If you're going to put a lot of time, effort and money into playing tennis, you should also put some time and effort into learning the rules of tennis. I'm a huge advocate of knowing the rules because points, games and matches are won and lost based on the proper, and sometimes the improper, application of the rules. I can definitely remember at least 3 times when I gave up a point to an opponent because I didn't know what the rule was in some unusual, weird situation. And my opponent at least convincingly acted as if she knew the rule.
So let's talk about at least one weird application of the tennis rules that I've never seen in any of my matches but I have seen in a pro match and I've heard of other people coming up against. It's the rule about reaching over the net – when you can and when you can't.
First, do you remember when we talked about this rule about a year ago? I'm guessing not (although maybe (hopefully) you're so fixated on tennis that you have every post here memorized). The post was Reaching Over The Net and in it, I gave some tips about how to handle the opponent who plays so close to the net that you're pretty sure she's reaching across it to return the ball. This is a problem for your opponent because Rule 24(h) of the USTA's Official Rules of Tennis says that a player loses the point if “[t]he player hits the ball before it has passed the net . . . .” It's a problem for you because it's up to your opponent to make this call, not you, so you have to rely on her to fess up.
There is, however, one situation where you or your opponent can reach across the net. The USTA's website gives a great explanation in the article “Reaching Over The Net” (click on the title to read the whole article). This article explains:
If the spin or wind brings the ball back over the net to the side of the player(s) who hit the shot, the opponent(s) may then reach over the net and play the ball. They may not touch the net or the opponent’s court. This is the only situation when a player may reach over the net to play a ball. If the opponent does not play the ball and it bounces on the side of the player who hit the spin shot, that player who hit that shot wins the point.
So are you picturing this? Your opponent hits some kind of nasty spin drop shot that comes over the net, bounces on your side but then spins backward over the net to their side of the court. You need to reach over and tap the ball into their court, without touching the net or their side of the court. If you fail to tap the ball with your racquet and it lands back on their side, they win the point.
While this is a weird rule that you probably won't see too often, that one time you do see it, you'll know the rule. And now that you know it, maybe its some inspiration for working on your nasty spin drop shot.
© Kim Selzman 2010 All Rights Reserved