Tennis is one of the biggest and most enjoyable sports played today. But it started about 200 years ago.
But as awesome as tennis is, many people don’t know the rules and how they’re implemented at every stage of the sport.
Easy to Follow Rules of the Tennis
First, a coin toss or racquet spin decides which team or player will serve first. This also decides from which side of the net the serve will come.
Next, the player who wins the coin toss or racquet spin must serve from alternative sides of the baseline.
Before serving, the player’s feet must never extend to the front of the baseline. Otherwise, the serve is voided. This is called the first service.
However, the player has a chance to serve again and get it right, making sure the ball falls into the service box. If the player fails to serve the second time successfully, they lose the point. This is called the second service.
If the ball hits the net during service but falls into the service box, the player can serve again without penalty. This is called a let, and a player has an infinite number of lets, even though a let hardly happens repeatedly.
But if the player serves the ball and it hits the net and falls outside the service box, the serve is voided and the player forfeits the point if it’s on the second serve. This called an out.
A line judge always handles the decision of whether to call a ball in or out. This is because the players do not have the vantage point to see if the ball is in or out. Therefore, calling it can be difficult.
Tennis allows the player receiving the serve to stand where they want on their side of the court. But they have tolet the ball to hit the service box before hitting it to return it. Otherwise, the player serving takes a point.
You cannot volley a serve. It must hit the ground first (within the service box).
Tennis Rules for Scoring
Once there is a successful serve to start the match, the player can have an unlimited number of shots. That is until one of them fails to hit the ball to return it within the scoring area. Here, the opponent takes a point.
In a set, 4 points win a game, which entails getting to 40 points and then an extra point. If two players hit 40-40, it is called a deuce, and to break the deuce, one of the players must get 2 straight points to win the game.
If a player wins one point from deuce, they go on advantage. And if they lose the second point from deuce, they go back to 40-40, which is deuce.
A player must play 6 games and have at least a 2-point lead to win a set.
If a game goes to 6-6, this is called a tie. A player must reach 7 wins to break the tie, and that player wins the set. This rule applies to the opening sets.
There are usually no tie breaks for the final set, but a player must win the set by 2 games without limits.
If a player distracts their opponent or causes an obstruction in any way or even touches the net, they lose a point automatically.
The ball used in the match must remain within baseline for the point to be called in. But if the ball goes outside the line, it is an out. The ball is changed for a new ball after every 6 games.
This video is a simple demonstration of what tennis is, the rules, and how it is played…
Rules for Singles and Doubles in Tennis
The rules that apply to singles match slightly differ from those which apply to a doubles match.
Measuring 27 feet by 78 feet, a singles court makes use of just the innermost part of the sideline during a match.
On the other hand, measuring 36 feet by 78 feet, a doubles court uses only the outermost sideline during a match.
There is a coin toss to serve at the beginning of a singles match, and the winner decides who gets the first serve. Whoever makes that serve must serve throughout the first game.
For the second game, the server is the player who last received the ball. They will serve throughout the second game.
When a game is odd-numbered, the players must switch sides, moving from the side of the court on which they played the previous game to the side on which their opponent played.
To serve at the beginning of a doubles match the rules are basically the same, except that the players are teams.
But for the second game, the team will choose who will serve, instead of having the team that received last to serve for the second game.
The teams also switch sides for games with odd numbers, but the player in the first team who has not yet served will serve now.
For the next game, the player from the second team who is yet to serve will serve.
To break a tie in a singles match, this is the serving order:
1st Point: Player A serves
2nd Point: Player B serves
3rd Point: Player B serves
4th Point: Player A serves
5th Point: Player A serves
6th Point: Player B serves
7th Point: Player B serves
8th Point: Player A serves
It will continue in this manner until the end of the match.
To break a tie in a doubles match, where A and C belong to a team while B and D belong to a team, this is the serving order:
1st Point: Player A serves
2nd Point: Player C serves
3rd Point: Player C serves
4th Point: Player B serves
5th Point: Player B serves
6th Point: Player D serves
7th Point: Player D serves
8th Point: Player a serves
It will continue in this manner until the end of the match.
A singles match is played to the best of 3 sets for women and the best of 3 sets for men (unless you’re in one of the major tournaments like Wimbledon when it will be the best of 5 for men. Women still play 3 sets).
But for a doubles match, it is played to the best of 5 sets.
What the Game Is
The game entails hitting a small ball, called a tennis ball, from one side of the tennis court, over a net, to the other side.
The ball must hit the floor of the court within the marked margin, and in such a manner, an opponent cannot get to the ball on time to hit it.
When this happens, the one who hits the ball wins a point against the one who cannot return the ball.
The passing of the tennis ball over the net is called a rally.
According to Statista, more than 700,000 people in the United Kingdom said they played tennis more than 2 times in a month in 2020.
In the United States, about 345,000 students, many of which were female, said they played the sport in high school in 2019/2020
A tennis match can be played as a singles game or a doubles game.
In a singles game, there are 2 players, each standing on different ends of the court. The players have to toss a coin to decide who will make the first serve before the game begins.
In a doubles game, there are two teams, each team consisting of two players.
The teams could be made up of a man and a woman, two women or two men. But it must be the same for both sides. As with the singles game, there is a coin toss to decide who serves first.
Setting and Equipment
A tennis court is a rectangular-shaped field marked on either side with two tram lines, a baseline, and two service areas.
The service areas are the two marked spaces just on either side of the net inside, where the ball must land if the serve must be counted as successful.
In a singles game, the players must use the inner tram line. But in a doubles game, the players must use the outer tram line.
A standard tennis court can be made of 4 different surfaces: carpet, clay, grass, and hard surface.
Because tennis has different types of tournaments, each tournament is mandated to pick one type of surface to play on and stick with that throughout the tournament.
For a typical tennis match, all the equipment that each player needs is a racquet with strings and a tennis ball.
Scoring and Winning
To score, a player must serve the ball to stay within the boundaries without their opponent being able to return the ball.
Each score is a point, and a point is counted as 15. Two points are counted as 30, three points are counted as 40, and four points win the game if the opponent does not equalize.
However, if both players get to 40 or three points at the same time, it is called a deuce. And to decide the winner after this time, a player must score two points ahead of their opponent.
Each match has 3 sets (unless you are playing in a major tournament).
To win a set, a player must get to 6 games first while being ahead by 2 games, at least.
That is, a player must play 6 games with the opponent but must be ahead in the set by 2 games to be the winner of the set.
For example, if an opponent wins 5 games in a set, a player must play 7-5 to win the set. However, if the match points get to 6-6, it is a tie, and the first player to hit 7 wins the game.
To make it easier to count, here is a list of points in a tennis match:
1 point = 15
2 points = 30
3 points = 40
1 more point = wins the game if the other player does not equalize
40-40 = deuce
Server wins a point in deuce = advantage or Add-in
Receiver wins a point in deuce = Ad-out
If you are new to the sport, watch this video for a physical guide…
Common Tennis Terms and their Meaning
The following are terms used commonly in tennis and what they mean:
- Ace: A well-served ball that a receiving player cannot touch with their racquet.
- AD: Stands for Advantage and is used in a deuce. If the server scores, it is called an Add-in. But if a receiver scores, it is called an Ad-out.
- Deuce: A score-line of 40-40.
- Let: A serve where the ball hits the net, but falls inside the service box. The serve can be retaken.
- Server: A player in a game who serves the ball.
- Receiver: Also called the returner, this is the player or team who receives the serve.
- Service Break: A term referring to the game that a receiving player or team wins.
- Serve: Putting the ball into play for a point.
- Point: The lowest score in a game.
- Game: Part of a match set, completed when a player or team gets 4 points or is ahead of the opponent by 2 points. It also refers to when a player wins two consecutive games after a deuce is called.
- Match: The entire contest, usually made up of sets.
- Backhand: A stroke that a right-handed player uses to return a ball hit to their left or a left-handed player uses to return a ball hit to their right.
What are the Different Types of Serve in Tennis?
There are four different types of serve in tennis, namely:
- Kick serve
- Flat serve
- Underhand serve
- Slice serve
There is a fifth type of serve, the pat-a-cake serve, but the term is usually used in a derogatory fashion.
A Handy Tip
Call out points during a match to help remember who has what score.
This is especially necessary if there is no official scorekeeper.
If you have ever played a particularly intense match, you will appreciate someone being vocal with the points as the match progresses.
The game of tennis can be so much fun if you grasp the rules and follow them. But remember, this game is extremely active and can be physically exhausting.