What Is Racquetball?

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Many people understand or have watched the game of tennis, but very few know that tennis is not the only sport played with racquets. 

Racquetball is another sport played using racquets where the general objective also involves hitting a ball. Luckily, the rules of this sport are not too difficult to follow and can be explained in just a short read.

What is racquetball? Racquetball is a mental and physical sport where the general objective is to win a point by either hitting a serve or return shot where one’s opposing player(s) cannot return it before a double bounce. It has a fairly a robust set of rules. Racquetball is a fun sport, and there are many ways to improve racquetball skills, including mental strategies and drills.

Continue reading for all the details on racquetball as well as a few fun facts about the sport that you might not know!

Read Also: What Equipment Do You Need To Play Racquetball?

General Objectives and Rules of all Game Types

Winning a point by a serve is a called an ace. Winning a point by a return is called winning a rally. Both are worth a single point. The first two games are played to 15 points while the last one, if needed, is played to 11 points. This last game to 11 points is often referred to as a tiebreaker game, and its winner wins the match. Only a player or team serving can score points in all game types.

Two Ways to Win a Rally

  1. Two Bounces. When an opponent is unable to return a ball before it bounces twice.
  2. A Skip Ball occurs, meaning an opponent’s return hits the floor before it touches the front wall.

Markings on the Court and Dimensions

It has already been explained how a point is won, and the overall point system, but the court specifications have not. The dimensions of a racquetball court are 20 feet wide by 40 feet long by 20 feet high. 

Outdoor courts are less common but can have smaller dimensions. All surfaces are in play, excluding any gallery viewing windows, and surfaces legitimately deemed as out-of-play.

  • The Short Line – The halfway line in between the back and front walls. One’s serve must first hit the front wall and reach beyond the short line before hitting the ground.
  • The Service Line – A line five feet closer to the front wall from the short line.
  • The Receiving Line – A line located in between the Short Line and the Back Wall. It is 5 feet behind the Short Line and is dashed.
  • Service Area – The 5 x 20 square foot area contained within the receiving line and the short line. Both the server and the returner are unable to enter this area until the ball has either hit the floor or crossed the receiving line.

Read Also: What Is The Difference Between Squash And Racquetball?

Basics of Serving

Before serving can begin, both players or sides must come together and decide which player or side will take the first serve. 

This can be done via a coin toss or another fair method of the players’ choosing. Below is a description of how a serve must occur according to usaracquetballevents.com.

“To serve, the server must drop the ball in the service zone and hit it after it takes one bounce. The server gets two chances to put the ball into play. A good serve means that the ball hits the front wall first and did not hit more than one other wall before hitting the floor beyond the short line.

Bad serves are called either fault serves or out serves. If a server commits two fault serves, they lose the serve, or if they commit one out serve, they lose the serve.”

There are five primary examples of fault serves. These examples will each be explored in the space below.

  • Short Service Fault – The ball fails to reach the Short Line off of the wall.
  • 3-Wall Service Fault – The Racquetball hits three or more walls.
  • Ceiling Serve Fault – After hitting the front wall, the serve hits the ceiling.
  • Long Serve Fault – The serve hits the front wall, and then the back wall before it hits the ground.
  • Screen Serve Fault – The ball ricochets off of the front wall so close to the server’s own body that the receiver is unable to make a play on the ball. This fault must be called by the returner.
  • There are four primary out serves. Remember, there is no second opportunity for the server when he or she hits an out serve. This is simply a lost point for the server, so it is best to learn how to avoid these serves at all costs.
  • Two Consecutive Fault Serves Out – A server hits two consecutive serves that can be identified as one of the above faults.
  • Missed Serve Attempt Out – The server properly drops the ball off the court and swings but misses the ball entirely off of the bounce. This could very well be the quintessential fail in racquetball.
  • Non-Front Wall Serve Out – This is a serve that misses the front wall first or directly. For example, if you hit the ceiling, and then immediately that ricocheted and hit the front wall, this would still be a Non-Front Wall Serve Out.
  • Out of Court Serve Out – This out occurs when the ball hits the front wall but ricochets out of the court before it hits the ground within the court. A ball that would hit a designated out-of-play surface would be an out of this type.

When a Change of The Server Must Occur

A server must continue to serve until one of the three items below occurs. At this point, the other team will receive the ball for serving.

  1. The server hits a single Out Serve.
  2. The server hits two consecutive Fault Serves.
  3. The Server is unable to keep a ball in play after their opponent returns their serve.

Eight Fun Facts of Racquetball

#1 Racquetball was Invented by Joseph Sobek

Sobek lived in Greenwich, Connecticut as a pro tennis and handball player. Seeking an easy to learn, fast-paced version of the latter sports, he created racquetball from the rules of squash and handball. Originally, in 1949, he named his new game “Paddle Rackets.”

#2 Racquetball Really has Grown Since Paddle Rackets

During the period from the late 1970s through the early 1990s, it was estimated that racquetball popularity really exploded, with an estimated 10 million players in the US alone (source).

#3 The Primary Forms of Racquetball are Singles and Doubles

There are really not that many differences between doubles and singles. Doubles is played with four people or two teams of two while games of singles are played with 2 people in a one on one matchup.

In doubles a player gets to serve for every other side point. This means team 1 player A serves until a point is scored by one of the teams, then Team 2 player A serves until a point, then team 1 player B gets to serve until a point is scored and finally Team 2 player B serves. This serving order for doubles exists throughout the length of the game.

#4 Another Form of Racquetball called Cut-Throat

A variation of racquetball where three players compete against each other. In this version of racquetball, one player serves against the other two. If the server wins the rally, he or she receives a point. 

If the server loses the rally, one of the other two players returning will become the server. The players will elect beforehand the order of serving for player A, B and C, and this order is permanent.

It is also important to add that the player serving is the only player that can receive points, just like in doubles and singles. 

Scoring is loosely adhered to as this is a less formal game type. For more information on a few more informal game types, check out this link to learn about games like Ironman, Suicide, and In-and-Out.

#5 The Average Number of Calories Burned Per Hour Playing Racquetball is Impressive

Racquetball is said to be able to help an individual burn anywhere from 640 to 822 calories per hour, dependent upon the typical factors that govern caloric burn such as weight, sex, muscle mass, and intensity level.

#6 A Sport that Works Every Muscle Group

Nearly every muscle group receives at least some benefit from playing racquetball. The upper body is highly involved in hitting the ball, the lower body is involved in getting to different spots on the floor, and the core is used for balance throughout for each of the last two purposes.

#7 An Average Game Takes 20 Minutes

The game is only 20 minutes in length, but during this 20-minute period of time, an individual player will travel roughly 3,650 feet in distance. This distance will be run and can be tiresome for some players.

#8 Balance, Flexibility, Hand-Eye Coordination Can All be Improved Playing Racquetball

There are many intangible assets that can be acquired through playing and improving your racquetball skills. Balance is improved as your hips, and leg strength improve from the constant movement. 

Flexibility is developed by having to contort the body and reach for difficult shots. Finally, Hand-Eye coordination gets better and better from hitting more balls. These are all great life skills.

Various Strategies to Improve Your Racquetball Skillset

Racquetball is fun, but it can be extremely fun when a player really knows how to prepare themselves to adequately handle the mental and physical aspects of the game. A player that knows how to maximize his or her shots and use of strategies is a better player. Any activity that helps an individual to lose weight or improve overall health is also helpful as Racquetball is a tough physical sport.

Three Ways to Increase Efficiency and Ability to Win in Racquetball

There are three concepts that, if understood and worked upon, can make you a much better hitter of a racquetball and swinger of a racquet. These concepts are identified and elaborated upon below and come from cis.umassd.edu.

  1. Placement – To understand placement, you need to know where your opponent is and how to finesse the ball off of the front wall in order to put the ball in a favorable location to make a return difficult for your opponent. Knowing how to hit a little drop shot that is low on the front wall is a very useful shot to use to force an opponent closer to the front wall.
  2. Timing – Timing the ball and being able to anticipate what angles an incoming serve or return will hit is critical. Being able to play a ball off the front wall, the floor and then another wall will hold up an opponent and force them out of their rhythm by standing and waiting to hit a well-placed shot.
  3. Handling of Racquet – All good players must consciously focus on how they are holding their racquet. A player’s racquet should be perpendicular to the floor. Make sure the top and bottom of the racquet are not angled toward the front wall at all as this will decrease touch and accuracy by making it harder to develop an accurate feel for the sport.

Remember that any extra running, swimming, or any other form of cardio is encouraged as this is a cardio heavy sport.

Easy Drills to Improve Racquetball Skills

There are many types of games and drills that can be played to improve specific skills in the sport. These drills can be played with a partner or against the front wall. 

Being able to run drills with a partner is always the best option as it more closely resembles a real match of Racquetball. Below are some examples from racquetball-lessons.com, but more can be found by visiting the link.

  • Tactical Games – These games restrict the type of shot you hit during a rally, allowing you to isolate and improve that type of shot.
  • Ceiling Ball Game – Have a rally with yourself and assure the ball hits the ceiling each time. Alternate hitting forehand and backhand shots.
  • Down the Line Game – Return every ball as close to the opposite side of the wall as possible. These are great kills hots to practice.

An individual can also elect to create his or her own drills or games. This is a great option for more experienced players who can accurately identify what they need to improve upon in their own games.

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