Pickleball Net Rules Explained: Common Faults and the ATP Rule

Est. Reading: 5 minutes

Aside from using the correct net based on standards, there are also pickleball net rules you should follow. Otherwise, you will lose the rally or even the entire match. These rules, especially the ATP rules, can be confusing, especially if you are a beginner. To help you out, let's discuss them by answering some crucial questions.

What are the Pickleball Net Specifications?

Before proceeding to the rules, you should know the specifications of pickleball nets. According to 2.C.3 of the USA Pickleball Equipment Standard Manual, a pickleball net should be at least 21 feet 9 inches (6.63 m) long. It should be at least 30 inches tall, measured from its bottom edge to the top, and both ends should be extended one foot away from each side of the court. 

How High is a Pickleball Net?

Section 2.C.5 states that pickleball nets should be 36 inches (91.44 cm) tall at the sidelines and 34 inches (86.36 cm) in the middle. This 2-inch sag in the center came from the fact that pickleball balls should bounce 30-34 inches tall after dropping them from a height of 78 inches. Therefore, pickleball nets are lower than tennis nets. For complete details, refer to our Pickleball Net Specifications Guide.

Is it a Fault to Cross the Plane of the Pickleball Net?

The answer to this question confuses a lot of beginners and some experienced players as well. To start with, the plane of a pickleball net is an imaginary vertical line of the net that extends through the posts. Generally, you can cross the plane of the pickleball net, but there are some instances where you are not allowed to.

According to Section 11.I of the 2024 USA Pickleball Official Rulebook, players crossing the plane of the pickleball net before hitting the ball commit a fault. On the other hand, any player is allowed to cross the net after striking the ball. Note that in both scenarios, any item (including the paddle and clothing) that touches the player is part of the player.

There's an exception, though. You can cross the plane of the net (over, under, or around the net post) to hit the ball if and only if the ball bounces into your opponent's court and has enough backspin or wind to cause it to go to your side of the court. 

If you're the receiver, you will commit a fault once you cross the plane of the net (or any item you wear or carry) before the ball has first crossed back to your opponent's side. In general, you are not allowed to touch any part of the net system, the opponent's court, or the opponent during a live ball. Otherwise, you (or our team) will commit a fault. 

Related Post: Pickleball Faults You Must Avoid to Win Games (Complete List)

What if the Pickleball Ball Touches the Net?

As per Section 11.L.1, the ball remains in play if it touches the top of the net or the top net cable or rope between the net post and the net, provided that the ball lands inbounds. If the ball lands outbounds, you lose the rally. However, according to Section 11.L.2, the player who hits the ball that travels between the net and the net post commits a fault.

On the other hand, according to Section 11.L.2, a player who hits the ball over the net into the opponent's court, and then the ball bounces back over the net and bounces a second time without the opponent touching it, shall win the rally. If neither of the bouncing of the ball conditions occurs, that player loses the rally.

Meanwhile, a served ball may clear or touch the net but must clear the Non-Volley Zone (NVZ)and the NVZ lines. Whether the ball clears or gets in contact with the net, the serving team will earn a point if the ball touches the receiver as it crosses the net. For more details, you may also read our Pickleball Serve Rules Guide.

Is There a Let Serve Rule in Pickleball?

No, there's no more let serve rule in pickleball, although it used to exist. A 'let' serve is when the served ball hits the net and lands on the right side of the opponent's service court. As a result, a replay shall be made. But because this rule affects the integrity and can lead to conflicts, USA Pickleball decided to remove it starting in 2022.

As per Section 4.A.3, a served ball that clears or touches the net and makes contact with the receiver or the receiver's partner, the play continues, and the server earns a point. In singles, the server commits a fault once the ball lands on the server's court. In doubles, the second server will do the serve.

What Happens If There's a Draping Net?

Before 2024, Section 2.C.6 states that "If the net drapes onto the court and such a 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."

But in the 2024 Rules Changes and Updates, Section 2.C.6 states, "Except on the serve, a replay will occur if the ball goes over the net and hits a draping net on the ground." Therefore, the new rule applies to both officiated and non-officiated matches, except on a serve. 

Additionally, a replay should occur if the ball goes over the net and bounces on the court and if any of the following incidents occur - if it hits the center base or any part of the horizontal bar (usually on temporary nets) or when the ball gets caught between the net and the horizontal bar. The only exception is when they happen during a serve.

Can a Player Touch the Net Posts During a Live Ball?

As mentioned earlier, each net post is one foot away from each side of the court. It means that net posts (including connected wheels, arms, net cable, or rope on top of the net post or other support construction) are outside the court. Therefore, any player who contacts the net posts during a live ball commits a fault. Similarly, a served ball that touches the net posts will result in a lost rally to the serving team.

What is the Around-the-Post (ATP) Shot Rule?

As per Section 11.M, a player can return the ball around the outside of the net post, and the ball does not have to go back over the net. That player can also return the ball at any height or below the pickleball net. This section is called Around-the-Post (ATP) shot rules in pickleball.

Moreover, according to Section 11.L.3, any player can go around the net post (and cross the plane of the pickleball net) after hitting the ball. However, that player (including any item that touches the player) must not touch the opponent's court. On the other hand, there would be a fault if that player did not hit the ball at that moment.

Final Thoughts

The pickleball net rules can be confusing and may change as time passes. This is why you should study them carefully and constantly be updated. I also understand that hitting the net is unavoidable, especially for beginners. The key here is to practice regularly to learn how to control your shots. After all, pickleball can also teach you to be more patient.

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