The Double Fault in Tennis – What is it and How to Avoid Them

What is a Double Fault in Tennis?

Tennis is as much of a mental game as it is physical. Every time you hit a shot, there’s a chance that nerves will get the better of you and you’ll send the ball flying out of bounds or into the net. It’s never more important to get a hold of those nerves than when you’re trying to avoid a double fault. So, what is a double fault in tennis?

Key Takeaway:

A double fault in tennis happens when the server sends the ball out of bounds on their second serve.  If a player double faults, they lose that point and the game continues. It’s called a double fault because the server faults once on their first serve and again on their second serve.

Read on to learn more about the double fault, how it can impact a tennis match, and how to avoid it.

If you commit a double fault, you lose the point.  It’s that simple.  And this is why you rarely see pros make this unforced error. 

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03/09/2024 09:17 pm GMT

How Do You Do a Double Fault?

It’s tough to avoid a double fault when you don’t know how to do one in the first place. Luckily, it’s a fairly simple rule.

You do a double fault by faulting twice in the same service point. If a player faults on their first serve, that is the first fault. Then, if they fault on the second serve, it’s a double fault.

There are two main ways to fault in tennis, and committing either one adds to the double fault count. I’ll go over these in the next section.

Types of Faults That Contribute to the Double Fault

Below, I’ll go over the two main faults that contribute to a double fault. The first type of It happens in nearly every service part of tennis that players must learn to deal with. The second type is a little more obscure and isn’t often called.

Failing To Hit the Service Box

The most common type of fault occurs when a player’s serve misses their opponent’s service box. This includes just barely missing the lines and also hitting the ball into the net.

If an umpire or line umpire is officiating a tennis match, they will call out ‘fault’ any time the ball misses the service box. That way, players are aware of whether a ball is in play or not.

Pro Tip: Beginners may struggle with this while learning to put spin on the ball during their serve. So be patient while you get the mechanics down.  I struggled with this while in high school.  

Foot Faults

Foot faults are rarely called in tennis, but they can add to the double fault, too. They occur when any part of a player’s foot crosses the baseline of the court during a serve. Most players are careful not to put their feet on the line when serving, so you’re unlikely to see this one in action.

The important thing to note is that players can jump and land on or over the baseline during a serve as long as their feet hit the ground after striking the ball.  Even a bad toss can lead to a foot fault. 

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What Happens When Someone Commits a Double Fault?

So, now that you know exactly what a double fault is and how they occur, it’s time to talk about what the consequences are.

When a player commits a double fault, they forfeits that service point. If a player commits one during a breakpoint, they lose that service game. If they commit the double fault at any other point, the returning player receives a point and the serving player serves to the other side of the court.

Double faults can sometimes have next to no effect on a game, and sometimes double faults can come at the worst possible time, leading a player to lose a game and even a match.

Double Faults During Matches

Double faults can occur at any point during a match.  Faults during a singles match are not any less common than in a doubles match.  2nd serves happen all the time during matches but the rule remains the same.  

Whether it is the US Open or a recreational game at the park, the rules around double faults apply to all match types.  There are no exceptions.

Causes of a Double Fault

You know what a double fault is, how it happens, and what the result is. Now, I’ll dig down a little deeper and look at what causes most double faults to happen.

There are almost as many reasons as you can think of for someone hitting a double fault, but they usually boil down to three things:

Nervousness

Tennis players are some of the most mentally tough athletes out there.  They must be able to recover quickly even after losing a point. Especially, if losing the point due to a double fault. 

They see every point as crucial to paving the path to victory, and with that comes pressure. Little voices creep in, hinting at what will happen if they miss a serve. Muscles tense up. If they let it overwhelm them, they can miss a serve and hit a double fault.

The best way to combat this is to practice your serve often, and completely focus on the match. If your attention is on the people watching you play, your nerves are only going to get worse.

Fatigue

Of course, the body can get just as exhausted as the mind. Players often take part in tennis matches at high temperatures and run around for hours at a time. As they chase down balls in every corner of the court, the body gets worn down.

This can lead to muscles tensing up at the wrong time, and there’s no worse time for a player than when they’re staring at a potential double fault.

Therefore, it’s essential to drink a lot of water while playing tennis. The more you sweat and tire yourself out, the more water you’re going to need. While water won’t completely rejuvenate you, it will help the tiredness a bit.

Lack of Training

If a player’s muscles aren’t dog-tired, they might have a different problem: a lack of training. Anyone who remembers what it was like when they started learning tennis knows how hard it was to get their serve right. It took hours of practice. Endless frustration.

And, if that training isn’t hard-wired into a player’s brain, it can mean that the faults start to pile up.

Therefore, make sure you practice your serve over and over until it’s muscle memory. While there might still be rare occasions when you double fault, it won’t happen as often with adequate practice.

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How To Stop Double Faulting

Avoiding the causes of double faults, including a poor toss and spin control, is easier said than done. Sometimes the serving player has no say when their nerves will get the better of them.

With that said, there are two main things that players can do to avoid double faults. When combined, they offer the best chance at limiting lost forfeited points.

Develop Muscle Memory

As I’ve already mentioned, getting serving repetitions in is the most important way to limit double faults. The more you practice, the more your muscle memory will develop.

The more your muscle memory develops, focusing on the toss and spin, the more serving becomes like breathing.  This will reduce your double faults dramatically 

Change Your Serve

Even if serving is second nature, you’ll want a backup plan for when nerves get the better of you. When watching professional tennis players, you’ll notice that their first and second serves look completely different. 

Men’s players take around 21 mph (34 kph), off their first serve to lower the risk of double-faulting. Women’s players drop their speed by 15 mph (24 kph). You might want to go a step further, if necessary.

What is a Double Fault in Tennis – Final Thoughts

The more you practice your serve, the less likely you are to give free points to your opponents.

You should spend some time perfecting your first serve, but don’t forget to work on a second serve that you’re comfortable with. Make it one that lets you safely prevent double faults.

Remember, avoid multiple double faults, even during recreational games.  Play smarter and get that second serve in.  Even if it means the match point is a little longer than you’d like.

Other Double Fault FAQs

Q: What is included in this table of contents?

A: This table of contents covers common questions about double faults in tennis, including definitions, statistics, and information about professional players.

Q: How is a double fault defined in tennis?

A: In tennis, a double fault occurs when a player fails to get the ball in play on both their first and second serves, resulting in the loss of the point.

Q: How many double faults are permitted per match?

A: There is no set limit on the number of double faults a player can hit in a match. However, double faults can negatively impact a player’s performance and may lead to losing crucial points.

Q: What is the average number of double faults in a match?

A: The average number of double faults in a match can vary depending on the players and the level of competition. Some professional players may have a higher or lower average than others.

Q: What happens if a player commits two consecutive faults?

A: If a player commits two consecutive faults, it results in a double fault, and their opponent wins the point.

Q: How many double faults did Alexander Bublik hit in the 2022 Wimbledon tournament?

A: Alexander Bublik hit a total of 26 double faults during the 2022 Wimbledon tournament.

Q: What is the significance of a double fault in a tennis match?

A: A double fault can be a costly mistake for a player as it results in the loss of a point without their opponent having to make a play. Players need to minimize double faults to maintain their competitive edge.

Q: What is the importance of the second serve in avoiding double faults?

A: The second serve is crucial in preventing double faults as it offers players an opportunity to correct any errors from their first serve and get the ball in play to start the point.

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