• Introduction
  • The object of the game
  • Scoring in racquetball
  • Serving rules in racquetball
  • Gameplay
  • Game intervals
  • The racquetball court 
  • Rules and regulations of racquetball equipment
  • Other rules of racquetball
  • Sources

Scoring

  • Points: Only scored by the serving player/team
  • Game: a game consists of 15 points. If the score is tied at 14, the player/team who reaches 15 points first wins the game.
  • Match: A player/team needs to win 2 of 3 games to win a match.
  • Tie-break: If the game score is 1-1, a tie-breaker game is played to 11 points (win by one point).

Intervals and Changes

  • A player/team gets two 30s timeouts in games to 11.
  • A player/team gets three 30s timeouts in games to 15.
  • A player has a maximum of 15min to treat an injury during a match.
  • There is a 2min rest period between the first and second games.
  • There is a 5min rest period before a tie-break game.

Serving

  • The player who wins a rally always gets to serve.
  • A player has two attempts for a successful serve.
  • During service, the server must let the ball bounce once in the service zone before hitting it. 
  • The serve must hit the front wall first and not bounce from more than one wall before landing behind the short line.
  • While serving, both feet must be on or in front of the short line.
  • The receiving player must stand behind the service line until the ball crosses the receiving line or touches the floor after a successful serve.
  • The service does not have to land diagonally into your opponent’s service zone.
  • Bad serves are called fault serves or out serves; two fault serves or one out serve leads to losing that point.

Gameplay

  • A player wins the rally if the ball bounces twice or hits the floor before touching the front wall.
  • After a successful serve, the ball may hit a side wall or the ceiling as long as it hits the front wall before touching the ground. 
  • Blocking the other player, or failing to move is an avoidable hinder and considered a fault.
  • Dead-ball hinder is when a player gets in the way by accident or doesn’t hit the ball for safety reasons. In this case, the point will be played again.
  • A player cannot touch the ball twice in a row.
  • A let means the same point will be played again. 

Doubles & Cutthroat Racquetball

  • In doubles (2 vs 2), the same player serves until their team loses a point. 
  • Both players must lose a point before the next team serves. 
  • The non-serving teammate must stand with their back against the wall on either service box. They are allowed to move when the ball passes the short line.
  • If the served ball hits your partner, it is a fault. 
  • Players do not have to alternate hitting the ball – the same player can return the ball twice in a row.
  • Cutthroat racquetball is played with three players (1 vs 1 vs 1).
  • Every player must hit the ball on their own turn.

Introduction

Racquetball was invented in 1950 by Joseph G. Sobek, a professional tennis and squash player from Greenwich, CT. He developed the game at a local YMCA while he was looking to increase his own physical activity. As a result, he came up with paddle rackets – a fast-paced ball game that is easy to learn and play. Later on, this name was changed into racquetball, not to be confused with its British cousin – racketball, that was invented in 1976.

The first official rules of racquetball were created and published as a booklet in February 1952. From there, the sport spread rapidly around the US, partly due to the fact that it could be played in any of the 40,000 YMCA and Jewish Community Center (JCC) handball courts. In 1969, The International Racquetball Association (IRA) was founded, which later became known as the USA Racquetball (USAR). This also helped grow the competitive scene of racquetball, as tournaments became more popular. 

Nowadays, racquetball is enjoyed by nearly 5.6 million racket sports enthusiasts from 95 countries around the world. Its biggest events include the US Open Racquetball Championships and the Racquetball World Championships. 

The object of the game

The object of racquetball is simple, you must win each rally by returning or serving the ball to your opponent in a way that they are unable to keep it in play. A rally is over when a player or team is unable to return the ball to the front wall before it bounces twice, or when a hinder is called.

Scoring in racquetball

A racquetball match consists of the best of three games. To win a game, the player or team must win 15 points before their opponent. However, there is no need to win by a two-point difference. So, even if the score is tied 14-14, the player or team that scores the next point is the winner of that game.

If the game score is tied 1-1, a tie-break will be played. This means that the third and last game is played until the first player or team reaches 11 points.

Unlike in most racket sports like tennis, badminton, padel and table tennis, in racquetball, you only score when you or your team is serving.

Serving rules in racquetball

The rules of racquetball state that whoever wins a rally gets to serve next. During service, a player must let the ball bounce once in the service zone before making contact with the ball. Although most players prefer to serve underhand because of this, overhand serves are allowed. 

Players have two attempts at a successful serve. During service, the player must stand on or in front of the short line and strike the ball towards the front wall. The receiving player must stand behind the service line until the ball crosses the receiving line or touches the floor after a serve. A good serve means that the ball hits the front wall first and does not hit more than one other wall before landing behind the short line. On the other hand, bad serves can be divided into fault serves and out serves. A player gets to serve until they lose a rally, commit one out serve, or two consecutive fault serves. 

Out serve examples:

  • Missed serve attempt: Missing the ball completely
  • Fake serve: Attempting to fake out the opponent
  • Illegal serves: double hits, hitting the ball with the handle or a body part
  • Non-front wall serve: The ball hits the floor, side wall, or ceiling before the front wall
  • Out-of-court serve: The ball bounces out of the court after hitting the front wall

Fault serve examples:

  • 3-wall serve: The ball hits the wall more than two times
  • Ceiling serve: The ball hits the ceiling after touching the front wall
  • Long serve: The ball hits the back wall before touching the floor
  • Screen serve: The ball passes the server so close that the opponent cannot see it 
  • Short serve: The ball hits the front wall but doesn’t land over the short line

In doubles, a player serves until they lose a point. After that, the other player from the same team gets to serve next. Thus, both players from the same team must lose a point from their serve before the other team has a chance to serve. During service, the non-serving teammate must stand with their back against the wall on either service box, and they are allowed to move once the ball passes the short line. 

Gameplay

Racquetball is usually played in singles format (1 vs 1), although doubles (2 vs 2) and cutthroat (1 vs 1 vs 1) versions also exist. After a successful serve, a rally begins, and the ball may hit the side walls or even the ceiling as long as it hits the front wall first. The rally ends when the ball bounces twice, hits the floor or side walls before the front wall, or when a hinder is called.

Hinders can be divided into avoidable and dead-ball hinders. Avoidable hinders, such as failure to move, blocking, or pushing another player, are considered faults. Dead-ball hinders, such as backswing hinders, unintentional body contact, and safety holdups are situational and the point is usually let and played again. 

Doubles gameplay is nearly identical to singles, and the main differences are mostly in serving. It is worth noting that players do not have to alternate hitting the ball, and the same player is allowed to return the ball twice in a row. However, if a served ball hits your partner or they stand in the opposing team’s way, it is considered an avoidable hinder, and a fault. 

Cutthroat racquetball uses somewhat similar rules to normal racquetball, albeit with a few interesting twists. It is played with three players (1 vs 1 vs 1) and every player must hit the ball on their own turn. 

These rules are overseen by a referee, who is responsible for deciding the result of a rally, identifying hinders and service faults, as well as ensuring that the match is being played by the official rules of the International Racquetball Federation (IRF). Some official matches also have two line judges for additional help if an appeal is called.  

Game intervals

In racquetball, each player or team is allowed three 30s timeouts during the first two games. However, in a possible tie-break game, players are allowed only two 30s timeouts. There is also a two-minute rest period between the first two games and a five-minute break before a tie-break. 

If a player gets injured during a match, they have a total of 15 minutes to treat the injury. If a player is unable to resume play after 15 minutes, the match will be awarded to the opponent. Note that injury-time does not affect regular timeouts in any way. 

Players are also expected to maintain clothing and equipment in playable condition throughout the match and must use regular timeouts to do so. However, if the player or team has no timeouts left, the referee may allow a two-minute equipment timeout to make sure that gameplay remains safe and fair. If a game is postponed, it will proceed with the same score at a later date.

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In racquetball, you only score points from your own serve.

The racquetball court 

The racquetball court is 12.2m (40ft) long, 6.1m (20ft) wide, and 6.1m (20ft) high with a back wall of at least 3.66m (12ft) high. While racquetball is mainly played indoors, outdoor courts also exist and may also be shorter and without back walls. 

The racquetball court also has specific markings that separate it from other racket sports. The short line is midway between, and parallel to the front and back walls. The service line is 1.5m (5ft) in front of the short line. It is also the closest line to the front wall. The service zone is a 1.5m (5ft) long and 6.1m (20ft) wide area between the short line and the receiving line. The receiving line is a dashed line 1.5m (5ft) away from the short line, and also the furthest line from the front wall.

The service boxes are parallel to the side walls and located on each side of the service zone. They are 0.5m (18in) wide and 1.5m (5ft) long. There is also a screen line next to the service box with identical dimensions, making sure the receiver does not interfere with the service. 

The drive serve lines form the drive serve zone. These lines are inside the service zone and parallel to the side walls. The edge of the line closest to the center of the court is 0.9m (3ft) from the side wall. This makes sure the server stays inside the lines during faster drive services. Lastly, the safe zone is a 1.5m (5ft) area between the back edges of the shorter line and the receiving line. Note that this is only used during service. 

Rules and regulations of racquetball equipment

Aside from regular athletic apparel and an official racquetball court, the game requires three pieces of equipment; the racket, a racquetball, and protective eyewear. 

The racket consists of a teardrop-shaped head, and a wider handle, known as the grip. Nowadays, the rackets come in many shapes, sizes, weights, stiffnesses, and balance points. They are usually made from composite materials such as carbon fiber, or metals like graphite, titanium, or Kevlar. The rackets must also be strung with synthetic strings that do not mark or deface the ball. The modern rules of racquetball also state that the full length of the racket must not exceed 55.9cm (22in). It also has to include a cord that connects it to the player’s wrist.

The racquetball is made from 55-60 durometer (hardness) rubber with a diameter of 5.7cm (2 1/4in) and a weight of approximately 40g (1.4oz). According to the modern rules of racquetball, the ball should bounce 173-183cm (68-72in) when dropped from a height of 254cm (100in) at a temperature of 21-23°C (70-74°F). The balls also come in many different colors for both indoor and outdoor purposes, offering better visibility and even faster gameplay.

Protective eyewear is also required in all competitive racquetball events. The USA Racquetball (USAR) states that athletes must wear lensed protective eyewear specifically manufactured for racquet sports. The only exception is if an athlete has prescribed non-breakable lenses.  

Other rules of racquetball

A racquetball match starts with a coin toss to determine who serves first. The winner of the toss gets to decide whether they serve or receive in the first game. The second game will always begin in reverse serving order. The player or team that has the highest total points gets to serve first in a possible tie-breaker game. If the points are also even, a new coin toss will be done. 

In addition to overseeing regular gameplay, referees can use their judgment to give players warnings or even technical fouls due to deliberately abusive behavior. This leads to a point reduction. This referee’s technical is usually invoked when a player uses profanities, argues excessively, threatens the referee or the opponent, delays the game for more than 10s when serving or receiving, uses illegal equipment or no eyewear, or behaves in an unsportsmanlike manner. Usually, the referee gives a technical warning first without the deduction of a point. 

Did you learn anything new about the rules of racquetball? Let us know in the comments below!

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