The basics of Tennis, explained

basics of Tennis

Tennis is a game played on a rectangular court by either two players (singles) or four (doubles).

Players stand on opposite sides of a net and use a stringed racket to hit a ball back and forth to each other.Each player has a maximum of one bounce after it has been hit by their opponent to return the ball over the net and within the boundaries of the court.Once a player fails to do any of these three things, her opponent wins a point.The aim is to win enough points to win a game and enough games to win a set and enough sets to win a match.The first person to win six games wins a set.Matches are usually the best of three or the best of five sets.

Basics of Tennis



A two-player game is known as a singles match.Players use the narrower singles court. The player who plays the ball first is the server and the person who returns it is the receiver.

Players swap serve every game and change ends every other game. There is no penalty for serving out of turn but as soon as the mistake is discovered, the correct player must begin serving.

The right to be server or receiver or the choice of ends is decided by tossing a coin or spinning a racket.


The winner of the toss can choose one of four options:

  • To serve, in which case the opponent can choose ends
  • To receive, in which case the opponent can choose ends
  • The end of the court at which he or she wishes to begin the match, in which case the opponent can choose to serve or receive
  • To ask the opponent to choose



The game of doubles is exactly the same, except the wider court is used. Players within a pair do not have to hit alternate shots.

However, the serve rotates so that each player serves once every fourth game.

For instance from Player A in Pair A, to Player B in pair B, back to Player C in Pair A and then to Player D in Pair B.

Players can only change the order of serving and receiving at the end of a set.

The server’s partner and the receiver’s partner may stand anywhere they like on the court during the serve, even if it obstructs play.

Traditionally however, each player takes one side of the court.

Fault and Double Fault

Do note that the server is given two opportunities to serve the ball within the service court as marked in the diagram below. When the server fails to get his first serve into the diagonally opposite service court, it is called a fault serve. A double fault is committed if the server fails to get his second serve into the diagonally opposite service court and the receiver will then earn a point.

If the ball hits the net and falls within the service court, this is called a “net serve”, the server will be entitled to re-serve the ball into the service court. For example, if a “net serve” is made on the server’s first serve, the server will be entitled to re-serve his first serve. There are no limits to the number of “net serves” a player can commit.

The server should stand before the right side of the baseline and serve the ball diagonally across to the receiver’s right service court and then proceed to serve from his left side of the baseline diagonally across to the receiver’s left service court.

Counting Scores

Counting score in tennis match is some tricky business. The server’s score is always announced first before the receiver’s throughout the game.
The point system of a tennis match is as follows:

• No points are scored = Love
• 1 point scored = 15 points
• 2 points scored = 30 points
• 3 points scored = 40 points
• 4 points earned = set point (set over)

For a tennis player to win a game, he/she must win with at least a two point lead.

If the score is tied at 40 to 40 (what is called as a “Deuce”), a player must earn two consecutive points (an “Advantage” point and “Point”) to win the game. If the player who has an “Advantage” point loses the next point, the score will be “Deuce” once again.

A set is won when a player has won a minimum of six games with a two game advantage over his opponent, for example, the potential score for a six game set maybe 6 – 0 or 6 – 4 but not 6 – 5. In a scenario where the score is tied at 5 – 5, a player must win 2 consecutive games before he wins a set.  For example, a player may win a set with the score of 7 – 5 or 8 – 6.

In or Out!

Whether a shot is “IN” or “OUT” is the big question behind every shot and why tennis pros like Agassi and McEnroe unleash fury on match officials. Here is a guide to both the singles and doubles game.

In a game of singles, the ball must be hit within both “SERVICE COURTS”, the “BACK COURT” and the “ALLEY LINE” as marked in the diagram below for a point to be scored. Balls hit in the between the “SIDE LINE” and “ALLEY LINE” are considered balls hit out of court and thus earning your opponent a point.

In a doubles game, the ball must be hit within both “SERVICE COURTS”, the “BACK COURT” and the area between the “ALLEY LINE” and “SIDE LINE” for a point to be scored.

Next steps

That’s it! Hopefully, that clears up The basics of Tennis. You should now have the knowledge of Tennis – How does the sport work?

Found this article useful? We have loads more similar ones in our learning section. Here are some popular ones;