Net Clearance

redrealist

New User
K. I've posted here on something comparable, but want to make the focus more specific.
I rarely watch pro tennis (when I do, I root for Sascha Zverev), and have never watched it live. What I'm wondering is this ... During a typical rally with forehand, cross-court smashes, how much net clearance will pros get on deep shots? I'm guessing 8-10 feet. No?
The reason I ask is that when I started playing the sport 6 years ago, I valued low, angled shots without a lot of topspin, and in fact got quite good at hitting these. In fact, most the 4.5/4.5 USTA opponents I play struggle with this shot, and often pop it up or end up close to the net, where I easily pass or lob them on the ensuing shot. So my question is this ... Why in a routine rally, is it preferred to hit more of a looping, deep shot that an opponent can easily get to, as opposed to a low, flat, hard to reach shot? I'm guessing when you play higher levels, maybe 5.5 and up, who are fit and have great footwork, that they recognize the flat, low balls and come in quickly and put them away with angled shots.
Are there any pros in recent history who hit more flat, low balls as part of their baseline game? If so, who?
I know I'm going to get hammered with comments that good players will punish anything short, but I'd be a bit surprised if that was true with a well-paced, flat shot that barely clears the net. In fact, much of me thinks the pros play the way they do with 8-10 feet of net clearance on baseline rallies (if that's what it is), because it's a higher percentage shot than trying to barely clear the net with a flat shot. Right?
OK. Hammer away ...
 

OnTheLine

Hall of Fame
I'm not a 4.5 player nor am I a pro .... so my thoughts for what they are worth

Margin for error. (low and/or flat shots higher likelihood of going into the net or going long/wide) No brainer. It clears the net. It dives in without going long.

Heavy topspin is harder to return than a flat shot. As a lowly 3.5F I can hit back a flat shot from a 4.0M without a lot of duress and can change direction, chip it, lob it or return it with some added pace of my own. Make it a heavy topspin shot with the same pace and now I am in more trouble. The spin limits what I am capable of doing with it.

At the pro level the kick off their TS balls is pretty amazing. When you see it in person you understand why they are so often well behind the baseline
 

redrealist

New User
You're right about that. I've played some heavy top spinners. They get about 15' net clearance and keep it deep, and I pretty much resort to pushing it back. It's certainly an effective shot. I guess my point is that so is a low, flat shot, especially when a guy is playing 5' behind the baseline. Frankly, when I'm at my best, I'm hitting low, flat shots that pull the opponent toward the net, and then putting away the next shot while they stand helpless in NML.
 

OnTheLine

Hall of Fame
No doubt, if someone is 5' behind the baseline a short ball makes a great deal of tactical sense. I would prefer a short slice that has a little margin to a flat one ...

But at this point the only time I am hitting flat on purpose is when it is a putaway ... normally from about the serviceline and when I can take it above the level of the net.
 

Max G.

Legend
Lots of nonsense works in rec play because nobody practices so anything the slightest bit unusual breaks down people's footwork, anticipation, technique, and placement. In the pros - who don't get flustered because they have rock-solid footwork - that won't fly.

Specifically, in the pros:

1) If you give them a short flat ball, you'll hit right into their strike zone. It's not deep enough make them hit it on the rise, not high enough to get it above their strike zone. So it's right there to be crushed - if they have the footwork to get into position for it. (Which they do, and rec players don't.)

2) If you hit it short, you've opened up more angles for them - they can angle it back, or they can approach. (Rec players probably can't hit angles back, and might not be comfortable approaching.)

3) It's a game of percentages. Lower over the net and less spin means less margin for error, which means probably more errors for you than for your opponent.
 

Injured Again

Professional
@redrealist As the quality of your opponents gets better, they tend to be able to do more things to disrupt your timing and footwork. That makes a low-margin shot an even lower margin shot, and you'll likely miss way more than you make. You'll have to work the point to get your opponent to give you a fairly flat, low paced ball with a bounce that you know you'll be able to time, in order to take a bigger yet not crazy risk in trying to make that shot. Because unless you just have pro-level timing, there's no way you can consistently hit those flat, angled shots when you have to run to a ball that is kicking up or skidding low with lots of spin.
 

stapletonj

Professional
And here's how much this varies. I am 6'6". I PREFER the high kicking topspin shot because it will get into my wheelhouse at some point during the bounce. In the course of the match I can get in the groove and anticipate where that is and be set up to hit right there. somebody hits deep slice to me that stays low, ugh. I have to bend my knees and get low because it is never going to get up in my strike zone.

Even though I hit flat, a little topspin and slice, but almost never the big loopy topspin. Frankly, I think that being able to hit a variety makes one a much more difficult opponent. Even if you cant disguise it very well, it keeps the opponent off balance.
 

McLovin

Legend
During a typical rally with forehand, cross-court smashes, how much net clearance will pros get on deep shots? I'm guessing 8-10 feet. No?
A simple Google search yields a more reasonable number: 0.7m, or ~ 2 1/2 ft (not even close to your 8-10ft).

These numbers are averages from the Aussie Open between 2014 & 2016, but things really haven't changed much in the last 4-6 years.
 

BH40love

Rookie
Someone said 15ft net clearance? That’s ridiculous what kind of tennis is that? I would say the most would be 4 feet of net clearance and that’s probably a stretch
 

Shaolin

G.O.A.T.
Total trajectory height (subtract net height) and rpms. Also bounce height as well.

Nadal 90" trajectory 4,348 rpms, 56" bounce height
Fed 70" 3,981 rpms, 53" bounce
Nole 63" 3,643 rpms, 46" bounce
Murray 59" 2,170 rpms, 39" bounce

OP is a little off. Not unexpected from a Zverev fan.
 
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About the length of two rackets above the net to hit deep to the baseline--or aim for the horizontal divider of the net screen and gravity will do the rest.
 
And here's how much this varies. I am 6'6". I PREFER the high kicking topspin shot because it will get into my wheelhouse at some point during the bounce. In the course of the match I can get in the groove and anticipate where that is and be set up to hit right there. somebody hits deep slice to me that stays low, ugh. I have to bend my knees and get low because it is never going to get up in my strike zone.

Even though I hit flat, a little topspin and slice, but almost never the big loopy topspin. Frankly, I think that being able to hit a variety makes one a much more difficult opponent. Even if you cant disguise it very well, it keeps the opponent off balance.
I experience some of the same benefits, but I'm only 6'4". I like the high topspin shot because I can slice off both sides, one handed backhand. I also like kick serves if they aren't of the highest level (recently I played a mid 20s player who played for Texas Tech, his kick serve was very hard to deal with). The kick serves usually bounce up to my hitting zone. Luckily I'm not 6'6", I don't have much issue with low slice shots, but I do have problems at net with low shots from time to time, tall dude problems.

The pros like and use the high clearance topspin because it is more consistent and it is a weapon. I can get lucky sometimes, when my footwork and body combine into a hard forehand topspin and the topspin causes a winner, my opponent gets to it like you mentioned, OP, but the spin is so driving an error results. Pros can get to this magic level of footwork and drive automatically and the speed of their shots needs the topspin to stay in, also, they have super high consistent shots.

In rec tennis, I've seen a few people who like to wait on the ball to fall and brush up on the ball as it falls down, so they are striking near the knees. Others really like the flat shots, but they are hitting the net more often than not. If a player is tall like me, it's a great weapon to hit the topspin shots that bounce up higher (my strike zone for my height creates a higher ball, I'm hitting the ball further off the ground, usually, than someone 6' or under), my tall guy bounce is up above the shoulders of the opponent, if they are small, and this creates issues if they prefer the wait till the ball drops routine.

It's safer to try and win with topspin than to consistently hit shots that are 2 inches or closer to the top of the net, but that close to net style is way more common in rec tennis. It's probably even more beneficial for rec players to play topspin clearance style because consistency is a bigger issue for us all.
 

onehandbh

Legend
A simple Google search yields a more reasonable number: 0.7m, or ~ 2 1/2 ft (not even close to your 8-10ft).

These numbers are averages from the Aussie Open between 2014 & 2016, but things really haven't changed much in the last 4-6 years.
Those are averages. So it is a mix of slices, flatter shots, angles crosscourt shots, and deeper shots that my have higher net clearance and also defensive shots.
 

roadto50

New User
K. I've posted here on something comparable, but want to make the focus more specific.
I rarely watch pro tennis (when I do, I root for Sascha Zverev), and have never watched it live. What I'm wondering is this ... During a typical rally with forehand, cross-court smashes, how much net clearance will pros get on deep shots? I'm guessing 8-10 feet. No?
The reason I ask is that when I started playing the sport 6 years ago, I valued low, angled shots without a lot of topspin, and in fact got quite good at hitting these. In fact, most the 4.5/4.5 USTA opponents I play struggle with this shot, and often pop it up or end up close to the net, where I easily pass or lob them on the ensuing shot. So my question is this ... Why in a routine rally, is it preferred to hit more of a looping, deep shot that an opponent can easily get to, as opposed to a low, flat, hard to reach shot?
Average clearance is about twice the height of the net. Obviously depends on the shot, but that's what a lot of the college players I hit with say they try to aim for. I am curious though how low you hit and with how much of an angle. Are we talking like a flat shot from the baseline to somewhere between the net and the service line? To hit a low angled shot without a lot of top spin means you are already in the court hitting an offensive shot, no?
 

WestboroChe

Hall of Fame
At pro level it’s really all about keeping your opponent back so those high loopy shots are necessary. Also don’t forget they may play for 4-5 hours. You need to be able to hit a lot of easy low risk shots that don’t require too much effort and concentration.

I’d suggest you go watch a pro match live. Sit at the end of you can so you can get a players view point. During the rally you’ll think “gee these guys don’t hit much harder than me” then when they get something to hit that’s short you won’t even see the ball they hit it so hard.
 

WildVolley

Legend
K. I've posted here on something comparable, but want to make the focus more specific.
I rarely watch pro tennis (when I do, I root for Sascha Zverev), and have never watched it live. What I'm wondering is this ... During a typical rally with forehand, cross-court smashes, how much net clearance will pros get on deep shots? I'm guessing 8-10 feet. No?
No. At least not on hard courts. I've been to Indian Wells multiple times and watched a number of the top 50 players from almost court level. Note that Indian Wells courts are slow hard courts.

Most rally balls are not clearing the net by 8-10 feet (Over 11' in the air). Most rally balls are not even 8' in the air.

The super-high net-clearance rally ball is a weird myth promulgated on TTI. I don't know the origin or why people repeat it?

However, how much net clearance a player uses really varies from player to player. Another weird thing is how some players hit different balls in practice versus matches. Nadal for instance, will sometimes smack the ball low and extremely fast in practice yet hit more net clearance in matches.

A high net clearance ball with topspin is often very effective in tennis. Just don't do it because you believe that's how the pros always hit.
 

Dartagnan64

Legend
No. At least not on hard courts. I've been to Indian Wells multiple times and watched a number of the top 50 players from almost court level. Note that Indian Wells courts are slow hard courts.

Most rally balls are not clearing the net by 8-10 feet (Over 11' in the air). Most rally balls are not even 8' in the air.

The super-high net-clearance rally ball is a weird myth promulgated on TTI. I don't know the origin or why people repeat it?

However, how much net clearance a player uses really varies from player to player. Another weird thing is how some players hit different balls in practice versus matches. Nadal for instance, will sometimes smack the ball low and extremely fast in practice yet hit more net clearance in matches.

A high net clearance ball with topspin is often very effective in tennis. Just don't do it because you believe that's how the pros always hit.
I agree. I've been court side at the Van Open and Indian Wells right near the net and the balls are rarely more than a foot or two over the net. They are just hitting harder with more spin. But it's not big loopy topspin. Many of the women pros hit surprisingly flat actually.
 

WestboroChe

Hall of Fame
I agree with all of you that it’s not the mythical 8-10 feet but it is definitely higher than your average rec player. Maybe more like 3-5? I don’t know. There’s tremendous variance even within a single point. Today I hit multiple shots at 15 feet or more just to give myself time to get back into the point.

Of course almost all these guys are 6 feet or so which makes hitting the ball well over the net much easier.
 

Dartagnan64

Legend
I agree with all of you that it’s not the mythical 8-10 feet but it is definitely higher than your average rec player. Maybe more like 3-5? I don’t know. There’s tremendous variance even within a single point. Today I hit multiple shots at 15 feet or more just to give myself time to get back into the point.

Of course almost all these guys are 6 feet or so which makes hitting the ball well over the net much easier.
we all loop the occasional moon ball to defend. i do it all the time when stretched out on the run.

I'm not sure who the mythical "average rec player" is. I see every ball height imaginable from rec players.
 

WestboroChe

Hall of Fame
we all loop the occasional moon ball to defend. i do it all the time when stretched out on the run.

I'm not sure who the mythical "average rec player" is. I see every ball height imaginable from rec players.
Right but there’s a average if we were to measure the height of any players shots we would be able to arrive at that. I’m sure there’s some data out there for tour players but I’m not really interested in searching it out. Bottom line is that all the teaching pros I’ve worked with have told me that pros typically try for maximum net clearance unless going a Winner. I’m confident that the average pro hits a higher heavier ball on average than a rec player (if we ignore lobs and moonballs).
 

stapletonj

Professional
The main thing that brings a ball into the court is gravity. Top spin aids gravity. The faster the ball is travelling, the less time there is for gravity to bring the ball down into the court.
If you are hitting a ball 10' over the net with 1000 rpm speed at 80 mph, it is going to go long every single time.
You can hit it slower, lower, or with more spin. But you have to do one of the three.

which combination works best for you is up to you. none of us can hit nadal like spin, nor can hit groundstrokes at 95 mph.
 

Dartagnan64

Legend
Right but there’s a average if we were to measure the height of any players shots we would be able to arrive at that. I’m sure there’s some data out there for tour players but I’m not really interested in searching it out. Bottom line is that all the teaching pros I’ve worked with have told me that pros typically try for maximum net clearance unless going a Winner. I’m confident that the average pro hits a higher heavier ball on average than a rec player (if we ignore lobs and moonballs).
Thing about averages is that virtually one player is that person. So what you are saying is that there may be a handful more rec players hitting flatter shots than pros to move the average down. That's probably a meaningless comparison.

What I suspect you'll really see is that the variance on net clearance is far greater for rec players than it is for pros. You won't find many moonballers at the pro level or low hitting slice and dicers. You'll see lots of those at rec levels.

Personally my experience is that most pros and decent rec players hit similar heights over the net and the only difference is that rec players hit with less spin and pace.
 

WestboroChe

Hall of Fame
Thing about averages is that virtually one player is that person. So what you are saying is that there may be a handful more rec players hitting flatter shots than pros to move the average down. That's probably a meaningless comparison.

What I suspect you'll really see is that the variance on net clearance is far greater for rec players than it is for pros. You won't find many moonballers at the pro level or low hitting slice and dicers. You'll see lots of those at rec levels.

Personally my experience is that most pros and decent rec players hit similar heights over the net and the only difference is that rec players hit with less spin and pace.
Let’s not get into statistics here but this is my thought. Your typical male pro is like 6 feet tall. That player is able to take a ball from a much higher contact point than someone like me who is 5’2” and able to easily drive it over the net and down with power and plenty of clearance over the net. Whereas someone like me must hit closer to the net.

I know this is an extreme example but my point is that most tennis players don’t fit the male pro archetype since most are either youths women or shorter men. When I see the tracking shots on TV I’m always blow away at how high the arc is compared to the ones I typically hit or see at the club.
 

Fxanimator1

Hall of Fame
The fact that you’re 5’2” I think sways you’re viewpoint a bit, because your basis is that of an average 10 year old size-wise.
 

Dartagnan64

Legend
Let’s not get into statistics here but this is my thought. Your typical male pro is like 6 feet tall. That player is able to take a ball from a much higher contact point than someone like me who is 5’2” and able to easily drive it over the net and down with power and plenty of clearance over the net. Whereas someone like me must hit closer to the net.

I know this is an extreme example but my point is that most tennis players don’t fit the male pro archetype since most are either youths women or shorter men. When I see the tracking shots on TV I’m always blow away at how high the arc is compared to the ones I typically hit or see at the club.
except the pros are standing 7 feet behind the baseline so from that distance none of them are hitting down on the ball even if it's up around their shoulders.

I used to be blown away by the tracking shots too and then I sat court side at the net and watched Pospisil play Cheung and was impressed that they don't hit that high over the net. Pospisil was flatter than Cheung but also hit the heavier ball. The only time the ball was more than 2 feet over the net was when they were on the defence. So I no longer trust those "tracking shots" on TV.

I also notice that shorter players hit more over the net than taller players so I'm not sure I buy your analogy. Most of the loopy hitters are speedy short guys. Big rec players at our club hit hard and flat.
 

WestboroChe

Hall of Fame
except the pros are standing 7 feet behind the baseline so from that distance none of them are hitting down on the ball even if it's up around their shoulders.

I used to be blown away by the tracking shots too and then I sat court side at the net and watched Pospisil play Cheung and was impressed that they don't hit that high over the net. Pospisil was flatter than Cheung but also hit the heavier ball. The only time the ball was more than 2 feet over the net was when they were on the defence. So I no longer trust those "tracking shots" on TV.

I also notice that shorter players hit more over the net than taller players so I'm not sure I buy your analogy. Most of the loopy hitters are speedy short guys. Big rec players at our club hit hard and flat.
There’s a reason for that. I’m thinking specifically of attacking a short ball that it is floating high say 6 feet above the ground. A typical male pro can hit that hard flat and well above the net while a shorty like me must either hit a weird overhead at a fairly shallow angle or let it drop into our strike zone and loop it up and over the net. I’ve gotten pretty good at doing both but it must be nice to just be able take a nice hard swing in your strike zone and really belt the ball.

this is a continuum in terms of its impact on a player and how easily it is observed but in tennis small margins matter. but that’s enough about my challenges. I still contend the average pro male player hits earlier and higher then most if not all rec players especially when attacking A short ball.
 

Injured Again

Professional
I had a hitting session with my son today and was paying close attention to contact point and net clearance. From a previous session on a Playsight court, I know that we hit rally groundstrokes at around 70 MPH. However, our typical contact point is between thigh and hip height, and our average net clearance is between one to two feet. When watching the pros, like today's match between Tsitsipas and Auger-Aliassime, who are both taller than my son and I, their average contact point is around chest height, or about two feet higher than when my son and I are hitting. From that higher position, they're able to get more RPMs than I produce on a hip-high shot. It looks like the trajectory off the racquet is pretty similar to what we're hitting, which is slightly upward so the ball ends up about two feet higher at its highest point than at the contact point.

So their balls look like they have around about another foot or two of net clearance on rally shots over our 1-2 feet of net clearance, and that drop down from its highest point at five to six feet will result in a bounce to a chest high shot.

We both accidentally hit some net skimmers today and those shots land at or just beyond the service line. When the pros accidentally hit a net skimmer, their extra levels of topspin drop the ball down a lot shorter, well inside the service box. It's easy to see how they can hit sharply angled shots to areas of the court that we don't have access to.

It's also pretty amazing how much the pros are still able to swing upwards on a chest or shoulder high ball. At that height, unless I'm trying to loop it back, I'm hitting the ball with minimal topspin because I just can get over the ball and still generate pace.

It's a different game they play, at a different height than recreational players like us are used to.
 
These are great points Injured Again, I'm also 6'4" and little annoyances come up like being accused of hitting a lob when they aren't allowed in a drill on the first shot and I think it's just my normal topspin forehand or quite a few players at lower levels in drills will think my ball is going out when it dives into the court and hits in, many people aren't used to seeing that hitting zone (I call it that, maybe there is a better term), but I'm hitting the ball at a place or height with my racket that is just different than most people I'm facing. 15% of the time I can have my footwork and body movement all line up properly and really hit a topspin ball that attacks baseliners that are 6ft and under, making them hit a little above shoulder high, wish I could do it more consistently.
 

Injured Again

Professional
@FuzzyYellowBalls I think that those of us who did not play when we were young and in the last 20-30 years aren't used to the higher balls. I didn't start tennis until I was probably 4 feet tall, and back in the wood racquet days every shot was pretty flat so balls were probably waist high even back then. Kids today start when they are pretty young and much of their early years are spent hitting every ball at shoulder to head height so a comfort level is developed that they maintain into adulthood.

I don't think that a ball hit from a point two feet higher but with the same trajectory travels that much further. A tennis ball loses 1 MPH for every 2-3 feet that it travels, so a 70 MPH ball off the stringbed is only going 45 MPH at the opponent's baseline. Dropping pretty rapidly by that point, the additional horizontal distance is probably easily negated with the greater topspin that high level players can hit from that shoulder high position.
 

AlexSV

Rookie
A club pro recently mentioned the issue is people simply hit the ball harder to compensate for a low or high ball. His advice, don't hit as hard, use your spin, and get lots of net clearance (looking for four or five feet). They're giving similar guidance to the competitive players here.
 

Powderwombat

Semi-Pro
Depends on the shot - the speed and spin on the ball. There's no right or wrong answer. Someone like Rafa hits a lot higher over the net than Medvedev due to the difference in topspin. That's just to start with, but then each player will hit higher or lower depending on their shot selection. You shouldn't even be thinking about net clearance really, you should be thinking about depth. If you're hitting too short you can either add pace or height to the ball to achieve good depth.
 

pencilcheck

Semi-Pro
K. I've posted here on something comparable, but want to make the focus more specific.
I rarely watch pro tennis (when I do, I root for Sascha Zverev), and have never watched it live. What I'm wondering is this ... During a typical rally with forehand, cross-court smashes, how much net clearance will pros get on deep shots? I'm guessing 8-10 feet. No?
The reason I ask is that when I started playing the sport 6 years ago, I valued low, angled shots without a lot of topspin, and in fact got quite good at hitting these. In fact, most the 4.5/4.5 USTA opponents I play struggle with this shot, and often pop it up or end up close to the net, where I easily pass or lob them on the ensuing shot. So my question is this ... Why in a routine rally, is it preferred to hit more of a looping, deep shot that an opponent can easily get to, as opposed to a low, flat, hard to reach shot? I'm guessing when you play higher levels, maybe 5.5 and up, who are fit and have great footwork, that they recognize the flat, low balls and come in quickly and put them away with angled shots.
Are there any pros in recent history who hit more flat, low balls as part of their baseline game? If so, who?
I know I'm going to get hammered with comments that good players will punish anything short, but I'd be a bit surprised if that was true with a well-paced, flat shot that barely clears the net. In fact, much of me thinks the pros play the way they do with 8-10 feet of net clearance on baseline rallies (if that's what it is), because it's a higher percentage shot than trying to barely clear the net with a flat shot. Right?
OK. Hammer away ...
Berdych?

Btw, it is hard to immediately attack with low angled shots because it is slower, and hard to guard against if the player get to it with great footwork.
 
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