All tennis players are familiar with the net. It sits there in the middle of the court, taunting you, stopping some of your best shots but also blocking some of your opponent’s. It can be friend or foe.
There are a number of rules relating to the net and, as you cannot be expected to continually consult the rulebook during a match, we are going to go through some of them here to help you when you are next battling it out on court.
Over the net
Starting out with the most basic rule of all; of course shots over the net are fine.
Unless however you hit a rogue pigeon flying overhead and in that instance that you would lose the point. (And can apologise to the poor pigeon!)
Through the net
Alas, if you unleash an awesome backhand and it finds its way through a pesky hole under the net strap then unfortunately it won’t count and you will lose the point.
Around the net
But not all shots have to go over the net.
If your opponent drags you off court with an outrageous angle and, like a hero, you chase it down and fire back a forehand on the run then it is perfectly legal to hit round the net post and back into court.
These shots do not have to be above the height of the net and are always spectacular when they come off.
Check out some round the net rippers.
Balls that clip the net
Every tennis player has experienced hundreds of these. Of course a serve that hits the net and lands in is a let and you take the serve again. (If it hits the net and lands out, then sadly, that is a fault).
During a rally, balls that clip the net are fine, play continues. All players have felt the pain of a dead net cord against them or thrown their hand up in apology for getting one while secretly celebrating inside.
Balls that hit the net post (or singles sticks)
During a rally, if a ball bounces off the net post and goes in then the rally continues.
But if you hit a wild serve that somehow manages to bounce off the net post and find its way into the correct service box then that would not count as there is no way it was going in without the intervention of the net post.
It’s exactly the same if you are playing on a court with singles sticks in place. During a rally if the ball bounces off the singles stick and in then the rally continues but a serve bouncing in off the singles stick would be a fault.
If using singles sticks and the ball hits the net post, or the portion of the net between the singles sticks and the net post, then the point is over as the net post and that portion of the net would be considered as a ‘permanent fixture’ and not part of the live court. (Other permanent fixtures would be a ball hitting the fence or an Umpire’s chair).
Touching the net
This one is simple – if you touch the net when the point is live then you lose the point. So avoid doing this at all costs!
This is the same if you touch the net with your shoe or with your racket. So be careful if you are racing towards the net to retrieve a sneaky drop shot or hitting any shots close in near the net.
Touching the net once the ball has bounced twice and the point is over is ok.
Reaching over the net
You cannot hit shots on your opponent’s side of the net (other than one exception, see below) so keep your racket on your side or you will lose the point.
Wait for the ball to come over to your side of the net and make sure that your swing does not cross the net, even if you strike the ball on your side of the net.
Over eager or extravagant volleys could see you lose the point.
Reaching over the net – the exception!
There is one instance where you can legally reach over the net and hit the ball – if you have laser-like reactions and super quick hands.
This is when the ball has bounced on your side of the net but is taken back over to your opponent’s side by some crazy spin, or by the wind.
If this happens you are allowed to reach over onto your opponent’s side of the net and hit the ball back into the net, as long as you do not touch the net doing this.
Crossing the net
Generally speaking do not go onto your opponent’s side of the net – both from a rules and etiquette perspective.
But, if you do a Usain Bolt-style sprint to retrieve a drop shot and end up on your opponent’s side of the net then that’s ok (and very impressive) as long as you do not touch within the lines of their court and you do not touch the net.
(If playing on clay, you can agree beforehand that you can both cross the net to check ball marks.
Where to find more Rules
We hope these rules tips help for your next Local Tennis Leagues matches.
If you want to delve deeper into the rules check out the 2020 ITF Rules of Tennis here.