Rules Rule! March 2023
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!
USAR 2023 National Tournaments are in full swing. Last month the USAR National Doubles & Singles Championships took place in Tempe, Arizona. This month was the USAR National High School Championships in Portland, Oregon, where the top singles players, top doubles teams, and top overall high school teams were crowned. I am very proud to say that my son Benjamin Horner won the Boys Singles National Championship!
Still to come are the USAR National Collegiate Championships over the St. Patrick’s Day weekend; the Team USA Adult Singles Qualifier in late May; and finally the USAR Junior Nationals Championships in late June. Stay tuned to USAR’s Facebook page (where all of these championships are livestreamed) and follow your favorite players.
Q1. Can you clarify your position on screen calls when a server hits a Z serve? Any times you will call a screen? Ball passes in front or behind the server does it matter at all?
One more: player hits a shoulder high overhand to front wall and it flat rolls out. Never touches a side wall. Skip or good??
A1. Yes, a screen serve can be called on a Z serve. Generally, it would only occur if the ball passed in front of the server.
Rule 3.9(i) Screen Serve. A served ball that first hits the front wall and on the rebound passes so closely to the server, or server's partner in doubles, that it prevents the receiver from having a clear view of the ball. (The receiver is obligated to take up good court position, near center court, to obtain that view.)
On your second question, it’s impossible for me to answer this without being there and seeing the shot. It could be good and it could be a skip. The court plays a part in that answer. There could be a gap between the front wall and the floor or if it is panel there could be a soft spot in the front wall due to a gap behind the panel. I would have to hear the shot in addition to seeing it to make a determination.
Q2. If a ball makes contact with my opponent, does it matter that I missed on an attempt to hit it? I say it doesn’t matter whether I hit or missed it, but he insists once I swing at it, the ball is dead. I say the ball is alive regardless until it hit him. What do you think?
A2. You haven't given me enough details to fully answer your question. However, I will say that the offensive player gets to make as many attempts to return the ball as they want to until the ball bounces for the second time. The defensive player has no rights until the ball has been hit and then they have all the rights as they are now the offensive player.
So if an offensive player swings for a ball and whiffs it, they then can chase the ball and try to hit it again and the defensive player needs to continue to dodge/avoid the ball and their opponent, giving them unhindered access to the shortest path to that ball. The ball is not dead after one swing. If the ball hits your opponent (before it bounces for the second time) when you are on offense, then it is your point.
Q3. Yesterday we were playing and when the server served the ball, it came back through his legs but didn't hit him. The receiver played the ball and hit a shot that the serving team did not go after. The serving team argued that when the ball went through the server’s legs it was a dead ball or bad serve and he should then have a second serve.
The receiving team argued that it was a discretionary call and the server should be out and said it was like if the ball goes through a player’s legs during a rally, it is up to the player whose shot it is to play the ball or call a screen/hinder and replay the point.
It was played as an automatic screen serve and play stopped by the serving team. The receiving team thought otherwise.
A3. In a self-refereed game, the only one that can call a hinder is the one that supposedly was hindered. Now if the ball had hit the server's shorts on the way through his legs, then it would have been an Out Serve and the server could have called that on themselves. Below are some applicable rules that are relevant here. I have highlighted areas of interest.
Rule 3.9(i) Screen Serve.
A served ball that first hits the front wall and on the rebound passes so closely to the server, or server's partner in doubles, that it prevents the receiver from having a clear view of the ball. (The receiver is obligated to take up good court position, near center court, to obtain that view.)
Rule 3.14(4) Screen Ball.
Any ball rebounding from the front wall so close to the body of the defensive player that it prevents the offensive player from having a clear view of the ball. (A referee noting a ball that passes “close” should NOT call it a screen until he is also sure that the opponent’s attempt to return the ball was impaired by that “closeness”.) A ball that passes between the legs of a player who has just returned the ball is not automatically a screen. It depends on whether the other player is impaired as a result. Generally, the call should work to the advantage of the offensive player.
(Self-Officiating) Rule D.4 Replay Hinders
Generally, hinder calls should work like the screen serve does -- as sort of an option play for the hindered party. Only the person going for the shot can stop play by calling a hinder and must do so immediately and not wait to see how good the resulting shot was. If the hindered party believes they can make an effective return despite some physical contact or impairment that has occurred, they may continue to play, but should not claim a hinder thereafter.
So, if I am the receiver and there is no referee, then only I can make the call as to whether I was screened (or not). It doesn't matter if the ball went through the server's legs...just over his head...under his armpit...or anywhere else. It is not automatic, and the serving team cannot stop the play. If they do and the receiver returns the ball and that ball is not returned, then it is a loss of the rally for the server.
USA Racquetball’s Official Rules of Racquetball can be found using this link: