Basic Tennis Terms Every Beginner Should Know

Whether you’ve been watching the Australian Open, or you’re simply navigating your child’s newfound interest in tennis, all the jargon can sometimes get in the way of enjoying the game!

To help break down the barriers, we’ve created a simple cheat-sheet of tennis terms we think everyone should get to know.

The equipment

Racquet

The tennis racquet is the basic tool of the game. While the original racquets were made from wood, these days the racquets are more likely to be made from graphite and the strings from plastic.

Ball

It’s yellow, it’s round and it bounces. The ball is what you hit between players.

The Court

The court is where the action happens! Tennis courts can be made out of a variety of materials, although they are commonly known as hard, clay or grass courts. The exact size of the court is determined by the International Tennis Federation – although ANZ Tennis Hot Shots courts are smaller in size to accommodate kids. Here’s a cool graphic that shows you exactly what a tennis court looks like.

Net

The net divides the court in two. The aim of the game is to hit the ball over the net and into your opponent’s side of the court.

Baseline

The line at the back of the court that runs parallel to the net.

Service box

The two boxes on either side of the net. A server must serve from one side of the court into the service box diagonally opposite them.

Tram lines

The external court lines that run parallel to the singles lines. These lines are considered ‘out’ in singles, but ‘in’ when playing doubles.

Types of Stroke

A stroke is the way you swing a tennis racquet to hit the ball.

Serve

The serve (or service) starts the point. Players will usually hit an over-arm stroke (although they can hit underarm) from behind the baseline into the service box diagonally opposite them. A player has two serves per point, called a first and a second serve.

Forehand

The shot played when the palm of the dominant hand is facing forward. For instance, if you are right handed, the forehand will be played on the right hand side of the body.

Backhand

The shot played when the back of the dominant hand is facing forward. For instance, if you are right handed a backhand is a shot you play on the left side of the body.

Volley

A stroke where a player hits the ball back over the net (using a forehand or backhand) before the ball bounces on their side of the court.

Types of Play

Singles

A tennis game played by two opponents.

Doubles + Mixed Doubles

A match between teams of two players. In doubles tennis, the tram lines come in to play.

Terms of Play

In

A call made when a ball falls within the playing area.

Out

A call made when a ball lands outside the playing area.

Fault

When the ball does not land in the opponents court. A fault can be called if a serve, forehand, backhand or volley lands outside the playing area.

Let

Most commonly called when a player’s serve hits the net but lands in the correct service box. A let can also be called if a point is interrupted by an outside interference. In the event of a let a point is replayed.

Ace

A point won by the server when the receiver doesn’t touch the ball.

Scoring

Points

The aim of each game is to be the first player to score four points. Tennis points are numbered as follows:

  • Love – meaning zero
  • 15 – when a player wins the first point of a game. If the opponent wins the next point we say 15-all
  • 30 – when a player wins two points in a game
  • 40 – when a player wins three points in a game
  • Deuce – when the score is 40-40 it is called Deuce. A player must win two consecutive points from deuce to win a game
  • Advantage – the point played after deuce. If the player with the advantage wins the point the game is over

Remember: in tennis, the server’s score is always called first. If they win the first point of the game we say 15-love. If they lose it we say love-15.

Game

The building blocks of a set. Each set comprises of at least six games.

Set

A set is usually comprised of six games. However, if the players are tied at five games all the set becomes the first to seven games.

Match

In professional tennis a match is determined by the best of three or five sets.