Can You Reach Over The Net In Tennis? [Net Rules Explained]

By Lin
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reach over the net in tennis

Many people wonder, can you reach over the net in tennis? It’s also highly questioned whether jumping over the net will lead to lost points or penalties, especially at the professional level. Furthermore, can you hit the ball before it crosses over the net, or is this another no-no?

Generally, reaching over the net in tennis is permitted, as long as you don’t touch it with your body or racket, and you don’t touch your opponent. However, the ball must graze your side of the court first before you attempt this. It’s also worth mentioning that you cannot jump over the net during a match, or you lose that point and can be disqualified.

Are you still curious about the rules of touching or playing close to the net in tennis? Stick around because we’ve got plenty of answers!

Table of Contents

What Happens If You Reach Over The Net In Tennis?

As long as the ball has been served into your court and you’re rallying or returning it: you can technically reach over the tennis net. In general, a person can get close to the net (without touching it) and be in full guidelines of the game. However, if you reach over the net and graze it with your body or racket, you’ll forfeit over that point.

It’s also worth noting that playing too close to the net is not recommended during a tennis match, as you risk hitting the ball out of bounds or even injuring the opponent. Rallies have led to this happening, so it’s not uncommon: but don’t try to overstep your boundaries. After all, your side of the court is where you should be returning the ball from.

That’s why you won’t see players do this often, as it’s generally considered an illegal (and even disqualifiable) move in the game. Instead, try focusing on keeping a few feet between yourself and the net to prevent confusion or intervention from the umpire.

Examples Of When A Player Is Allowed To Reach Over The Net

Now that you know if you should or can reach over the net in tennis, let’s cover what makes this a legal move. Here are some examples of when it’s okay to have your racket go over the net while playing:

  • The ball lands on your court, and your racket goes at/over the net during your return.
  • Reacting to a drop shot and reaching over the net during your recovery.
  • Returning a shot around the net post, reaching over/next to the net.

Again, you can ONLY do this if the opponent’s ball has hit your side of the court once. If the ball has not yet made contact with your side of the tennis court: do not go beyond the net. You’ll lose that point.

What Happens If A Player Touches The Tennis Net?

If you touch the net during a live point: you lose it. You’ll lose the point during your game if you touch the net with your body or racket. This is a big no-no in tennis, as official guidelines do not permit contact with the dividing net between you and your opponent’s courts.

Many tennis professionals have even been penalized for their shoes touching the net after a sprint towards it: so this is serious. Especially during a professional tennis match, any touching of the net will result in a penalty for that player. Doing this repeatedly could even get you kicked out of the game.

Think of this as when the point is over, that’s when touching the net wouldn’t mean trouble for you. (We still don’t recommend doing this, though)

Can Tennis Players Touch The Net Post During A Match?

No. Like touching the net during a live point, you also can’t touch the net post. This typically happens during a cross-court shot or drop shot, as the player runs toward the net at full speed. If you were to slide into the net post, you could lose that point.

Clay courts tend to be more challenging when returning trick shots because tennis players slip for more than on hard courts. The same goes for grass courts, where sliding into the net and post is more common. Check out our post about the pros and cons of all the tennis court types.

Famous Matches Where Players Hit Over/Around The Net

It’s no shock that even professional tennis players have to get creative during matches to keep their winning streak/win the point.

Here are some amazing returns in which pro tennis players had to go over or around the net to score:

One match in this video was between players Roger Federer and Nick Kyrgios (Federer went beyond the net). Another notable game was between Rafael Nadal and Marin Čilić, where Nadal went beyond the net during his return.

Nadal and Federer are known to go out of traditional court bounds when returning a ball, which is why they’re some of the best players in the game. Most people don’t attempt to save the ball when it seems too far away: but not these two.

Here’s another insane video of tennis player Milos Raonic going over the net to return a trick shot:

This is an incredibly impressive (and legal) move, as Milos didn’t contact the net with his body or equipment.

4 Tips For Hitting An Effective Net-Crossing Shot

You won’t come across this situation every time you play, but understanding what to do can help you keep the point. Also remember, since matches can be unpredictable, it’s wise to master these tennis match tips for your upcoming games. Always keep the bigger picture of the game in mind.

Don’t overdo it.

When hitting a net-crossing shot, the first thing to remember is that you should not be too aggressive when returning a ball over the tennis net. Be precise.

Keep yourself calm.

A cross-net shot’s next most important component is mental focus and calmness. Getting too excited during your return can lead to fumbling the point or, more likely: hitting the net with your racket or body.

Don’t follow through.

One of the most common mistakes when returning a cross-net shot is too much follow-through, hitting the net with your tennis racket. Try to hit the ball and get your racket as far away from the net as possible.

Always Staying Alert

After you’ve successfully made the net-crossing shot, you need to be prepared for the next move or shot that your opponent will make. The game doesn’t stop after you score a point; you have to be ready to continue playing.

3 Tips For Avoiding Reaching Over The Net

Regarding tips for avoiding hitting the net during tennis, you want to try a few methods.

Stay a few feet from the net.

To avoid hitting or reaching over the net in tennis, you should keep a safe distance between yourself and it. Unless returning a trick shot, you don’t need to be next to the net during match play.

Learn how to spot a drop shot/trick shot.

Next, you want to know when a trick shot or drop shot is coming your way. Generally, players will wait until their opponent is at the baseline before attempting one of these shots. Continental grip is a key indicator of a drop shot or “slice,” so that’s a hand movement to keep an eye peeled out for. Any time your opponent’s eyes are focused toward the net: they’re likely planning a difficult shot for you to get to.

Improve your speed and stamina.

Another thing to keep you from reaching too far over the net is by working on your reaction time and speed. If you can get to the ball right after it bounces on your court: this will reduce the need to go over the net.

Try running drills to get faster, like sprinting.

How To Call A Penalty In Tennis

During a tennis match, players may need to call a penalty. For instance, if you or the opponent are out of line during a game, an umpire or someone who did not break the rules can issue a verbal warning. Generally, penalties occur whenever an athlete violates the official tennis guidelines, whether through verbal or physical behavior.

Here are some common penalties you might need to call:

  • Racket smashing
  • Verbal abuse/harassment
  • Balls whacked out of stadiums
  • Player arguments (or with others)
  • Physical fights on or off-court.

Typically, anytime someone gets aggressive, verbally or physically, they are within penalty territory and can be kicked out of tennis events altogether. The USTA is very strict about its code of conduct, so this is when meditation and mental strength/calmness are necessary.

Is Hitting Around The Net Post Legal In Tennis?

When it comes to hitting around the net post in tennis, this calculated move is 100% legal because there aren’t any rules on the height of the ball, meaning that the ball does not have to travel above the net to be considered a counted shot. Like our video from earlier, many top players do this, often scoring winning, crowd-shocking points during matches.

Like hitting over the net, you must wait until the ball hits your court to head around the net post. If you hit the ball before it touches your side of the court: you lose that point. Also, ensure that you or your racket doesn’t graze the net post, which can lose you the point.

Can A Tennis Player Jump Over The Net?

No! Tennis players cannot ever jump over the net or net post. (Reference: USTA Friend at Court, ITF Rules of Tennis, Section 24, Case No.5.)

Unlike hitting a cross-net shot or even moving around the net post, jumping over it is not considered legal and could get you disqualified. Moreover, a tennis player cannot, at any time during a live point, go into their opponent’s court: including jumping over the net.

Some players have done this to celebrate a score, but official rules do not recommend or technically allow them to go into the opponent’s court or touch the net/post during an event. Of course, if you’re messing around with a friend in a leisurely match, this won’t matter, but professional tennis prohibits this behavior.

In Conclusion

In this article, we covered whether players can cross the net when returning a ball with their racket, defending trick shots, and even stepping around the net post to score a point. Remember, you cannot touch the net at any point: but if the ball hits your court once, you can reach over while returning it. Also, do not jump over the net, even if you’re excited: it’s not worth it!

During a live point: don’t touch the net with clothing, equipment, or your body.

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Editor of All Points Tennis and a huge Roger Federer fan, I've spent countless hours studying his moves, especially his forehand and one-handed backhand. I also love writing about all the technical stuff like rackets and strings. I'm super pumped to share my insights with fellow tennis lovers here.