What Are The Basic Rules Every Tennis Player Should Know?

Whether you’re a beginner or a seasoned player, understanding the basic rules of tennis is essential to enjoying the game and playing it effectively. From serving techniques to scoring rules, this article provides a concise overview of the fundamental rules every tennis player should know. So grab your racket and get ready to enhance your knowledge of this thrilling sport!

Basic Rules of Tennis

Tennis is a highly popular sport that requires skill, precision, and strategy. Whether you’re a beginner or an experienced player, it’s essential to understand the basic rules of tennis to enjoy the game fully. In this article, we will walk you through the fundamental rules of tennis, including the scoring system, serving, groundstrokes, volleying, overhead shots, footwork, the double bounce rule, let rule, changeover rule, and code violations.

Scoring System

Understanding the scoring system in tennis is crucial to keeping track of your progress during a match. Tennis uses a unique scoring system that differs from most other sports. The scoring system consists of several terms like love, fifteen, thirty, forty, deuce, advantage, game, set, and match.

  • Love: Love signifies zero points in tennis. When a player has no points, their score is referred to as “love.”
  • Fifteen: When a player scores their first point in a game, it is called “fifteen.”
  • Thirty: The second point a player scores in a game is called “thirty.”
  • Forty: When a player scores their third point in a game, it is known as “forty.”
  • Deuce: If both players reach a score of forty (forty-all), it is called “deuce.” From deuce, a player must then score two consecutive points to win the game.
  • Advantage: When a player scores a point after deuce, it is called “advantage” for that player. If the player with advantage scores the subsequent point, they win the game. However, if they fail to score, the game returns to deuce.
  • Game: When a player wins four points and has a margin of two points over their opponent, they win the game.
  • Set: A set consists of a specific number of games that a player must win to secure the set. The typical number of games played in a set is six, but it can vary depending on the competition.
  • Match: A match is composed of several sets, usually three or five, with each set played to its conclusion. The player who wins the majority of sets in a match emerges as the winner.


Serving is the action of initiating play at the start of a point. It is an essential skill in tennis and requires precision and consistency. Here are some key points to keep in mind when it comes to serving:

  • Service Box: The server must stand behind the baseline and within the service box. The service box is a rectangular area that is divided into two halves, one for each player.
  • Alternate Sides: After each game, the server must switch sides of the court. This alternating pattern ensures fairness and equal opportunities for both players.
  • Foot Faults: When serving, it is crucial to avoid committing a foot fault. A foot fault occurs when the server’s feet touch or go past the baseline while making contact with the ball. It can result in the loss of a point or a fault being called.
  • Faults: A serve is considered a fault if it lands outside the designated service box, does not clear the net, or touches the net on its way to the receiving side without landing in the service box. When a fault occurs, the server gets a second chance to serve.
  • Double Faults: If a server commits two consecutive faults, it is called a double fault, resulting in the loss of a point.
  • Net Cord Serve: In the event of a serve hitting the net cord and landing in the correct service box, it is considered a let. A let results in a do-over, and the server gets another chance to serve without any penalty.


Groundstrokes are shots hit from the baseline after the ball bounces. Mastering groundstrokes is essential for maintaining control and placement of the ball during a rally. Here are some important types of groundstrokes to familiarize yourself with:

  • Forehand: The forehand stroke is executed with the dominant hand on the racket’s grip. The player swings the racket forward, hitting the ball across the court with a natural motion.
  • Backhand: The backhand stroke is executed with the non-dominant hand on the racket’s grip. The player swings the racket across their body, hitting the ball on the opposite side of the body as the forehand stroke.
  • Topspin: Topspin is a technique where the player imparts a forward spinning motion on the ball, causing it to dip and bounce higher when it reaches the opponent’s side. This stroke is effective for adding power and control to your groundstrokes.
  • Slice: A slice is a stroke where the player imparts a slicing motion on the ball, resulting in a lower trajectory and backspin. It is useful for defensive shots or shots that require precision and control.


Volleying is a crucial skill in tennis that involves hitting the ball before it bounces on the ground. Volleying requires quick reflexes and hand-eye coordination. Here are some essential types of volleys to know:

  • Forehand Volley: A forehand volley is executed with the racket in a position to the player’s dominant side. The player makes contact with the ball before it bounces, using a short, compact swing.
  • Backhand Volley: A backhand volley is executed with the racket in a position to the player’s non-dominant side. Similar to the forehand volley, the player hits the ball before it bounces, using a controlled backhand swing.
  • Half-Volley: A half-volley, also known as a “chip shot,” occurs when the player hits the ball immediately after it bounces from the ground. This technique is typically used to counter low, fast shots from the opponent.

Overhead Shots

Overhead shots are executed when the ball is above shoulder height and requires the player to hit the ball overhead for maximum power and control. Here are two common overhead shots you should be familiar with:

  • Smash: The smash is an offensive shot executed when the opponent hits a high, easily reachable ball. The player jumps or leaps from the ground and forcefully strikes the ball downward with an overhead motion, aiming to hit it towards the opponent’s side of the court.
  • Lob: The lob is a defensive shot used when the opponent is positioned near the net. The player hits the ball high and deep into the opponent’s side of the court, forcing them to move backward and allowing the lobber to regain control of the rally.


Effective footwork is critical in tennis to ensure proper positioning and quick movement around the court. Good footwork allows players to reach the ball in time and maintain balance during shots. Here are some footwork techniques to focus on:

  • Split Step: The split step is a fundamental footwork technique that involves jumping slightly and splitting the feet apart as the opponent hits the ball. This prepares you to quickly move in any direction once the ball is in play.
  • Moving Sideways: Mastering lateral movement is crucial in tennis. Players need to be able to move quickly sideways to reach balls hit wide or to cover the court efficiently.
  • Approach Shot: The approach shot involves moving toward the net after hitting a groundstroke and taking advantage of an opponent’s weak reply. It requires efficient footwork to reach the net position in time while maintaining balance.
  • Recovery: After hitting a shot, it’s important to quickly recover and get back into a neutral position to prepare for the next shot. Good recovery footwork ensures that you are ready to respond to any situation on the court.

Double Bounce Rule

The double bounce rule is a fundamental rule in tennis that applies to the first two shots of a rally. Understanding and following this rule is essential for fair play and ensures that both players have an equal opportunity to return the ball. Here’s how the rule works:

  • Application: According to the double bounce rule, both players must allow the ball to bounce once before attempting to hit it. The server’s first shot must land in the opposite service box, and the receiver must let the ball bounce before hitting it back.
  • Exceptions: There are a few exceptions to the double bounce rule. If the server hits a fault (a serve that does not land in the correct service box), the receiver has the option to return the serve before it bounces. Additionally, if a player receives a ball on the volley (before it bounces) due to a bad bounce or extreme pace, they are allowed to hit it back without waiting for a bounce.

Let Rule

The let rule is a provision that allows a point to be replayed under certain circumstances. The let rule applies to specific situations involving the net cord and the service. Let’s explore the different types of let rules in tennis:

  • Net Cord Let: If the ball touches the net cord during a serve and lands within the correct service box, it is considered a let. The server gets another opportunity to serve without any fault or penalty.
  • Service Let: If the server hits a proper serve, but the ball touches the net and lands outside the correct service box, it is also considered a let. The server gets another chance to serve without any fault or penalty.
  • Overhead Let: If, during a rally, the ball from an opponent’s shot hits the net cord and lands in, creating an unexpected and unplayable situation, it is considered a let. The point is replayed as if the previous shot had not taken place.

Changeover Rule

The changeover rule refers to the time allocated for a player to rest and refresh between games. It is an essential part of competitive tennis, allowing players to hydrate and refocus during a match. The changeover rule consists of several guidelines:

  • Time Limit: Players are given a specific time limit, usually around 90 seconds, to rest and prepare for the next game during changeovers.
  • Equipment: Players are allowed to bring their towels, drinks, and any necessary items to the changeover.
  • Coaching: Coaching is permitted only during the changeover. Players can receive guidance and strategic advice from their coaches during this time.
  • Court Position: During changeovers, players typically sit down or use the designated seating area near the court. This helps players conserve their energy and mentally prepare for the next game.

Code Violations

Code violations refer to instances where a player fails to adhere to the rules or displays unsportsmanlike conduct during a match. Code violations can result in penalties, warnings, or even disqualification. It’s important to be aware of the different types of code violations:

  • Unsportsmanlike Conduct: Unsportsmanlike conduct refers to any behavior that is disrespectful, offensive, or displays poor sportsmanship. This can include verbal abuse or physical gestures towards the opponent, officials, or spectators.
  • Racket Abuse: Racket abuse occurs when a player displays anger or frustration by intentionally damaging or slamming their racket. This type of behavior is unsportsmanlike and can lead to penalties.
  • Coaching Violation: Coaching during a match is generally not allowed, except during changeovers. Engaging in coaching conversations with a coach or receiving guidance through any means during the match is considered a violation.
  • Time Violation: Players are given a specific amount of time between points to be ready for the next serve. Consistently exceeding this time limit can result in penalties.
  • Illegal Racquet: Using an illegal or non-regulation racket during a match is a code violation. Rackets must meet specific criteria regarding size, weight, and stringing restrictions.
  • Audible Obscenity: Any audible use of inappropriate language or obscenities is a code violation. This includes swearing or using offensive language during the match.

Understanding and abiding by these basic rules of tennis is crucial for fair play, sportsmanship, and enjoyment of the game. By familiarizing yourself with the scoring system, serving, groundstrokes, volleying, overhead shots, footwork, double bounce rule, let rule, changeover rule, and code violations, you will have a solid foundation to build upon as you continue to improve your tennis skills. So grab your racket, hit the court, and have a blast playing this exciting sport!