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ADIDAS/June 2024/
4 minute read

The Basics of Tennis: A Guide to Rules and Regulations

Whether you’re learning to play the game or watching a match, get the rules of tennis down before venturing to the court.

Tennis is an exciting and fast-paced game that is a joy to watch or play. But tennis balls aren’t the only thing flying across the court—so are words like ace, deuce, love, and let. This lingo is unique to the game, and knowing what it all means is a necessary step to enjoying the sport. Learn the basic tennis rules and scoring systems with adidas so you can either play or watch the sport with confidence and understanding.

Game, Set, Match

In tennis, games create a set, and sets create a match. Six games create one set, and each set must be won by two games or else it goes to a tiebreaker game. Tennis is typically played in best-of-three sets, but some tournaments are played in best-of-five sets.

Tennis Scoring Rules

  • Zero points = “Love”
  • Tied score = “All”
  • First point = 15
  • Second point = 30
  • Third point = 40
  • 40-40 = “Deuce”
  • Server wins deuce point = “Ad-In”
  • Receiver wins deuce point = “Ad-Out”

To win a game in singles and doubles matches, you must score four points, and win by two points over the opposition. If both players score three points and the score comes to 40-40, it’s called deuce, meaning a player needs to score two consecutive points to win. If one player scores, they have the advantage (Ad) to win, but if the opposing player scores, then the game goes back to deuce and a player must score two more points in a row to win.

If a tiebreaker game is needed to determine the winner of a set, points are scored in ones rather than the regular tennis scoring system. The first player to reach seven points or more with a two-point lead wins the set. Serves switch after the first point and then after every two points.

The Layout of a Tennis Court

The layout of the tennis court is always the same, but different parts are used when playing singles or doubles. For singles, the width of the court is 27 feet wide, using the first sideline before doubles alley as the edge. The doubles alley is used when two partners are playing, making the court width 36 feet.

When serving, the ball must land in the diagonal service box. So if you’re serving to the right of the center mark, you’d aim to hit the ball into the right service box on the opponent’s side (the server’s left as they face the net).

Rules of the Game

A coin toss determines who serves first or which side of the court you’re on. Each game starts at 0-0, or “Love-All”. The server’s point is always announced first, then the opponent’s second.

Serving:

Each point begins with one player serving the ball. That player serves the entire game, then the players switch sides of the court and the other player is the server for the game. Doubles games follow suit, with your partner serving the third game, the opposing partner serving the fourth game, and continuing in the same serving order throughout the set.

The server has two attempts at a successful serve, otherwise the point goes to the opponent. A legal serve is one where the server stands to the right of the center mark and behind the baseline. They toss the ball up into the air and hit into the opponent’s right service box. A serve that lands correctly and the receiver is unable to hit is called an “ace”, and the point goes to the server.

Serving Faults:

If the ball hits the net, a post, doesn’t land in the correct service box, or the server’s foot touches or lands on the baseline or in the court, it’s called a fault. After a first-serve fault, you have one more chance to serve correctly otherwise it’s a double fault and the point goes to the opponent.

If the ball grazes the net and lands in the service box, it is called a “let”, and the server is allowed another serve, even if the let happened on the second serve.

Rally:

Once a ball crosses over the net, it may bounce only once before the receiving player must hit it back across the net. When players hit it back and forth consistently, it’s called a “rally”, and the first player to miss the ball, hit the net, or hit the ball out of bounds loses the point.

Take Your Swing

With the basic tennis rules mastered, it’s time to learn about techniques that earn the points. Read our guides to learn how to swing a tennis racket, or strengthen your speed and agility with workouts for tennis players. If you’re more in the market for cheering from the sidelines, then check out our tennis skirt styling guide.

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