How to play

Rules Summary - Quick reference guide

Full Rules of Tennis 


Tennis is a unique game in that it has special names given to the various points awarded. When calling out the score, the person serving the ball should always say their score first. A score of zero is called out by saying 'Love', and from there, the points go to 15, 30, 40, and game. If both players get a score of 40, the game must become a tie-breaker, and a 40-40 score is announced by saying 'Deuce'. In a 'Deuce' situation, if a player gets a point, they are said to have 'Advantage'. If a player with an 'Advantage' gets another point, the game is over. If a player gets a point while the other has 'Advantage', the score is reset to 'Deuce'. When a game is won, another game is begun until someone wins 6 games. The catch is that they must win by two.So if it gets to 6-5 another game must be played as winning by two is necessary. If a player wins a game and gets to 7-5 they have won the set.

Doubles and Singles

Tennis can be played a variety of different ways. There are men's and women's singles, men's and women's doubles and mixed doubles.

Singles focuses more on moving your partner side to side in the back court. Doubles is about specific shots and strategy. Doubles also has a faster pace and is played at the net more, as opposed to the back court. Both singles and doubles games have the same scoring rules, but the court is larger for a doubles match.

Choosing the First Server

A coin toss or racket toss is usually conducted to determine which player in a singles or doubles team goes first. The winner of the coin toss can serve first or allow the opponent to go first. If the winner declines the serve, he or she can choose which side of the court to play on first. The server is switched after each game, and players switch ends on odd games ie after 1,3,5 or 7 etc.

Playing the Ball

The ball is hit back and forth by two or four players on the court. The ball may only be hit once, even in doubles, before it must go back over the net. Players can let the ball bounce once before they hit it, but this isn't required. If the ball bounces more than once, gets hit more than once, gets stopped by the net or lands out of bounds, the point goes to the opponent.

If any part of the ball touches the sidelines or baselines, it is a legal shot. For singles play, the ball must land on or inside the singles sidelines. Once the ball has been served, players are free to make shots from any part of the court.


The player who wins the serve will put the ball in play throughout an entire game. When the next game begins, the serve goes to the opponent, trading back and forth throughout the match.

The server must stand behind the baseline in the back court and to the proper side of the center hash mark in order to serve. The side changes after each point, so a player who serves to the right of the line for the first point must serve to the left for the second point, and so on.

The ball must go across the court, cross the net and land in the service box to be legal. The server must stay behind the baseline throughout the serve; if any part of the body touches or crosses the line, it is considered a fault.

If the ball fails to cross the net or lands outside the service box, it is also considered a fault. If a server has two faults called before putting the ball in play, a double fault is charged and a point is awarded to the opponent. The opponent must let the ball bounce once or the server gets a point. If the serve is legal and the opponent fails to return it, an ace is scored and the server gets a point.

A let serve occurs if the ball hits the net and bounces legally into the service box, or if a player serves before an opponent is ready to resume play. In both of these cases, no fault is charged to the server. In tournament play, a let may be called by the judges if crowd noise or thrown objects distract a player during a serve.