennis players and spectators, the let rule is important in the sport because it promotes players’ safety and fairness. Most people know that the let rule exists but are unfamiliar with how often it can be called during a match. 

How Many Times Can Lets Be Called In Tennis

Simply put, there is no limit on the number of lets allowed during a tennis match. Some fans consider tennis matches too long, so they would like to see a rule change introduced at the professional level. 

Because an unlimited amount of let calls are allowed, a game of tennis could theoretically go on forever. One after the other, a player’s serves could hit the top of the net before bouncing within the opponent’s service box. 

A let is also called when some kind of disturbance on the court affects the point being played. Most of the time, a lost ball from an adjacent court or a wandering bird interrupts the play. Disturbances, one after another, can also drag out the match’s length. 

Is The Let Rule Going To Change?

There have been discussions in the tennis community regarding the let rule and its effect on the game. Over the years, some tournaments have proposed eliminating the rule, specifically the let rule related to serving. Players must return serves that hit the net and bounce within the service box.

Some tournaments have tested out the no let rule; you can see a compilation of receivers being disheartened after being unable to return a serve that hits the net. The issue is that the fairness aspect is eliminated, as the net could decide key moments in the match. 

How Does The Let Rule For Serving Work In Tennis

According to the International Tennis Federation (ITF). A let can be called during a service in one of three scenarios:

  1. The server does not wait for the opponent to be ready and serves anyway. Though the receiver must abide by the server’s tempo during a game, the server is not permitted to serve before it is clear that the receiver is ready. The chair umpire will make the judgment and call let if the server served prematurely. 
  2. The ball hits or touches the net and lands within the designated service box. This is the most common let call that occurs during a tennis match.
  3. The ball hits or touches the net and hits the receiver. Generally, if a server hits their opponent (with the ball) upon serve, it is the server’s point, as the receiver failed to return the ball. However, if the ball hits the net first, it is deemed a let. 

How Does The Let Rule Work During A Rally In Tennis

Another instance in which a let can be called is during a rally. An umpire will call a rally let when some disturbance occurs, to no fault of the players, that hinders the rally. 

A common example of a rally let, both at the professional and amateur level, is when a badly hit ball from an adjacent court tennis ball lands on the court in question during a rally. The rally is stopped not just because the ball is a distraction to players but also because it is a potential hazard. Umpires must maintain court safety and control as best they can, even if it interrupts play. 

On other occasions, spectators moving around in the arena or stadium will cause so much commotion and distraction to a player that the umpire has to step in and stop the rally. 

You see rally let calls much less often in professional tennis than serve-let calls, as tennis tournaments usually do a good job of keeping tennis courts free of unwanted distractions. 

Where Does The Word Let Come From In Tennis?

Interestingly, many think that when a player hits a let serve, the umpire calls “net” and not “let.” This is understandable, as the player does hit the net. Some amateur players only find this out years into playing the sport.

You will not find one answer to why tennis uses the word “let” for let calls. There are several suggestions regarding the origins of this word in tennis. 

  1. The word “let” is short for “letting.” This simple theory suggests that “let” is simply the short version of “letting,” as in letting the players replay a point.
  2. The word “let” originates from “filet” (French). The French word “filet” means “net,” so it is possible that the English took the French word and shortened it.
  3. The word “let” comes from Old Saxon. This theory suggests that the word “let” means “lettian” in Old Saxon, which translates to “hinder.” 

Who Calls The Let In A Tennis Match?

The chair umpire is the one to call “let” when needed in professional tennis. 

In matches with no umpires, it is up to the players to agree on a let call. However, sometimes it is best to have a third party involved or apply the “no-let” rule, as disagreeable players might start an argument.

Who Has Committed The Most Service Lets In A Row?

Serena Williams currently holds the record for the most consecutive let serves. She hit the net four times in a row. You can find a video of it here.


There is not a limited number of lets allowed in a tennis match. Though the rule can frustrate some players and spectators, it promotes fairness and safety for the people on the tennis court. 


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