Tennis Rules [ Scoring, Rules for Singles & Doubles Tennis ] Expert Guide

Last Updated on April 28, 2021 by admin

Tennis is, of course, more challenging than any other racket sport due to its unique scoring and playing pattern. This lucidly written article contains brief history, object & equipment needed to play tennis, rules of tennis including: court dimension, playing formats, starting & winning the match, scoring system, fouls, penalties, skills & techniques to play tennis effectively.

Tennis Rules: Court Makeup, Team Composition, Scoring, Faults, Rules For Singles & Double Tennis

Tennis is an utter delight for players as well as spectators.  To play tennis, you must know its rules at first. Its rules are simple to learn but somehow difficult to master. However, we have tried to bring for you a thoroughly penned article that will ease your process of learning the game of tennis.

Whenever you come across the names of Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic, Maria Sharapova or Serena Williams, you start thinking of nothing other than the game of Tennis. Tennis Rules; How to Play Tennis

Presently, with an enormous amount of worldwide fan following and players, this game is the most popular of all other racket sports.

It is a great game for just about any age; and therefore it’s known as a “lifetime sport”. Tennis is played on a rectangular court (with a net in the middle), which can be constructed from a variety of surfaces such as: clay, asphalt, composite, grass, cement and even artificial carpet.

This game can be played as singles (where one player plays against another player), as doubles (where two players play against two opposing players) and even as mixed (where two players of opposite genders, a male and a female, team up against two players of the same composition; a male and a female).

In Tennis each point is started with a serve taken by one side for the entire game either winning or losing each point.

The serve must be taken from behind the baseline, but must be served into alternating service courts beginning with the left service court to the left service court. The play continues until one side fails to either get the ball over the net or hits the ball out of the court.

To win the game, a player has to score 4 points. Whereas, to win the set, a player has to win 7 out of 12 games. And for winning the match, a player or team has to win at least 3 out 5 sets (for males) and 2 out of 3 sets (for female).

Equipment You Need to Play Tennis

Like other racket sports, Tennis needs a stringed racket (21 to 26 inches long), a yellow or light green colored bouncy rubber ball (with 2.70 inches diameter) and a lawn court with a grounded net in its middle. Players can wear sport shoes, regular sport uniforms and caps if they like them to.

Object of Game

The object of the game is to win more number of sets than opposing player. To acquire this object, a player has to serve or receive the ball properly and entangle his opponent to make any mistake while receiving or returning the ball. If a player fails to properly serve or return the ball to his opponent, he loses a point.

Rules of Tennis: Detailed Players Guide

Unlike other racket sports, the rules of Tennis are slightly complicated-cum-confusing for newcomers. In particular, the system of scoring is somehow perplexing. However, with little attention and repetition these rules become part of the habit.

Let’s comprehend the rules of Tennis in detail.

Related Sport: Table Tennis Rules of Playing | Expert Guide

Rule #1. Tennis Court dimension

Tennis court is not enclosed with walls like those of Squash and Racquetball.

  • It is rectangular in shape with 78 ft length for both singles and doubles, 27 ft width for singles and 36 ft width for doubles.
  • The court is divided into two equal halves by a 3.6 ft grounded net.
  • The net is fixed in the middle of the court.

There are various lines on the court that determine different areas.

  • Firstly, you can see different boundary lines such as:
  • two baselines at each end of the court,
  • four sidelines (two interior sidelines for singles and 2 exterior sidelines for doubles) at the sides of the court.
  • The distance between singles and doubles side lines is 4.5 feet of each side of the court.
  • Secondly, you can see one service line on each side of the court and one center service line on each side of the court.
  • The two service lines and center lines collectively make 4 service courts or boxes (two boxes on each side of the court) for the serving purpose.
  • Each service court is 283.5 sq. ft with 21 ft length and 13.5 ft width.
  • There is a small center mark in the middle of each baseline.
  • This center mark determines the side of players while serving the ball.
  • As per rule, players have to make the serve by being on the right side of the center mark.

Rule #2. Team Composition or Playing Formats

Tennis is played singles, doubles and mixed.

  • In singles, one player competes against one player.
  • It can be 1 male vs 1 male or 1 female vs 1 female.
  • In doubles, two players contest against two opponents.
  • It can be 2 males vs 2 males or 2 females vs 2 females.
  • In mixed, two players of opposite gender team up against two players of opposite gender. It means in mixed teams, one teammate is male while the other is female.

Rule #3. Duration of  Match

Duration of a tennis match depends upon its sets and formats;

  • If it is a female match, it may end up soon due to its being shorter (consists of 3 sets).
  • If it is a male tennis match, it may go longer (consists of 5 sets).
  • Another factor that may increase or decrease its duration is wining streak.
  • In a female tennis match, the winner has to win 2 sets. If any player wins first two sets on the trot, match ends there without playing the third set. Thus, it reduces the duration of a match.
  • The same applies to the male tennis matches. If a player wins first three sets consecutively, he is declared as the winner and the rest 2 sets are left un-attempted.
  • However, a female tennis match may last from 2 to 3 hours and a male tennis match may go on for 3 to 5 hours.

Rule #4. Starting the Match

The rules pertaining to the start of match include;

  • Before starting the match, referee holds the proceedings of the coin.
  • One of the players chooses the side of the coin, and the winner of toss is decided in a jiffy.
  • The winner of the toss may choose serving or receiving first. He can also choose the side of the court.
  • In singles, as soon as both the players enter the court, the winner of the toss, before serving the ball, must stand outside of the base line and right side of the center mark, and his opponent may stand anywhere he wants, on the opposing side of the court.
  • In doubles or mixed, the toss winning team stands on their chosen side of the court and the toss losing team stands on the other side of the court.
  • From both the teams, one teammate stands in the service court and the other teammate out of the baseline. They position themselves in a way that they do not stand in one another way.

Rule #6. Scoring System in Tennis

It is nothing other than scoring pattern of tennis that makes many of us confused.

  • The scoring starts from 0-0. This initial zero is loving known as “Love”.
  • So, before starting the first serve, the server has to announce the score of both players on court by shouting “Love-Love”. Remember, the score of server is announced first and then his opponent’s.
  • When a player gets one point, his score reaches 15.
  • When he score 2nd point, his score reaches 30.
  • When he scores 3rd point, his score reaches 40.
  • And when he scores the 4th and last point, he wins the game.
  • If both the players have got 3 points or 40-40 score, it becomes a “Deuce”.
  • A deuce is just like a tie. To solve this and declare the winner, the game goes on for two more points.
  • The first point after 40 score is known as an “Advantage” and the second point is called the “game”.
  • The one who gets two points before his opponent, wins the game.

Rule #7. Tennis Singles Rules

  •  This is played 1 vs 1.
  • This uses the same court with less width. It’s width is 27 feet. In singles, the players are bound to use the inner side lines of the court.
  • The server has to stand behind the baseline, on the right side of center mark.
  • The receiver has to face the server by standing diagonally to him. He has to stand near the corner of baseline to hit back the oncoming ball.
  • The server has to serve diagonally and make the ball land inside of the service court. While the receiver must let the ball bounce once on his side before hitting it.
  • Rest of the playing procedure, scoring and fouls are similar to doubles.

Rule #8. Tennis Doubles

  • It is played 2 males vs 2 males (doubles) and 1 male+1 female vs 1 male+1 female (mixed).
  • The court of doubles is similar to that of singles with more width.
  • Its width is 9 feet greater than a singles’ court. Both formats use the same court with additional space allotted to doubles.
  • In doubles, the server has to stand behind the baseline as in singles, and his teammate stands inside the service court.
  • Whereas, his opponents either stand inside the baseline or one teammate stays inside the service court and one outside of the baseline or even both stand side by side.
  • The server needs to serve diagonally to opponents. Whereas, the opponents need to let the ball bounce once on their side, before hitting it.
  • The rest of the things such as: scoring points, winning criteria, fouls and penalties are identical to that of singles.

Rule #8. Fouls and Penalties in Tennis

It is the responsibility of players to play fairly and show sportsmanship. In case they play unfairly, they will have to pay for it. Let’s discuss some common fouls and penalties in Tennis.

Here is a list of fouls and penalties:

1. The Wrong Serve

If a server serves the ball in an illegal way, he will be subjected to penalty. As per rule, the serve must land inside the diagonal service court of opposite side. If it lands outside of the service court, outside of the side lines or baseline or even collides with the net and falls on the server’s side, it is a foul and the server will lose his one serve.


  • The server is allowed two serves in tennis.

  • If he wastes one serve, he can avail other serve.

  • But if he wastes both the serves (double fault), his opponent gets a point.

2. Out of bounds

If the ball lands out of side lines or baseline, it is a fault. But if it lands on the lines or touches the lines inner side, it is not considered out.

3. Collision of the ball

It is a foul when the ball hits:

  • Net and falls inside the server’s area.
  • Net’s upper part and goes out of the court.
  • Any body parts of the players.
  • Any other object than the rackets.

4. Other Fouls on Players’ Side

It is a foul when the Player;

  • When any player touches the net in an attempt to hit the ball.
  •  When a player goes out of the court while playing the game.

Rule #9. Skills, Techniques and Tips in Tennis

Following are the essential Skills & techniques for winning performance

1). The forehand Shot

The forehand shot is played by holding one’s wrist, in a way, that faces the direction of the ball. is the major stroke for most of the tennis players.

This shot is the most commonly used in tennis. If the forehand shot is your favorite weapon, learn to develop it to its fullest potential. If it’s already your strongest stroke, work on it to make it the best. While, it is also important to strengthen your weaker strokes simultaneously.

It is absolutely unwise to work on only one shot that is already working better for you.

2). Backhand Shot

Opposite to forehand, there is a backhand shot. This shot is played across the body by taking your dominant or racket holding hand to opposite side of the body.

A player holds his racket in a way that his hand faces the direction of the ball. This shot is supposedly more difficult than forehand shot. A tennis lover needs to practice this shot so that to bring easiness and strength in this shot.

3). The Serve Shot

Most players consider the serve shot to be one of the most complex shots in the game. Since, you have to be extra cautious while playing it and failing it may result in penalty.

So, to avoid any mishap, you should quit using too much of your muscles and try to use forehand grip, looking at the area you are target, bending your body according to generate the necessary power to make the ball reach service court.

4). The Return

You must understand that your return of a serve is just as big of a weapon as your serve is. Even great players who do not have a strong serve make up for it with a good return of serve. With a powerful return, you can shock your opponent and control the point.

5). Volley

The tennis volley stroke is another story from typical ground shots. There are some key differences between ground and volley shots that are not obvious but can greatly affect the way you volley. A volley stroke is played in the air and is close to the net, which means there’s not much preparation time for the shot.

When the tennis ball bounces on the court, it loses up to 50% of its power and speed. When you’re volleying, you’re hitting a ball that you don’t have a chance to slow down and react with because the ball is very quickly near you.

6). Overhead Smashes

Overhead shot is always exciting to play and spectacular to watch. This shot is played when your opponent comes near the net and you have entire back court open. You simply hit this shot to pass the ball over your opponent’s head. This shot might look like the serve.

Frequently Asked Questions

1. What are the major championships of Tennis?

There are many tennis championships such as Wimbledon, French Open, US Open, Australian Open and Davis Cup. All these events hold a pivotal place in the world of tennis.

2. Can you serve underhand in Tennis?

Yes, you can serve with underhand shot but is not quite rarely used nowadays.

3. How is serve determined in tennis?

A legal serve is determined when it lands within the bounds of the service court of opposing side.

4. How long is a tennis match?

The duration lies on number of sets and the winning streak. If a player wins required number of sets on the trot, the match can finish before its prolonged time. However, on an average, a tennis match can last for 2 to 3 hours (for female matches) and 3 to 5 hours (for male matches).

5. What is the number of games in a set?

There are 6 games in one set of a tennis match. However, in case of a tiebreaker, they can exceed to 7 games.

6. A tennis match consists of?

It consists of two different number of sets. There are best of 3 sets (for female tennis matches) and best of 5 sets (for male tennis matches).

7. Where is the oldest tennis court? 

It is in the Frankland Palace, Scotland.

8. Why does scoring in tennis confuse us ?

It does confuse us because the modern tennis still follows the oldest traditional method of scoring. This method was introduced in France with the invention of the earliest version of tennis “Jeu de Paume”

9. What is ATP?

It is the Association Of Tennis Players. It works for the ranking of tennis players all around the world

10. What is Grand Slam?

Grand Slam is basically the collective term for four biggest tennis championships held in one year. Those events are: Australian Open, French Open, Wimbledon and US Open.

11. Who is the winner of most Grand Slams?

Roger Federer, a Swiss tennis player, has won the most Grand Slam titles


Tennis has become very familiar game of the globe. It emerged in 12th century in France, and acquired this modern status after struggling. It’s played with stringed rackets and bouncy rubber balls on a rectangular lawn with a middle net. You can play it singles, doubles or mixed.

Its scoring system is a bit tricky, where 1 point equals (15 score), 2 points (30 score), 3 points (40 score) and 4 points is the winning target. To win a game, you need to score 4 points. To win a set, you need to win 6 games (leading opponent with 2 clear game), and to win a match you need to win 3 sets (males) and 2 sets (females).

We hope this article must have helped you in knowing everything necessary for tennis. We are pleased that rulesofplaying served your purpose

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