How to Play Racquetball

By Jeff Gordon

Racquetball is fast-paced sport for two players (singles), three players (cutthroat) or four players (doubles). It is played on an enclosed court with all four walls in play. Its principles are similar to tennis. One player serves and tries to earn points. The other player or players are receiving and try to win back the serve.

The Court

A regulation court under International Racquetball Federation rules is 40 feet long by 20 feet wide. The four walls are 20 feet high. The court is divided by two solid lines and one broken line. The "short line" is the center line between the front and back walls and is drawn parallel to them. The "service line" runs parallel to the short line, 5 feet closer to the front wall. The broken "receiving line" runs parallel to the short line, 5 feet closer to the back wall. There are also two lines connecting the short line and the service line. One is the "screen line," running 3 feet from each side wall, and the other is the doubles line, 1.5 feet from each side wall.

Scoring

Only the player serving can score points. You keep serving as long as you keep scoring. Your opponent must earn back the serve to score. A regulation match consists of two games to 15 points with an 11-point tiebreaker if needed. You do not have to win by two points. The first player to 15 (or 11 in the tiebreaker) wins.

Gripping the Racquet

For your forehand grip, pick up the racquet, on its side facing you, like you are shaking a hand. Place the "V" between your thumb and index finger on top of the handle or slightly to the right. Keep the racquet straight up and down to keep from hitting the ball too high or too low. On the backhand, adjust your grip slightly clockwise to keep the racquet straight head up and down.

Serving/Receiving

Stand between the two solid lines and within the two screen lines to serve. Your serve must hit the front wall before anything else, then come back over both solid lines and hit the floor before reaching the back wall. There are several types of serves, but master the drive serve first. "The goal here is to get as close as possible to the floor. Then give it a slight upward arc to the front wall, hitting around two-feet high, and then have the ball skim across the service line," Michael Dietrich, St. Louis Park Racquetball Coordinator, told Life Time Racquetball. Your opponent must hit the ball before it bounces twice and hit it to the front wall without letting it hit the floor. The rally continues until somebody fails.

Hitting the Forehand

Set up facing the sidewall. Keep a closed stance toward the front wall, like a baseball hitter facing the pitcher, with your feet slightly wider than your shoulders. Keep your racquet high in the ready position, like a baseball bat. Drive your front leg straight toward your target. Rotate on your back leg, lowering to a 90-degree angle. Lead with your elbow on your swing. Hit the ball flat. Follow through so your racquet ends up over your opposite shoulder. Finish with your shoulders square to the front wall.

Hitting the Backhand

Use the same stance as the forehand, but facing the opposite side wall with the racquet in your lead arm. Take a 30-degree step with your front foot. Rotate on your back leg, lowering to a 90-degree angle. Make contact with the ball in line with your front foot. Rotate through your shot with both your lead arm and back arm following through.

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