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Racquetball is a fast paced action sport played with standardized equipment with
specific court dimensions worldwide. The sport became extremely popular during the
late 1970's and early 1980's because it was fun, easy to learn how to play and it
is one of the best workouts you can get in a short period of time.
Racquetball/Health clubs sprung up across the country offering great programming
and a clean atmosphere for people to socialize and recreate. Racquetball grew to
over 10 million participants during it's "hey day" of the mid 1980s. Today racquetball
remains very strong as a sport played by over 5 million people each year.
Racquetball can be played either on an indoor or outdoor court with anywhere from
2 to 4 players at a time. A complete explanation of tips on how to play racquetball
is explained throughout this guide.
There are various governing bodies for the sport that provide on-going leadership
worldwide. The most prominent is the United States Racquetball Association with operates
their headquarters in Colorado Springs as part of the US Olympic Committee. Racquetball
is designated as a non-medal "Class A" sport, hoping to become a full medal sport sometime
during the next 10 years. The key events held each year include:
US Open held each year in Memphis, TN featuring the top professional and amateur players
in the world. This event includes over 500 players and a made for television glass court
with the largest spectator seating venue of the year. The event has been televised each
year on ESPN and ESPN II since 1998, Ektelon National Singles - The largest amateur tournament
in the world Ektelon Doubles - The largest doubles tournament in the world.
Indoor racquetball is played on a 20' X 20' X 40' court that has four walls, a ceiling and
a floor, all of which are used during play. Most beginner players will say that the fact than
you can "play the ball" off of any wall anytime during the rally is what make racquetball so
fun right from the start.
The floor is divided into three distinct areas called the "Forecourt," the "Service Zone"
and the "Backcourt." Lines defining these areas have been given names called the "Service Line,"
the "Short Line" and the "Receiving Line." The walls are also given names called the "Play Wall,"
the "Side Wall," and the "Back Wall." Rules apply about these areas, lines and walls and where
players may position themselves during actual play.
Outdoor racquetball is played using the same floor dimensions as an indoor court. However, there
is no ceiling or backwall and the court may or may not include sidewalls. The sidewalls can also
vary in length. Most outdoor play is referred to as "One Wall" or "3 Wall" Racquetball. The outdoor
game is popular in warmer weather climates, and in cities where parks and school play grounds are
present. Contrary to indoor courts where you usually need to join a health club to play, you can
usually get on an outdoor court without paying a fee.
Equipment and Apparel
The ball used to play the game is air filled, about three inches in diameter, and bounces in a
lively fashion. The racquet used is a fixed frame with strings and has a grip at the end for
players to hold securely during play. Safety glasses are worn to prevent eye injury. Sneakers,
athletic socks, shorts, T-Shirts, wrist bands and head bands are generally worn during play.
Racquetball can be played three ways. Versions include "Singles Play" between two players,
"Doubles Play" between two teams of two players each, and "Cut Throat," which involves
three players. Tournament play usually involves either Singles or Doubles play. Regardless
of the type of play, there are basic "Rules of the Game" that apply.
Play begins with the server standing in the Service Zone and serving the ball to his/her
opponent(s). To serve, the server must first bounce the ball and then strike it with the
racquet. The ball is put into play after making contact with the Play Wall first and then
passing into the rear half of the court. In it's flight, the ball may strike one side wall,
but no more. If it hits three surfaces including the ceiling or back wall before bouncing,
the serve is not good (called one fault) and the ball is not in play.
Also, a serve that does not carry beyond the Short Line of the Service Zone is also not
good (fault). Additionally, the ball cannot hit a side wall, floor or ceiling before the
Play Wall when attempting to serve. The server is given two opportunities to put the ball
into play. If the server hits two faults in a row, the player returning serve takes over
in the service zone and the original server assumes the return of a serve position.
The Return of Serve
To return serve, stand in the middle of the court (equal distance between each side wall)
approximately one arm and racquets length away from the backwall. Return serve by striking
the ball before the second bounce. The ball must travel to the Play Wall for it to be a good
return of serve. The ball may hit ANY surface except the floor on the return as long as it
hits the Play Wall before bouncing.
Once the ball is in play, each player alternates hitting the ball until one misses the ball
or hits an illegal shot. Players try to earn points or win the serve by putting an end to a
rally. Often this is done when a player's shot hits the front wall at its lowest point,
causing the ball to roll out, rather than bounce back into the playing area (called a killshot
or rollout). Points are also earned when rallies end with an error, or a "Skip Ball," i.e.
when the ball makes contact with the floor before reaching the Play Wall.
Once the ball is in play, the walls and ceiling can be used for shot variations. Points are
scored when after serving the ball, the server wins the rally. If the player returning serve
wins the rally, the result is a sideout, no points are scored for either player and the player
who won the rally gets to serve. Whoever wins the rally always serves next. Matches are
typically two games to 15 points and a tiebreaker to 11 if needed.
Hinders are stoppages of play, and result in the replay of the point. It is your responsibility
to give your opponent enough room to hit the shot the way they want to hit. You must hive them
a straight shot to the front wall as well as the angle, which would result in a crosscourt shot
to the opposite back corner. Typical hinders are:
A ball striking any part of the court, which results in an erratic rebound
(fan vents, door knob, lights, etc.)
Accidentally hitting opponent with the ball as it is heading toward the front wall
Unintentionally contacting opponent while attempting to make a play on the ball
Screening opponent's view of the ball or having the ball pass between one's legs.
Basics to remember once you have started playing a game are:
1. Only the server scores points
2. The ball can only bounce once
3. The ball must return to the front wall after being hit
Racquetball is both a recreational and competitive game. But whether
you are playing just for fun with some friends on a Sunday morning, or your fellow
club players during the week, or in a weekend tournament, it is always important
to be safe, as well as know Racquetball etiquette. Here are some things to remember
to do before and during play:
Stretch before you play.
Wear safety glasses when on the court.
Check your equipment.
Cross train - lift weights, jog, play another sport.
Watch where the ball is at all times when playing.
Eat right - don't eat a large meal before playing.
Be aware of and pay attention to the safety line during play.
Avoid dehydration and cramps - drink plenty of water before and during play.
Know the rules of the game.
Always knock BEFORE entering a court. Players could still be playing!
Know what a Hinder is.
Be courteous of other players. Show respect!
Do NOT run into another player. Always stop. Don't swing if a player is in your way.
Be honest! If you didn't get it, say so. You'll probably get the next one.
Compliment your opponents when they hit a good shot or make a good play.
All shots must hit this wall before hitting the ground to keep the ball in play.
During the serve, the ball must hit the front wall first. Failure to do so
results in a side out.
A shot hitting the crotch (area were the front wall meets the floor) results
in side out or a point.
The service boxes, used in doubles play, are located at each end of the service
zone and are designated by lines parallel with the side walls and 18 inches from
the nearest side wall.
On each serve, the server's partner shall stand erect with back to the side wall and
with both feet on the floor within the service box from the moment the server begins
the service motion until the served ball passes the short line.
If the server's partner enters the safety zone before the ball passes the short line,
the server loses service.
Any violations are called foot faults.
Drive Serve Lines
The drive serve lines, which form the drive serve zone, are parallel with the side
wall and are within the service zone.
The drive serve lines are generally red or blue in color and unbroken.
The drive serve lines are 3 feet from each side wall in the service zone.
Viewed one at a time, the drive serve line divides the service area into a 3-foot
and a 17-foot section that apply only to drive serves. The player may drive serve
between the body and the side wall nearest to where the service motion began only
if the player starts and remains outside of the 3-foot drive service zone.
In the event that the service motion begins in one 3-foot drive service zone and
continues into the other 3-foot drive serve zone, the player may not hit a drive serve at all.
However, the drive serve zones are not observed for cross-court drive serves, the
hard-Z, soft-Z, lob or half-lob serves.
The racquet may not break the plane of the 17-foot zone while making contact with the ball.
The drive serve line is not part of the 17-foot zone. Dropping the ball on the line or
standing on the line while serving to the same side is an infraction.
Left Wall and Right Wall
If the ball hits a side wall before it hits the front wall on a serve only, then
it is a sideout.
In all other cases, the side wall is considered in play as long as the ball hits
the front wall before it touches the ground.
During a serve, the ball must hit the floor before it touches the back wall.
If the ball touches the back wall first, then the serve is considered a fault.
The ball can be hit after having hit the back wall, either towards the front or
back at the back wall having the intention to eventually hit the front wall.
A shot hitting the crotch (area were the back wall meets the floor) is legal
for both serves and regular play.
Consistent ball drop and good stroke mechanics are the keys to a great serve.
Make sure to use your hips and shoulder rotation along with wrist snap to generate more
power in your serve.
To return serve, your racquet should be centered in front of your body in a backhand grip,
as most serves are to the backhand side. When hitting the ball, your body should be facing
a side wall, not the front wall.
For the forehand, your elbow should be aligned with the top of the shoulder with your
forearm being parallel to the floor. Your elbow joint should be at a 90 degree angle.
Lead with your elbow, away from your body. There should be at least 8-12 inches between
your elbow and your body. Extend outward and contact the ball at the furthermost extension
point. At contact the ball should be just past the inner front thigh, the racquet face
square to the front wall and the bottom of the racquet frame parallel to the floor. The
step into the ball should be with the lead foot and should be straight, occurring the
same time as the stroke.
The wrist should snap at contact and continue to follow through towards the front wall.
The racquet should stay level and continue to circle around the body. It is important to
follow through so that by the end of your stroke, your hips should be facing the front wall
and your racquet head should have turned over and be facing the floor. The primary power
force comes from elbow preparation with the hip and leg drive becoming secondary power sources.
For the backhand, your arm should reach towards the backwall (not behind the head) leaving
the are slightly bent, in the shape of a bow. The elbow should be away from the body and pointed
towards the side wall. Make sure you release the racquet with your free hand. Your weight should
be shifted to your back foot.
Your shoulders and hips should be facing the side wall, the elbow should lead transferring your
weight from your back foot to your front foot. Step forward setting your lead foot at a 45 degree
angle, allowing your hips to open up more naturally. Point of contact should be off the front big
toe, just as the weight has transferred forward. The racquet head should once again be extended
outward, with the face square to the front wall and the frame parallel to the floor.
At contact, your wrist should naturally snap. The stroke should continue towards the front wall,
staying on a level plane. Make sure your elbow stays level, lower than the shoulder.
On your drive serves, it is better to be short on your first attempt, as this can be adjusted
by ball drop or aim point on the front wall. Keep your drive serves from hitting the side wall.
You want to angle your serve to the corners to force your opponent to a deeper position in the
back of the court.
Try to keep the service motion the same on all your serves. This will create deception and
keep your opponent guessing. When serving, the ideal first bounce range is approximately 6"
in front of the short line to 2' past the short line. This range will help keep your serves
from coming off the back wall and being easy set0ups for your opponent.
When selecting your shots, if the ball is chest high or higher, go to your ceiling shot.
If the ball is chest to thigh high, use a passing shot. If the ball is below your thigh,
go for your kill shot.
If you opponent is behind you, pinch (hit the frontwall, then sidewall) to the same side
as your opponent. If your opponent is even with you, use a passing shot. If your opponent
is in front of you, use a passing or ceiling shot.
When in doubt, go with a down the line shot as close to the side wall as possible.
This should force a weak or defensive return.
Good angles are more important the hitting the ball low. By using angles and hitting
higher on the front wall, you eliminate skip balls or other unforced errors.
Kill shots aren't the only offensive returns. A good passing shot that bounces twice
before hitting the back wall will win a rally and is less likely to skip.
Do not force your kill shots. Use your passing shots to get yourself in better position
to hit kill shots.
When hitting a passing shot, don't try to hit the ball low on the front wall. Instead,
use a hitting range of 6" - 24" off the floor. Then, if your shot is low, it will still
To get into the proper court position for an offensive return, watch the ball at all times,
then move as your opponent swings. Remember, you want to control center court and keep your
opponent behind you in a defensive position. The term "cent court" is somewhat of a misnomer
because it doesn't really mean the exact center of the court. Instead, the "playing" center
is about five feet behind the short line and equal distance from the side walls.
Dominating center court will allow you to capitalize on every mistake your opponent makes.
At center court you have maximum scoring options from effective shots and you can also cover
your opponent's best shots easier. However, there are times when you must relinquish center
court. The rules state that you must always give up your position to give your opponent a
fair chance to hit the ball.
Two of the best shots for enabling you to take control of center court are the ceiling ball
and the pass or down the line shot. Both these defensive shots will require your opponent to
move to back court to return the ball, thus allowing you to move to center court