Do you know that people used to play tennis using bare hands? No, you didn’t misread it. That’s a fact.
It was somewhere in France, in the 12th century. The game they played was called “game of the palm.” This is how tennis began, although the rackets were unknown in those times.
You lose a point if you touch the ball with a hand, any other body part, or even clothes. The player also gets the point once he or she hits an opponent with the ball on purpose.
Having in mind tennis is considered a sport of gentlemen, there is an unwritten rule not to aim at the opponent.
But it happens not so rarely. Some players don’t respect this principle as much and then fight over it on the court.
Let’s dig deeper into why it is illegal to hit the ball with your hand in tennis and what consequences it can bring to you, your doubles partner, and rivals.
Is The Player’s Hand Considered Part Of The Racket?
According to the Rules of Tennis issued by the International Tennis Federation, a tennis racket consists of a frame and strings. The frame consists further of a head and handle and may have a throat too.
The player’s hand isn’t and can’t be considered part of the racket. Nor any other part of the body or clothes.
There is no exemption from this regulation. As long as the ball is in play and the point didn’t end yet, the players can touch the ball with the racket only.
You might be falling, sliding, or be put in an imbalanced position, and still touching the ball by coincidence is not an excuse.
This is very common for intermediate players who somehow find themselves at the net but are not comfortable being there.
As a result, they panic when they see a fastball and shield the body with their hand to block it. This is an unconditioned reflex but also an unjustified handball violation in tennis.
I can only suppose what would exactly happen if hand-hitting was part of the game. All those courageous players would undoubtedly approach the net more often to cover the court with a racket and freehand.
All of a sudden it wouldn’t look like tennis anymore.
Does The Player Lose a Point If They Hit The Ball With The Hand?
Since players can hit the ball strictly with the racket if they use the hand instead, the point goes directly to the opponent.
This means that you mustn’t touch the ball with your hand while the ball is live. Once the point ends, you are free to catch, carry, bounce, or toss the ball before the next point starts.
Don’t be surprised, though, if the rival hits you deliberately during the rally and still takes the point.
For many players, it is very controversial. Sometimes you don’t have time to duck or leap aside, and yes, you are the guilty one.
Accidental or not, any contact of your body or clothes with the ball is a loss of point.
The most common error I see is made by amateurs. When they see the ball going far beyond the baseline, they catch it and call out. And they lose it.
Again, as long as the point didn’t finish, you mustn’t touch the ball with your hand!
The oddest situations occur in doubles matches. Say the server mistakenly serves towards the wrong service box. The receiver’s partner touches the ball, trying to protect the face.
Guess what the call is?! The chair umpire points at the serving team.
I know it seems unfair, but, as I said before if you touch the ball with your hand or anything else that is not the racket, you lose.
There is no way around it.
Can Tennis Ball Harm Your Hand If Hit?
Have you ever been hit by a tennis ball?
I’ve been hit so many times that I had to stop counting. Sometimes it was the punch of a baby.
On other occasions, it stuck in my mind for hours because of pain or marks it left. Being hit by tennis balls is definitely not a pleasant experience.
Considering ball speed generated by women and men in professional tennis, tennis balls can seriously harm, not only the hand.
When men serve, the ball accelerates to more than 200km/h on the first and 150km/h on the second serve. In rallies, these numbers go lower to 100-120km/h, which is still relatively fast and may be dangerous.
In some extreme cases, such incidences end very badly. The energy generated by the ball is high enough to cause fractures or internal insults. Still, players usually get bruises and a moment of pain only.
As you see, there is no point in using your hand directly to play because it doesn’t bring benefits.
I don’t know any player who wants to give points for free. Equally, I don’t know anyone who wishes to be hurt by the ball on demand.
The tennis ball is a bullet traveling from racket to racket. The only thing that can stop is the net.
It is a paradox that both hands are in use in tennis all the time, and they have contact with the ball solely in no-play time. Maybe it would be more efficient and spectacular if hitting with hands was legal too.
But, I think it is not worth it that much as the risk of injury is really high. And I am not even talking about hands here.
There are many more delicate and unsafe parts like the eyes or neck.
There are plenty of stories, and videos of a ball boy hit in the stomach, a line judge stroke in the head, or a player who’s missed volley whacked his eye.
Some were lucky enough to continue their matches, while some had to retire and receive medical help.
All in all, the rule to hit the ball with a racket only prevents players from needless injuries. As the game becomes faster and faster year by year, it is pretty reasonable.
And you, would you take a risk to hit or block the ball at all costs?
Have you ever been hit hard by a tennis ball, and how does it feel after?