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What is the Call

by What’s the Call? -- Blast to the Past!

What’s the Call?
by Otto Dietrich
Former USA Racquetball National Rules Commissioner

The year 2016 produced great Q&As from players availing themselves of then-National Rules Commissioner Otto Dietrich’s expertise. Here’s a sampling of Otto’s answers that still resonate six years later. In a world of change, great rules questions are a satisfying constant!

Let’s hear from Otto!


Peter asked: If a player calls an “injury time out,” how long does that period last? How many “injury time outs” may a player and/or team use per game/match? Is an “injury time out” any different from a “non-injury time out”? At a past National Doubles, we’ve run into teams that seem to use the “injury time out” to their advantage to stop our momentum. Refs typically don’t keep a close eye on the clock, so often we are looking at a 20-minute delay as the opposing team repeats this process along numerous times. I don’t know for sure if the player was in fact injured at all or simply using the rule to their advantage.

I responded: Answers to your questions can be found in the Rule 3.16(b). To qualify for this type of timeout, the injury must have been incurred during the on-going match as the result of some type of contact. That could be contact with the ball, racquet, floor, wall, or another player, but contact must be involved. An injured player gets no more than 15 total minutes of recovery time per match (not game), however, it can be used in various increments of time throughout the match if needed. ... Please download the rulebook to your smart phone and politely offer to show that rule to a ref who applies the rule incorrectly. This type of referee challenge is allowed by Policy B.9 near the end of the rulebook. ...

Ken emailed me this question: We have always played it as an out serve when the ball hits the server on the way back from the front wall. We also call for a do-over should the ball hit the receiver on its way to the front wall (with the obvious “out” situation being called depending on the ball’s direction and velocity) during a rally. The other day, the ball struck my opponent after he hit it off the front wall during a rally. In the past, we always played that similar to the out serve, basically saying if you hit yourself after returning, you lose the point or the serve. He said it should be a do-over. I did not find this in the rules, maybe I'm missing it or maybe he is correct?

I told Ken: Anytime a player (or his doubles partner) hits themselves or each other with the ball before the other player/team touches the ball at all, then the player/team that hit themselves lose that rally immediately regardless of which way the ball is headed. See Rule 3.13(d)5. On a return of serve, if the receivers happen to hit one of the serving team with the ball, then that is either a replay hinder or a penalty hinder just like during a rally and subject to the criteria cited in Rules 3.14 and 3.15. By the way, what makes this so (since technically this is not a rally since the ball has not yet hit the front wall) is Rule 3.11(e). Few players are aware of that little-known provision, but all of them play it like that.

MAY 2016

Brady said: Ball comes off the back wall for offensive (Player A) to take a shot. Ball hits defensive Player (B). Player B claims it came off the door frame causing a court hinder and that is why the ball hit him. Is the defensive player entitled to this call?

I responded: While that's not really addressed in the rulebook, I'd say that if the ball had rebounded normally and thus would NOT have hit Player B, then I'd declare that occurrence you described to be a court hinder and have the rally replayed. That is the fairest thing to do.

Andrea emailed me this: In doubles, my partner and I went for the ball. The opponent was in front and my partner was behind him. As he (my partner) called hinder, the ball passed him and I took the shot. Because I took the shot, is the ball still considered live or because he called hinder, is the point is replayed?

My answer: Here are the two rules that generally apply to those situations: (1) Rule 4.5(b) that says that both players are entitled to try for the ball. Since that is the case, then either one can be hindered (Rules 3.14 and 3.15) on any shot from their opponents. Of course, that concept can be stretched to the point of ridiculousness, but to be hindered, remember that the player must have been considered able to have gotten to the ball had the "hinder" not occurred. (2) Rule 3.14(b) that says that the call of "hinder" stops everything that occurs thereafter. That includes things such as being hit by the ball or someone actually hitting the ball. Since your partner called "hinder" before you hit the ball, then your shot, in effect, "didn't happen" and the rally should be replayed unless, of course, the hinder could be deemed a Penalty Hinder per Rule 3.15.

Marion wrote: A ball, during a rally, hits the floor then bounces out of the court (in back) -- replay or point (the receiver hit it out).

I advised Marion: It's a replay (court) hinder as long as the ball last hits the floor just before is goes out-of-play. See Rule 3.14(a)1. Otherwise it's a loss of rally.

Robert wondered: I need clarification on the one swing rule. We are playing doubles and my partner charges a return and swings at the ball and misses. Can I back him up and hit the ball before the second bounce to keep it in-play? ...

I replied: The only time when more than "one swing" at the ball is prohibited is during the service motion and it is not called that. That rule provides, instead, that during the serve, once the racquet's motion toward the ball begins, it must be continuous or else a balk or fake serve is the call and that is one type of out serve. See Rule 3.10(d). During a rally, the ball remains in play and thus a player and his partner can swing at it as many times as they need until the ball touches the floor a second time. ...


Aaron noted: I did not see anything in the USA Racquetball rules against overhead serves. Is an overhead serve a legal serve?

I explained to Aaron: Yes, overhead serves are perfectly legal as long as you also fully comply with all the provisions of Rules 3.1 through 3.10. ...

Kerry emailed this: ... Let’s say that a player hits a serve that is either short or long, so he is now on his second serve. He then hits another serve that is good. The rally starts, but then during the rally there is a hinder, so that the point is played over. Is it still the second serve for that server, or does it go back to being the first serve?

I told Kerry: Once a rally has started, i.e., when the serve has been returned and strikes the front wall (per Rule 3.13), any replay of a rally requires that the next rally begin with a first serve. It totally wipes out any prior fault serves. By the way, this specific concept is enshrined in Rule 3.14(b).

Players can find, review, and or download the USA Racquetball Official Rules of Racquetball at

Do you have a rules/refereeing question? Be sure to email it to, and you might find it featured in an upcoming issue of Serving Up the News!



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