July 20, 2022 July 2022 Rules Rule

by Dan Horner, National Rules Commissioner

Headshot of Dan Horner in green shirt.


Q1. I've asked a few questions in the past and I've appreciated the helpful clarifications. If you don't mind, I have another. I have a question about the following rule, 3.15 (i):

Apparel or Equipment Loss. If a player loses (becomes fully dislodged from their person) any apparel, equipment, or other article they brought onto the court, play shall be immediately stopped and that player shall be assessed a penalty hinder, unless the last shot that was hit could not be retrieved. Note that if the loss of equipment is caused by a player's opponent, then a replay hinder should be called instead. If the opponent's action is judged to have been avoidable, then the opponent should be called for a penalty hinder.

I am confused about this line: "unless the last shot that was hit could not be retrieved.” Last night we were playing a doubles match and a player on the opposing team had a dampener fly off his racquet in the front of the court, close to where he was. In addition to being distracted by the foreign object flying through the air along with the ball, as the ball was coming off the back right corner I would have sent the ball back his way as either a passing shot or ceiling shot-- but I stopped play for safety reasons even though the ball was "retrievable.” Why would anyone be expected to "retrieve the last shot" when a clear court safety hazard is recognized that could thus affect the continuing rally? This was just a friendly club match, but my friend and I argued about whether the holdup that I initiated would have been called a penalty hinder or a replay hinder in a tournament match? And if the match was self-officiated (which so many matches seem to be these days) we would probably call it just a replay hinder (if the teams were friendly with one another) but we know that some might call it a penalty hinder if that is the official rule.

If it's not a penalty hinder, why not? My apologies for not grasping/understanding why the nature of the rule seems to infer a penalty hinder, but then seems to veer off into replay hinder territory with that statement, "unless the last shot that was hit could not be retrieved.”  I'm supposed to hit the ball anyway, even though a safety hazard exists? But then only when I hit the next shot (even though safety hazard conditions exist) do I then get the penalty hinder call? That makes no sense to me.

A1. What you described was a Penalty Hinder and there was no need for you to 'retrieve' the shot to enact that Penalty Hinder. That rule is a little confusing now that I re-read it, but here is what it means--If you hit a ball that is just out of my reach and I dive for it and 'roll it out' and when I hit the ground my dampener flies off then it is NOT a penalty hinder and I win the rally because the last shot I hit was NOT retrievable. So because it was not retrievable you were not 'hindered' by my piece of equipment on the ground. It can be a subjective call just as any other hinder can be, but I think you and I would both agree that if my shot rolled out (assuming it did not skip) then it would have been irretrievable for you and thus my equipment on the ground didn't make any difference.  

Q2. We had a point where I faked swinging at the ball which resulted in the ball hitting my opponent behind me. I figured it if it didn’t hit him, I would play it off the back wall. My opponent said that it is illegal to fake the shot. What is the rule?

A2. It is not illegal to fake a shot during the rally. The same result would occur if you tried to hit the ball and whiffed it. Your opponent would still be required to get out of the way from the missed ball in case you went to go get it on a second try.  

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, and you may see your questions in a future issue of this newsletter! Or check out the online version of the USAR Rulesbook:

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