What Are Some Basic Tennis Terms And Lingo To Know?

Want to learn more about the sport of tennis? This tutorial goes over all the lingo you will need to understand the game.

Below, we have the equipment that is used by competitors during a tennis match.

Racket: Also spelled racquet, is a piece of equipment used to hit the tennis ball. The racket has a handle that has an oval-like shape at the end. This oval is strung with cord in order for the ball to bounce back.

Ball: A tennis ball is a sphere that is made of rubber with a hollow center. The outside of the ball is covered in felt that is a neon yellow or neon green color. This gives the ball a distinct color on the court.

Tennis Court

In this section, we take a look at the court that tennis is played on.

Unlike most sports, tennis is played on a variety of different surfaces. These surfaces include grass, clay, and hardcourt. This difference in the surfaces is often seen in how the ball bounces differently off each one.

Common terms you might hear that regard the court are below:

Tennis Court

Baseline: The baseline is the end line for matches. This is where the players start off each point. This is also the spot where a player serves the ball into play.

Sideline: The outer edge of the court. This is to the left and right of the players.

Center Service Line: Splits the court into two halves.

Service Line: A line on each side of the court that is parallel to the net. A serve must bounce before this line to be legal.


The rules for playing tennis can be found below:

General Rules:

  1. You cannot hit the ball twice.
  2. If a ball hits a line on the court, it is considered to be in play.
  3. A player cannot reach over the net to hit the ball.

Match: A tennis match is played in a set format. You have to win sets to win the match. For women, it is the best of a three-set match. For men, it is the best of a five-set match.

Set: A set is won by winning six games within that set. The winner of a set must win by at least two games.

Game: A game is won by winning four points within that game. The winner of a game must win by at least two points.

Point: A point is won when the opposing player hits the ball out of bounds or does not keep the ball in play after one bounce. The point system starts at zero and proceeds with 15, 30, 40. If a player at 40 gets another point without it being tied at 40, then a game is won.

Serve: A serve is a shot that starts a point. It is an overhead shot that lands diagonally on the other side of the net and the center service line.

Other Lingo

These are other terms you might hear when watching or playing tennis.

Ace: A legal serve that the opponent does not return. This results in a point for the server.

Backspin: A shot where the ball rotates backward.

Topspin: A shot where the ball rotates forwards.

Forehand shot: A shot where you open up your body and swing across the body with your palm facing forward.

Backhand shot: A shot where you swing across the body with your palm facing backward.

Deuce: When a game is tied 40-40.

Rally: Two players returning shots back and forth.

Volley: A shot hit before the ball lands on the side of the court by the returner.