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Breaking The Rules: Time to abandon the net touch?
Taking a look at the sacred barrier between two opponents, and whether it can endure the occasional rattle at the end of a point.
Published Oct 11, 2022
WATCH: Reilly Opelka discusses fellow American Taylor Fritz on Tennis Channel Live.
Rule 24.g., Player loses point. “The point is lost if the player or the racquet, whether in the player's hand or not, or anything which the player is wearing or carrying touches the net, net posts/singles sticks, cord or metal cable, strap or band, or the opponent's court at any time while the ball is in play.”
Chris Hill, Conway, S.C., is positively outraged by this rule—in his estimation “the single worst rule in tennis,” and terming its consequences “soul sucking, arbitrary and pointless.”
Really, don't get him started.
It's simply unfair, he argues, to negate “an athletic and spectacular play,” such as scrambling from the backcourt to reach a drop shot before it bounces twice, making the difficult return, only to lose the point because the player inadvertently touches the net. No advantage is gained by this touching, he says, so why penalize it?
Chris acknowledges that allowing the net to be touched could lead to, say, a doubles partner pushing the net down to lower it during their partner's serve, but this, he adds, could be handled by making this a deliberate hindrance and loss of point.
Ultimately, he says, the rule is equivalent to one making it loss of point for running into a fence while making a return.
Tennis is a game of limits. That's why there’s a net and lines on the court. At its most basic level, you have to get the ball over (or around) the net and into the court. But there are other limits, too, such as where you can be positioned (think foot faults), how you deliver a serve (no hitting it off the bounce) or how much time you have between points, to name a few.
The net is one of those primary limits, dividing the court between your side and your opponent's. Note that the tail end of Rule 24.g. deals with invading the opponent's court. The net is essentially the line delineating the opponent's court, just like one of the sidelines.
Tennis is a game of controlled aggression—you can't just hit a ball as hard as you want; you have to be able to keep it within the lines.
Chris contends that no advantage is gained by being allowed to run into the net, but that's not true. It would allow someone to play with more abandon, with less control, than the rules currently allow.
The framers of the rules did not intend for players to ricochet around the confines of the court without regard to any limits. This is one limit we need to keep.
Got an improvement to the Rules of Tennis or The Code? We invite you to join in. Send in your suggestions to email@example.com and put Breaking the Rules in the subject line.