Hey Ref! An ‘Official’ Q&A

By Barry Faguy

HEY REF! After I’d won a long rally, my opponent asked the Referee: “Were all balls good?” The ref hesitated for a moment and said that he wasn’t sure about one return early on that was near the tin—and ordered a let be played. It occurred to me that this kind of ‘shotgun’ approach to appeals could easily be abused.

You are exactly right. The loser of a rally could, at the end of any long rally, make a generic appeal like that about any non-calls—all in the hope that the ref has a doubt about one shot or another (not at all unusual given the speed of things and the frequent loss of view). To act honestly when faced with such an appeal, the ref would be forced to play a let based on the principle of uncertainty. Therefore, to avoid this potential for abuse, the 2014 rules have added a bit of precision, stating that the ref can require the player to specify exactly which return is being appealed. End of problem!

HEY REF! I got the scare of my life in a match recently when my opponent turned on the ball and then actually hit it. She didn’t hit me, but I was so surprised that I had actually stopped playing—and so lost the rally. I thought it was forbidden to hit the ball after turning?

Turning has always been considered a potentially dangerous action—and in fact, the rules mandate a stroke against any striker who turns and then hits the nonstriker with the ball. And by the way, it doesn’t matter where the ball was going—either to the front wall or side wall! However, nothing in the rules stops a striker from hitting the ball after turning, so long as it is safe (see photos below). A referee may penalize a player who performed any dangerous action, and many ‘turning and hitting’ actions can indeed be dangerous. Nonetheless, a striker may carry on after turning and hit the ball if he/she sees the non-striker to be clear (e.g., stuck to either side wall).

HEY REF! I hit the ball hard down the side wall but, after it hit the joint of the side wall and front wall, it suddenly popped out towards the middle. My opponent originally had her racquet set for a backhand—but quickly switched to the forehand to hit the ball at this unexpected position. I was in front and could have been hit with the ball—and I was penalized a stroke. I thought that when a player turned it could only be a let?

You are right about the turning rule—but wrong about labeling that action as turning. Bringing the racquet across the front of the body like that is known as ‘shaping’—essentially a preparation to strike the ball. In contrast to ‘turning’ where the ball goes around the striker, with ‘shaping’, the ball stays in front of the striker. It’s not viewed as causing an exception to any rule, no special consideration is given for it, and the usual considerations apply. In this case, it sure looks like you were toast!

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