Hey Ref! An ‘Official’ Q&A

The rules say nothing about a player taking up space on court with a wide stance – only about the striker’s swing. So if faced with a player who does take advantage of his/her stance, you’ll generally have to deal with it, through some feel it is borderline unfair.

By Barry Faguy, WSF Referees and Rules Committee

HEY REF!: What happens if my opponent often pushes off of me when it’s his turn to play the ball? It’s distracting and sometimes throws me off my stance.

Ask him to knock it off—politely stating exactly why. If the problem continues, and if there’s a Referee, then you can ask for help there. The Referee can then take a progressively strident approach—starting with a casual warning, to a formal Conduct Warning, to a Conduct Stroke. Of course, the typical retort from your opponent is “Well, get the heck out of the way!” You have to remember the close nature of play in Squash and the inevitable contacts—and make sure you’re not in the way. At their basic, the rules require that the striker make every effort to play the ball—but without physical abuse.

HEY REF! What happens if my opponent knocks my racket out of my hand while she is running to play the ball?

As things stand, if the striker’s movement was reasonable, then you are out of luck. You must scramble to pick up your racket and carry on with play—the principle reason being that you are not the striker (the only player who may appeal when there’s interference). It’s worth noting that with the next edition of the rules (likely 2014), ‘dropped racket’ situations like this will fall under the ‘Distraction’ rule. So if you wait a while, you could make an appeal about it then!

HEY REF! Sometimes my opponent takes a big wide stance when about to hit the ball—with feet wide apart, rear end sticking out, yet with the actual swing at the limits of what is reasonable. Is this legal?

The rules speak only about the striker’s swing—and say nothing about the rest of the body. This means that there is nothing you can do about this, although many people would consider this borderline unfair. Players have to be conscious of the restrained space in which they are in—all while swinging a potentially dangerous weapon at high speed. Of course, if any part of the swing was excessive, then that constitutes interference for you when it comes time for you to play.

HEY REF! I’ve read that if the striker’s swing meets with major interference (“prevented”), that it’s always a stroke—no matter if the opponent is making every effort to clear. Well, in my case, it happened while she was turning on the ball. Does the rule still apply?

You’ve touched on one of two places where there is an exception to that ‘Stroke’ award; the other is during a ‘further attempt’. The 2001 rules introduced a provision that gave the opponent a break for such occurrences— because those actions were considered to be “so quick” and unpredictable that it was fair to make an exception and award just a let.

HEY REF! Occasionally when I’m making a great lob serve, my opponent is ready, but just watches it go and lets it fall to the floor.

When I complain, he says he made no attempt at it—so I gotta start over. Is this fair?

This is unfair—and the result of misinterpreting the rules. The ‘no attempt’ part is incidental to the main point of the rule in question—which is that a let is played if the receiver is “not ready.” What really matters is whether he showed that he was ready—which apparently is the case here since he just seems to watch them go and then decide if he wants to take the serve. If he showed that he was ready, then failing to return the serve results in a point for you.

HEY REF! What happens if my opponent and I both agree that a No Let call was too harsh—and we want to play a let instead? Is the Referee obliged to go with what we say?

There is no provision that allows players to override a Referee’s decision on interference. Occasionally a Referee might go along with the request—but that’s now a potential slippery slope since a precedent has been set. The next time one of you doesn’t like a decision—will you again consult your opponent, and if you disagree, which player should the ref side with? Remember that the Referee generally has a better perspective on an interference situation. There are exceptions, however, such as when the Referee is given additional information like unseen back-swing contact. Finally, when it comes to Marker calls, players have a much closer view—and if both players agree that, say, a ball was actually good when it was called ‘down’—then the ref should go with that.