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 : A Complete Players Guide how to Play 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.
Introduction 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.
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).
Brief History of Tennis
As for as we know of the rich history of Tennis, it was initially played with bare hands instead of the rackets, in 12th century, in France.
At that time this game was known as “Jeu de Paume” or game of the palm. This game was played by French gentry as well as laymen.
It was in the 13th century when indoor courts were constructed. However, rackets were still out of the context until then, and this game continued to be played with hands, ball and court with high net.
However the word “Tennis” is believed to have evolved from a French word “tenez”. Tenez literarily means to receive, hold and take. It was the server, who, before serving the ball to his opponent, used to inform him by shouting the word “Tenez”.
Around 16th century this game reached English soil and came to be known as “Real Tennis or Royal Tennis”. This version of tennis is still played in some parts of the world having complex rules when compared to modern tennis.
It was probably later on when hand gloves became common. After hand gloves, there came wooden paddles for hitting the ball, and after that the prototype of our modern stringed racket was used.
There was a time when the popularity of tennis was declining and other racket sports particularly Squash and Racquetball were gaining ascendancy.
It was the 19th century when tennis did a strong comeback with the invention of rubber ball and lawnmower. From the same century onwards, certain famous championships were organized that still hold their glory in 21st century.
Those championships are: Wimbledon (1877), U.S Open (1881), French Open (1889-1925), Olympics (Tennis included in Summer Olympics 1896), Australian Open (1905) and Davis Cup.
In the start of the 20th century, to be precise in 1913, an international governing body of lawn tennis namely: International Lawn Tennis Federation (ILTF) was founded. The same governing body was later renamed as: International Tennis Federation (ITF) in 1977.
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; How to Play Tennis
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.
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.
5. How to Play Tennis; Step by Step Guide
Here is an easy step wise procedure to help you play tennis.
Tennis is easy to play as explained in following step by step guide.
First of all, arrange 2 rackets for a game of two players, one rubber ball and a playable court with a net in the middle of it. The court must be marked with lines that determine special playing areas.
Having arranged every necessary thing, go for toss to formally start the match. The toss winning player can choose to serve or receive the ball, and he can also select the side of the court.
After the toss and selection of the side of the court, the server has to stand outside of the baseline just right side of the center mark and the receiver may stand anywhere on the other side of the court.
However, it is recommended for the receiver to stand diagonally to his opponent, preferably out of the baseline, on the left of center mark.
The receiver has to take this position because the server has to serve the ball diagonally and it must land within the bounds of diagonal service court.
The server, before serving the ball, must keep in mind that his ball must land in the service court that lies diagonally on the other side of the court.
He must also keep in mind that his ball must not collide with the net or go out of the playing area. The ball has to cross the net and land inside of designated area, that lies on the opposite side.
The server has two chances to serve the ball properly. In case, the first serve goes astray, he can avail himself of another serve at once.
The aim of a server has to get points by beating his opponent. When an opponent fails to respond the ball, being hit by the server, in a befitting manner, he loses a point.
One the other hand, the receiver has to be on the alert while receiving the ball. He should stand at a position where he can respond his opponent’s shot properly.
The receiver has to let the ball bounce only once. His aim is similar to the server’s, that is to beat him (the server) and make the ball pass him without letting him hit it.
After the first legal serve (the ball’s landing in the service court after passing the net) and respond from the receiver, a series of unlimited shots (a rally) starts. The one who misses to send the ball back to his opponent properly, loses the point.
When a player loses a point, his opponent serves the ball. After each point, the sever has to switch the sides for serving.
Both the players (the server and the receiver) should avoid certain fouls that might cost them points or deprive them of the serves.
The prevailing fouls in tennis are: a wrong serve, the ball’s going out of bounds, the ball’s bouncing more than once, the players’ touching the net with hands, rackets or anything else except the ball that crosses the net after touching upper side of it and finally ball’s touching players’ body.
Players can also avail a let. A let is a faulty shot that is replayed by the player after referee’s decision. When a ball kisses the upper side of the net and bounces inside the service court of opposing side, it is a let. However, if a ball, after touching the net, bounces outside of the court, it is a foul and thus one serve is wasted.
To win a game, a player has to score 4 points before his opponent. To win a set, a player has to win 6 games and must be 2 games ahead of his opponent.
If both the players have won 6-6 games, a tiebreaker is applied. In tiebreaker, the first player to win 7 games, wins the set. Ultimately to win a match, a player has to win 3 out of 5 sets.
A tennis match may last for 2-3 hours for female and 3-5 hours for male players.
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.
7. How to win a tennis match?
For winning a male tennis match, you have to win at least 3 out of 5 sets, and to win a female tennis match, you have to win 2 out of 3 sets. To win a set, a player or team must win 6 games and lead opponent/s by 2 games.
For example, if your opponent have 4 wins, you must have 6 wins. In case, both the players or teams have won equal number of games; 6-6, then a tiebreaker comes into action.
A tiebreaker is used to finalize the winner. In tiebreaker, the first player or team winning one more (7th game), wins the set.
7. What are the major differences between singles and doubles?
There are a few major differences between both the formats of tennis. Let’s discus them separately.
1. Tennis Singles
- 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.
2. Tennis Doubles (mixed)
- 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.
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.
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.
9. Skills, Techniques and Tips in Tennis
a. 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.
b. 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.
c. 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.
d. 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.
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.
f. 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 about Tennis Rules
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.