The Basics

Tennis is one of the most fun sports to play and is very entertaining to watch. This may be thanks to the simple nature of the sport making it accessible to all. However, some newcomers to tennis can find the rules and in particular the unwritten rules in the form of "tennis etiquette" daunting. Hopefully, this post will help you feel more at ease on the tennis court by clearly laying out all the written and unwritten rules of tennis. If you are already pretty familiar with the rules of tennis and are more curious about etiquette, skip the next two paragraphs.


Basic Tennis Rules

I will begin by telling you a little bit about scoring in tennis. A standard tennis match is played as a 'best of three-set' match. This is just a fancy way of saying the first person to get two sets wins the match. A set is won by winning six games against your opponent. There are a couple of conditions to this rule and they are; if you are at five games all (5-5) you must win by two games i.e., (7-5). Furthermore, if you are at six games all in a set (6-6), you play a 'tie-break'. This is a first to get seven points system and you must win by two points meaning 7-6 would not win you the tie-break. Games are won by getting 4 points off your opponent, but again you must win by two points. The scoring in games is a little more complex. Instead of using a scoring system like 1,2,3, and 4, we use 15,30,40, and game. Tennis players call zero 'love' and when you get to 40-40 it is called deuce. One point after deuce is called advantage. Failure to win an advantage point will result in a subsequent return to deuce and this process is continued until the game is won.


A standard tennis court has many different lines which all serve (pun intended) their own unique purpose. It is very important to know that if any part of an 'in-play' tennis ball touches any part of a playable line, that ball is in. The baseline marks the position where the server starts the point. On the centre of the baseline, you will find a small indent called the 'T'. Servers must serve diagonally and this T prevents them from going too far over while serving. Serves must go into the service box which is made up of the 'central service line', 'service line', and 'inside tramline'. The 'outside tramline' is used only when playing doubles to allow more space for play. If the ball makes contact with any off-court objects such as lamposts and proceeds to go in the court after contact, this is not allowed and the player who hit this shot loses the point. A ball is only allowed to bounce once on your side before you must make contact with the ball unless you are playing wheelchair tennis then you're allowed two bounces. The ball can also only make contact with your racket once otherwise it is called a 'double-hit' and you lose the point.


Tennis Etiquette

1) The server keeps the score and should call out the score before serving to prevent any mix-ups or disagreements.

2) It is the responsibility of the returner to make sure the server has all the balls they need. In other words, after each point, the returner should hit all the balls on their side of the court up to the servers side.

3) If there is a bench available on the side of the court, you do not sit down after the first game is played.

4) Grunting is permitted but obnoxiously loud grunts are frowned upon and unnecessary.

5) When walking behind courts, you must wait until an ongoing point is over before crossing behind the players.

6) Servers get 20 seconds between points before they must serve again.

7) NEVER MAKE BAD CALLS. No-one likes a cheat.

8) Always shake hands or touch rackets after a match.

9) Do not talk between points.

10) Don't answer your phone on the court unless your opponent gives you permission.

11) When a tennis ball rolls onto your court say "ball on court!" and stop the point. Return the ball back to the other players and replay the point. If the server was hitting a second serve, they now have the first serve.

12) When playing weaker players do not serve hard into their body as this could lead to injury. Be encouraging everyone needs to start somewhere.


Fun Fact: The reason why zero in tennis is called 'love' is actually thanks to the French. The French word for an egg is l'oeuf. Eggs look like zeros and a few decades of anglicisation later and you get 'love'.

Mind = Blown

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