February 2022 Rules Rule
by Dan Horner, National Rules Commissioner
Q1. On a return of a drive serve. is it legal for the return to be hit corner to opposite corner? Where do you go as the server to give a down the line, cross court, and corner to corner shot to the opponent?
A1. When returning a drive serve, it is legal to hit the ball any way you want to as long as it ends up touching the front wall prior to bouncing on the floor twice. I believe the question you are asking is, "What shots is the server required to give their opponent a clear path of return when their opponent is returning the serve?" The answer is the straight-in and the cross-court shot only. Any other shots should not result in a penalty hinder if the server takes them away (i.e., blocks the path of the return).
Rule 3.15(a) "Failure to Move. A player does not move sufficiently to allow an opponent a shot straight to the front wall as well as a cross-court shot which is a shot directly to the front wall at such an angle that would cause the ball to rebound directly to the rear corner farthest from the player hitting the ball."
So there are only two spots the server cannot be in. See the diagram below that shows the highlighted path of a straight-in shot as well as the path of a cross-court to the farthest corner. Being in the way of either of those darker red paths (at the time the offensive player is shooting the ball) should result in a penalty hinder against the server. So you can see there is plenty of room for them to be to the right of those paths and even a small area between the two paths.
Q2. Hoping you can settle a dispute that came up in a doubles game of racquetball with no referee.
Here is the scenario: Team A serves the ball. A player on team B is in motion of returning the serve that they see as good. While the hitter is in motion, the non-server on team A calls the serve long. Play is stopped. After discussion, 3 of the 4 players agree the serve was good and not long. Since the long call was over-ruled, does this result in a fault serve or an out serve?
A2. First let me explain that the receiver has the primary responsibility to make the call on a long serve. The receiver must make the call immediately and not wait until the ball has been hit to gain the benefit of first seeing how good the return was that they have made. It is not an option play. This applies to the non-receiving player(s) as well in that they need to make the call immediately. So, if it wasn't called out until the player was hitting the ball then it was called "late.”
Regardless, once a player calls out long, play does need to stop. At that point, if the three players overruled the one player, thus determining that the serve was NOT LONG and rather IN PLAY, where are we then? Since the rally stopped prior to determining who won the rally, then the rally must be replayed on whatever serve it was on at the time. So, if it was first serve then replay at first serve, but if it was second serve already, then replay at second serve.
I am assuming that the server's partner was not intentionally calling out long serve when they knew it was not long just for the purpose of negating a plum set-up by their opponent. If this was the case, that is a different situation entirely.
As long as this is a one-off and not a habitual occurrence, I would just move on and not worry about it. If the person in question regularly has trouble seeing the ball to make calls, then simply suggest to them that they allow the receiver to make the call unless they are certain or if they are the one receiving the ball.
National Rules Commissioner Dan Horner welcomes questions from members and will respond timely along with featuring a few each month in USAR’s Serving Up the News. Write to Dan at firstname.lastname@example.org, and you may see your questions in a future issue of this newsletter!