Can You Reach Over the Net in Tennis?

In tennis, the net is directly in the middle of the court, creating a dividing line between the two opponents. This piece of equipment is essential to the game and provides a means for the players to score points. But what if you could reach over the net? Would that give you an advantage? Let’s find out.

Can your racquet go over the net in tennis?

The short answer is yes, your racquet can go over the net in tennis. However, the only legal circumstance where this can happen is if the ball has already crossed the net from the opponent’s side. If a player’s racquet crosses the net before the ball comes to their side, they automatically lose the point.

There are several reasons why you may do this in tennis which we will discuss in this article. However, the circumstances where you cross the net with your racquet are pretty rare.

tennis player reaching across the net

Examples of When a Tennis Player Is Allowed to Reach Over the Net

There are some circumstances where a player may reach over the net in tennis. Remember, in all circumstances the ball must cross to your side of the net before you can legally touch it.

A Ball That Bounces or is Blown Back Over the Net

The most common way that a player may cross the net with their racket is when wind or spin causes the ball to bounce back over the net. In this rare circumstance, they must touch the ball before it bounces on the opponents side again or they lose the point. Therefore, it is acceptable to reach over the net and hit the ball anywhere in-bounds in the opponent’s court.

This is the only scenario where the player may actually make contact with the tennis ball on the opponents side of the court. All other examples require the ball to be contacted on your side of the court after it has crossed the net.

  1. The opponent hits the ball to your side of the net
  2. The ball is bounces on your side
  3. Spin or win causes the ball to move back over the net

A Short Lob

A short (very short) lob is a perfect opportunity to reach over the net in tennis and get the extreme angle-winning shot. When the ball bounces very close to the net, players often slam the ball on the opponent’s side.

Remember, the ball must first cross to your side of the net before you can make contact with it. This means your follow-through can cross the net, but not before you make contact with the ball.

A Slow Ground-stroke

Sometimes, a slow-moving ground stroke can present a good opportunity for reaching across the net. This technique can be deployed to get a steep angle, hitting the ball across the opponent’s side of the court out of their reach to win the point. Be careful though, not to reach over the net before the ball crosses your side, this is an automatic fault.

What happens if a player touches the net?

If a player were to touch the net, that is considered a fault. When the player hits the net with their racquet or any part of their body, they automatically lose the point. It doesn’t matter if they hit the ball and accidentally ran into the net, they still lose the point.

In addition, reaching over your side of the net and touching the opponent with your racket or body is a fault. When this happens, the offender automatically loses the point. This is not because of reaching over the net, but rather due to coming into physical contact with the opponent or the net.

Advantages of Reaching Over the Net in Tennis

There are several advantages to why reaching over the net in tennis might be an effective strategy. Here are a few:

It May Be the Only Option

In the example of the ball being blown back to the opponent’s side of the net, leaving it alone will cause you to lose the point. In this circumstance you should attempt to hit the ball or even just touch it before it bounces on the opponent’s side.

Putting Your Opponent on the Defense

First, by reaching over the net, you can put your opponent in a difficult position. This is because you have the option to place the ball in some extreme angles. These angles would not be possible in a normal shot from your side of the court.

Reaching Over the Net is Unexpected

Second, reaching over the net can catch your opponent by surprise. They may not expect you to reach across the net, which could lead to winning the point.

Disadvantages of Reaching Over the Net in Tennis

Even though sometimes you have no choice but to reach over the net or lose the point, there are some possible disadvantages to deploying this technique. Understanding these disadvantages can help you be more effective when hitting these shots.

You Become Defenseless

Reaching over the net in tennis places you in a vulnerable position. This is especially true if you aren’t aggressive enough to hit a winner. This is because your court position is very off balance toward the net. If your shot is not aggressive enough, the opponent could easily return the ball to the open court behind you. This is worst-case scenario as it’s more challenging to run down a ball moving away from you than toward you.

In addition, by placing yourself so close to the net, you become vulnerable to body or racquet shots. Also, it’s much easier to pass you when you are too close to the net. This is because the cut-off angle is much less the closer you are to the net. Such a position could lead to an easy point for the opponent.

It Can Be Risky

Finally, it’s easy to get caught up in the excitement and overdo it on your racquet head speed or reach. Touching the net or your opponent with your racket or any part of your body is considered a fault. When this happens, you automatically lose the point.

So while there are some advantages to reaching over the net, there are also several disadvantages to consider.

Tips for Hitting An Effective Net-crossing Shot

  • Don’t overdo it. Most of the time, reaching across the net with your racquet is an effective point-winning strategy. However, players often make the mistake of trying to swing too hard and end up touching the net.
  • Stay calm. The best way to mess up your net-crossing shot is by getting too excited and ignoring form and proper thinking. Even though the opportunity is rare, think about your long-term point strategy and make sure to hit the ball squarely and with proper placement to win the point.
  • Don’t follow through. It sounds funny because it goes against everything your coach has ever told you. But hitting a net-crossing ball into your opponent’s court is just about the only time you probably want to avoid a full follow-through on your swing. This is because you want to avoid touching or hitting the net.

Conclusion: Reaching Across the Tennis Net

Reaching across the net (so long as you don’t touch it, or your opponent) is a totally legal shot. That is, so long as the ball crosses to your side first. It can also be a very effective way to shift the game in your favor. In fact, it may be necessary to win the point. By understanding the rules of tennis, you can make sure that you are playing fair and giving yourself the best chance to win. Thanks for reading!

2 thoughts on “Can You Reach Over the Net in Tennis?”

  1. What happens if your opponent touches your racquet on their side of the net? E.g. you make a legal shot, but your racquet is across the net. The other player is close by and either deliberately or accidentally touches your racquet before you have withdrawn it. Do you lose the point?

    1. I apologize for the delay in responding to your question. The USTA does not offer a specific rule that will cover every conceivable violation, but The Friend at Court does offer this: “A player must concede the point when: That player or that player’s racket touches the net or opponent’s court
      while a ball is in play” per The Code item #19. Therefore, the player who legally reached over the net made contact with the opponent’s racket must concede the point.

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