Wimbledon: Tennis Law & Pigeons (Or "How I Learned To Stop Worrying And Love Rufus")

5th July, 2017, in Wimbledon, Tennis Law, Pigeons, Rufus.


On Tuesday for the want of Rufus, the now infamous pigeon scaring Harris Hawk, the tennis qualifying for Wimbledon suffered a pigeon interfering with play. Rufus whose job it is to see off London's finest, it appeared, hadn’t started work yet - he doesn't bother with the qualifiers. (You can follow him at @RufusTheHawk.)

So, in the absence of Rufus we thought we could take five and have an irreverent look at the ‘laws’ of tennis you know, designed (or not) to cope with the appearance of a pigeon!

Wimbledon Championships, Tennis Law, Pigeons, Rufus

You serve, miss the ball, distracted by a pigeon…

You’re about to serve and you are distracted by the swoop of a columba livia domestica - a descendant of the rock pigeon. You toss the ball but completely miss it when attempting to serve. It’s a fault - your fault! Whilst you are allowed to throw it, then catch it and not serve (and even ‘catch’ it with a racket), if you are dazzled by a the swoop of a pigeon and attempt to hit it the ball but miss, it's tough luck.


Your serve, then trip on a dead pigeon 

If for any reason Rufus has done his job too well and on your own side there is object there when you start play, that is not considered a ‘hindrance’. If a bird were to drop dead of fright and land on your side, then you toss the ball and serve, run and trip over it then you would loose the point.

However, if it was merely resting...


You serve, but and the ball hits a pigeon…

If after your serve the ball goes on to hit a flying pigeon, the point shall be replayed: the ‘bird’ is what’s known as a ‘hindrance’ and if you hit it then it’s a let.


“Out!” Oh no that was a pigeon… “IN!”

If a pigeon foxes the line umpire and he calls the ball ‘out’, your opponent hears and pauses, then the umpire corrects himself to ‘in’, the chair must decide if that change itself was a hindrance. If it was, the point is replayed.  If not, your ball is counted as 'in' and you get the point.



If like in the above example the line umpire, confused by a pigeon, calls the ball ‘out’ when in fact it was in, the last thing you can do cry ‘You can not be serious man that was a pigeon’  because that cry cannot result in the chair umpire overruling the line umpire. In fact, if a line Umpire has made a mistake they can correct it themselves but not if it is a result of a player protest. Mmmm…thank goodness for the two challenges!


“Watch Out For That Pigeon!”

It goes without saying that you are not allowed to coach a player, and coaching is defined as ‘communication’ of any by any kind or means, unless play is suspended. If your coach yells, ‘Watch out for that pigeon’ you could well be in trouble!


The ‘Pigeon’ Effect

If,  a bit like the like the butterfly effect, the ‘waft’ of the beat of a pigeon’s wings, a ball blows back over the net just as you are about to hit it, you can reach over and well, hit it back. But what if the other player gets in the way? Again, if it is a deliberate hinderance then then you win, if not then you'll have to play the point again.


Your opponent dazzled by a pigeon

If, but for a pigeon, your opponent was ready to receive the serve and work to your reasonable pace, i.e. they were not ready, it’s a fault. Unless that is in a wild attempt to scare the pigeon, they are in fact deemed to have attempted to hit the ball.


Service Let v’s Let

If you don’t make your first serve, and a pigeon rolls on to the court during your second service and a let is called. It is a ‘let’ and not a ‘service let’ which means the whole point can be replayed and not just that serve (a bit like the video below).

The rules of tennis have changed little since the 1890s or since Wimbledon's first championship in 1877. But for jumping to serve, tie-breaks and Hawk-Eye there have been little notable additions. However, to avoid any continued and unecesscary strain on the laws of tennis thanks to a pigeon, the game much better served by Rufus being up to speed.

If you want to fund the the laws of tennis here. 

If you want to see the pigeon land on the net, you can find it here.