Clear, Clear: The Two Components of Clearing
Rod Symington is on the WSF Rules and Referees Committee and is a consultant on Rules and Refereeing to the USA. He has also been the Tournament Referee for, among others, the Women's Worlds, Pan Am Games, and Junior Men's and Women's Worlds.
To contact Rod with questions or to enquire about clinics and his Squash Rules for Players, email him at firstname.lastname@example.org
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The job of the ink-stained scribe is easy when his only regular reader supplies him with material for his monthly column. This month's hot topic was provided by the Editor of this worthy publication who recently suffered a frustrating—and all too common—experience on the squash court. Here is his e-mail—with all the unprintable words deleted:
Last week I had a less than enjoyable experience playing somebody in our league. The biggest issue was his belief that he was clear every time I asked for a let. My contention was that he was not clearing a path; rather he was simply backing away from the ball.
I may be incorrect in my interpretation of a let and sufficient
clearing but the typical scenario was the following:
I hit a drop-shot to either corner; he goes from the T to re-drop the ball and then backs straight back to the T leaving me two alternatives: go around him or ask for a let. In his opinion, he had cleared because he wasn't close to the ball anymore. Problem was he was simply backing into me, making it next to impossible for me to play the ball.
Unfortunately, Ed, this is a very common scenario—and one which the offending player often does not understand and which causes the offended player to weep and gnash his teeth in sheer frustration, and fire off an e-mail to yours truly. If you have described the scenario accurately, your opponent was guilty of blocking and should have lost the point every time.
The Obligation to Clear
The Rule is quite simple and unambiguous: After playing the ball, you must make every effort to get out of the way and give your opponent direct, unobstructed access to the ball.
Note that there are two components to this obligation. First: you must make every effort to get out of your opponent's way; and second, you must move in a direction that gives him or her direct, unobstructed access to the ball.
Thus it will not do to make every effort to clear if you do not at the same time give your opponent the required direct, unobstructed access. You must clear in a direction that does not impede your opponent from going directly to the ball.
This applies especially when you have hit a drop-shot: if you hit a drop-shot and move straight back towards the “T,” right into the path of the incoming striker, you are not fulfilling the obligations of this Rule. It does not matter how fast you move; if you move into your opponent's path to the ball, you are breaking the Rule. You may indeed be clear of the ball, but that is not good enough; you must also be clear of your opponent's direct path to the ball. If your opponent calls let and could have reached the ball, you lose the stroke.
So what is a player to do who wants to hit a drop-shot? Answer: play the ball to a part of the front wall that gives you the opportunity to clear quickly out of your opponent's way. If you do not do that, you have, in effect, hit a poor shot—and you must suffer the consequences.
Life may not be fair, but the Rules of Squash make up for life's deficiencies.