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Player to Player: Reaching Over the Net

Real Tennis Players - Like You! - Asking For, and Offering, Advice on the Sport They Love

Player to Player is USTA.com’s regular feature in which everyday tennis players are given a forum to ask advice on the sport they love – and their fellow players will dish out advice. We’ll post a number of the best responses we receive to our question of the week.

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SEND YOUR TIPS TODAY

This week's question from Tom:

We played mixed doubles tonight and just as I started my serve, the receiver’s partner moved over so he was blocking part of the service box. I questioned him on this and he advised that this was allowed. I see in the rules where receivers can stand anywhere on the court, but can they partially block the service box? Is this not a form of hindrance?

Please share your advice with Tom by e-mailing Player@USTA.com and include your name and hometown.

Got a question of your own? Send that along, too!

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READ OTHER PLAYERS' ADVICE
Last week's question from Tom:
(Please note: There's no need to send additional responses to this question)

In doubles, is there any way to let an opposing net player know that he is consistently reaching over the net to volley returns? I know this is one of those situations where a player should call a point against himself, but it never happens. He will deny it. As the point progresses, we are backed up to the baseline, he will crowd the net and put away a weak return at an extreme angle. I attempt to hit hard passing shot to move him back, but it’s not always effective.

Player Responses:

From Lara, NYC:

It seems that you have played these players before. So, I would broach the topic before play starts by reminding folks of a few basics: 1.) that the lines are in; 2.) you can't reach over or touch the net on volleys; and 3.) players are responsible for calling their own calls. I think if you address the topic beforehand but don't single out any one problem the other team won't feel that you're attacking them (after all it is only a reminder) but the ground is laid for any instances of this violation during the match.

From Pete:

Just be honest - it's wrong - he should lose the point - tell him before the match starts and that it will be called if he does it.

From Jake, Clearwater, FL:

First, know for certain what is and what is not illegal. If his racquet or any part of his body crosses the plane of the net before he strikes the ball that IS an illegal intrusion. If he strikes the ball on his side of the net and the mere continuation of his stroke carries the racquet head past the plane of the net, that IS NOT an illegal hit.

But if your opponent is having such great success at camping atop the net, it's time to ask yourself why you're giving him so many opportunities for easy putaways -- legal or not. Trying to intimidate him with hard passing shots doesn't seem to work. Try lobbing over his head, forcing him or his partner to scramble into the unguarded territory for the ball. A few shots like that should make him less eager to play the net monster.

From Coach Leonard, Concord, CA:

First, I try to communicate to both players from the opposing team that I saw him reach over. My next step would be make my partner aware of the situation just to get a 2nd opinion and confirm and remind them again. Then, if it's a league match, I would stop the match and notify my captain. If this tournament match, I would contact an official or the tournament director. Hopefully your match will be monitored by an official the rest of the way. If it continues, discuss the option of down the alleys and lobs. This would definitely back off any net monster. Remember that the best way to stop a wall is to go over it or around it.

From Dick, Morrisville, VT:

First of all remember that a player may hit the ball even or on their side of the net and are allowed to continue to swing through the ball with the racket coming over to your side, providing the player's racket or body does not touch the net while the ball is in play. If the player is reaching over the net you need to remind the player of the rules and if it continues you should ask for an official , if it is a match, or indicate to the offending player that he/she will loose the next point on a rule violation.

From Terry, Fort Worth, TX:

The further explanation sounds like sour grapes to me - "backed up to the baseline… crowd the net and put away a weak return at extreme angle…" Well then tough.

Get off the baseline and either keep firing at him or hit an effective lob. And if you're that far back and defensive can you really judge well whether he has crossed the net to put away your patsy shot?

On the other hand this is a point of rules that casual players may not be clear on, like permissible position for the returning net player, double hits, etc. Have a discussion with the player and make sure all are clear on the rule. Most sporting players will attempt to comply with rules if they understand them. And if this one will not, get a new opponent, or try again to hit him with a forehand pass.

From Roger, Norristown, PA:

Sounds like you're up against a good doubles player or team. The trick here is to make them play your game, not to react to theirs. You say your opponent is 'consistently reaching over the net', and you try to 'hit a hard passing shot' to force him back. Sounds to me like he feeds off hard passing shots- he's looking for them. To my way of thinking, that's the last thing he should see in any match with you.

Lay aside your 'hard passing shot' and cultivate a lob. If your opponent is as consistently close to the net as you say, even a mediocre lob will prove deadly. Either it will be an outright winner, or more likely as the match progresses, he'll begin to run them down, but provide weak returns that you may put away, if you'll only get off the baseline. In either case, it'll slow his advance to the net, and as he tires, make him less willing to rush the net, and open up your chances to use your passing shot. Now you have choices.

From Earl, Kirkwood:

Lob over the net player’s head, come to net, direct your overhead or volley at her/him. Often when the net appears to have been crossed it was only on the follow through and not at contact. Lobbing makes hugging the net ineffective unless you’re a Bryan brother. And the lob doesn’t have to be that good to be effective.

From Frank, Spring Hill, FL:

Lob him. Then lob him again. If the net player is really playing that tight to the net even a mediocre lob will drive him back if it doesn't win the point outright. I've never understood the reluctance to use the lob many players exhibit, especially male tennis payers, as if the lob was somehow a lesser shot.

From Skip:

Sure is a way! If the player is reaching over the net to hit a volley, it's your point as per the rules. A player can only violate the invisible wall at net if he makes contact in front of the "wall" on his side of the court and the forward momentum of his shot breaks the plain of the invisible wall. After he costs his team a few points, he should learn to move back a bit .Good luck and fortune on the court.

From Greg:

I've had the same thing happen to me.

I don't think he realized that I was doing it. We asked an impartial spectator to watch the net and after being called on it a couple of times over the next few games, he backed off the net.

From Eric, Santa Rosa, CA:

You say he is all over the net? If he is so close that he does reach over illegally "Before not After" contact; then ask him to take a step and reach out his racquet imitating a volley.

Show him what you are seeing, and say that next time "Step back one foot.

Or, expect me to call it."

If he is like most, he will see from the demonstration exactly what you are seeing.

If he is obstinate and stubborn, then lob him. When a player is way too close, he will be easy pickings!

You said that his reflexes are quick enough to get the direct high pace shots right at him, but try this again just hitting at his right hip. This is a common "hole in net armor”, as a right handed player gets jammed often on the right hip slam right at that hip.

If all else fails, get an umpire or neutral observer to stand looking right down the net line.

This net bandit will only have an advantage if you let him continue.

Challenge him.

From Neal, Kilauea, HI:

The offending player will invariably deny striking the ball on your side of the net, quoting the rule that the ball was contacted on their own side of the net and it was the legal follow through over the net that you observed. This is accompanied by the player pantomiming a replay of the shot.

Most reasonable players enjoy playing tennis within the rules and often mentioning that they may have been in violation will stop the problem. Of course if it is a USTA match, an official can be called over to observe, but this just keeps your opponent on good behavior for the few minutes that the official is present.

Frankly, though, standing that close to the net exposes them to a well-placed lob, and that is typically my solution.

From Jim:

In over 60 years of doubles play, some at fairly high levels, I have never witnessed an opposing net player consistently reaching over the net to volley. There have been some who played on top of the net, but lobs and lob volleys soon cured them of that habit. Of course, hitting the ball before it has passed the net is a loss of point per Rule 24.h. Whose call is it? His, not yours, per Code 20. What if he will not acknowledge his violation? Then you play doctor and give him the medicine I prescribed above.

From Coach Poppie, Palm Bay, FL:

Tom, Tell them, “OK that’s a freebee the next time it will cost you then shut up. The next time take the point they seem to catch on quickly at that point. If it is a valid match with something other than pride take the point right from the start.

From Coach Kenny, Highland Park, IL:

One first thought would be a nice topspin lob. Different angles would be another, going down the line, cross court, right at him, or a big topspin forehand that dips so low he could not play this way. If he hits the net, the point is over and its yours. Crossing the plane of the net I thought was fine with the rules but I am not totally clear on that. I try to call close lines in, and try to be as fair as possible on the court. In Israel's Davis Cup victory over Russia last week there was some real nice use of passing shots and lobs vrs. the 2 top ranked big men from Russia. You need to play smart, and beleive you can do it. This guy is getting in your head, so use these tips and win!

From Gary:

Lob, lob, lob, lob. Most effective way to treat net crowders.

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