Racquetball is a racquet sport where competing parties hit and return a ball from two opposite sides of the court. It was invented by an American squash and tennis player named Joe Sobek in 1950.
Unsatisfied with the dynamics of tennis and squash, Sobek sought to invent a game that would incorporate various elements of handball, squash, and paddleball. The result of his enthusiasm was a quick and easy to learn sport known as racquetball.
The official racquetball rules were cataloged in 1952 by the Jewish Community Center (JCC) and America’s 40,000 YMCA and handball courts. Afterward, the International Racquetball Association (IRA) was formed, a feat that saw the sport gain U.S. Olympic recognition.
There are over 6 million players who enjoy the sport, and millions who love racquetball but do not understand how to play it. If you’re in the latter category, here’s a guide to help you master the rules of racquetball.
Racquetball Rules: How to Play Racquetball
1. The Serve
A racquetball game begins when a player serves the ball to their opponent. The player who gets the first serve is decided by a toss of a coin. As a serving player, you only get two chances to hit the ball the right way.
Racquetball serving rules dictate that:
- The serving player cannot begin play unless the receiver signals they are ready.
- The serving party cannot bounce the ball for more than three times before the service. Also, the ball must be bounced in the service zone.
- When serving, the ball must bounce off the floor once, touch your racquet, and then cross the center line (short line) and hit the wall.
- If a serve directly hits any other surface apart from the front wall, the serving party loses all their serve attempts.
Disobeying any of these rules results in a service fault. A service fault is declared in any of the following instances:
- A serve hits the fore wall without hitting the court floor.
- The ball lands before it passes the center line.
- The ball bounces off the front wall and hits two side walls before landing. This type of serve is known as a three-wall serve.
- The serve hits the front wall and bounces all the way to the back without touching the floor. This is known as a long serve.
- The ball bounces off the court’s ceiling after hitting the wall. This is known as a ceiling serve.
- The ball is served before the other player signals he/she is ready for kick off.
2. Playing the Game
After a serve, the receiving party tries to hit the ball. Both players alternate bouncing the ball off the wall.
During play the following rules must be observed:
- A return strike can hit as many side walls as possible—the ceiling included—as long as it bounces off the fore wall before hitting the floor.
- The receiver can hit the ball while it’s in the air or after bouncing off the floor (as long as it touches the wall first).
- The receiving player cannot strike the ball before it crosses the center line.
- No part of the receiver’s body or their racquet can cross the receiving line, except in cases where the ball rebounds off the back wall.
- In case of a service fault, the receiver shouldn’t hit the ball.
According to official racquetball rules, only the server can score points in a game. Scoring only happens when the serving side wins a rally. A rally stands for continuous rounds of play.
You lose a rally if the following things happen:
- You bounce the ball off the court’s floor more than once before serving.
- The ball touches you or your opponent.
- The ball is hit past the court’s boundary.
- A penalty hinder. A hinder is anything that stops play momentarily.
- Both players sling or carry the ball.
- The referee discovers that either or both competitors are not using a wrist cord.
4. Match Duration
A racquetball match is determined by rounds, which are usually three in total. If you win the first two rounds, you automatically win the game. In case of a tie, you will have to proceed to a third round.
To win the first two round, you need to get 15 points, while for the third and last round you need 11 points. The U.S racquetball rules dictate that a player can win the game by a one-point margin. This will vary from one region to another.
How to Hone Your Racquetball Skills
The first step in becoming a pro at any game is to learn the rules, which this guide has explained exhaustively. With that out of the way, there’s only one thing left to do—hitting the court and practicing hard regularly. (You may also want to learn the basic strategies for playing racquetball.)
Good luck on the court. But more importantly, have fun!