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Rules Rule - October 2021

by Dan Horner, USAR Rules Commissioner

Headshot of Dan Horner in green shirt.


With a deep knowledge and understanding of the rules of the game, Dan welcomes questions from members and will respond timely along with featuring a few each month in this USAR Serving Up the News resurrection of the well-read “What’s the Call” that Otto Dietrich made popular in Racquetball magazine over many years. 



It is one of those days, after getting home from one of the most anticipated weeks of the year, when racquetball withdrawal kicks in. What a blast we all had reuniting with people we hadn’t seen in up to two years. There were highs and lows, but overall it was a very rewarding experience.


The 2021 UnitedHealthcare US OPEN is in the books! Doug Ganim did an outstanding job for his 25th year in a row coordinating the event, and we will miss him in that role in the years to come. I hope that all of you reading this were able to attend or at least were able to watch online the Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony, the Pro-Am Doubles Charity Fundraiser, and some of the pro matches. If not, many of these can be found on the USA Racquetball Facebook page.  


There was one situation that came up at the US OPEN that generated a lot of conversation, so let’s look into it. I’ll break it into two pieces. First, in doubles can the non-serving partner jump as their partner serves the ball under their feet? The short answer is yes, there is no rule prohibiting this. Second, what if the ball hits them while in mid-air over the service box? The quick answer is that the result is the same as if they were standing on the ground inside the service box; it would be second serve, or side out if it was already second serve. Now let’s look a little deeper.


If you read my article from August 2021, you’ll remember that I already discussed that in Rule 4.4(b) it says that if the server’s partner or any of their equipment (i.e., their racquet) is touching the floor OUTSIDE of the doubles box and the serve hits them, this results in a loss of serve. We also need to look at Rule 4.2(b) to see that “On each serve, the server’s partner shall stand erect with their back facing the side wall and with both feet flat on the floor and within the service box from the moment the server begins the service motion until the server hits the ball. Any violation is called a foot fault.”  So whether the server’s partner is standing in the service box or mid-air above it, the result is the same as long as their feet were still in contact with the ground and they were still in compliance with the other aspects of 4.2(b) at the moment the ball was struck by the server. If they began to jump prior to the server hitting the ball, then it would be a foot fault regardless of whether the ball hits them or not.    


Here are a couple of other interesting questions brought to my attention recently.


Q1. You are using a walking serve and bounce the ball out in front. You take a few steps to hit it, and as you are walking to hit the ball, your opponent calls time out. Should the timeout be granted? In other words, does the service motion only include the actual swing at the ball or does it include the walking part as well?


A1.  The service motion would include the walking part as well. So most likely the timeout should not have been granted. The key is that prior to your walking serve (and any other serve), your feet must start in a "set" position and inside the service box. Some people don't realize that the service motion begins from wherever the server starts moving from a "set" position. If the server picks up the ball in the back court, walks to the service box, and drops the ball to serve it without "setting" their feet, it is a foot fault on the server because their service motion began outside the service box. The reason I said "most likely" above is because I'm assuming that the server checked their opponent's readiness after the score was called. 


Q2.  Explain when an equipment timeout can be used. What is the difference on this subject between the USAR rules and the IRT rules?  


A2.  In Rule 3.16(c) it states “Equipment Timeouts. Players are expected to keep their clothing and equipment in good, playable condition and must use regular timeouts for adjustment and replacement of equipment (such as broken strings or racquet) during play. If a player or team has no regular timeouts left and the referee determines that an equipment change or adjustment is necessary for fair and safe continuation of the match, the referee may grant an equipment timeout not to exceed 2 minutes. The referee may allow additional time under extenuating circumstances such as the distance to the locker room or car.”  


However, the IRT rules are different on this matter. In Rule 10.7(b) we see that “If the referee determines that an equipment change or adjustment is necessary for fair and safe continuance of the match, the referee may grant an equipment timeout not to exceed 30 seconds.”


Let’s discuss a scenario and how it should play out in the two different divisions, amateur vs. IRT. Game 2 has just begun and Player A has all of their regular timeouts available to them (3 in amateurs or 1 in IRT). They break their strings and ask the referee for a timeout to replace their racquet.  


Amateur Divisions: The referee should announce and charge the player with a regular 30 second timeout to replace their racquet. Because it is a regular timeout, all players may leave the court and utilize the 30 seconds as they see fit. If Player A isn’t able to secure another racquet in that time then another regular timeout would be charged to them and they would have another 30 seconds to use for this purpose. This would continue until all regular timeouts have been used. The referee cannot award an equipment timeout until all regular timeouts have been used.   


IRT Divisions: The referee should announce that the player is taking an equipment timeout and they have 30 seconds to obtain a replacement racquet. This would have no bearing on their one regular 1-minute timeout, which they haven’t used yet.




Please send rules questions, including stories from the court that beg rules interpretations, to National Rules Commissioner Dan Horner at: You might see your question in a future issue of Serving Up The News!


View/download the Official Rules of Racquetball.

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