The object of your distraction: Rules Called
The Object of YOUR Distraction: Rules Calls
First, Skip Balls
Last, Two Bounce Gets
Starting Outside Box
Service Line Cross
Drive Serve Line Cross
Non Serving Partner leaving sidewall Too Soon
Other Fault Serves:
Bouncing Ball Outside Box
Side Out Violations:
Safety Zone Cross
Point Scoring Violation:
Receiving Line Cross
There’s the chance in racquetball that there’s gonna be a bizarre call. Almost always there’s gonna be some level of controversy in competitive play. That’s just the nature of a sport that’s being played at such a fast pace and one where you share the very field of battle with one opponent or potentially 2 doubles opponents, as well as YOUR own partner, too! On court you’re NOT separated by a net. As an example of uncertainty and potential controversy, one player or the other might not even SEE the ball hit the front wall or what the ball did on its way in before it struck the front wall. That unsighted player might be blocked out from seeing the front wall by the opposing player(s) or they might only be staring at the front wall and not see the ball being struck from behind them until they pick up the ball after it’s already coming off that must-hit target front wall that they’re so fixated upon … or one player might just blink.
The not so subtle hint there was to sneak a peak over your back shoulder at the hitting player who is behind you or beside you BEFORE they make contact. Although, for safety’s sake, do turn when they’re actually contacting the ball so you’re less prone to being beaned. By looking back, you have a much better idea both where they might hit the ball on the front wall and also you know whether you’re in the way of their straight in or cross-court must-give shot angles. When you’re in the way, you must move or you could get popped. With a ref, if you block their shot, you could and probably should get called for a penalty hinder. That would be a rally forfeiting hinder for not moving or for having moved and blocked their offensive shot. Don’t just be a front wall starer. Also, in self officiated play, call a penalty on yourself rather than replay the rally, then luck out and get a possible crack-out, which could only give your opponent just one more reason to get more pumped up to whoop you.
A Rally Call – The Skip Ball “illusion”
We’re gonna start by talking about one of the calls or non calls made or not made by you or the opponent or the ref, when a ref is assigned to officiate your match. The first topic we’re gonna talk about is a skip ball. A skip ball catches splinters after being struck by the hitter before the shot reaches the front wall. Those skips occur when the ball that was just struck makes contact with the floor anywhere between contact and when the shot must reach the front wall. A skip can happen many, many, many ways. Here’s a bunch (nine) to give you the full picture on How Skips may Occur …
(1) serve->skip->front wall — sometimes a served ball may be hit very, very low, and, when it’s too low, it may catch the floor on the way in to the front wall. Then it’s non-front wall serve, which is a “…served ball that does not strike the front wall first”. There the call is “side out” or “out serve” and that means a loss of serve;
(2) ceiling->skip —> a ceiling ball is lifted up to the ceiling and it may hit the roof anywhere from 1 foot out to even 10 feet away from the front wall, with the intent for the ceiling ball to then angle down, strike the front wall, and then rebound out, bounce and go deep in the backcourt. But sometimes the ceiling ball angles down and comes up just short of making front wall contact, as a big, “How DID I miss that?” skip ceiling ball;
(3) back wall save not quite saved->skip — a ball saved into the back wall may travel 39 feet or a little more or little less and unfortunately catch the floor on the way and skip before making front wall contact. That’s why back wall saves must be hit very hard and lifted up high (~7 feet) into the back wall so the back wall save will carry forward (over you) to strike the front wall on the fly. Ideally and tactically a back wall save will catch the ceiling on the way to the front wall. That makes the save very difficult for the opponent to intercept the back wall save ball right after the ceiling ball bounces up vs. taking the ball out of midair, so they must back up to play the ball after the bounce deeper in the court;
(4) along with skip skip sound or no skip sound->front wall — a ball hit directly to the front wall might make a funny sound when it strikes the floor right before the front wall, as a skip ball. Although some balls that hit the front wall catch the floor first before front wall contact and they do so silently making no sound, but the ball still made floor contact. In either case, the fact that it struck the floor is only fully revealed visually;
(5) floor->sidewall->front wall shot appearing good — a ball could hit the floor, then the sidewall, and then, when the ball strikes the front wall, it could rebound out looking good coming off, although the ball skipped IN to the sidewall. It should be called as a skip ball, again, when it’s seen;
(6) sidewall->floor->front wall appearing good — a sidewall shot could hit the sidewall, glance off, skip on the floor before hitting the front wall, and then it might look good caroming off the front wall. Again, it skipped and the skip must be confirmed visually;
(7) floor->front wall->pop up — a ball may hit the floor and then front wall to then obviously pop up higher than it went in to the front target wall as it’s rebounding out indicating most clearly that that the ball hit the floor first. THAT situation is often THE most obvious type of skip ball and usually the least disputed or argued;
(8) floor->rollout — a ball may hit the floor right before the front wall and then the front wall and come off the front wall looking like a rollout, but it skipped in. Again, the skip must be visually confirmed; and
(9) power skip->front wall appearing good — as an unusual kind of skip, some hitters are able to hit a “power skip”. A power skip occurs when the player’s stroke is made with such great force that, as they make mishit contact, the ball almost immediately strikes the floor right at the crusher’s feet just in front of where they made contact – and then the power skip shot goes straight in to the front wall (or into a sidewall and then front wall) where the power skip looks like a kill-shot coming out flat or extremely low off the front wall as an apparent (to most) winner. 99% of the time The Power Skipper knows THEY skipped their shot in. But do they call it on themselves? Hmmm. We’ll get to that players making calls on themselves situation in just a sec. First let’s talk about some balls called as skips that just aren’t.
They May Look Bad, But Some Called Skips Aren’t…
A ball could hit low on the front wall and rebound out with a very unusual spin, while taking a very strange angling bounce coming back, yet it didn’t skip in to the front wall at all. The ball’s spin and it’s resulting angle off the front wall or sidewall might cause a witness to think or even feel certain the ball must’ve skipped in. It’s odd bounce is often due to the ball being mishit or not cleanly struck by the hitter’s racquet, like when the hitter catches the ball with their frame instead of their strings. Some balls with funky topspin go in to the front wall with lots of overspin and similarly they come off the front wall continuing with funky Top where the ball comes off the front wall lower than may be expected. Then the topped ball bounces first closer to the front wall, and it stays low and keeps overspinning until its second bounce; just as a Topped ball is won to do. Or a side spinning ball may come out changing its spin all together, as the ball takes a very funny bounce heading off in a completely unexpected direction. As an example of how spin and an unusual resulting angle happens, a hitter faces a sidewall and they hit a ball with cut or inside-out action targeting the front wall way over close in along that faced sidewall. After the ball contacts the front wall further over along that sidewall on that side of the court, the ball then rebounds out unusually paralleling that sidewall due to the heavy cut spin action imparted on the ball by the hitter’s in to out swing motion and contacting the inside of the ball. That down the wall shot is very tough to intercept anywhere along on its way back along that wall, as it hugs the wall traveling all the way back into that back corner. That cut shot can be hit very low or much higher, too. A low cut might skip, while a higher one wasn’t necessarily carried or flung by the opponent’s racquet despite its odd angling retreat off that front wall.
“Good” Splats Make Skip-like Sound
As a non skip example, but one that often gets called as a skip, a ball could hit the sidewall further back from the front wall and then safely make it to the front wall without skipping in. Although the ball might make a very distinctive, funny splaaaaat sound, as the ball sheers off the sidewall just like how a “splat” shot is often won to do. But the splat shot didn’t skip either in to the sidewall nor before it struck the front wall. A splat’s sound is due to the shot’s angle into the target sidewall close to contact up ahead at a spot only a little lower than where you make racquet to ball contact, along with considerable imparted sidespin based on a splat shooter’s inside out swing motion with routine cut and inside of the ball contact closer to the hitter. So, due to the swing motion, inside of ball contact, and its wider splat shot wall angle the resulting heavy splat sidespin and that funky sound result. A splat can sheer off the sidewall, carom off the front wall, while spinning IN to the front wall causing the ball to hug the front wall bizarrely and traumatically for the defending opponent who might wistfully say to themselves or aloud, “Please tell me THAT was a skip?”.
Only If They’re Called On It…
Unfortunately, while some players call any kind of skip (or other infraction) on themselves when they know for sure they skipped their shot in or they erred in some other way, like when they block ANY offensive shot to the front wall. Many don’t call skips on themselves, well, ever. They wait to be called on it, even in a quote-unquote “friendly” game. THAT type of play WON’T “Save Racquetball”. Being a stand up player will.
Should You Believe Your Opponent ?
In an ideal, integrity filled game, if you didn’t see a ball hit the front wall with or without skipping in first and your opponent DID see it, and you’re playing in a game that is self officiated, normally go with the call of the player who SAW the shot as good or skip. Likewise THEY should honor YOUR call if you saw it and they were blocked out by your position between them and the front wall or between them and the sidewall when you hit a sidewall shot before it went on to fairly strike the front wall. Of course, if you find the opponent less than upfront about their calls based on your shared experience (you’ll know), you may become more skeptical, and you may only selectively accept their calls. With that type of player, expect a few superfluous replays. Also they may be unwilling to accept your calls when they don’t see the ball themselves. You may ask how do players who don’t own up and who wait to get-called-on-it get others to play them, but those gamesmanship motivated players do get asked to play practice games because the player asking them may want to get ready to play against other players who are like them in tourney ball where many, many players play THAT way or who let the ref make ALL calls and who divorce themselves from the judging process, even when “they know” they caused an infraction or even when they know your serve, shot, or get was good but called bad. It’s a black eye on the sport and sport in general, but it’s up to the integrity and karma of the player how they want to play the game and be known for how they play. Note how players in the NBA don’t point their way when there’s a turnover when they know it not to be true, but in high school and at some colleges they do. By the way, both the refs and the opponents don’t like that player trying to play them or fool them. In racquetball, when making a call swaying march to the box in unison with the true rally winner or celebrating when that player knows their shot or get or serve wasn’t good, well, that just isn’t good form.
Appealing Skip Calls
In tournament play, you may be lucky enough to have a referee. When you are certain the opponent’s shot skipped in OR when you’re sure your shot that was called as a skip was good, then you can appeal the ref’s call, if (and that’s a BIG IF) you have also previously taken the very important pre step to request and be granted 2 overruling line judges. Note that, of the 2, only one judge needs to signal thumbs down, WITH you, for you to retain that appeal (of the 3 you are allotted), even if the other line judge signals thumbs up showing they agree with the referee’s (bad) call. In that instance, that ref’s call would stand. You have unlimited appeals when you get that one (or more) thumbs down signals. You lose one of your 3 appeals when you get no thumbs down signals. Of course, overruling the call you disagree with is your immediate goal and why you make an appeal. When you appeal to the ref, you’re betting on BOTH line judges reversing the ref’s, in your estimation, “incorrect call”. That’s usually why you made the appeal, although sometimes you just need a break and an appeal gives you a breather. You hope to get 2 thumbs down signals which overturns the ref’s call. One thumbs down and one flat palm, with the palm down signaling that line judge didn’t see the play, means you get a replay of the previous rally and it starts with a first serve. More times than not the player who hit the ball has a very good idea whether their shot skipped in or not … but let’s approach it in a different way …
Call Your Own Skips, Duh
Just out of sheer fairness, when YOU are the player who skipped, simply fess up. For the opposing player or the ref judging a skip or from the viewpoint of a spectator outside the court, the key thought process SHOULD simply be … “Did <I> see the ball hit the floor before it reached the front wall?”. You can’t just depend on the sound of the ball or its funny bounce or you can’t even be completely certain when a ball rolls completely flat coming off the front wall or especially you can’t be certain just based on when the ball veers strangely off the front wall. It may have skipped in first or it might not have. Now that was just about skips. There’s many, many, many more potentially heated or unusual calls in the game of racquetball…let’s look at covering the ball after it bounces no more than once…
Two Bounce Gets
Under the “2 bounce” rule it’s stated under … “Failure to Return … a failure to make a legal return during a rally … 1. The ball bounces on the floor more than once or else “rolls” before being hit”. A ball that hits the front wall and bounces once must be returned before it can take a second bounce. Now there’s numerous scenarios for that one bounce and return or it’s a 2 bounce or more return and loss of rally. As an example, a ball that hits the front wall and then angles to and off a sidewall to then bounce once must be returned to the front wall after NO more bounces. Again, one bounce is always the maximum allowed. That goes for these scenarios where … (1) a ball hits the ceiling, front wall and then bounces … or (2) a ball hits the front wall, bounces and pops off the back wall … or (3) a ball that hits the front wall, bounces and deflects off one sidewall on the way to rebound off the back wall … or (4) a ball that hits the front wall in one corner then directly ricochets off the adjacent sidewall to carom out and carry on the fly (in the air) diagonally across the court to strike the far sidewall as a Z shot that parallels both the front and back walls and, after its first bounce, the Z shot must be returned before it can take its second bounce. One extremely unusual bounce situation occurs when a ball is struck very, very high and very hard into the front wall so the ball carries all the way back to strike very high and hard on the back wall causing the ball to rebound way out very far and then bounce. Left untouched the ball will go all the way back to make it to the front wall yet again and rebound off. It’s had just that one bounce so far … so what’s the play? You actually don’t have to beat the ball to hit it before it can make it back to the front wall again. You may return the ball after it goes back and strikes the front wall again and field the ball as it rebounds off. There you must return it as it pops off the front wall BEFORE the “b-b-back wall” shot can take its second bounce. When covering a passing shot, a direct kill-shot to the front wall or a sidewall shot in a rally, sometimes, as the defensive player is in pursuit of the ball that bounced once, the player gets over top the ball when they’re hustling hard to make a get or return and they may flick the ball to the front wall by striking it right after its SECOND bounce; yet they think or they’re just certain they got it. Usually the player knows, but sometimes they just don’t. Depending on the opponent, less frequently on an onlooker outside the court or even counting upon the perspective of the referee to make the 2 bounce (or more) call is often catch catch can. That’s especially the case from the ref’s perch behind the glass when they’re well off to one side to accommodate a microphone jack that’s located there or they’re over there so they’re not standing behind the service receiver in the center where then the ref’s vision of the the 2 bounce get is on the far side. If they took up position in the center, swing the serve may be blocked by the receiver in back. Also, in the rally, one or both players might block the ref’s line of sight to see the first or second bounce. It’s not always certain about 2 bounce get calls. Like skips, your appealing a 2 bounce get, when you’re sure you got the ball on 1 bounce or when you clearly saw the opponent did NOT make a one bounce get, is a worthwhile appeal, especially WHEN you feel it was obvious, AND you have line judges. If you either think you got it or you’re pretty darn certain the opponent didn’t make a one bounce get and you think it was plainly obvious to the eyes of the line judges who are watching, first, raise your off hand to signal when the two bounce contact happened. Now note that you may either keep playing the rally, which is the commonly accepted “racquetball way” or, when you’re pretty darn certain, you can just stop and appeal to the ref. Although, IF YOU STOP and the line judges don’t go along with your “correct call”, you will lose that rally. But let’s look at it different way. Say you play out the rally with the plan to appeal if you lose the rally, which, by playing, would let you right the wrong, WHEN you win the rally. But let’s say you lose the rally. That could be due to the rally’s length and the judges might just forget the 2 bounce situation. In that scenario, you’re doubly penalized because your energy, your sense of fairness, AND your patience are all sapped a little or a lot. Note that in tennis you must stop immediately if you want to challenge the call. In racquetball asking for the appeal is a risk worth strongly considering when you’re sure and you feel VERY confident it was obvious to the line judges that the perhaps unsighted ref just missed that one. As you turn to appeal to the ref, it’s a good move to signal while wagging your thumb from level with the court to thumbs down, like you’re a Roman Cesar. With that signal, maybe you’ll hypnotize the 2 line judges into their own thumbs down signals indicating they disagree with the ref’s incorrect call, too. Again, though, those line judges must’ve been arranged for in advance by asking the ref for them. Usually, after a missed call or 2 by the ref or based on past experience with THIS particular ref or when you have previously played against THIS opponent and you’ve suffered through controversy before or, when you’re just factoring in the sheer pace of the game or your past experiences in general in highly competitive play, you might consider requesting line judges. The hope is you’ll get experienced players to be line judges. When you’re in Semifinals and Finals rounds you should have line judges because there’s a lot on the line and the pressure is heightened on both the players competing and the ref officiating. Also among the 2 line judges you’re hoping one is NOT your opponent’s doubles partner, one is NOT their best friend, and one is not a relative of theirs, as racquetball can be quite a partisan game. Pulling for their bud or charge is routine when everything THEIR player does is good and everything the opponent does is bad ala any away game at any stadium, gym or colosseum (unfortunately) in sport. Although, no racquetball, integrity still does matter, right?
Now another area of great controversy is often the serve. When serving and returning serve, THAT is the only time the court lines matter, and, Oh Boy, do they matter! First let’s talk about where you must serve. The serving player must start their service motion inside the “box” or within the first 2 lines in the service zone which is also referred to as the the “service box” or “box”. For example, the service motion can NOT begin with the server having one foot in the safety zone behind or past the middle “short line”. Even their heel over the short line is disallowed. Also the server must not bounce the ball on the court outside the 2 lines. Now, when starting with one foot outside the box, the server could be using their initial further back position as a runway to build up a head of steam, as a head-start to boost their service motion. Kudos for tryin, but ugh-uh. They may just do it unconsciously and unknowingly out of (bad) habit. If you or an opposing server starts with one foot on the floor outside the lines of the box behind the center line, it’s a “foot fault” and second serve unless it was already the second serve; in which case, it’s a “side out” or loss of serve, WHEN there’s a ref. Now that ref reference is because, in self officiated play, it’s just a time to point it out to the server that they’re starting too deep and it’s just a replay. Note that the foot faulter may not like for it to be pointed out. So don’t be surprised if they resort to doing it again soon after out of habit or possibly just out of sheer orneriness. It’s not suggested you demand a second serve or side out were it to be the second serve unless you just LIKE confrontations.
Front Line Foot Faults
When making that big stride forward to strike their drive serve, the server isn’t permitted to completely surpass the front “service line”. Some part of both feet, like the heel of their frontmost striding foot, must still be in contact or touching the leading edge of that first line that is 15 feet back from the front wall. That on the line position must be held UNTIL the served ball crosses the second, middle, 20 foot back “short line”. If that foot goes all the way past the first line, it’s a foot fault. As a server yourself, work on your own service motion so you don’t foot fault because in competition it’s a real bummer and momentum killer to be called for foot faulting. Of course, when you’re pumped up, sometimes it just happens. Then the call is “second serve” and you just move on. So, if it’s a foot fault on the first serve, then a second serve is allowed. Have one at the ready. If it’s a foot fault on the second serve, it’s an out serve or side out, and it’s the receiver’s turn to serve. In the 4 player game in doubles when it’s the first server who foot faults on their first serve, it’s then their second serve. If they foot fault on their second serve, it’s a “hand out” and the second server on that team takes over as the server. Extending the scenario, if there’s been a “hand out” and say now it’s the second server hitting their second serve and they foot fault, even when say they’re serving up a drive Z serve, it’s a loss of serve and side out for that team, and the other doubles team gets to take over as the serving team, which is bad, and it’s unforced error playing form. When “… At the end of the service motion, the server steps with either foot on the floor beyond the service line (with no part of the foot on the line or inside the service zone) before the served ball crosses the short line” the call is (usually) made by the referee in officiated play, but it’s a much tougher call for the receiver in self officiated play. That’s because the receiver’s plate is already pretty full. The server is trying to see the served ball and watch to see if it was good (not short of the middle line) and then the server is all about returning the ball to the front wall. A “good” serve is when the ball strikes the front wall and it rebounds out and crosses the second, “short line” or was it “short” and “fault serve”. We’ll get to short serves LAST because they’re just such a tough call for all concerned.
Safety Zone Violation Side Out
When a singles server or a doubles server or the doubles server’s non serving partner beats the served ball past the “short line”, which is the 20 foot back middle line, it’s not a foot fault it’s much worse; it’s a “safety zone violation” which is an “out serve” and loss of serve. In singles, it’s a loss of serve and the receiver takes the ball. In doubles, the player serving loses their serve. For example, when the first server of the doubles pair is serving and say their doubles partner hustles back too soon and that partner both leaves the wall (which is itself a “foot fault”) AND then the partner also crosses that middle line BEFORE the ball passes that 20 foot back short line, and it’s not just a fault serve; it’s actually a loss of serve! Then it’s a hand out and the second server takes over serving. By rule, it’s a safety zone violation … “if, after the serve has been struck, the server or doubles partner step into the safety zone BEFORE the served ball passes the short line” … so beating the ball back is an immediate loss of serve for the singles server or that doubles server. So, again, if the first doubles server is serving their second OR first serve and if either the server or their back to the sidewall partner beats the ball out past the short line, it’s a safety zone violation and “hand out” where the second server of that pair takes over serving. So, when the first server of the pair or their partner steps out early on either their first or second serve, then the second server of that team gets to serve. The team does NOT forfeit their entire serving opportunity. Of course, if it’s the second server’s first serve and they or their partner crosses the short line before the ball passes it, it’s not a second serve; it’s still a team side out. Of course, if it’s their second serve, it’s also a side out. The rule for the partner’s position reads that … “the server’s partner shall stand erect with their back facing 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. Any violation is called a “foot fault” UNLESS the server’s partner (ALSO) enters the safety zone BEFORE the ball passes the short line in which case the server (that server) loses service”. Calling that type of foot fault on the back to the wall doubles partner or a safety zone violation on the singles or doubles server often is the source of much consternation on the part of the called foot faulter or short line crosser. The doubles partner on the wall would rather hear “Foot fault” than for the ref to wait a beat until that partner also crosses the short line causing a safety zone violation and then hear “Hand out” or “Side out”. In that case, the server (or partner) thinks they didn’t cross, but the call is made when the ref clearly sees the infringing player beat the ball back. As a telling example, when there’s a short lob serve and BEFORE the serve is called short, both the server (and even their partner) are already both standing back there behind the short line in the safety zone it’s clearly a short lob serve. That’s pretty clear evidence that it’s a loss of serve for that server because that server or their partner or both beat the ball out. When YOU are the lob server, to avoid causing a Safety Zone Violation, it helps if you make your first move along the back of the box by moving just inside the short line toward the side where you serve your lob. THEN, AFTER the ball crosses the middle 20 foot line, back up quickly into center court. (But still make sure you give up a cross-court return to the far, rear corner). Now, before we get into calls regarding the little lines by each sidewall, the screen serve, and the whole short serve thing, first let’s talk about the 3rd line back, the dashed line, which is “receiving line” or encroachment line. That’s the line that ideally separates the server from the receiver’s swing as they return serve.
For lobs and lob Z’s, it’s commonplace to see aggressive receivers quickly slide up early, often right as the server is initially lofting their lob up onto the front wall. That way the receiver can attack the softer struck ball either right AFTER the serve’s bounce or right as the lob serve is passing the dashed “receiving line” in the air when the serve is going to take its first bounce beyond the broken line. By the by, when you lob serve, bouncing your lob ball inside the dashed line is good form. Now the main point here for the receiver is timing their cutoff which is crucial.
Receiving Line Scenario…
…the receiver moves up in a blink and hovers right behind the dashed line, looming like a vulture, ready to pounce on the high lob, half lob, or Z lob serve. Controversy begins when the server points down at the dashed receiving line BEFORE they even serve. There they’re indicating that they feel the receiver has crossed BEFORE and they might again or they might do it this time. Or, after dropping their serve, the former server points right after a rally has been played when they feel the receiver definitely crossed the broken line tooooo early. When they point before they serve, the server is sure that either the receiver passed the dashed line before in a prior rally or they want the ref to pay particular attention because they THINK the receiver may pass the line BEFORE the ball bounces. Or the server may be looking to just place extra pressure on the receiver to either NOT cross or to cause them to hesitate to cross or to think before they act, which in a racquetball is a BIG no-no. If the receiver steps into the safety zone too early (before the bounce or crossing in the air) that safety zone is the area between the short line and dashed “receiving line”, it’s a “receiving line violation” or “encroachment”. Note that the serving side NOT beating their serve past the short line and the receiver not crossing the receiving line before the serve’s bounce or before the serve completely passes the receiving line in the air establishes that 5 foot wide 20 foot long area as a safety zone for the server so they don’t get popped by ball or worse case to avoid the receiver’s swing catching them. By not crossing the line too early that way the receiver won’t be as likely to hit the server with their return. When the receiver DOES cross the line early and it’s a “receiving line violation”, it’s a BIG call. The Receiving Position rule reads … “The receiver may not break the plane of the receiving line with the racquet or body until the ball either bounces in the safety zone or else crosses the receiving line. For example, if the receiver steps on the dashed receiving line with either foot (with any part of the foot contacting the line) before either of the two preceding things happen, a point shall be called for the server”. So it’s point for the server WHEN the call is made. So THAT violation gives the server a free point without playing out the rally. When there are line judges, an appeal may be made. The rule reads “Receiving Line Violation (Encroachment). If the referee makes a call of encroachment, but the call is overturned, the serve shall be replayed unless the return was deemed irretrievable in which case a side out (or possibly a handout in doubles) should be called. When an appeal is made because the referee made no call, and the appeal is successful, the server is awarded a point”. That “irretrievable by the server” is as seen in the impartial eyes of the ref. In that case, it’s a side out. Or, when it’s the first server, it’s a hand out in doubles and the second server takes over serving. That irretrievable return or deeming it so is in the rules, but timing the call or sound matters a lot. When the ref is already making the call of “encroachment” and THEN the receiver makes an (unreturnable) return, the rally should be replayed. When the call is made AFTER the receiver’s return and the appeal was that there was no safety zone violation, when the return was ungettable for the server (or server’s team), then it’s a side out. Now, on the other side of the ball when an appeal is made (by the server) because the referee made NO receiving line violation call, and the appeal is successful, (when the line judges say there was a violation with 2 thumbs down), then the server is auto awarded a point. So crossing that dashed line one way or not crossing it is a huge call when there’s a receiving line violation (or when there’s no violation called when there actually should have been one). Note that the receiver encroaches when … (1) they slide in too early with their toes; or (2) they lean past the receiving line with their lead shoulder or even their head; or (3) they swing past the line with their racquet before the ball has bounced; or (4) they cross the line before the served ball has completely passed the dashed line in the air when it’s going to bounce beyond the line. So the receiver encroaches when the vertical plane of the receiving line from floor to ceiling is broken. Often the ref is very leery about making an encroachment call just like they hate calling penalty hinders when a defensive player completely takes away an offensive shot from the hitter. In part that hesitancy by the ref to call encroachment is probably due in part to the controversial nature of making a point deciding call, as the offending party who is being called on it is generally NOT going to be a happy camper, and they usually let their disappointment be clearly known. However, encroachment is an appealable call. Once a served ball bounces in the safety zone the receiver CAN move in past the receiving line. But do note that there’s little time to move in very far past the line, even when the ball bounces further forward in the safety zone and then it’s going to be bounding up even higher when it can be contacted. Often it’s a tough read for the ref to see or read whether the chicken or the egg came first. Did the ball bounce and THEN the receiver crossed? Or did the receiver barely pass the broken line right BEFORE the bounce occurred? Or did the receiver swing past the line or lean past the dashed line or step past right BEFORE the ball completely passed the dashed line in the air without a bounce? By pointing at the receiving line before they serve, the server is making both the ref and the receiver think. When a player thinks and they don’t react concurrently, they’re often a full beat late acting.
Not Passing Receiving Line Tactics
If as receiver you are intent on making contact with a lob that will bounce past the line or you’re intent on attacking the server right after it bounces inside the line, NOT crossing the line too early is your receiver’s role first requirement. Also that should be the ref’s observation point of emphasis for the receiver to NOT pass THAT line. To cutoff a bouncing served ball, some receivers slide in and get up on their tippy toes to take a lob on the rise right after its first bounce. The receiver may similarly get up on their toes when looking to field a high ball when taking a ball right out of midair as it’s passing the receiving line before the server has had a chance to get back into good defensive position in center court. Note that, when you take the ball on the fly or out of midair, the main deal for you is to not to lean in tooooo early, as you set yourself to swing volley thru the ball by your FOCUS on starting with your lead foot BEHIND the dashed line. When planning to take the ball after it bounces in the safety zone, you must take the ball on the rise. You may either take the serve very low as either a short-hop or you may take the serve higher up
as an overhead. A short-hop is when you strike a deep safety zone bouncing ball right after its bounce as you swing thru with a low hooded, slightly pointing down to the floor racquet head swing thru contact. So the racquet face often angles with the strings partly pointed downwards at the floor, as you swing thru with a smooth, compact keeping-it-low motion. Practicing and perfecting short-hop cutoffs takes lots of reps when timing your slide up to initially set yourself BEHIND the line. There set your front foot behind the line as you also quickly get sideways. Then move in right AFTER the bounce and time the hooded swing (or short racquet face control swing) for solid contact which allows you to accurately hit your short-hop return ideally AWAY from the server, as a passing shot or even as a flick front corner pinch. As an on the rise higher take, field a lob ball as it bounces up by either using a baby overhead motion at head height or even a full overhead motion for a bigger, higher bounding ball where you reach up way overhead to swing high to low. To take a ball after the bounce as it’s bounding up high takes lots of drilling to prep and take your overhead and usually shoot a passing shot return. Usually go cross-court and less often go down the wall. Only attempt a more straight in option after having practice that skill, which usually will require changing the ball’s incoming angle. Also, for that down the wall cutoff, make sure to follow your shot forward. That way the opponent must get to the ball behind you while you slide over laterally into center court to “cover down”, which means to position well to play the server’s next ball. For a ball passing the dotted line in the air, it takes practice to slide up, be turning sideways, and then take the ball right out of midair, as a swing volley often at waist high up to chest high or even a little higher at shoulder high without prematurely passing that dashed line BEFORE the ball does, except after contact when you may pass the broken line with your follow-through. Now, as server, if you’re being hurt by the receiver’s return or uncalled encroachments, there are good Plan B’s. A serve that can’t be short hopped or taken as overhead is a nick lob. Note that off speed lobs and high lobs are generally meant to speed up the rally and encourage an overzealous returns by the anxious receiver. Are you looking to up the volume or make them loft up a defensive ceiling ball? Either lobs very tight to the sidewall or nick lobs are tougher to attack so then your chances go up to make the receiver often and ideally defend by hitting a ceiling ball, which best case, for you, is an inaccurate one.
Shrunken Safety Zone
**Note that in international play, crossing the short line before the ball crosses just became legal again for the serving side. Still the receiver must adhere to the receiving line violation rule. To be safe, the server (or their partner in doubles) had better not wander back into the swing radius of the receiver, as now the safety zone has been shrunken by new hit and drop back quick rule, which allows the server or server’s partner to get back quicker and retreat before the serve passes the short line. As the serving side, think and play safety first, last and always. Although the receiver needs to not hit a server who does wander into say their cross-court overhead passing shot angle.
Drive Serve Line
That innermost line on either side of the box has a major significance in the rules of serving. When a player is serving over just inside both of those 2 lines by the sidewall in the service box and serving up along THAT wall, the server may effectively, tactically obscure the ball from the receiver. There, as server, you may either face the lines or you may stand with your back to the lines. There the server can legally drive serve up along THAT wall, IF they (or the ball) don’t cross that second line in from the sidewall. Concerning that inner line there’s actually 2 lines. Let’s discuss those.
Doubles Service Box
First let’s point out that there’s a doubles service box, which is the first line closest to the sidewall. That’s where the partner stands with their back to the sidewall while their partner serves. Although the non serving partner doesn’t have to either touch the wall with their back nor do they have to have both feet inside that first line – feet on the line is okay – the doubles partner on the wall is not allowed to face forward. AND facing back is both not allowed and not safe because the partner would be facing the ball being returned. As the partner on the wall, you might consider using your racquet frame to cover your head when the receiving team is returning. You may even put the racquet up on the front side when say your partner has popped you before! Then you could switch the racquet after the serve clears the short line to the receiver side to cover your noggin. There in the doubles service box the partner stands with their back to the wall waiting right up until their serving partner’s serve COMPLETELY passes the short line. If the partner moves off the wall before the serve passes the short line, it’s a foot fault. If that partner moves AND beats the ball out past the short line, it’s much worse; it’s a “safety zone violation” AND side out.
2nd Line In From Wall Is Drive Serve Line
The significance of the second line in, the “drive serve line”,?which is inside of the service box and is 3 feet in from the sidewall at its inner edge, is aspect of serving right along that wall you may not cross that line. Note that there are 2 drive serve lines on each side of the court in the box. The ball and server must start inside that drive serve line WHEN the server is serving a drive serve (or any well struck ball) up along THAT sidewall into the rear corner on that side of the court. Also, at no time may the server’s serving swing cross that drive serve line. If any part of body, ball or racquet crosses the drive serve line during the serve and as the ball zips back to the rear corner on that side, it’s an “illegal drive serve” and fault serve. In addition to serving from inside that drive serve line, when the served ball either angles either outside that 3 foot line closer to the server or when the serve passes so closely by say a stationary, not dropping back away from the drive serve line drive server and it’s determined that the service receiver can’t clearly see the ball as it’s passing by that server, THAT is a “screen serve” and fault serve. If the ball ends up within 2 feet or closer to the sidewall going back toward that rear corner, it probably should not be called as a screen serve. But it’s a borderline call for receiver in self officiated play or ref in officiated play. When the ball passes closer than 2 feet to the drive serve line, it’s a marginal call and it’s left up to the ref in officiated play whether to call a screen or not. In self officiated play, it’s totally up to the receiver for them to decide whether they believe they were screen served or not. Note that we’ll go in depth into the screen serve call next. There, in unrefereed play, the server must quickly decide if they could clearly see the ball as it passed by the receiver or not, especially as the serve was passing by the server at the short line. There the receiver must quickly calculate whether they can make a move to make a good return of that drive serve on its way back to the rear corner or, when it’s higher, whether they can play it after it bounces and rebounds off the back wall. Part of that calculus is “Can I control this return?” despite perhaps seeing it late. The receiver may also be considering whether the next one may be even tougher to return, like where it may crack-out and rollout off the sidewall, as unreturnable. The receiver shouldn’t return the serve and then wait and see their return and how the server is playing their return and THEN sheepishly call “Screen”. Also, in officiated play, the receiver shouldn’t return the ball and hope that they can THEN ask the ref for a screen call; that’s too late. Getting back to the drive serve line … A ball served tighter into the rear corner that’s, again, within a couple feet or closer to the sidewall shouldn’t usually be called as a screen, by ref or player. Both where the receiver lines up and where the ref stands affects this (and all) screen serve calls. As the rules state, the receiver should start in the center in back when returning serve to get a screen call. Of course, in this specific serving and receiving example, if the receiver were to hedge over closer to THAT drive serve line where the server is serving, the receiver could both be screened when the ball passes very close by the server, and they could call it in self officiated play or ask for a screen call by the ref when it’s initially uncalled, in officiated match play. Note that when line judges have been requested and their spots filled, a screen serve appeal may be made at any time after the serve has been put in play, even at the end of a very protracted rally. When the receiver feels they were screened (or they sense any infraction was committed), they should first raise their off hand to signal WHEN the screen occurred. When the ref is positioned with mike in hand or scorecard in hand on the complete opposite side of the court behind the glass away from THE drive serve line in question, that may affect that ref’s perspective when calling screen serves way over THERE by that far drive serve line. The ref should put themselves in the shoes of the receiver (showing empathy) and see how closely the ball passed by the server AND how close the served ball is to that rear corner should it not be returned. If the ball is closer in along that sidewall, no screen may be the right call. If the ball is 2 feet out or further out from the sidewall or much closer to that 3 foot drive serve line, a screen call may be warranted. The ref may wait until the ball is at the back wall before making the screen call. But, by watching closely as the ball is passing the server, the ref should consider how close the ball passed by the server and whether the receiver may or may not have had a <clear view> of the ball at its critical juncture, as it passes the server at the short line. If the ball is close and even the ref has trouble seeing it, they ought to factor that in, as well as where the serve ends up when it’s contacted or where it bounces or where it heads in relationship to the back corner when it’s unreturned by the perhaps unsighted receiver. Again, for emphasis, a served ball close to the 3 foot line probably should be called as a screen serve when the drive serve is struck from right along the drive serve line, when contact is made just inside it. Now, extending the situation, after the ball passes the server and if the receiver is returning the serve, the server should make sure to give the receiver a cross-court angle to the front wall so the ball could strike the front wall and rebound out and angle back to the far, rear corner. If the server doesn’t move and they block that rule-required cross-court shot angle, a whole new category of calls occurs, “hinders”. In that case, the much dreaded penalty hinder (by ref and “hinder player”) could or probably should be the call. Hint: hit and move to center, when you serve (or rally return). Don’t hang on the line and risk getting popped on a straight in or on a simple V cross-court pass.
Where in Center Court
As a tactical point about center court positioning, make note that, although you must give up the V cross-court passing shot angle, you don’t have to give up a “wide angle pass” (WAP) angle. The WAP is a wider angle pass hit to the front wall farther over so the ball would rebound out and angle back to strike the sidewall in mid court. So the WAP is a bigger angle than a V pass. As defender, when you’ve placed the ball way back deep in a rear corner, get between ball and cross-front corner. There, in between, you give up the cross-court and straight in angles that you must, but not the WAP and very importantly you don’t allow a diagonal shot into the cross front corner, which, when hit low, is extremely difficult to retrieve.
As you know, when a player is standing on or swinging over a drive serve line, they may only serve a direct drive serve cross-court to the far, rear corner. They may hit a Z drive serve to the rear corner on THAT side they’re on when they’re serving from on top of that line. The advantage of hitting drive serves BETWEEN the 2 drive serve lines is due to the logic that it forces the receiver to have to cover both rear corners to guard against the placement of a possible drive serve into either back corner. The drive serve lines magnify the screen serve situation. Let’s say the server is over serving from right along one sidewall just barely inside that drive serve line where a serve between the server and the sidewall can be tough to see for the receiver the closer the ball is angled by the server as it passes by them. So, of course, it’s tougher to see the closer the server starts their motion by THAT line. That placing the ball logic when serving carries over to when the server moves over and is serving drive serves from closer in toward the center of the service box on that side of the court and box. From wherever THEY serve (or from wherever YOU serve) when nearer in to the center of the box and on over to the drive serve line on that side where the ball is being served, if the ball passes out closer to 3 feet out from the sidewall, the odds go WAY UP that THAT particular serve is a screen serve and very hard if not impossible for the receiver to clearly see right as it passes by the server. From wherever THEY serve (or from wherever YOU serve), when the ball is not clearly seen by the receiver as it passes by player serving, it’s liable to be called a screen by the receiver in self officiated play and it’s more likely it’ll be called as a screen by a ref, especially when the receiver quickly, alertly raises their off hand indicating they feel certain they were screen served. Yet some guidelines for WHEN to make the “Screen Serve” call by a ref are worth considering. When a served ball passes dangerously close by the server, but the serve is higher and it’s going to bounce and then pop kindly off the back wall as a back wall setup for the receiver, it could be allowed to pop off the back wall without a screen serve call so long as the receiver does NOT raise their off hand signaling they were screened. Then the receiver can capitalize on THAT sweet back wall setup that’s due to the server’s error only, again, WHEN the receiver’s off hand stayed down. Note that, when the server raises their off hand and they immediately get the screen call, then they can NOT ALSO return the ball and hope to win the rally with THAT return. Also a serve passing precariously close when it’s passing by the server may still angle back and get within a couple feet or even closer to the targeted rear corner. That serve may be extremely tough to see as it was passing by the server. So then the question or tough decision by receiver or ref or fan or even line judge would be, “Is THAT a screen serve?”. Server applied ball spin or a disguised service motion delivery or their serving stance can all conspire to produce just such a curving, very accurate, tough to see serve as it’s passing by the server. At one time in the rules there was an 18 inch rule for screens where when a ball was passing closer than 18 inches to the server it was supposed to be called as a screen serve. Today the screen serve is a much more subjective call that’s left up to the perspective of the ref in officiated play or it’s totally left up to the discretion of the receiver in self officiated play. In ref-free play, it’s up to the receiver. The screen serve rule’s exact wording for a screen is “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…”, then it’s a screen serve. So a serve could pass very close, especially when the server spreads themselves out with a front foot lunge out to the sidewall into a very closed stance or when they swing from a very open stance facing the front wall or when the server strikes their drive serve or even off speed serve from a more upright stance, from say a one-step service motion. Both the ref taking on the mindset that it’s them returning the server’s serve and strongly factoring in the off hand raise by the receiver when the receiver seems frozen by the ball passing so close by the server SHOULD both be folded into the screen serve call equation, as the ref decides whether a screen serve call is warranted. Having requested line judges and then appealing to the line judges is a good backup plan for you as the receiver, IF you have had the foresight to request the lines. And, with line judges, when YOU feel certain you were screened, you should appeal, while quickly raising your off hand to signal WHEN you were screened. That appeal may even be made after a rally is played out, by the receiver. Note that even the server may appeal that THEY screen serves when they drop the rally. If the serve is beyond 2 feet out from a rear corner closer in to the middle and you’re receiving by starting in the center in back, you have a good argument for a screen and winning the appeal. Then point out the placement of the “screen serve” by pointing exactly where on the back wall the serve ended up (and don’t fudge it because you want the benefit of this and future calls, not resentment or for them to question your truth telling or veracity). That pointing is a good place to start when making your point verbally to the ref and, by your demonstration of where the screen serve hit the back wall, also to the lines who are looking and listening, but not by directly addressing the line judges (because, by rule, you cannot directly talk to line judges). Of course you have those line judges to appeal to by having alertly asked for them BEFORE you were screened or make sure to ask for them BEFORE you get screen served again!
Ref-Free Screen Calling
In ref-free play (self officiated games), calling the screen is the sole prerogative of ONLY the receiver. According to the self-officiated rules … “The screen serve call is the sole responsibility of the receiver” … “The server may NOT call a screen under any circumstance and thus, must always expect to play the rally unless the receiver calls “screen serve””. *Note that many times a receiver is caught going one way, when guessing, and then, when the serve goes the other way, even when it would have been a screen serve, no screen serve call may be made. The receiver took themselves out of the play by going the wrong way and away from being able to make a screen serve call in self officiated play. (The server also would surrender the ability to make an appeal for a screen serve then to a ref either). Note that in self officiated play the server may not raise their off hand to signal THEY think they screened because first it’s not their call to make and second they can’t unfairly distract or influence the receiver with their “I think my serve was a screen” signal because that is in fact making a call, and really it’s an intentional distraction, which is a penalty hinder … I digress.
Hand Raising … Un-Distracted
Note that in refereed play, make sure to keep your focus despite the server’s hand raising signaling throughout a game in many situations. They may signal that THEY hit a screen or you made a 2 bounce get or you hit a short serve or they feel they were hindered … as they signal trying to get the ref’s attention, they may intend to distract you, too. Keep your focus on playing the ball when hitting or on defending when you’re on the other side of the ball in coverage.
Short Serve Call
Now let’s talk about what is often THE toughest call for receiver or server, the short serve call. The “Short Serve” call is ALWAYS a tough call. Short serves may be THE toughest call because they’re just so hard to see, and we don’t have a tennis challenge system yet with a matrix of cameras confirming line calls (one day though…). The short serve call is often a point of consternation and even confrontation between ref and server, between the two sides playing without a ref (and on 4-wall glass court concerning those 2 poor, well-intentioned line judges standing right on that short line but still struggling to see line-bounce or bounce-line). The ball AND line can play tricks on your eyes. A short serve call could also easily become a bone of contention or argument between 2 players who are competing without a ref in self-officiated play. When the server is facing one way and they drive serve behind themselves to the rear corner behind them, they often don’t physically have enough time to be able to turn quickly around in time to actually see whether their fast drive serve DID pass the short line or not. Yet the server may believe the serve barely passed the line. There they are doing so based on feel, not by visual confirmation. Yet, even when they face the side toward where they’re serving, the server can even then mistakenly see the ball thinking it wasn’t short when it was or thinking it was bad when their serve WAS actually good. Also, as another potentially contentious situation, when a player hits their serve very close to the crack between sidewall and floor INSIDE the short line in the box where the ball then angles back off the sidewall toward the safety zone, the ball COULD pass the short line before taking its first bounce. BUT more often than not a crack-out attempt that hits low on the sidewall INSIDE the short line is more often than not called as a short serve. There it’s anticipated that the low ball was so low it MUST HAVE caught some piece of the service box before it crossed the short line. That’s based on the serve having hit the sidewall before the short line or it can be it was visually confirmed by the receiver or ref. In part, that’s why you should only go for a crack-out serve as your first serve. That way you still have a second serve left. Also, as a wrinkle, drill and target YOUR crack-out just PAST the short line and then you may avoid the “imagined” short serve call. As a backup plan for when you go for first serve crack-outs a lot in your attack, make sure you also have a practiced-up, very nasty second serve, like a deep nick lob, a wicked drive Z or another trustworthy 2nd serve delivery chosen from your regulars. Then you can select that killer second serve from your service arsenal and confidently count on that one you choose when your 1st serve “good” crack-out was called, “Short!”. Let that “short serve” call go and forge ahead with your attacking second serve.
… the Crux of the Matter: Be undistracted by ANY Call
Don’t let calls or non calls affect your will and hustle. Don’t let replays of rallies, players demanding they’re right, that you’re wrong, and only their call must stand, or even a player who just does NOT make calls on themselves when they-know they did something like hit a skip or they made a 2 bounce get or they took away a clearly offensive shot from you … of any form of gamesmanship affect your future. It’s basically best to not let ANY bad calls or arguments become the object of YOUR distraction and affect the ensuing point or points. It’s tough to keep up with the game from outside the court and you can imagine (and you probably already know) it’s tough to keep up with everything going on inside the court, with the speed of rallies, funny bounces, close quarters when having to share court space, and when judging super low shots where both your view and the opponent’s viewpoint may be, “Was THAT good?”. Then there’s the controversial calls by the opponent or the ref, too. Outside the court there may be a player watching or even a non player spectator and you know they have never lost a rally from out there; so they’re often just certain THEY saw it best and often much better than you possibly could have. It’s far more challenging scurrying around out there after that bouncy little orb or dodging out of the way so the opponent can take a direct line run to make a get or to move out of the way to allow them to hit an offensive shot (cross-court to far, rear corner or straight in). Of course, it’s tough at times to even see skips, 2 bounce gets, screens, receiving line crossings and short serves, even when you ARE out there. It’s especially challenging to see skips and one bounce gets in the midst of the fray, when there’s 1 in singles and up to 3 other bodies to see around in doubles. And then there’s the reticence by some players to make calls on themselves, as they continue into the call making as if they’re still competing or fighting the point when they know they unintentionally or willfully erred. It lacks moral fiber. Know that the intensity of competition and shooting aggression in the game of racquetball go hand in hand. Your best mindset is to be a good sport and both make calls on yourself when you err and allow that there are going to be opponent’s replays vs. going ballistic and getting mad or ever going away psychologically by not engaging in the next rally or even series of rallies. Simply put ALWAYS FIGHT THE GOOD FIGHT. As long as there are more points to be played, you have time to make your own impression on the outcome of the rallies that are yet to be played by being fully immersed in the moment, giving your full attention, and giving your best effort when meeting YOUR Performance Goals in the great diversion and tough competitive challenge that is racquetball. Note that THAT level intensity should even be present when participating in invaluable practice reps in your drilling because THAT carries over to play. So it’s a given that effort in training transfers over to success at play. When it comes to the calls, try your best to let go of a past call, no matter what. As an example or a pill that’s tough to swallow, when you are receiving in ref-free play and you call screen in the situation when you’re sure you were screened because you simply couldn’t see the ball as it was passing by the opponent in a rally or when they were serving. Then say you get the serve back and in the next rally the opponent calls an imaginary screen serve on you. What do YOU do? Talk about it. Say you’re sure your call was based on having definitely been unable to see their serve because it passed right by them. Say you think your serve passed much further away from you, as exhibited by where it bounced in the back corner. Hopefully they’ll see reason or you may have to consider the trade-off of playing them and dealing with retaliatory calls or not playing them, finding another playing partner, and having peace of mind. Making up calls is just really tough. It’s like a player who doesn’t make a move to cover a shot and they make an zip code hinder call which is basically when they’re not even in the same zip code where the ball bounced twice. Here’s what the rule says and note the bold print … “While making an attempt to return the ball, a player is entitled to a fair chance to see and return the ball. It is the responsibility of the side that has just hit the ball to move so the receiving side may go straight to the ball and have an unobstructed view of and swing at the ball. However, the receiver is responsible for making a reasonable effort to move towards the ball and must have a reasonable chance to return the ball for any type of hinder to be called.” Note that a ref infrequently if ever changes a call and buggin ’em can affect the next time you should get a call. So make your point courteously and then move on. Pointing out where you sensed there was a infraction is okay, but overplaying your hand and creating an argument can backfire on you. You may suffer more distractions due to more gamesmanship by the opponent. Or you might wake a sleeping giant and they might play better than they normally do. Some players play better when they have a surge of adrenaline. Some don’t. Do you?
Control YOUR arousal level so you both bring it and so you keep your cool so you can focus on YOUR game, its strategies and the tactics that you do well. If you sense you’re being distracted, resettle yourself and soldier on. Your composure is too significant to lose and it’s invaluable when you exhibit it. The key is not to allow anything to preoccupy your mind beyond playing your game your way, while constantly, kindly evaluating your efforts and making constructive, familiar adjustments versus making judgments on your play that may freeze you. Depend upon your experience and training-based
belief systems. Focus, but also free flow. If the antics of the opponent, ref or peanut gallery watching from outside the court preoccupy your attention, then you can’t play in the zone. You wanna tree and, when you’re not in the flow, you want to get back in the zone, soon. Bad calls, controversy, and gamesmanship by the opponent is just noise. Let the only distraction be the diversion of sport. Empower yourself to play in flow, your flow, while playing a driven, rhythmic, competent, grinding, imperturbable and self affirming game. Simply put stay with the program. You have a game plan, strategies you expect to use and tactics that implement them. Let nothing that goes on after a rally affect your efforts in the next or following rallies. Ideally no call affects your mindset going into the next phase of the game, even when you must repeat a rally you may have felt you already won once. Just do your very best in the next rally. And if need be, move on into the next game should a call come down in way you wouldn’t have preferred in the previous contest. If you get a “bad call”, right it in the next rally thru effort and skill. If it doesn’t work out, it’s okay. Soldier on…