A Beginners Guide to Tennis

Tennis is a racket sport that was first played in the 19th century, Birmingham, UK. However, historians believe that the origins of tennis date back to the 12th Century in France, where the ball was struck by the hand rather than a racket.

Tennis can have some great benefits, both physically and mentally. It can improve your mood, help you lose weight, increase your energy and even help you sleep better! It is estimated that 1.17% of the world's population play tennis, whether that's professionally or for fun.

If you are looking to take part in the sport and learn how to play, we’ve got the perfect beginners guide for you.

What you need

  • Tennis balls

  • Tennis shoes

  • Tennis racquet and extra tennis string - just in case!

The Basics


The aim in tennis is to win enough points to win a game, win enough games to win a set, and then win enough sets to win the entire match.

Men's tennis matches will play to a 'best of 5' scenario, while women's tennis matches play to a 'best of 3' scenario.


Unless you are playing doubles, which can be mixed, tennis is a single player game.


The scoring in tennis is a little different compared to other sports, there is not set time for tennis matches, so it could last a long time - there is a three point system that will determine your score:

1 point - 15

2 points - 30

3 points - 40

For example, the game will start at 0-0, like any game, if you win a point you will be rewarded 15, so the score will now be 15-0 (in tennis, 0 is referred to as ‘love’).

If you make it to 40-0, you will have won the game, if you are tied at 15-15 or 30-30, it will be referred to as 15 or 30 - all.

Simply put, one player needs to have a 2 point advantage in order to win the game.

If the game is tied at 40-40, this is known as a deuce and will move to advantage scoring. If you win a point, you will then hold the advantage. Meaning, you need to score another point you will win the game, if your opponent wins the next point, it will go back to a deuce. This will repeat until one player has won a point twice in a row.


In order to win a set, you need to win at least 6 games. If you have won 6 games, but your opponent has won 5, you will continue playing until one player has goes ahead by 2 games.

In a tie break, the single player or duos will swap ends of the court every 6 points (e.g. it could be 3-3 or 1-5), in a tie break the scores will be as simple as 1,2,3…

Whoever reaches 7 points, by 2 will win the tiebreak. Often the score can get high due to the 2 point rule, e.g. it could get to 14-12.

Court Layout

Every tennis court is designed for both singles and doubles games.

Depending on whether it is a singles or doubles game, the rules are changed regarding the use of the lines on the court.

The image below highlights the key areas of the court.

  • Doubles alley: When playing doubles, this part of the court can be used, in singles if the ball lands here, it will be considered ‘out’.
  • Doubles sideline: this is where the court ends for doubles, if the ball goes over this line it is out.
  • Singles sideline: this is where the court ends for singles games, if the ball goes over this line it is out.
  • Deuce court: this is the right side of the court, it is called ‘deuce court’ as the ball is served there on a deuce point.
  • Ad court: this is the left side of the court and is where the ball must bounce before returning a serve.
  • Baseline: the court's back line, if the ball got beyond this line it is called ‘out’.
  • Service line: the serve should be taken behind this line
  • Centre Service line: this marks the end of the service boxes
  • Centre mark: divides the baseline in half
Regulation tennis court size png

Credit: www.perfect-tennis.com


A fault in tennis is an invalid serve attempt. A player will receive a maximum of 2 attempts to serve when it is their service game. If they receive a fault on their first serve, they will attempt a second serve. If they fault on the second serve, their opponent wins the point.

There a few different types of serving fault:

  • Net fault: when the serve hits the net and falls on the server's side of the court.
  • Out fault: when the service ball lands out of bounds.
  • Foot faults: this will occur when the server's foot touches the baseline or the inside of the baseline, when attempting a serve.
  • Double fault: when a player loses two serves in a row.

Shot types

  • Serve: A shot taken to start playing/start a point, this will be repeated every time a point is won.
  • Groundstrokes: a forehand or backhand shot that occurs after the ball has bounced in the court.
  • Forehand: you will use your dominant hand to swing the racquet, with your hand and palm facing forward
  • Backhand: using your dominant hand or 2 hands, you swing the racquet with your hand facing forward.
  • Lob: when a player hits the ball high and deep into the opposite player's court, this is usually done with an overhead shot.
  • Volley: when the ball is struck before it bounces on the ground
  • Drop shot: when the ball is hit slowly over the next so it lands short, giving your opponent a challenge.
  • Tweener: a shot that is hit between the legs, although it occurred before his time, the shot was made famous by Roger Feder.
Roger federer 2jpg

Credit: Sports Illustrated

Tennis Etiquette

When it comes to sport, especially classic sports like tennis, there is an etiquette you need to follow. Of course, you should always show sportsmanship in any sport, but in tennis there are a few other things you should know before hitting the court.

Line calls:

Unless it is a professional tournament, there may not be any officials to make line calls.

Normally, you will call your lines on your side of the court, as the view is clearer - it is good etiquette to be honest about your decision.

Missed serves:

If there is a clear fault serve, do not return it, leave it or hit it off to the side or back of the court.

Waiting to serve:

Ensure that your opponent is ready to receive your serve, rather than giving them an unfair advantage.

Pick up the ball:

Make sure the court is clear of any stray balls

Pick the balls up and give them to your opponent unless you are next to serve.

Make sure whoever is serving always has 2 balls


Be respectful when celebrating, do not go overboard in hopes to anger your opponent, keep it civil and always play respectfully and show sportsmanship.

Shake hands:

At the end of any game, whether you have won or not, always shake your opponent's hand to show respect.

Now it's time for you to hit the court!