In my last article, I covered a key aspect of the serve, which was the receiver signaling “not ready.”
It’s a communication tool between receiver and server, and helps to promote safety during the serve. One aspect to the rule that I did not mention is how that rule applies in doubles.
The rule that was discussed last time is 3.5(a): “ . . . It is the server’s responsibility to look and be certain the receiver is ready.
If a receiver is not ready, they must signal by raising the racquet above the head or completely turning the back to the server. (These are the only two acceptable signals.)” The companion rule is 3.5(b), which states “Serving while the receiving player/team is signaling ‘not ready’ is a fault serve.”
In general, when applying racquetball rules to doubles, the approach is to consider the team as a single player. For instance, each player on a team must abide by the safety zone rules when serving or receiving; each player on a team must be ready to serve or receive serve (as appropriate) within 10 seconds of the score or “second serve” being called; each player on a team is entitled to return the ball from the serve and in a rally; and each receiving player can signal “not ready” to the server.
Therefore, when a doubles team is preparing to serve, both players on the receiving team must be checked for signaling “not ready.” One thing to be aware of is that one of the receiving players is kind of out of the server’s view if the server’s back is to the middle of the court. This is where the non-serving partner can help to check that player and warn the server if that person is
signaling not ready; but, it is ultimately the server’s responsibility to check both players because the server is the one to put the ball into play.
Additionally, a key area in doubles serving that is often overlooked or taken casually, by players and referees, is the position of the non-serving partner. The rules are very specific about the starting position of the non-serving partner.
Rule 4.2(b) states the following [emphasis added]: “Partner’s Position. On each serve, the server’s partner shall stand erect with 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 enters the safety zone before the ball passes the short line in which case the server loses service.”
The implications of the rule are that certain positions of the non-serving partner during the service motion, or before the served ball passes the vertical plane of the short line, will result in a fault serve. Those positions include, but are not limited to, bending at the waist, being turned to one side or at an angle, placing a foot on the wall, or having any part of a foot beyond the lines that form the service box 18 inches from the side wall; and, just like with the server, the non-serving partner can cause an out serve by crossing into the safety zone before the served ball crosses the plane of the short line.
All rule modifications for doubles are covered in Section 4.0 of the USAR Rulebook. It is a short section, and most all of the modifications pertain to the serve; but there are others that are worth noting.
So, as a player or as a referee, be aware of the rules for all players on the court, and ensure that each player follows them for their safety and enjoyment of the game.