What is a walkover in tennis?

Just like other sports, tennis also has its own rules in order to keep the game fair and orderly. 

There are many ways to win a tennis match without the need of hitting a ball, a walkover is one of those ways. The term ‘walkover’ is used in tennis when a player wins as a result of the opponent’s failure to make it to the match for any reason, most especially in cases of injury.

What is a walkover?

A walkover is when you win a stage of the competition without having to compete, and this is one of the popular rules when it comes to tennis. 

In tennis, a walkover is when a match has been set up but gets canceled without prior 24hours notice, or when a player suffers an injury during the warm-up and can’t physically recover to complete the match, or when a player is more than 30minutes late for the match with no explanations, then it can be called a walkover win for the other player. When a player cancels a match he becomes the loser while the player’s opponent becomes the winner without having to play the match, this is called a walkover in tennis.

When it comes to tennis, walkovers are often awarded to opponents if for any reason their opponent player doesn’t show up on time and a walkover can also occur in cases of an administrative error. They are awarded a win and they also receive ranking points for advancing. The walkover rule was created to help players keep to the game’s schedule and also provide solutions if a match gets canceled at short notice with no chance for the opponent to set up another, this way, it ensures the easy running of the tennis league. According to the United States tennis association, “a player who is defaulted, retires, or creates a walkover shall finish lower than every player who has an identical match record.”  and this rule is still followed till the present day.

We have different popular tennis players that have had cases of a walkover, take Serena Williams for example, as a three times french open single titleholder, she had to withdraw from the 202 french open because she had a left Achilles injury which she sustained during the US Open weeks. Walkovers are often rare but there are also no negative or positive effects from winning through withdrawal.

Though it seems that players typically withdraw if they’re too injured to compete, but it’s most likely to happen midway through a game. Because of their prior success on the court, the highest-ranked players benefit from it and not because of their intimidating impact on it.


What is the difference between a walkover and a default in tennis?

A walkover in tennis as earlier said is when a player doesn’t show up to the match before it starts, due to an illness or injury, then the player’s opponent is awarded a walkover and thereby given a win and credit to move to the next round of the tournament. Walkovers also occur when a player in a game has completed a match and can not go for the next round because of an injury that probably occurred during warmup. And also an administrative error can lead to a walkover, this happens when the player is given the wrong time the match is meant to start, in this case, the player is entitled to receive all points per round and bonus points that have already been accumulated by the player earlier and in no situation should a player be issued suspension points for any administrative errors.

While a default in tennis is when a player refuses to play for any other reason asides from illness and injury and also if a player commits a rule violation before or during the match, this might also attract penalties from the referee. Defaults can be given to a tennis player based on three criteria: lateness default, code violation default, and immediate default.

Lateness default: this is when a player comes late than 15mins after the scheduled time, then he is likely to either be defaulted or penalized, the penalties for this would include the loss of toss, depending on the number of minutes the players are late before the match. And if a player does not show up at all or comes more than 15minutes after the game is meant to start, then the player would have defaulted.

Code violation: a player can default when he or she breaks a tennis rule and regulation during a tennis match. Some of the code violation of tennis match includes: intentionally delaying or stopping a game, audible foul language during the game, refuse to obey a tournament official order, purposely destroying a racket, all these and more can be a resaon why a player gets a default penalty. 

This is why in order to monitor code breaches, poor sportsmanship conduct, and help ensure fair play, the United States tennis association set up a point penalty scheme. When a code breach, a warning is issued to him by the tournament official, and if the same infringement occurs again, the player has defaulted and would be penalized.

Immediate default: this is issued to a player immediately during the game if a player injures his opponent by throwing his racket violently or when hitting the ball. Another reason that can give a player immediate defaults includes poor sportsmanship conduct, physical assaults, and so on.

A default can also be based on a player’s error, this is a situation whereby the player shows up at the wrong location or at the wrong time.


Walkover rules in tennis

When it comes to walkovers in the United States tennis association leagues, they follow the USTA rules and guidelines concerning walkover. In this type of tournament league play, walkovers are a very important rule since you the tennis player is working to advance his/her ranks that would make them suitable for nationals. Things need to be straightforward and equal because it’s not a loss for anyone if the next opponent doesn’t turn up to play a match that has already been scheduled. The impact of a walkover on a national ranking of a player is that the player would receive points by round and also the bonus points that have accumulated right before the round of the walkover, while the opponent in the walkover will receive points per round for advancing but won’t receive any bonus points. No suspension points would be imposed on the player if the reason for not playing the game is due to illness, injury, or personal reasons and an administrative error.

The following codes are used by the tournament officials to record any case of walkover

Injury – Wo (Inj)

Illness – Wo (ill)

Administrative error – Wo (Tae)

Double walkover – Wo/Wo

Emergency – Wo(em)


I am sure by now you already have full knowledge and answer to the ‘What is walkover in tennis’ question. And in summary, walkovers in tennis are rules that help to keep the tournament fair and they also occur by simply awarding a player with a win without the match taking place because his/her opponent couldn’t show up to the match for various reasons.

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