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Player to Player: Playing Close to 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.



This week's question from Ryan:

While playing on a sunny day, I had a tough time seeing the tossed ball. The sun was directly on my eyes. But it seems with better players that the sunlight does not bother them at all. They toss and hit big serves as normal. Is there a technique to this? Somebody told me that the higher-ranked players do not see the ball, if the sun is directly on their eyes; they just toss and hit, which becomes natural after all those practices/years. Is this true? And does anyone have any advice on how to handle this situation?

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

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


Last week's question from Virginia:  
(Please note: There's no need to send additional responses to this question)

I play close to the net and it seems when I make some good points, the opposing players start saying that I am crossing the net. I am very careful about letting the ball cross before hitting it and knowing that I can then cross the plane of the net on the return. Having played against good net players, I think the perception from the other side is hard to read. When I don't make the points, nothing is ever said. How should I handle this when accused?


From John F., Oceanside, CA:

Yes, Virginia, there is a net and a service line. I advocate that you play the service line, not close to the net ever.

By playing the service line:

1) You lessen the possibility of any lob.
2) You have a better and longer look at the ball when it is struck.
3) You should strike the ball while moving forward (I suggest punching the ball whenever you're near the net. It will give you better and safer hits without hitting or even going near the net. Thus shutting up the soreheads.)

And yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus.

From Tony K.:

The racquet and ball contact must take place at your side of the net, and the completion of the follow through with your racquet can go over the net.

From my experience, it is better to stand at least 6 feet behind the net so you don’t leave big gaps between you and your partner.

From Charles K., Cincinnati, OH:

I had the same problem years ago when I was just a small person. I was taught by a gent, LEO DIAMOND (of Somerville, MA), who taught me to play tennis, that I should stand an arm's length and my racquet's length back from the net. It worked and has worked for the past 62 years. No one in my memory has called me for "crossing the plane of the net." You might want to try this. But, in the end, remember it is only a game (interpretation....having fun).

From Eric R., Santa Rosa, CA:

How close is too close? Your opponents should hit an offensive lob if they notice a player with their "nose on the net." However, if they do not force you farther back and your reflexes are fast... well, then, more power to you, as the angles are easier to score with when you are tighter to the net.

Remind less-experienced players that you can legally follow through over the net as long as the contact point is on your side. Carry the rule book in your bag for sticklers who may have to refer to the book on this rule.

From Bill H., Fremont, CA:

"The Code" says it all (see next):

20. Touches, hitting ball before it crosses net, invasion of opponent’s court, double hits and double bounces. A player shall promptly acknowledge if:

• a ball touches the player;
• the player touches the net;
• the player touches the player’s opponent’s court;
• the player hits a ball before it crosses the net;
• the player deliberately carries or double hits the ball; or
• the ball bounces more than once in the player’s court.

Bottom line: It is your call (on yourself/your partner), and no one else's.

How to handle: If you're certain you did not strike the ball prior to it passing over the net, just politely and confidently say so. Also, be confident you completely understand the rule.

However, from a "how to play tennis" perspective... you likely should not be consistently positioning yourself so close to the net; your reaction time is minimized, and you're more vulnerable to lobs over your head.

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Player to Player doesn't work without your questions, so please send any questions you’d like answered, or responses to other players' questions, to Player@USTA.com. 

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