The game of tennis is played on a court 78 feet long by 27 feet wide on a
variety of surfaces including clay, grass, carpet and hard. The court is divided
in half by a net over which players must hit the ball. There are white baselines
at each end of the court, where serves are taken and beyond which the ball must
not bounce - if it does, then the ball is out and the hitter loses the point.
Each side is lined with two white marks to indicate the width of the court. The
inner line shows the dimensions for singles play and the outer for doubles play.
Stretching from the net, to halfway down the court, there is a short white line
dividing it into boxes - this is the service court.
Tennis can be played as a singles game - with one player on each side of the
net - or as doubles play - with two players on each side. Each point is started
with a serve, taken from behind the baseline. The ball must bounce into the
service court on the diagonally opposite side and the point continues until one
player fails to hit the ball back or puts it outside the court dimensions.
Standing with both feet behind the baseline you need to take up a sideways
stance. Keep your left foot pointed towards the right-hand net post. Your left
hand is holding the ball and will be raised into an upright position to release
the ball above your head - a good height to throw the ball is about 18 inches
above your normal reach. Make sure you don't release the ball too soon - it will
fly at an angle towards the net and force you to lean forward to hit it. Ideally
the ball should be thrown about 1 foot in front of your left foot.
While the ball in the air you need to bring your racket back and up
towards the throwing action you will use to hit the ball. You should be ready to
hit the ball at full stretch, with your racket arm straight, at the highest
point you can reach it. At this stage you are switching the weight of your body
from your back foot to the front one to give added strength to your shot.
Make sure that you hit the ball with an "up and over" action - as if you were
throwing the racket at the ball. After you hit the ball, follow through with
your swing and this will carry you forward into the court to hit the returned
(Note: These instructions presume you are a right-handed player.)
Once the serve is successfully hit, the play continues with a variety of
different shots. The most common shot you will play is the ground stroke (the
name given to a shot that is taken after the ball has bounced once). These can
be broken down into the forehand (made with the face of the racket, with the
palm of your hand facing the ball) or the backhand (made with the reverse side
of the racket, with the palm of your hand facing away from the ball).
Hitting these shots successfully very much depends on how you grip the
racket. There are two distinct grips for the two distinct shots in tennis - the
forehand and backhand - so it important to learn each one to play the shot well.
For the forehand
The most common grip in tennis is the eastern forehand and the one you will
use for your forehand drive and the majority of your shots. It has often been
dubbed the "shake hands" grip because you take the racket in your hand as if you
are going to shake hands with it. To ensure that you have the correct grip, it's
a good idea to place your hand flat on the racket strings, then slide your hand
down to the handle. Now wrap your fingers around the racket and keeping tension
out of your fingers. Your first finger should be forward slightly as if your
were holding the trigger of a gun.
For play on hard courts, players have developed a western grip and it is good
for those high bouncing balls. For this grip, move your thumb clockwise on to
the top of the handle and your palm will slide under the handle, making it
easier to play waist-high shots.
For the backhand
First adopt the eastern forehand, then move your hand anti-clockwise around
the handle, tucking your thumb underneath and making sure your palm is more on
the top. Wrapping your thumb around the handle like this, allows the grip to be
more firm. However, you must make sure that your fingers are not too close
Many players adopt a two-handed backhand for extra strength. Adopt the same
grip, bracing your second hand adjacent to the first.
As a general rule, adopt the eastern forehand for the serve and overhead
smash, as well as the forehand ground stroke. For volleys (made when you hit the
ball without letting it bounce first) simply adopt the forehand or backhand
grip, depending on the direction of the volley.
Probably the most difficult thing for beginners is the scoring of the game.
If all the "love", "deuce" and "tie-breaker" is totally confusing to you during
a tennis match, then you'll need to brush up on how tennis is scored. It may
seem complicated at first but learning the basics will help you understand the
Firstly, the full game is called a match and a player wins a match by winning
either 2 out of the possible 3 sets or 3 of the possible 5 sets (as in some
A player wins a set by winning 6 games (but he must win by two games. For
example, he cannot win a set at 6-5. He must win one more to make it 7-5). If
the players tie at 6 games each in a set, they must play a tiebreaker. The
player who wins this must get to 7 points but again he must win by 2 points. The
tiebreaker will continue after one gets to 7 until one player is two points
ahead - it is not unusual, therefore, for a tiebreaker to go to 12-10 or some
similar score. The exception to this rule is the Wimbledon Championships - here
the last set in a match cannot be decided on a tiebreaker and the players will
continue to play until one wins by two games.
Each game is divided into 4 scores - "15", "30", "40" and "game". If a player
has no score in a game, then he is at "love". So the players start their game.
When one scores a point he will be at "15-love". The second player wins the next
point and the score goes to "15-15" and so on until one reaches "game". If both
players tie at "40-40", this is called "deuce" and now the win-by-two rule comes
into play again. At "40-40" the next player to win a point will go to
"advantage" and then to "game".
Point to remember
The server's score is always given first, so if the core is "30-15" you know
that the server has won 2 points in the game and is at "30".