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June 15, 2022 What is the Call

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

Here’s a summer treat in October form...the “What’s the Call” article published in the Fall issue of Racquetball magazine. Enjoy!

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

Do you know that on the return of serve, unless there is an exception listed in Rule 3.11, then all of the Rules in Rules 3.13 through 3.15 apply too per Rule 3.11(d). Before that rule existed at all, if the server were hit by the return of serve, that could NOT be a hinder of any kind since all of the hinder rules were in the rally section which do not start until the return of serve touches the front wall.

Another somewhat obscure rule provision that you should note is Rule 3.8. It lists three conditions where the serve is termed a “dead-ball serve.” The aspect of that rule overlooked is that when one of them happens, it does not cancel a previous fault serve. So, should it happen on second serve, then only that second serve is repeated. Conversely, a broken ball during an on-going rally gives the server his first serve back. By the way, if the receiver breaks the ball on his return of a second serve, then the server also gets his first serve back per Rule 3.11(d), remember? It’s somewhat complicated, but it’s good to understand the various outcomes.

Now for a few questions/answers:

Vic asked: What is the ruling if I hit my opponent with my racquet on my follow-through (either backhand or forehand and even if it just touches him)?

I answered: Actually, any type of racquet contact on the follow-through (assuming that you took a full swing, that is) is simply a "play-on" situation as described the last sentence of Rule 3.14(a)3 of the current USAR rulebook. Remember that the follow-through occurs after the ball has left the racquet.

Then Vic replied: I recall a pro giving a lesson on the backhand where he said to take a giant swing because the other person cannot be in your swing. Doesn’t Rule 3.15(a) require the opponent to give you a swing freely without obstruction all the way through? This is where it is a little ambiguous. Isn’t that other person creating an avoidable (i.e., penalty hinder) situation? To me, the opponent is creeping in on your space and trying to get an advantage, therefore creating a hinder. How do you interpret this?

I followed up with: Of course, you are untitled to a free, unpaired swing, and basically any interference with your swing (that affects the resulting shot) should be called a penalty hinder (formerly "avoidable") on the person who was hit! But should any racquet contact occur on the swing's follow through (meaning the ball has already left the racquet), and if you didn't have to hold back on your swing, then that contact is totally ignored and that is not a hinder of any kind for either the hitter or the person who was hit per the last sentence of Rule 3.14(a)3.

Frankly, I sometimes refer to this as being the "cruelest rule" in the game. What often happens is the person who swung expresses sincere concern for the person he hit while that person is still playing the game and returns the ball as he should. That player would win that rally while his opponent is still expressing concern for his physical well-being. Sad, but true.

The pro mentioned above and others might well advocate taking a full swing at the ball every time, but overly exaggerating one’s swing as to try to create a hinder would, as that pro surely knows, at some point become unsportsmanlike. Then the hitter might lose the rally instead due to a penalty hinder or perhaps even a point due to his unsportsmanlike action. We don’t want reckless play on the court. That's why we instituted the safety hold-up rule (Rule 3.14(a)6) -- to encourage players to hold up on shots like that rather than hit their opponents with the ball or racquet. And if the opponent is in the way, the referee can even declare that hold-up to warrant a call of penalty hinder, i.e. a loss of rally.

Mike asked: I am playing a "new" guy who serves a backhand lob serve. He bounces the ball inside the box between the two red lines that a doubles partner would stand in. Is that a legal serve?

I replied: Those lines that are three feet from the nearest wall on each end of the service zone only come into consideration on the serve and then only when the server hits a drive serve. Please see Rule 3.6 and other related rules for the details regarding the limitations on a drive serve. So, the simple answer to your question is YES, the serve you described is legal – it was a lob!

The complete Official Rules of Racquetball, published by USA Racquetball, is available in both printable and online versions at:

Current National Rules Commissioner Dan Horner welcomes questions from members and will respond timely along with occasionally featuring a few in USAR’s Serving Up the News. Write to Dan at, and you may see your questions in a future issue of this newsletter!

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