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Reaching Over the Net

Q. "While playing a round robin doubles match, an opponent of mine reached over the net while returning a ball. The ball was on their side of the net, yet their racket clearly was on my side during the return and follow-through. No contact was made to the net by player or racquet. The ball landed in and the point continued on. Is this automatically a lost point due to reaching over the net?"

*We’ve received emails from readers wanting the definitive answers to questions that seek the clarification of rules, so we’ve decided to oblige with a ruling from the USTA Director of Officials Richard Kaufman to the above question before getting into players’ responses.


A player may break the plane of the net on a follow through from a shot as long as the ball was on that player’s side of the court when the ball was struck. (The player can only reach over to play a ball in the situation stated in the paragraph below).

The player in either situation may not touch the net, or the opponent’s court with anything he wears or carries or with any part of the body.

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.

From Bev, West Chester

Your question is a bit ambiguous. You clearly stated that the ball was on their side of the net, but you said also that the racquet was on your side during the hit which seems like an impossible thing. You need to deceide if the ball got to his side of the net or not. In your question, you say that it did, which would indicate that he did not reach over the net to hit it. The rules of tennis say that as long as the ball was on his side of the net when he made contact, and as long as he did not touch the net, it is okay if his follow-through carried his racquet over the net. So it seems that you did the right thing in continuing to play as the point was good.

From Jennifer H.

I was always taught that as long as the opponents racquet did not touch the net, it would be his point. It doesn’t matter if he reached on your side of the net. I hope this helps.

From Dick B., Morrisville, VT

As long as your opponent did not strike/contact the ball on your side of the net, it was correct to continue play. The racket may continue over the net after ball is struck during a point of play.

From Brad W., Atlanta, GA

As long as the contact with the ball was on their side of the net, there was no rule infraction.

From Jack T.

Unfortunately for you your opponent made a legal play. You are allowed to follow through over the net as long as the ball was struck on the opponent’s side and he didn’t touch the net.

From Betty

After contacting the ball on your side, the follow-through may carry the racket over the net, but, if contact is made across the net, it is not a good shot and you lose the point.

From Terry H., Rock Island, IL

According to the rules, it is perfectly fine for the follow through on a swing of the racquet to cross the net as long as contact with the ball was on the player’s side and not on the opponent’s side, and contact was not made with the net by the striking player or their racquet. However, one cannot reach across the net to strike a ball that is on the opponent’s side of the net except under on circumstance: If the ball originally bounced on the player’s side of the net but due to back spin the ball wound up crossing back over the net, it is acceptable to then reach over the net and strike the ball prior to its hitting the ground as long as contact is not made with the net by the striking player’s racquet or body.

From Bill B., Latham, NY

As long as the initial contact with the ball was made on the player’s side of the net, he or she is allowed to cross over the net with the follow-through. The ball is still in play!

Unfortunately, if they did reach over to make contact and you question it, it’s their call, so if they say they didn’t, there’s not much you can do about it.

From Roger

If the opponent’s initial contact of the ball was on their side of the net, it is legal for the follow-through of their racquet to be on your side of the net. The key is whether the ball was initially struck on their side of the net or your side of the net. If the initial contact was on your side of the net then you win the point.

From Julius

If point of contact with the ball IS on the hitter’s side, then it is a legal emember, even if the racquet swing crosses the net afterwards (without touching).

From Fred D.

There should be no loss of point for the circumstance you cite. A player may reach over the net while striking the ball IF THE BALL HAS CROSSED THE PLANE OF THE NET into that player’s side of the court.

Even on those occasional instances when a ball, due to heavy back spin, crosses into a player’s court, bounces and returns on its own into the court side of origin, the returning player may legally reach across the net to strike the ball.

The only foul and subsequent loss of point, occurs when a player reaches across the net to strike the ball before it has crossed the net onto his/her side of the court.

From Chris L., Savannah, GA

This is a confusing question for many players but the answer is pretty easy once you ask the right question. The question is not, "Did the opponent’s racquet cross the plane of the net." It isn’t even, "Which side of the net did the racquet contact the ball?" The correct question is, "Had the ball passed through the plane of the net before the racquet made contact with the ball." If the answer to this question is yes, play on. If the answer is no, then the person guilty of the infraction should forfeit the point. Note that this is a violation only the player can "call" on themselves. You can ask if they’re "sure" and explain the rule, but they must concede the point, you cannot claim it.

Example: At SC mixed districts many years ago I had a match point that tested this rule. The opponent mis-hit a ball which went up in the air, landed just on my side of the net with much backspin and bounced back over the net to the opponent’s side. I had to reach over the net (full arm and racquet extension over the net) and tap the ball away in order to win the point. This fails the first two wrong questions but passes the right question I suggested earlier. The ball had passed over the net (and back again) before my racquet contacted the ball. If I hadn’t tapped it away I would have lost the point even though the ball would have ended up on their side bouncing twice before they could hit it. A great way to end a match, but only because both mixed teams understood the rule and there was no question or argument.

From Malcolm G.

Should a player reach over the net – in other words, break the plane of the net – to hit a ball on the opponent’s side he/she loses the point.

From Jeffrey B., Newburgh, IN

The rules are clear on this point: As long as your opponent (and his clothing and racquet) didn’t touch the net or your side of the court while the ball is in play, the follow-through can end up anywhere – it’s a legal shot. In fact, he/she could even reach over the net and make a shot, as long as the ball has already crossed the plane of the net (and perhaps crossed back over by the wind, or by severe backspin on your shot.)

From Bob W., Orwigsburg, PA

The USTA Rules of Tennis, 2006 Edition Comment 25 A " Good Return " "e" states: "The player’s racket passes over the net after hitting the ball on the player’s own side of the net and the ball hits the ground in the correct court is a good return."

From Ramon M., Puerto Rico

This is not an automatic loss of point since the ball was on their side of the net before being struck. Had the ball been on your side of the net when struck by your opponent then they lose the point. Please bear in mind that this is a call decided by the receiving player.

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