January 2023 Rules Rule
by Dan Horner, National Rules Commissioner
National Rules Commissioner Dan Horner welcomes questions from members and will respond timely along with occasionally featuring a few each month in USAR’s Serving Up the News. Write to Dan at email@example.com, and you may see your questions in a future issue of this newsletter!
Q1. I have a question about wearing my earbuds when playing. I have some opponents who don't want me playing with them on but have failed to cite the specific rule. I understand that if one of them falls, I lose the rally. They are in-ear buds, and I have never dropped one while playing. They are very secure.
A1. Thank you for taking the time to learn the rules of the game. Rule 2.5(c) states: "Audio Devices. Players may not wear audio devices during play unless they are used to amplify one's hearing." This is for those who are hearing-impaired to be able to hear the referee better.
Your ear buds are presumably not amplification devices designed to improve your ability to hear. You need to be able to hear the referee, and if there isn't one, you need to be able to hear your opponent in a self-officiated match. For instance, if they call a fault serve or a hinder, you need to be able to hear that. You may not be able to if you have earbuds in at the time.
Q2. When serving can my feet touch the short line? Is that considered in? Or should my feet not touch the short line at the beginning of the motion to serve? I have seen pro players line up their feet touching the short line even stepping on it without going over. However, in a tournament recently I was scolded for touching it.
A2. Yes, your feet can touch the short line, at the beginning of the service motion, as long as not even a sliver of your foot touches the floor closer to the back wall. The rule is the same for USAR, IRT, LPRT, and IRF tournaments.
USAR Rule 3.2 states "...Neither the ball nor any part of either foot may extend beyond either line of the service zone when initiating the service motion. Stepping on, but not beyond, the line is permitted..."
Q3. If a ball breaks on a first serve, should the previous rally be replayed?
A3. Once a serve is struck, the previous rally is in the books. If either player believes the ball is broken, they need to say something prior to the next serve occurring. If the ball is served and it breaks on the serve, then that serve only is replayed. So if it was second serve, then they replay the second serve.
Rule 3.8(b) states: "Broken Ball. If the ball is determined to have broken on the serve, a new ball shall be substituted and that serve shall be replayed, but not canceling any prior fault serve."
Rule 3.13(g) states: "Broken Ball. If there is any suspicion that a ball has broken during a rally, play shall continue until the end of the rally. Players should not hit the ball after that point. The referee or any player may then request the ball be examined by the referee. If the referee decides the ball is broken, the ball will be replaced, and the prior rally replayed. The server resumes play with the first serve. The only proper way to check for a broken ball is to squeeze it by hand. If the referee is certain that the ball was broken during, and not after, the previous rally, then he can call for that rally to be replayed. However, checking the ball by any player’s hard striking of it with a racquet will not be considered a valid check and shall work to the disadvantage of the player that struck the ball. Defective (untrue) balls will also be replaced, but without affecting the immediately prior rally.”