What is Tennis?


Tennis is a highly popular sport, with over 1 billion participants world wide. With so many people playing the sport, tennis also has a big following at its professional level, with the best tennis players figuring among the highest paid athletes in the world. Tennis can be played in singles or in doubles, with men and women playing together in the same game.

Part of the sport's popularity is because tennis is so easy to pick up. It isn't hard to find a public tennis court or one that is cheap to rent, and when you do, the only other things needed are a partner, a racquet, and a few balls. In addition to that, there are many people who are knowledgeable enough to teach it, and so it is usually not expensive to take tennis classes and learn the basics.


tennis history

It is said that tennis' origins go thousands of years back. Although it wasn't anything like the sport we know today, tennis originated in the 12th century, from a game where players used the palms of their hands to strike the ball. Racquets were introduced later, around the 16th century. The game was very popular; King Henry VIII from England even built a court on his palace to play it in the 1530s. For a long time, the sport wasn't available for just anyone, playing tennis was reserved for the rich and powerful, like King Henry himself.

In 1870 the All England Croquet Club was established, where aristocratic members would join and play the game. The club exists to this day, and it is where the Wimbledon Tournament, one of the tennis Grand Slams, is played. Around the same time, tennis was becoming increasingly popular. The sport spread across the globe, with tournaments being played around the world.

Playing Surface

tennis court

The field of play in tennis is referred to as the tennis court, a flat, rectangular surface that measures 78 ft by 27 ft for singles, and 78 ft by 36 ft for doubles, and is divided into two equivalent halves by a net stretched across the center.

The material of which the court is made is a big part of tennis. Tennis courts can be made of many different materials, but the most common ones are asphalt, clay, concrete, grass, and artificial turf.


tennis equipment

One of the aspects that make tennis so popular is that not a lot of equipment is needed to play a tennis match. The first thing you'll need is a court to play on, which is not hard to find. There are many courts that can be rented, and even some public courts that can be used for free. You'll also need someone to play with. Both of you will need a racquet and a couple of tennis balls. In addition to that, athletic attire and good athletic shoes are also recommended, but that's pretty much all you need to play tennis.


Tennis Gameplay

In tennis, players volley a ball from their side of the court to the opponent's side of the court. The goal is to make the ball bounce twice on the opponent's court. If that happens, a point is scored. A point is also scored if the ball is volleyed outside of the playing area. In that case, the player who touched the ball last commits a fault, and their opponent is awarded a point.

Positions and Roles

tennis positions

Tennis is not a team sport, and so it doesn't have positions and roles. However, when players play doubles they must be aware of their positioning, and that of their partner. In doubles, at the beginning of a rally, a player will stay on the net, while their partner will stay on the backcourt, on the opposite side. That positioning will change as the rally goes on. The player on the net must take opportunities to volley or smash the ball, getting the opponents off-guard, while the player on the backcourt will get to longer and stronger shots.

Rules and Regulations

Tennis Rules and Regulations

Tennis is a pretty straightforward sport. Player must volley the ball inside the playing field, and the ball is only allowed to bounce on the court once before the player needs to volley it back to the opponent. Nonetheless, there are some extra rules that are important to be understood before playing tennis:

Tie-Break: If a game or set ends up being tied, players go to tie-break. In a game, if both players tie at 40, whichever player scores two points in a row first takes the game. In a set, if both players win 6 games each, they will play an extra point that goes up to seven points. If players are tied at 6 points each, whichever player scores two points in a row first wins the game, and consequently the set.

Changing Sides: In tennis, players change which side of the court they play on. Players switch sides on every odd game.

Rest Rules: Tennis players actually get resting time during a match. When switching sides, players can take short breaks to drink some water, dry themselves, and get ready for the next game. In between sets, they get a longer time, around 2 minutes to recompose and get ready to play.

Whoever serves first on a game is often decided by a coin toss. From that point on, players will alternate serving. Serving must be done either to the left or right of the center of the baseline. The side from which the serve is made alternates after a point is scored. When serving, the player has the right to two tries. If a mistake is made on both tries, a double fault, the opponent is awarded a point. Serves must cross the court, it must bounce inside the opponent's serving court, on the side opposite to where the serve was made.

Referees and Officials

Tennis Referees and Officials

The officials in tennis are called umpires. There are usually around three officials in most tennis matches, although that number can be bigger at higher levels. In a tennis match, there is one chair umpire and two line umpires, one on each side. The chair umpire is the highest official in a tennis match. They are the ones responsible for interacting with the players, listening to their complaints ,enforcing rules, keeping score, and just making sure that the match goes on as smoothly as possible. Line umpires stay behind the players, in the backcourt. They are responsible for calling shots in or out.

Lingo and Terminology

tennis lingo and terminology

Tennis is a sport full of terms and lingo specific to the sport. Check out some of the main tennis terms that you might want to learn:

  • Ace: An ace is when a player scores a point when serving, when the opponent can't reach the ball.
  • Advantage: When the score is tied in a game, players play a tie-break. Advantage is when a player scores a point in the tie break. If the player who has the advantage scores again, the game is over. If the opponent scores, the game is tied again.
  • Deuce: A deuce is when the score of a game is tied at 40-all.
  • Forced Error: A forced error occurs when a player's mistake was caused by the opponent's good shot.
  • Lob: A lob is a stroke used when the opponent comes close to the net. The player strokes the ball high, lobbying it over the opponent.
  • Love: Love indicates a score of 0 points in a game. For Example, when the score is 30 love, the score is 30-0.
  • Service Break: When the player or double who is not serving wins a game.
  • Unforced Error: An unforced error happens when a player makes a mistake on an easy shot.


Tennis Coaching

Tennis coaches can have very different jobs depending on what level they coach. Coaches who teach new players, people who just started learning tennis, have a different approach and duties, than that of coaches who work with professional or other high level players. It is also important to note that in tennis matches coaches are not allowed to directly speak to their athletes, and so the coaching job in tennis is all done during practice.

Tennis coaches for beginners have the job to teach the basic skills and tactics necessary to start playing the game of tennis. Good tennis coaches are good listeners, motivators, and truly care to see their students evolve in the game. For players who compete at a higher level, the relationship between athlete and coach is a special one, given that tennis is an individual sport. At that level, the coach works much more on perfecting skills, strategy, and the player's psychological skills.

Skills and Techniques

Tennis Skills and Techniques

In tennis, perfecting techniques and working on skills is very important. When it comes to strokes, it is important to work on things such as the backhand, the forehand, serves, lobs, smashes, and volleys. However, it is not really helpful to know how to do these, if you don't know when to do it. Therefore, working on things such as footwork, technique, pace, balance, and coordination is also important to become a good tennis player.


tennis strategy

Tennis is a sport in which players must react to their opponent's movements. Therefore, players have their strategies for matches with their opponent's strengths and weaknesses in mind. Also, strategy varies a lot between single's matches and double's matches. When thinking about strategy, it is also important to consider serving strategies. Serving is a big part of the game, and thus investing some time in preparing a consistent serving strategy is a good idea.


tennis drills

Tennis drills focus to improve a player's individual skills. Some of the most important skills in tennis that can be improved through drills are pace, endurance, shot accuracy, pace, and tactics as well. In addition to all that, it is also important to work on shot technique, so that your strokes are done as well as possible. If you have a tennis coach, they will probably have specific drills that they will have you do. However, if you are practicing alone, there are many good websites online that give you a good set of tennis drills.

Olympic Tennis

olympic tennis

Tennis is one of the most popular Olympic sports, due to the sport's popularity around the globe. Tennis was featured in the first Olympic Games in 1896, but left the program after the 1924 Games in Paris. The sport would only be a part of the Olympic program again in 1988, when it was already very popular around the world, and with its athletes being like celebrities. Today, tennis is present at the Olympics with the following events:

  • Men's Singles
  • Women's Singles
  • Men's Doubles
  • Women's Doubles

Tennis Coaches

tennis coaches

In tennis, coaches work personally with the athletes they train. Most of the most famed tennis players in the world have had more than one coach throughout their careers. Unique to individual sports, in tennis athletes have the power to fire their coaches, and that is not unusual. Here are some of the best coaches in tennis, and they athletes they have trained:

Tennis Players

tennis players

Tennis can be played in a single's or double's format. Although professional players do specialize on one or the other, it is not unusual for the best single's players to play in doubles events. For example, Serena and Venus Williams, two of the best tennis players ever have been successful both playing individually and together as a double.

Tennis is full of celebrated athletes in its long history. All of the players below have been extremely successful and even dominant during their careers. They have gained worldwide notoriety as some of the best tennis players in history.

Tennis PlayerYears Active
Roger Federer1998-present
Rafael Nadal 2001-present
Pete Sampras 1988-2002
Novak Djokovic2003-present
Rod Laver1962-1979
Serena Williams1995-present
Steffi Graf1982-1999
Chris Evert1972-1989
Billie Jean King1968-1983
Martina Navratilova1975-1994

Tennis Clubs

tennis clubs

Clubs are very common in tennis. A club is a place where courts are available for its members to just come and play, and most of the time they also have tennis coaches available for private or group lessons. By joining a club you'll also get to meet new people, and thus will have a bigger pool of people to play tennis with. Although it might be a good idea to buy a membership to a tennis club, you can still play the sport without one. Because of the sport's popularity, public tennis courts are available in most places, and you can use them to play with your friends, or even hire a coach to give you lessons there.

Tennis Leagues

Tennis Leagues

Amateur tennis leagues are a good way to practice the sport competitively. Tennis clubs may have leagues of different ages, which can be joined by the members. At the professional level, there are no tennis leagues, but rather the sport follows a different structure. Players face each other in tournaments, from which they get points that count towards a world ranking.

Tennis Teams

Tennis Teams

Although it is an individual (or doubles!) sport, tennis can sometimes be played in teams. While team tennis is more common at the junior level, such as NCAA collegiate competitions, one team event stands out as being the most well known around the globe. The Davis Cup is an international tennis tournament in which the best tennis players in the world play for their country's teams. For example, Roger Federer and Stanislaw Wawrinka play for the same team, representing Switzerland, while Rafael Nadal and Fernando Verdasco would play for Team Spain.

Tennis Events

tennis events

The grand slams in tennis are the most important tournaments in the professional circuit. They are the ones that gather the most attention worldwide, have the biggest monetary prizes, and bring the most prestige.

There are four Grand Slams in tennis, and they are:

  • Australian Open
  • U.S. Open
  • French Open (Roland Garros)
  • Wimbledon

The number of Grand Slams won also serves as a way to measure tennis players' greatness. The best tennis players in history have won several Grand Slams throughout their careers.

Tennis Tournaments

tennis tournaments

If you are an amateur tennis player, it is likely to be easy for you to play in an amateur tournament if you want to. Clubs often organize amateur tournaments, with players of many ages being able to participate. For higher levels, it is likely that players have to go through some kind of qualifying. Tennis tournaments follow a bracket, in which the highest seeded tennis player or double plays the lowest ranking one.

Tennis Books

tennis books

Tennis is a sport with a rich and prestiged history, filled with tradition. It is also a sport where playing style and techniques have evolved a lot through time. And in addition to all that, tennis have had some of the most singular and interesting athletes in the history of sports. With all that, it is no surprise that there are plenty of good tennis books to be read about the most different aspects of the game. Check out some of the best tennis books:

  • String Theory by David Foster Wallace
  • Open (Andre Agassi's Biography) by Andre Agassi
  • Levels of The Game by John McPhee
  • The Bud Collins History of Tennis by Bud Collins
  • Unstoppable: My Life So Far by Maria Sharapova

Tennis Websites

tennis websites

There are many websites that produce high quality tennis content. Check some recommendations below:

Tennis FAQ

How does scoring work in tennis?

Scoring in tennis may seem a little complicated at first, but it is really not. A tennis match is divided into Sets and Games. Whoever wins 6 games first, wins a set. In a game the first player who gets four points wins the game, with the possibility of the game going into tie break. Points are also kept differently than other sports:

  • 15: score when the player has scored 1 point
  • 30: score when the player has scored 2 points
  • 40: score when the player has scored 3 points

When the player scores the fourth point, they have won the game!

What is "in" and what is "out" in tennis?

In tennis, a shot is called out, when the ball has not touched the limiting lines. A shot is called "In" whenever any part of the ball touches the limiting lines.

What does "service" mean?

Service in tennis means to serve. The player who wins a game where they're serving has won a service game.

What is a break?

In tennis, a break happens when a player who is not serving wins a game.