I was having lunch with one of my tennis chicks, and as we were catching up with our busy lives, our conversation turned to tennis, of course ;-)
She was telling me about a doubles league match, in which she was given a moon ball up at the net (I love those!). She thought it would be an easy put away, but the ball dropped right into the path of the sun, and she lost sight of it and missed it. But being the quick thinker she is, she stepped back and before it bounced twice, she hit a winner down the middle.
Well, this didn’t sit well with the opponents, who said the point should be theirs, because on her first stroke, my friend’s racket apparently crossed the net, but didn’t touch it. Now, had she made contact with the ball on the other side of the net, then the point would definitely go to the opponent. But there was no contact with the ball whatsoever until the second stroke, which happened further back, away from the net.
They agreed to replay the point, but who was correct? The applicable rule in the USTA handbook is as follows:
Rule 24: Player Loses The Point
The point is lost if:
a. The player serves two consecutive faults; or
b. The player does not return the ball in play before it bounces twice consecutively; or
c. The player returns the ball in play so that it hits the ground, or before it bounces, an object, outside the correct court; or
d. The player returns the ball in play so that, before it bounces, it hits a permanent fixture; or
e. The receiver returns the service before it bounces; or
f. The player deliberately carries or catches the ball in play on the racket or deliberately touches it with the racket more than once; or
g. The player or the racket, 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; or
h. The player hits the ball before it has passed the net; or
i. The ball in play touches the player or anything that the player is wearing or carrying, except the racket; or
j. The ball in play touches the racket when the player is not holding it; or
k. The player deliberately and materially changes the shape of the racket when the ball is in play; or
l. In doubles, both players touch the ball when returning it.
There is absolutely nothing in Rule 24 that supports the opponents’ claim that they should win the point. A “miss” doesn’t change the outcome of a point once the ball has been served. And even though she crossed the net, if no contact was made with the ball or the net itself, taking a second swipe at the ball is not prohibited. And since she hit the ball before it bounced a second time, her shot was good.