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Ask the Rules Guru - Net Hitter
Dear Rules Guru,
In a recent match, I hit a clear winner shot and in the follow through my racquet hit the net. My opponent claimed the point, saying that even though the shot was not returnable, the ball hadn’t bounced a second time before my racquet hit the net. Was he right? Or was that my point because he couldn’t have returned the ball?
Dear Net Hitter,
Your opponent was right. You lose the point.
The answer comes from a combination of two rules. The first is Rule 18. Loss of Point (i), which states “A team loses the point if…(i) A player or anything the player wears or carries, touches the post, net, net hand crank, cord, band or center strap, or the court surface on the opponents' side of the net, within the boundary lines, while the ball is in play. (See Rule 17 regarding ball in play)”
The second rule is Rule 17. Ball Remains in Play. This rules states that “Once a ball is put into play by service, it remains in play until the point is decided, unless a fault or a let is called…The ball is in play until it actually hits the screen on the fly, bounces on the deck out of bounds, bounces a second time after first bouncing in bounds, or goes over the screen.”
Your question brings up a concept that is extra super clear in the rules, but that often gets lost in the shoulda-woulda-coulda debates over rules that we all love to have, particularly while enjoying post match libations. But back to the point. Every player should memorize Rule 17. Ball Remains in Play.
Whatever you can’t do during a point, you can’t do until the point is officially over. And the point is not officially over until the conditions in Rule 17 are met. It’s the same rule that governs the question of getting the net pushed into you by a ball that’s hit into the net by your opponent. Sure, we all know that after a ball strikes the net below the net cord it’s not going to grow wings and fly a loop-de-loop and get back into play, but until that ball actually touches down on the court, the point is not over. So you lose the point if that ball pushes the net into your legs. And it’s exactly the same concept that makes your lose a point if you touch a ball that’s flying over the base line at mach 10 and has no chance of landing in bounds.
Thanks for Asking,
The Rules Guru
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