Tennis 101

Introduction to Tennis

Court Layout:

  • Center Mark (Net Post):
    • 4” line that divides the court in half, where the net is string across the court.
  • Service Line:
    • One half of the Baseline. Runs parallel to the net, but unlike the baseline it only extends to the Singles Sideline, not all the way through the Doubles Alley.
  • Center Service Line:
    • Runs perpendicular from the net to the service box, to split the Service line and create two equal service boxes.
  • Singles Sidelines:
    • Runs the length of the court perpendicular to the net, inside the Doubles alley, which sets the boundaries for singles matches.
  • Doubles Sidelines:
    • The doubles sidelines are a couple of feet outside the Singles Sidelines, which run the length of the court. These are the widest boundaries of the court, and sets the boundaries for all doubles matches.

Areas of the Court

  • Left/Right Service Box:
    • The two equal-sized boxes that are created on each side of the Center Service Line. 
  • Doubles Alley:
    • The space in between the Singles Sidelines and the Doubles Sidelines.
  • No Man’s Land: 
    • Largest box on each side of the court, between the service line and the baseline. Generally the player does not want to be caught there, because you are too far away to volley and too close for a solid groundstroke.
  • Net:
    • 42 feet long x 3.5 feet high at each post, and 3 feet in the center. 


  • There is one official chair umpire, and then line judges located on all 4 sides of the court, on each line.
    • Chair Umpire:
      • Controls basically every aspect of refereeing in the match.
      • Responsible for enforcing the serving time clock/violations.
      • Responsible for keeping the crowd quiet during play.
      • Can overrule the Line Judge
    • Line Judge:
      • Responsible for calling each shot in/out on a particular boundary.
      • Only responsible for one line on one side of the court.


  • Singles Match: Playing a one on one match with another opponent, using the smaller court boundaries 
  • Doubles Match: Playing a two on two match, using the full size of the court as a boundary.
  • Point: The smallest unit of scoring. A point is started when the serving player serves the ball to their opponent. The point is won by the player who either hits an unreturnable shot that lands in play, or forces their opponent into making an error.
  • Game: A game is broken up into 4 individual points.
    • 0 is ‘Love’
    • 1st point is ‘15’ 
    • 2nd point is ‘30’
    • 3rd point is ‘40’ 
    • 4th point wins the game (however you must win by 2 points) 
    • If the score of a single game is 40-40 that is called ‘deuce’ or tie, the next point is called advantage, and then game point. (need to win by 2). When the game is finished, it goes onto the scoreboard into the ‘set’ score.
  • Set: A set is essentially a mini match within the match itself because everything constantly resets. Each set is broken down into individual games. In order to win a set, a player must win at least 6 games, and also win by at least 2 games. Example: 6-5 score extends the set. If it gets to 6-6, the set goes to a 7 point tiebreaker.
  • Tiebreaker: Normal Tiebreaker rules are first player to 7 points, must win by 2. Players alternate serve every other point. All Grand Slams have Super-Tiebreaker Rules, which means, if the final set of a match goes to a tiebreak it is a 10 point tiebreak instead of a 7 point tiebreak. Third set for women, and fifth set for men.

Basic Gameplay:

  • In a singles match, one player starts on each side of the net. In doubles matches, two players start on each side of the net.
  • The serve must bounce in the service box before it can be returned.
  • Missing the service box on the first serve is called a ‘fault’. The server then gets a second chance to serve.
  • If the 2nd serve also faults, this is called a ‘double fault’ and results in the server losing the point.
  • If the serve hits the net cord and lands in the service box, that is called a ‘let’ and the server is allowed to repeat the serve without penalty.
  • If during play the ball hits the net cord, and bounces onto the otherside, the point continues.
  • When in play the player may not touch the net or net post, or cross over onto the opponent’s side of the court.
  • The player can only hit the ball one time before it must go over the net and land in play.
  • The lines on the court are considered in bounds, and the entire ball must miss the entire line to be considered out.
  • Scores are always read with the serving player first, even if they are losing the current game/match. Example, if Player A is serving and the score is 15-40 that means Player B is actually winning that current game, 3 points to 1.
  • Whoever serves first is decided pre-match by a coin flip; the winner of the coin flip has their choice to serve or return first. The serving player is the one who starts each tennis game with the first shot.


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