What Are The Rules For Ball Hitting The Net In Pickleball?

What are the Rules for Ball Hitting the Net in Pickleball?

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The main rule for a ball hitting the net in pickleball is that a serve that hits the net is called a fault, while a ball that hits the net during play can still be valid as long as it lands in the proper service court.

What is Considered a Fault on the Serve in Pickleball?

When serving in pickleball, the ball must clear the non-volley zone and land in the proper service court without touching anything. This means that on the serve, if the ball hits the net, it is considered a fault.

Some key things to know about faults on the serve:

  • If the served ball hits the net at any point before landing, it is a fault. This is similar to a foot fault in other racquet sports.
  • A serve that hits the net and still lands in the proper service court is still counted as a fault.
  • Double-bounces, sidearm swings, and carries (where the ball visibly rotates in the air) are also fault serves.
  • After a fault serve, the server gets one more attempt. Two fault serves in a row results in a double fault, which awards the point to the opponent.

So in summary, any ball that hits the net on the serve is an automatic fault in pickleball, no matter what happens afterwards. The serve must fully clear the net to be considered good. This rule helps ensure that serves have enough power and aim to make it over the minimum height of the net.

When is a Ball Hitting the Net Considered In Play?

While a serve that hits the net is a fault, a ball that hits the net during a rally is still in play as long as it lands inside the court boundaries.

Here are some key considerations about balls hitting the net during regular play:

  • If the ball hits the net after being struck by a player, but still travels over and lands inbounds, it is still in play and must be returned.
  • There are no limits on the number of times the ball can hit the net during a rally as long as it stays inbounds.
  • Players cannot directly hit the ball into the net to win a point. The ball must travel over the net at some point for the shot to be valid.
  • If a ball hits the net and lands out of bounds, lands in the non-volley zone, or hits a permanent object like the pole, it is considered out and the rally ends.
  • If the ball hits the net and then a player’s body or clothing before going out of bounds, it is still counted as in play and the point continues.

So in an actual rally between opponents, the net is essentially neutral territory and hitting it does not automatically end the point. This creates exciting extended rallies as the ball pinballs off the net multiple times before a player gains a decisive advantage.

Why is Hitting the Net Treated Differently on Serves vs. Rallies?

The serve and rally phases have contrasting rules about net hits because they represent different stages of gameplay with different objectives:

Serves Are for Starting the Point

The serve exists solely to put the ball legally into play. There are many rules governing serves to ensure they have the proper format and don’t give unfair advantages. If the serve only clips the net, it is deemed not to have properly gone over the net.

Rallies Are for Continuous Back-and-Forth Play

Once the ball is legally in play, the main goal is free-flowing volleys between opponents. Letting the ball hit the net and stay in play allows for longer exciting exchanges and creative shot-making. The gameplay is already underway so clipping the net is allowable.

In essence, serves and rallies each have regulations tailored to their distinct purposes during a pickleball match. Players must mentally adjust to apply the correct net rules depending on if they are serving or returning.

What Happens if The Server Hits The Net During Play?

Since the server must serve diagonally and then switch sides before their next serve, they will often have to pass back over the net to the other side of the court after serving.

If the server or their paddle touches the net while moving back over, these are the consequences:

  • If the server hits the net before the ball has bounced, the server loses the point.
  • If the ball has bounced before the server hits the net, play continues, but the server receives a warning.
  • After one warning for hitting the net during crossover, each subsequent infraction results in the server losing a point.

So while incidental net contact is permitted during rallies, servers in particular must avoid hitting the net after serving to avoid penalties. This rule aims to keep the flow of serves and side-switching smooth.

How Does The Height of The Net Affect Ball Contacts?

The official pickleball net height is 36 inches at the sidelines and 34 inches in the center. This height is lowered compared to nets in similar sports to account for pickleball’s smaller court size and paddles.

However, recreational players may end up using a net that is slightly higher or lower than regulation. The net height affects how often the ball hits the net in several ways:

  • Higher net → Fewer net hits: With an elevated net, there will be more carries and faults on serves. During rallies, players will aim higher over the net leading to fewer clips.
  • Lower net → More net hits: A lower net makes serves easier but also causes more net shots in rallies since the ball doesn’t have to travel as high to go over.
  • Regulation net height → Moderate net hits: The official net height allows for a mix of clear serves and some exciting net volleys during gameplay.

In competitive play, the correct net height is vital to achieve the proper pickleball experience and avoid advantages. But ultimately, any safe net height can work for casual recreation.

What Are Some Tips for Hitting Over the Net More Consistently?

Here are some suggestions for players struggling with frequent net hits while serving or rallying:

  • Aim higher over the net – Allow more clearance rather than grazing the top of the net. Go for at least 6 inches over.
  • Strike the ball at a steeper angle – Hitting down on the ball launches it up faster after the bounce.
  • Move closer to the net – Less distance to cover makes it easier to lift the ball.
  • Use topspin – This gives the ball forward rotation to bring it down inbounds.
  • Strengthen arm and wrist muscles – More power allows for higher shots over the plane of the net.
  • Practice torso rotation – Turning through the shot adds energy transfer for lift.

With the right adjustments to positioning, form, and technique, players can develop serves and rally shots that reliably carry over the net for fair play.

What Are Some Strategies Related to Hitting the Net?

The ability for the ball to hit the net creates some unique strategic opportunities in pickleball:

  • Drop shots – Lightly tapping the ball over so it trickles over the net can catch opponents off guard.
  • Angled shots – Aiming close to the net edges can increase chances of an unreturnable net roll.
  • Lobs – Hitting high arcing shots can bring opponents up to the non-volley zone line and lead to net errors.
  • Quick volleys – Balls that hit the net often slow down, allowing for quick reaction volleys.
  • Faking – Pretending to hit one way but then tapping the ball the other way over the net.
  • Defensive lobs – When stuck deep in the court, lifting the ball high over the net can allow time to reposition.

Mixing in the above tactics provides a way to integrate the unique net play dynamics of pickleball into an competitive overall game plan.

In Summary, What are the Key Rules for Balls Hitting the Net in Pickleball?

  • On the serve, any ball that hits the net is a fault and the server gets one more attempt.
  • During rallies, balls that hit the net and land inbounds remain playable and the point continues.
  • Servers must avoid contacting the net when moving back over after serving to prevent penalties.
  • The height of the net affects how often the ball hits it, with lower nets causing more frequent net shots.
  • With practice, players can improve their ability to hit serves and shots that clear the net more consistently.
  • The potential for balls to hit the net creates unique strategic opportunities related to placement, spin, and speed.

So while net shots end the point on serves, they provide exciting play during rallies. Following the specific rules for net contacts as server versus returner is key for fair and enjoyable pickleball experiences. Understanding the nuances around net hits provides a great way to elevate your knowledge and court coverage.

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