When the ball is in play in tennis, the rules are pretty simple. Players have the opportunity to hit any ball back over the net, as long as it has not bounced more than twice. There are all different types of shots to get the ball back over the net, but there’s one tricky situation that can sometimes cause controversy.
A double hit is illegal, but what actually constitutes a double hit in tennis? There’s a distinct definition going by the rules, and understanding to help players avoid any controversy.
Is It a Continuous Swing?
Where the rule of a double hit gets a little tricky is when looking at a continuous swing. For example, there is a chance of a ball hitting one side of the racquet, sticking to it with the swing a bit, and then hitting again with the same stroke. The rule is that if a player is doing one continuous stroke, and this occurs, it’s not a double hit.
This is one of the most highly contested rules at all levels of the game. Since this is not a deliberate move done by a player, they usually get away with it. Where players get in trouble for a double hit is if they stop at any point to swing again.
How Can Umpires Determine a Double Hit?
Umpires are able to spot double hits pretty easily since they do not happen that fast. If they have to, there is replay available to access later on. Replay is currently not available to make a call on a double hit after the fact.
What Does The Rule State For Double Hits?
While every rulebook is different, they all say roughly the same thing. Pulling from the USTA, 24.5, it states that:
“only when there is a deliberate second push does the shot become illegal. Two hits occurring during a single continuous swing are not deemed a double hit.”
While this does allow for some interpretation of rules, most people have a pretty good idea of being able to tell. It’s very hard to stop and start a shot without people catching it, which is why it’s fairly easy to make the call in general.
This rule is different from what it was back in the 1970s, when all balls that hit the racquet twice and crossed the net were deemed illegal.
Part of it is because it just became too hard to determine whether or not a double hit occurred, or if there was a sound from somewhere else. Since it was not the player’s fault who was taking their normal stroke, double hits with one continuous stroke became allowed.
Other Ball Contact Rules
Along with a double hit rule, there are a few other ball-hitting rules that might seem a little complicated at first. By better understanding these rules, a player won’t find themselves in any tough situations.
Reaching Over The Net
A player can’t reach over the net and hit the ball during a point. In fact, a player can’t even touch the net, even during the follow-through of a shot. If that happens, it automatically goes to the opponent.
The only exception to this rule is if a ball hits on a player’s side, and then bounces back to the opposition’s side. In this case, a person can reach over the net, but they can’t make contact with the net.
To finish off the point, they must hit the ball and play as it would be on the other person’s side. By simply letting it go, it is a point for the opponent.
Hitting a Player on the Fly With a Serve
Technically speaking, a ball that hits a player on the fly during a serve is a point awarded to the server. That’s because the ball never had a chance to hit the ground, so there’s no telling if it was in or out.
That usually only happens in doubles, and is more unfortunate than anything. It might seem like a crazy serve that is nowhere near the service box, but making contact on the fly is not permitted. Instead of getting hit, try to get out the way for an easy out call.
When a player is chasing after a ball, there are times where it is a close call, and it could be a double bounce. The ball is only allowed to make contact with the ground once, but making a double bounce call could lead to a little bit of drama.
If an opponent makes a double bounce call, it’s automatically their point. If there’s any type of dispute, and it can’t be settled, the point should be replayed. At the professional level, this rarely happens, simply because the referee will make the final decision. The replay of the point is mostly for recreational tennis.
Why The Double Hit Rule Is Still So Complicated
Every single swing of the racquet is so fast that it’s tough to judge when a double hit occurs. Ideally, most people are trying never to have a double hit happen, as it’s usually not a good shot that results.
Nevertheless, as long as a player doesn’t definitively stop their swing in the middle of it, the shot is good to go.
As a receiver playing a double hit ball, make sure to be prepared for a lot of spin coming off the ground. Sometimes, the ball actually becomes more challenging to control as a result.