a confused tennis player wondering what a walkover is

Walkover in Tennis: Official Definitions and Examples

What is a Walkover in Tennis?

Tennis Australia defines a walkover as a victory awarded to a player when their opponent concedes a match before it begins, usually due to injury or illness.

A walkover in tennis is one of those tennis terms that might cause a bit of confusion for those new to the sport. It’s like expecting a grand tennis match and then realizing the game is won before it even starts. Essentially, a walkover occurs when a player advances to the next round of a tournament because their opponent is unable to play, usually due to injury, illness, or other unforeseen circumstances.

It’s a bit anticlimactic, I know. Imagine gearing up for a thrilling match, your mind and body in peak condition, only to find out that your opponent can’t make it to the court. It’s like preparing for a dance and learning your partner has two left feet – unexpected and a tad disappointing.

When Does a Walkover in Tennis Occur?

A walkover in tennis is like an unexpected plot twist in a gripping novel – it comes when you least expect it. But what exactly triggers this unusual event in the world of tennis? A walkover typically occurs under circumstances where a player is unable to compete in a scheduled match. This could be due to a variety of reasons such as injury, illness, personal emergencies, or even unforeseen logistical issues. It’s not a decision taken lightly, as athletes are known for their resilience and determination to compete, even under challenging conditions.

Walkovers Versus Other Terms

In the intricate world of tennis, terms like ‘walkover,’ ‘retirement,’ ‘default,’ and ‘withdrawal’ are often heard, but they carry distinct meanings. Understanding these differences is crucial for any tennis enthusiast.

A walkover in tennis, as we’ve discussed, happens when a player is unable to start a match, leading to their opponent automatically advancing. It’s like being ready for a duel, only to find your opponent hasn’t shown up at the battleground.


On the other hand, ‘retirement’ occurs when a player starts the match but is unable to finish due to injury, illness, or other reasons. Picture this: you’re in the heat of the match, adrenaline pumping, and suddenly, your opponent can’t continue – that’s retirement.


‘Default’ is a more dramatic scenario, where a player is disqualified from a match due to a violation of conduct. This could be due to unsportsmanlike behavior, receiving too many penalties, or other breaches of the rules. It’s akin to a knight being removed from the chessboard for not following the game’s chivalry.


Lastly, ‘withdrawal’ refers to a player pulling out of a tournament before it begins or before the release of the draw. This could be due to injury, personal reasons, or scheduling conflicts. It’s like preparing for a marathon but deciding not to run before the race day arrives.

Each of these terms – walkover, retirement, default, and withdrawal – adds a layer of complexity to the sport, making tennis not just a game of physical prowess but also one of strategy, endurance, and sometimes, unforeseen circumstances.

Additional Rules

Here are some extra niche rules surrounding walkovers that you won’t find in a normal scoring guide.

ATP logo

In the ATP rulebook, there’s a lesser-known rule concerning ceremonies, specifically outlined in section eight. It states that all finalists in a tournament are required to be present and participate in post-match ceremonies. This is mandatory unless the player is deemed physically incapable of attending by the tournament doctor. This rule applies even in cases of retirements or when the final match is not played due to a walkover.

For instance, a player who advances to the finals must engage in post-match interviews, regardless of whether they were unable to compete due to injury or illness, unless excused by the tournament doctor.

With differences between the ATP and WTA rules, the situation becomes more nuanced when considering walkovers and their impact on ranking points.

The ATP rulebook, in section ten, specifies that players who advance due to a walkover, or a “no match” situation, are awarded ranking points as though they had played and won the match. This means ATP players benefit from ranking points for advancing to the next round, even without playing a match.

However, the WTA has a different approach, as detailed in section eight of their rulebook. They address several scenarios regarding walkovers:

  1. If a player or team gets a walkover in the first round and there’s no Alternate or Lucky Loser to replace the absent player, the player or team will earn ranking points equivalent to the round before their elimination.
  2. Should a player or team receive a walkover in later rounds without having played a match yet, they will also receive points for the round preceding their elimination.
  3. However, if a player or team gets a walkover in any round beyond the first, having already played and won a match, they will be awarded ranking points for the round they’ve reached.

In essence, players who advance due to a walkover don’t fully benefit in terms of ranking points if the walkover occurs in the first round or in subsequent rounds without them playing a match. But if they have already played and won a match beyond the first round, they are credited with the ranking points for the round they’ve reached.

Overall, the WTA’s policy for assigning ranking points in walkover situations is more stringent compared to the ATP’s method.

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