History



To view the rules of previous years, and to obtain background information on why the rule was amended, click on a year below:

1978 - 1981 - 1983 - 1985 - 1986 - 1988 - 1992 - 1995 - 1997 - 1998 - 1999 - 2000 - 2001 - 2002 - 2004 - 2006 - 2008 - 2009 - 2010 - 2011 - 2012

1978 - Wording of the Rule

The racket shall consist of a frame and a stringing.

The Frame. The frame may be of any material, weight, size or shape.

The Stringing. The strings must be alternately interlaced or bonded where they cross and each string must be connected to the frame.If there are attachments, they must be used only to prevent wear and tear and must not alter the flight of the ball.The density in the centre must be at least equal to the average density of the stringing.

NOTE: The spirit of this rule is to prevent undue spin on the ball that would result in a change in the character of the game.The stringing must be made so that the moves between the strings will not exceed what is possible for instance with 18 mains and 18 crosses uniformly spaced and interlaced in a stringing area of 75 square inches (484 sq. cm).

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Racket size

The racket on the right demonstrates the largest head size that is specified within the Rules of Tennis compared to a smaller more conventional head size on the left.

1981 - Wording of the Rule - all new text

Rackets failing to comply with the following specifications are not approved for play under the Rules of Tennis:

(a) The hitting surface of the racket shall consist of a pattern of crossed strings connected to a frame and alternately laced or bonded where they cross; and the stringing pattern shall be generally uniform, and in particular not less dense in the centre than in any other area.

(b) The frame of the racket shall not exceed 32 inches (81.28 cm) in overall length, including the handle and 12½ inches (31.75 cm) in overall width. The strung surface shall not exceed 15½ inches (39.37 cm) in overall length, and 11½ inches (29.21 cm) in overall width.

(c) The frame, including the handle, and the strings:shall be free of attached objects and protrusions, other than those utilised solely and specifically to limit or prevent wear and tear or vibration, or to distribute weight, and which are reasonable in size and placement for such purposes; and (i) shall be free of any device which makes it possible for a player to change materially the shape of the racket.The International Tennis Federation shall rule on the question of whether any racket or prototype complies with the above specifications or is otherwise approved, or not approved, for play. Such ruling may be undertaken on its own initiative, or upon application by any party with a bona fide interest therein, including any player, equipment manufacturer or National Association or members thereof. Such rulings and applications shall be made in accordance with the applicable Review and Hearing Procedures of the International Tennis Federation, copies of which may be obtained from the office of the Secretary.

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1983 - Wording of the Rule - Paragraph(a) amended

(a) The hitting surface of the racket shall be flat and consist of a pattern of crossed strings connected to a frame and alternately laced or bonded where they cross; and the stringing pattern shall be generally uniform, and in particular not less dense in the centre than in any other area.

Justification for the amendment

The Technical Committee consider that the new Rule 4 adopted in 1981 has proved most satisfactory. However, they feel it is necessary to include this statement that a racket shall be flat.

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1985 - Wording of the Rule - 3 cases added

Case 1. Can there be more than one set of strings on the hitting surface of a racket? Decision. No. The rule clearly mentions a pattern, and not patterns, of crossed strings.

Case 2. Is the stringing pattern of a racket considered to be generally uniform and flat if the strings are of a different gauge? Decision. No.

Case 3. Is the stringing pattern of a racket considered to be generally uniform and flat if the strings are on more than one plane? Decision. No.

Justification for the amendment

The Committee recommend these three Cases and Decisions which clarify principles incorporated in Rule 4.

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Racket size

Different racket sizes.

1986 - Wording of the Rule - Paragraphs (a) to (c) amended, and new paragraph (d). Cases amended

(a) The hitting surface of the racket shall consist of a pattern of crossed strings connected to a frame and alternately interlaced or bonded where they cross; and the stringing pattern shall be generally uniform, and in particular not less dense in the centre than in any other area. The strings shall be free of attached objects and protrusions other than those utilised solely and specifically to limit or prevent wear and tear or vibration, and which are reasonable in size and placement for such purposes.

(b) The frame of the racket shall not exceed 32 inches (81.28 cm) in overall length, including the handle and 12½ inches (31.75 cm) in overall width. The strung surface shall not exceed 15½ inches (39.37 cm) in overall length, and 11½ inches (29.21 cm) in overall width.

(c) The frame, including the handle, shall be free of attached objects and devices other than those utilised solely and specifically to limit or prevent wear and tear or vibration, or to distribute weight. Any objects and devices must be reasonable in size and placement for such purposes.

(d) The frame, including the handle, and the strings, shall be free of any device which makes it possible to change materially the shape of the racket, or to change the weight distribution, during the playing of the point.

Case 1. Can there be more than one set of strings on the hitting surface of a racket? Decision. No. The rule clearly mentions a pattern, and not patterns, of crossed strings.

Case 2. Is the stringing pattern of a racket considered to be generally uniform and flat if the strings are on more than one plane? Decision. No

Justification for the amendment

The Technical Committee considers that, for clarity, the strings and the frame should be dealt with in separate sections. They also recommend that no change in the weight distribution should be allowed during the playing of a point.

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1988 - Wording of the Rule - 1 case added

Case 3. Can a vibration dampening device be placed on the strings of a racket and if so, where can they be placed? Decision. Yes; but such devices may only be placed outside the pattern of the crossed strings.

Justification for the amendment

Paragraph (a) of Rule 4 states: “ … The strings shall be free of attached objects and protrusions other than those utilised solely and specifically to limit or prevent wear and tear or vibration, and which are reasonable in size and placement for such purposes”.

The Technical Committee have been given the brief to ensure that new inventions and devices for rackets do not change the character of the game.

They have examined prototype vibration dampening devices and have received the views of players about the many products on the market. They believe that some of these devices, which are reasonable in size, are acceptable and would not change the game provided they are placed outside the pattern of crossed strings.

They have recommended to the Committee of Management that an additional Case and Decision be added to the rule to clarify this principle.

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1992 - Wording of the Rule - Case 3 amended. Case 4 added

Case 3. Can vibration dampening devices be placed on the strings of a racket and if so, where can they be placed?Decision. Yes; but such devices may only be placed outside the pattern of the crossed strings.Case 4. In the course of play, a player accidentally breaks the strings of his racket. Can he continue to play with the racket in this condition? Decision. Yes

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1995 - Wording of the Rule - Addition to paragraph (d)

d) The frame, including the handle, and the strings, shall be free of any device which makes it possible to change materially the shape of the racket, or to change the weight distribution in the direction of the longitudinal axis of the racket which would alter the swing moment of inertia, during the playing of a point.

Justification for the amendment

The intention of the existing wording under Rule 4 – THE RACKET paragraph (d) was to ensure that no device be attached to the racket which would accelerate the movement or power of the racket at the moment of impact with the ball when playing a point.

A vibration dampening device had been developed consisting of a flat plastic strip containing small sealed pockets filled with minute lead pellets. This plastic strip is inserted around the inside of the head of the racket during manufacture.

Whilst contravening the written wording of the Rule in its present form, it has been proven that this plastic strip system not only has the effect of dampening vibration but also slows and reduces the power of the racket when hitting the ball during the playing of a point.This proposal to change the rule would allow the dampening device to be used and does not change the character of the game.

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Racket size

Racket on the right exceeds the maximum length of 29 inches due to an extended handle.

1997 - Wording of the Rule - Paragraph (b) amended

(b) For professional play, the frame of the racket shall not exceed 29 inches (73.66 cm) in overall length, including the handle, as from 1st January 1997. For non-professional play, the frame of the racket shall not exceed 29 inches (73.66 cm) in overall length, including the handle, as from 1st January 2000. The frame of the racket shall not exceed 12½ inches (31.75 cm) in overall width. The strung surface shall not exceed 15½ inches (39.37 cm) in overall length, and 11½ inches (29.21 cm) in overall width.

Justification for the amendment

The Committee recommends that Rule 4 be amended to limit the length of the racket to 29” in overall length. This represents a reduction from the current restriction on length of the racket of 32”. The Committee agrees that rackets with a length in excess of 29” would pose an unacceptable risk in increasing the speed of the game in general and would further increase the potency of the serve in the game.

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1998 - Wording of the Rule - Addition to paragraph (b)

(b) …as from 1st January 2000. Until 1st January 2000, the maximum length of a racket for non-professional play shall be 32 inches (81.28 cm). The frame of the racket shall not exceed 12½ inches…..

Justification for the amendment

This amendment, which follows the discussion at the AGM last year, is considered necessary to clarify and re-confirm the maximum allowed length of a tennis racket intended for non-professional play through to the 1st January 2000. The existing 1997 Rules does not currently make reference to a maximum limit and the Committee therefore recommends acceptance of the above proposal.

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1999 - Wording of the Rule - Addition to paragraphs (a) and (d)

(a) …in particular not less dense in the centre than in any other area. The racket shall be designed and strung such that the playing characteristics are identical on both faces.

(d) …swing moment of inertia, or to deliberately change any physical property which may affect the performance of the racket during the playing of a point.

Justification for the amendment

a) The Board believes that Rule 4 should be amended to state that where a racket is considered to have two hitting surfaces, both surfaces should be strung such that the stringing patterns, tensions, and materials used are identical and no advantage might be gained by a player utilising new technological advancements which may allow a racket to have different playing characteristics on each surface. The Board therefore recommends acceptance of the above proposal.

(d) The Board is proposing the above amendment to clarify paragraph (d) which prohibits any devices designed to change the shape or weight of the racket during play.The Board believes that the existing wording of Rule 4 (d) does not satisfactorily define the intention of the Rule, which is to prevent an unfair advantage being gained by the use of any device designed to allow the performance of a racket to be changed during play, and therefore recommends acceptance of the proposal.

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2000 - Wording of the Rule - Paragraph (b) amended

(b) The frame of the racket shall not exceed 29 inches (73.66 cm) in overall length, including the handle. The frame of the racket shall not exceed 12½ inches (31.75 cm) in overall width. The strung surface shall not exceed 15½ inches (39.37 cm) in overall length, and 11½ inches (29.21 cm) in overall width.

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2001 - Wording of the Rule - Paragraph (b) amended (one word only)

(b) The frame of the racket shall not exceed 29 inches (73.66 cm) in overall length, including the handle. The frame of the racket shall not exceed 12½ inches (31.75 cm) in overall width. The hitting surface shall not exceed 15½ inches (39.37 cm) in overall length, and 11½ inches (29.21 cm) in overall width.

Justification for the amendment

The Technical Commission believes that Rule 4 should be amended to provide a clearer definition of the maximum permitted string length in a racket. This definition has been used to limit the head size of a racket for many years but recently this specification has been the subject of some debate by the racket industry. The debate relates to the precise measurement of string length and the definition of the dimension of the strung surface. In particular, some confusion exists as to whether the definition applies to the dimension of the racket frame, or the position of the point of suspension of the racket string, within the frame section.

The new wording is considered to give a clearer definition of the original intention of this specification i.e. that the maximum head size be limited to 15 ½ inches (39.37cm) in overall length as defined by the internal distance between the frame sections at the position of maximum string length.

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2002 - Wording of the Rule - Addition to paragraph (d). 1 case added

(d) …during the playing of a point. No energy source that in any way changes or affects the playing characteristics of a racket may be built into or attached to a racket.

Case 5. Can a battery that affects playing characteristics be incorporated into a racket? Decision. No. A battery is prohibited because it is an energy source, as are solar cells, and other similar devices.

Justification for the amendment

The Technical Commission has recommended that Rule 4 paragraph d. be amended to clarify the intention of the rule with respect to technology which may allow the player to change or affect the physical performance characteristics of the racket during play. Case 5 has been inserted to clarify the meaning of the term “energy source”. In particular the additional statement provides clarification on the limitation of certain types of electrical or electronic technology within the racket frame which may provide performance enhancements which are considered to be outside the spirit and intent of the regulation.

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2004 - Wording of the Rule - all new text

The format and presentation of the rules has been revised into a more modern language and easier to follow sequence. This has resulted in a reduction in the number of rules, and for reference purposes the old rule number is shown in brackets.

4. THE RACKET (OLD 4) Rackets, which are approved for play under the Rules of Tennis, must comply with the specifications in Appendix II.The International Tennis Federation shall rule on the question of whether any racket or prototype complies with Appendix II or is otherwise approved, or not approved, for play. Such ruling may be undertaken on its own initiative, or upon application by any party with a bona fide interest therein, including any player, equipment manufacturer or National Association or members thereof. Such rulings and applications shall be made in accordance with the applicable Review and Hearing Procedures of the International Tennis Federation (see Appendix VI).

Case 1: Is more than one set of strings allowed on the hitting surface of a racket? Decision: No. The rule mentions a pattern (not patterns) of crossed strings. (See Appendix II)

Case 2: Is the stringing pattern of a racket considered to be generally uniform and flat if the strings are on more than one plane? Decision: No.

Case 3: Can vibration damping devices be placed on the strings of a racket? If so, where can they be placed? Decision: Yes, but these devices may only be placed outside the pattern of thecrossed strings.

Case 4: During a point, a player accidentally breaks the strings. Can the player continue to play another point with this racket? Decision: Yes, except where specifically prohibited by event organisers.

Case 5: Is a player allowed to use more than one racket at any time during play? Decision: No.

Case 6: Can a battery that affects playing characteristics be incorporated into a racket? Decision: No. A battery is prohibited because it is an energy source, as are solar cells and other similar devices.

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2006 - Wording of the Rule - all new text

APPENDIX II - THE RACKET

a. The hitting surface, defined as the main area of the stringing pattern bordered by the points of entry of the strings into the frame or points of contact of the strings with the frame, whichever is the smaller, shall be flat and consist of a pattern of crossed strings connected to a frame and alternately interlaced or bonded where they cross. The stringing pattern must be generally uniform and, in particular, not less dense in the centre than in any other area. The racket shall be designed and strung such that the playing characteristics are identical on both faces. The racket shall be free of attached objects, protrusions and devices other than those utilised solely and specifically to limit or prevent wear and tear or vibration or, for the frame only, to distribute weight. These objects, protrusions and devices must be reasonable in size and placement for such purposes.

b. The frame of the racket shall not exceed 29.0 inches (73.7 cm) in overall length, including the handle. The frame of the racket shall not exceed 12.5 inches (31.7 cm) in overall width. The hitting surface shall not exceed 15.5 inches (39.4 cm) in overall length, and 11.5 inches (29.2 cm) in overall width.

c. The frame, including the handle, and the strings, shall be free of any device which makes it possible to change materially the shape of the racket, or to change the weight distribution in the direction of the longitudinal axis of the racket which would alter the swing moment of inertia, or to change deliberately any physical property which may affect the performance of the racket during the playing of a point. No energy source that in any way changes or affects the playing characteristics of a racket may be built into or attached to a racket.

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2008 - Wording of the Rule – Addition of the word “materially” in paragraph c., and a new paragraph d.

APPENDIX II - THE RACKET

c. The frame, including the handle, and the strings, shall be free of any device which makes it possible to change materially the shape of the racket, or to change materially the weight distribution in the direction of the longitudinal axis of the racket which would alter the swing moment of inertia, or to change deliberately any physical property which may affect the performance of the racket during the playing of a point. No energy source that in any way changes or affects the playing characteristics of a racket may be built into or attached to a racket.

d. The racket must be free of any device that may provide communication, advice or instruction of any kind, audible or visible, to a player during a match.

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2009 - Wording of the Rule - All units of measurement have been changed to accepted scientific standards using the SI system, whilst the imperial measurements are shown in parenthesis.

APPENDIX II - THE RACKET

b. The frame of the racket shall not exceed 73.7 cm (29.0 inches) in overall length, including the handle. The frame of the racket shall not exceed 31.7 cm (12.5 inches) in overall width. The hitting surface shall not exceed 39.4 cm (15.5 inches) in overall length, and 29.2 cm (11.5 inches) in overall width.

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2010 - Wording of the Rule - Statement has been added to clarify that SI units take precedence

For all measurements in Appendix I, SI units shall take precedence

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2011 - Wording of the Rule - Insertion of paragraph in Rule 3

From January 2012, for 10 and under tennis competition, the balls described in Appendix I cannot be used.  Instead one of the stage 3 (red), stage 2 (orange) or stage 1 (green) balls described in Appendix VI must be used.

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2012 - Wording of the Rule - New note added at end of Appendix I

Note:

For a two-year trial (2012- 2013), in addition to the balls defined above, the stage 1 (green) ball defined in Appendix VI may be used for all levels of competitive play except for world ranking professional tennis events, Davis Cup and Fed Cup, Junior Tournaments and Team events sanctioned by the ITF and affiliated regional associations, ITF Senior circuit and team events and ITF Wheelchair Circuit and Team events.

During this trial period each National Association shall have the right to decide which national competitive events should use the stage 1 (green) ball.

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SPECIFIC EQUIPMENT RULES

Follow the links below to find the latest rules and specifications for tennis balls, rackets, courts and player analysis technology:

Balls

Rackets

Courts

Player Analysis Technology

MORE RULES ABOUT RACKETS

Follow the links below to find out more about the rules regarding rackets including developments to rules over time, Appendix II, and Product Conformity:

Overview

History

Appendix II: The Racket