One of the first things people learn when they start their tennis journey is that you are supposed to hit the ball over the net. In fact, the net is your first opponent in a tennis match. If you can’t hit the ball over the net, your opponent won’t have to do anything in order to beat you. However, there is no rule against hitting around the net post and that is what we will talk about today.
In tennis, hitting around the net post is completely legal because the rulebook has no restrictions on the height of the ball, meaning that the ball does not have to travel above the height of the net in order to be considered a legal shot. The only requirement is that the ball lands within the court limits of play (singles or doubles lines, depending on what you are playing). According to the official ITF Rulebook, a ball will be considered a “good return” if it is “returned outside the net posts, either above or below the level of the top of the net, even though it touches the net posts, provided that it hits the ground in the correct court (ITF Rule #25c.).
As you can see, hitting a shot around the net post is allowed but there are a few situations that we need to make it clear in case you hit a fantastic around the post shot next time you step on the court. So let’s get to it.
What is “Hitting Around The Net Post”
For those who are unfamiliar, hitting a tennis shot around the post is one of the coolest shots you can pull off. The shot can only happen when your opponent hits a ball with so much angle that it is possible to hit around the net post and still make it within the boundaries of the court. (see video below) The reason why it is an enjoyable shot to both hit and watch is because it’s incredibly rare that you’ll have the opportunity to do so. And even then, it is super hard to make it so it is a rare shot to see. Here is a compilation of around the post shots so you can see what I am talking about:
Professional Tennis Vs Amateur Tennis
The main reason why around the post shots happen more often in professional tennis is because the courts are built so the net post can be set up in both the singles position and doubles position (see image below). This is not necessarily a rule, most courts at tennis events utilize the normal set up, with the net post outside the doubles alley and singles sticks for singles play. However, in big center courts like at Wimbledon, it is common to see the net post set up inside the doubles alley.
In amateur tennis, the net is typically positioned in the doubles position (outside the alley) and the single sticks are used in order to set up the net in a proper singles position.
If you are playing singles, it is pretty much impossible (at least I have never seen it) to hit a shot around the net if it is set up in a doubles position.
Extra Rules To Keep In Mind
So far, we established that hitting a tennis ball around the net post is completely legal in tennis, but there are a few scenarios amateur players should know in case it happens during a match without officiating.
The first scenario is if a player attempts to hit around the net post and the ball touches the net post or single stick and it somehow still hits the ground within the correct court, it counts as long as the ball travels through the outside of the net post. (ITF Rule #25c.) However, if the ball hits the net post and travels through the inside of the net post (if there is a gap between net post and net), the shot will not count. (ITF Rule #25a.)
The second scenario is if, and this is more common in amateur levels, there is a gap between the net post and the net and you hit within said gap. In this case, the rule states that if “if the ball passes under the net cord, between the singles stick and the adjacent net post without touching either the net, net cord or net post and it hits the ground in the correct court”, the shot is considered a legal return. The reason why this is uncommon in professional tennis is because the nets are set tightly close to the net post so there is no gap for players to hit through. However, in some tennis clubs or public parks, nets can be old or not properly set up, living a gap between the net post and the net.
So there you have it. Shots around the net post are rare and if you are an amateur playing without an umpire, you or your opponent risk not knowing the rules in this subject. Hopefully next time you step on the court you have the chance to hit one of these shots because they are incredibly satisfying. Have you ever hit a tennis shot around the post? Let us know in the comment section below.