The "Net Cord" Ball
Right now in our sport, there’s portable pickleball nets and permanent pickleball nets. The portable nets have a 1-inch white seam running the length of the net. Let's call that part of the net the "headband" of the net. The proper tension should create a tight band. Permanent nets have a thicker, wider band and the tension creates an even more firm headband. Obviously there are a few scenarios in a pickleball game when the ball might clip this part of the net but do you know what to do when it does, and if so, are you able to force yourself to react?
First of all, on the serve, the ball must land beyond the non-volley zone, but when a ball has clipped the net (also known to be called “net cord”) and landed beyond the non-volley zone it’s called a “let” and the serve is re-done by the original server. If the ball clips the net and lands within the non-volley zone then a fault is called and a loss of serve is the result.
However, my bigger question is what do you do when the ball clips the net in the middle of a rally? Just to clarify, the ball hitting the top of the net during a rally is valid and no reason to stop playing. But sometimes our reactions aren’t as quick as our eyes that are tracking the ball. It’s really a matter of practice and overall court awareness to force your body to move to the ball when it’s clipped the net, because the ball will have a very low - or no - bounce off the ground, making it nearly impossible to get it back over the net. But it is doable. Lunging into the non-volley zone to chase after a “net cord” ball is made even trickier due to the fact that the player must re-established their feet outside of the non-volley zone to volley the ball. Take a look at the images below as an example. I took these pictures from a recent match at the APP Chicago Open, Pro Women’s Doubles gold medal match.
In this image, the ball has clipped the net and is traveling to the right of the referee
The player in blue, Simone Jardim, lunges for the ball which has already bounced. Note how low the ball is after the bounce!
Her paddle is completely open as she attempts to “scoop” the ball and place it on the other side of the net
However, that is extremely difficult and she’s now rushing backward to re-establish her feet outside of the non-volley zone (red area)
Unfortunately, in this case, she was unable to recover in time and the ball struck her body. The result is a loss of serve for Simone Jardim’s partner
On a net cord ball, not only is a player retrieving an exceptionally low bouncing ball they’re also attempting to keep the ball as low to the net as possible so that their opponent isn’t able to smash the ball back at them before recovering. It’s a difficult thing to execute, especially in the midst of a long rally, but as the saying goes “always get the ball back over the net and let your opponent make the error”! Have you been successful in returning a net cord ball? Let us know in the comments section below. Meanwhile, continue pushing yourself to advance in pickleball by never giving up in a rally!