The net is a very important factor in pickleball. Like most racquet sports that feature a net, the aim is generally to get the ball over the net using your hitting instrument. You can hit the net in pickleball, but it could mean that the action results in a fault, yet in some instances, play will continue.
When you serve the pickleball, and it hits the net, net cord, or the rope that connects the net to the post, and the ball bounces in the correct service court, avoiding the “kitchen,” the ball is live (in play.) You can also hit the net during normal play, as long as the ball crosses over the net.
In the past, when the ball hit the net on your service but still managed to miss the non-volley zone and landed in the correct service court, a let was called. Those days are gone. If the above scenario happens today, play will continue until a fault occurs. One of the main reasons for changing this rule is to keep players from fighting about the legality of such a let call.
May The Ball Hit The Net In Pickleball?
Hitting the net in pickleball is a regular occurrence. It’s part and parcel of the game. Let us turn our attention to the USA Pickleball Rulebook to investigate what the act of hitting the net in pickleball will result in regarding stoppage of play, point allocation, and when play can continue.
Hitting The Net While Serving
Under Rule 4.A.2 – Serve Placement, it states, “The server must serve to the correct service court (the court diagonally opposite the server.) The serve may clear or touch the net and must clear the NVZ and the NVZ lines. The serve may land on any other court line.”
First, we need to establish what parts constitute the pickleball “net”:
- Pickleball Net
- Pickleball Net Cord
- The Rope Between The Net Posts
The following parts of the net system don’t form part of the term “net”:
Other Part Of The Net
- The Net Posts
To clarify, the net rule while serving is quite simple: When you hit a serve, and the pickleball hits the net, the net cord, or the rope that connects the net with the net posts, and it bounces in the right service court, or its designated lines, outside of the NVZ – the ball is live and in play.
Touching the pickleball net with any part of your body, or pickleball equipment, will automatically result in a fault being called according to Section 7 (page 32) in the USA Pickleball Rulebook. Hitting the ball under the net will also result in an immediate fault.
When you are serving, and the ball hits the net bouncing back to your side of the court, it will be called a fault. Suppose your serve hits the net and does not clear the “kitchen” or lands in the wrong service court or out of bounds; a fault will be called, and the other team will have the serve.
You will have committed a fault if you hit any other part of the net system, including the net posts and the part between the net and the net post. If your serve clears the net, hits the net, and proceeds to hit the receiving player or partner, you would have earned a point for your team.
Hitting The Net While Rallying
Many decent pickleball players who hit the net – let’s say graze – with their return shots know how valuable this scenario is when looking for easy points.
Hitting, or crazing the net ever so slightly, often results in a very low return shot – which is important in pickleball. The lower the shot, the more difficult the return.
With regular practice, you can also learn how to play these super-low net touching shots that typically win you a couple of points per match.
Around The Post Shots
Why take a chance of hitting the net at all? Rather hit a soul-crushing around the post (ATP) shot instead.
The ATP Pickleball Rulebook describes the around-the-post shot as follows:
- “11.M. Shots Around the Net Post. A player may return the ball around the outside of the net post.”
- “11.M.1. The ball does not need to travel back over the net.”
- “11.M.2. There is no restriction on the height of the return, meaning a player may return the ball around the net post below the height of the net.”
Nothing beats the thrill of hitting one of these shots, but you will have to wait for the perfect opportunity to hit one of them. Typically, a ball played at an extreme sideways angle, moving away from the side court, could present the opportunity for such a special shot.
Required Specifications Of A Pickleball Net
- “2.C.1. Material. The net may be made of any mesh fabric material that will not allow a ball to pass through it.”
- “2.C.2. Posts. Net posts should be 22 feet +/- 0.0 Inches (6.71 m) from the inside of one post to the inside of the other post. The maximum diameter of the net post should be 3 inches (7.62 cm).”
- “2.C.3. Size. The net length should be at least 21 feet 9 inches (6.63 m), extending from one post to the other. The net height from the bottom edge of the net to the top should be at least 30 inches.”
- “2.C.5. Center Strap and Height. A center strap is recommended for permanent net and must be placed at the center of the net to enable easy adjustment to the 34-inch (86.36-cm) requirement at the center. The top shall be 36 inches (91.44 cm) high at all sides.”
- “2.C.6. If the net drapes onto the court and such configuration is not corrected by the tournament staff prior to the start of play, and if the referee deems a ball is affected by the draping net, it shall result in a replay.”
Ensuring that you play with a net that fits the required specifications will improve your game tremendously. Opposed to playing with nets that differ all the time. Make sure that wherever you play that the net is up to standard.
Hitting the net is part and parcel of a pickleball game and can be used to your advantage, as explained in the post. Some players still call a let when a serve hits the net, subsequently losing the point when they don’t play the ball.
Old habits die hard, it seems, but eventually, everyone will be on the same page.