BLOWING IN THE WIND!
QUESTION: What should we have done here????
OK. So I was playing the other day and an incredible thing happened that stopped us all in our tracks. This was south Florida, so it sometimes is pretty windy and it was that day. Our opponents hit a ball in an attempt to lob it. The wind was blowing into our opponent's faces, but the ball still got over into our side of the court. My team mate and I were back because we thought they would slam it, but we ran up when we saw the ball go up. When the ball hit the court, it had a lot of backspin, bounced up pretty high and went BACK OVER INTO THEIR COURT before we could hit it on our side. Now, I know there's a rule that says you can't reach over the net before you hit the ball, but there was no way for us to hit it before it went back over. After it landed back on their side, we sort of celebrated thinking we had won the point without having to hit the ball, but our opponents claimed we hadn't returned it properly because the ball had bounced twice before we hit it. Please help!
ANSWER: Tracy. I'm afraid your opponents were correct. They won that rally because your team did not return the ball before it bounced twice. Here's the rule for that:
7.E. Failure of a standing player to return the ball before it bounces twice on the receiving player’s side of the net [...]
Generally speaking, you are also correct in thinking that you cannot reach over the net to hit a ball. Here's the rule for that:
11.I. Plane of the Net. Crossing the plane of the net prior to striking the ball is a fault.
Now, notice that rule 7.E says "twice on the receiving player's side." This is the part that is tricky and has to be interpreted. If it were not for the wind/backspin, the ball would have been able to bounce twice on the receiver's side. Now, I am not a fan of interpretations of rules, but in lot of cases, there are times when interpretation has to occur by the referee.
In this particular case (ball bouncing back over due to wind/backspin), it has happened so often that USA Pickleball has included a specific exception that allow players to ignore the first sentence in rule 11.I. Further down in rule 11.1 you have:
11.I.1. Exception: If the ball bounces into a receiving player’s court with enough backspin or wind aid to cause it to return to the other side of the net, the receiving player may cross the plane of the net (over, under or around the net post) to hit the ball. It is a fault if the receiving player (or anything the receiving player is wearing or carrying) crosses the plane of the net before the ball has first crossed back over the plane of the net to the opponent’s side. It is a fault if the player touches the net system, the opponent’s court, or the opponent while the ball is still in play.
So, in the future, when you see the ball is going to bounce back over into your opponent's court due to backspin or wind, wait for it to go back beyond the net plane, then reach over and smack it left, right, back into the net...anywhere that your opponent's ain't. Just make sure when you reach over you 1) don't touch the net or net post, 2) don't let your feet slide under the net since that would be touching your opponent's court, and 3) don't touch your opponent with your hand or paddle.
I know this was a long answer, but it happens frequently enough that the answer needed detail.
I hope that helps and I'll see you on the courts!