April 13, 2024

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What Is A Walkover In Tennis? A Complete Guide

8 min read
what is a walkover in tennis

Have you ever heard of players getting a walkover during tennis tournaments? What exactly does this mean? In tennis, a walkover happens when a player automatically advances to the following round without playing because their opponent is ill, hurt, or subject to a code of conduct penalty. Let’s carefully examine what a walkover is and some typical tennis scenarios in order to make things clear. Please keep reading.

The Meaning Of A Walkover

Match-play terminology is vital when it comes to tennis tournaments. A case in point is the concept of walkovers.

A walkover occurs when a player moves on without winning a match because their opponent withdrew or lost eligibility. But it’s important to note that walkovers don’t apply to every circumstance in which a player pulls out.

For instance, there :

  • If a player pulls out before a tournament begins is called a withdrawal.
  • If a player needs to stop playing during a match, it’s termed a retirement.

Players can also get a default. A player who defaults is found to have broken the tournament’s administration’s code of conduct. If a player or official becomes physically or verbally abusive, officials may impose penalties.

When Did Tennis Introduce The Walkover Rule?

Since 1830, the English language has contained the word “walkover.” Horse racing in the United Kingdom was the first sport to use the term “walkover,” which denoted that a rider had to cross the finish line on foot in order to be declared the winner. In essence, this victory was simple, and the finish line of the race could be reached on foot.

The term made its way into tennis in the early 1900s to denote how a player could not win a match if they did not play in that match. The United Kingdom is not too far from France, which is thought to be the birthplace of tennis.

Who will serve first in a tennis match is decided by a coin toss. The match won’t take place if that player is absent for the coin toss, so the winner is automatically the one who showed up.

When Playing Tennis, Does A Walkover Count As A Victory?

In tennis, there is a term called “won by walkover,” but winning by a walkover does not affect a player’s win-loss record. For example, during a tennis tournament between Naomi Osaka and Victoria Azarenka, Naomi did not participate due to a hamstring injury, effectively crowning Victoria the “champion by walkover.”

Still, the WTA later clarified that a “win by walkover” does not count as a win, and vice versa does not count as a loss. The fact that this match was played in 2020 and that it was the first tennis walkover to take place in the final round since 2018 is another thing that makes it special.

Reasons A Tennis Player May Get A Walkover

While not particularly common, walkovers are occasionally expected in tennis. When it does happen, it’s just considered a lucky break.

Let’s look at a few of the most typical situations that result in a walkover.

Administrative Mistakes Are Rare But Happen

A tournament participant might occasionally receive a walkover as a result of a human error. These screw-ups are rare but happen from time to time at the professional level.

Examples of this could be when a player is given the incorrect call time, preventing them from getting to the match in time to play. It’s also possible that a player couldn’t make it on time because their singles match was scheduled too soon after their previous doubles match.

Illness And Injury Are The Most Common Reasons For Walkovers

Illness and injury are by far the most common reasons for walkovers. Everyone experiences occasional illness, which prevents them from giving their best performance.

It is inevitable that a player or two will sustain an injury during a tournament and be unable to continue. All tennis ruling bodies include illness and injury as legitimate reasons for walkovers.

Specific Penalties Could Result In A Walkover

what is a walkover in tennis

When an opponent is disqualified from the game due to penalties, a player may occasionally receive a walkover. The rule book of each tournament’s governing body specifies the penalties that result in a walkover.

Personal Emergency Can Sometimes Result In A Walkover

Tennis matches occasionally end in walkovers because one of the players’ opponents has a personal emergency. This could be a family emergency, a legal matter, or anything else the player values more than taking part in the game.

Personal emergencies are not always treated as walkovers by tennis governing bodies. When in doubt, once more consult the manual.

Player Tardiness Or No-shows Are Valid Reasons

There is a chance that the other player will advance if one of the players is late for the match. Usually, if a player is more than 15 minutes late, they will be assessed a light penalty (like losing the opportunity to serve first).

However, a walkover usually occurs when a player is more than 30 minutes late without a valid justification.

When Can Walkovers Get Tricky?

We now understand what a walkover is and some scenarios in which one might happen. But how do walkovers impact statistics, positions, and awards?

Here is where things may become a little more complicated. Let’s look at some specific instances where using a walkover might not be obvious.

Winning Streaks Do Not Factor Walkovers

Usually, when calculating winning streaks, walkover matches are not taken into account. A player can only claim a winning streak of seven matches, for instance, if they have won eight straight games, but one of those games was a walkover.

The topic of walkovers and winning streaks is one that generates a lot of discussions. But as the rules currently stand, walkovers aren’t counted in winning streaks.

Rankings Rules Vary By Governing Body

According to ATP regulations, those on the winning side of a walkover will be given points in the same way as if they had actually played the match.

However, the WTA is somewhat more rigid. They allow for ranking points to be allocated to a player except when a player gets a walkover in their first match of a tournament.

Players who leave a match due to a walkover only receive ranking points up to the final match they participated in before leaving.

Prize Money Does Not Factor For Walkover

Players typically receive compensation for each round they compete in tournaments. As a result, they ought to receive the same rewards for participating in and winning a game as they would if they had won by walkover.

A Walkover Does Not Affect Post-match Commitments

Even though a player may lose a match due to a walkover, they are still required to make themselves available for post-game ceremonies (for instance, interviews or press briefings). Players still have to appear in front of the camera and deal with the music, as if losing a game because they slept in late wasn’t painful enough!

But a player might be permitted to miss the post-game ceremonies following a walkover in the event of a serious injury or other emergencies.

Walkovers May Happen In Doubles Tournaments, Too

In doubles competitions, walkovers are relatively uncommon, but they do happen (if you’re a doubles player looking for a good laugh, check out these funny tennis team names). In this scenario, both players are subject to the same walkover rules as singles players.

what is a walkover in tennis

Tennis: Who Has The Most Walkover Victories?

With 14 victories combined in 2022, Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic hold the tennis record for walkover wins. Illie Nastase, who has 13, is in second place, and Raymond Moore, who has 12, in third.

What Distinguishes Retiring A Match From A Walkover?

According to Friend at Court, a book of rules and regulations from the A player retires according to the United States Tennis Association (USTA) if they are unable to finish a match because of an illness or injury. It can also occur due to “personal circumstance or adult discipline.”

A walkover can still occur due to a player’s injury, but it is initiated before a match, not during. For instance, Williams withdrew from the 2020 French Open last autumn due to a left Achilles injury she had suffered at the US Open a few weeks earlier. Tsvetana Pironkova of Bulgaria, her intended rival, won the match by walkover as a result of this.

Serena Williams, however, had to leave a match midway through the 2021 Wimbledon first round due to a hamstring injury on June 29, making it the second time in major tournament history, according to ESPN.

Rather than by walkover, Aliaksandra Sasnovich of Belarus advanced as a result of this retirement. The same thing happened in Alcaraz’s case: Auger-Aliassime advanced to the 2021 US Open semifinals as a result of Alcaraz’s retirement. There is no walkover.

What Distinguishes A Tennis Walkover From A Tennis Withdrawal?

Tennis players who withdraw from a tournament before their opening match and do not re-enter it are considered to have quit the sport. An injury, illness, or emergency are a few causes of withdrawal. Conversely, a walkover in tennis occurs later in a tournament or as the first match is about to begin.

The main distinction between a walkover and a withdrawal is that a withdrawal includes a notice to the referee about a player’s action. A walkover may be preferable for a player who is late for a match without a valid excuse.


Though the concept of a walkover in tennis is relatively simple, its actual use can be more challenging. The different tennis governing bodies have different policies regarding walkovers, and this adds to the ambiguity surrounding how they should be used.

At the end of the day, a win is a win for the majority of players. Players and viewers, however, would rather watch the action of a tennis match. But just like in school, professional tennis leagues do not tolerate being late for a match. Given that circumstance, the walkover rule is in effect.

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