Tennis Rules & How to Play Tennis

Tennis Rules & How To Play Tennis
Roger Federer - Tennis Rules & How To Play Tennis. (Photo credit: Stefan Wermuth, Reuters)

Tennis which traces its roots to ancient Greece and is related to the French handball game, the ‘Paume” (palm) has evolved over the years to become one of the most celebrated sports in the present era. The physically intensive sports have about 17.96 million professional players worldwide, that number has continued to rise. Intensive and adrenaline-driven tennis tournaments which attract the big wigs in the game of tennis have brought a spotlight to the sport. The emergence of several young players who cause a surprising upset in tennis tournaments have made tennis gain more fans worldwide, thus begging the question; what are tennis rules? In clear and broad terms, we review the rules as well as how to play tennis.

How to Play Tennis

The Objective of the Game

In the game of tennis, the primary objective of the tennis players is to win as more points as possible by playing the ball in such a way that opponent can not return the ball to their half of the court.


Tennis is played in a tennis court with various surfaces ranging from clay, carpet, grass and hard surface. As stipulated by the International Tennis Federation (ITF) tennis courts have various dimensions depending on the type of match to be played.

For a singles match, a tennis court measures 78 feet long and 27 feet wide, for a Doubles match, a tennis court measures 78 feet long and 36 feet wide. A net is placed at the centre of the court, the net demarcates each player half of the court. The net is drawn at full width on the tennis court and is 3 feet 6 inches high at the post but 3 feet high at the centre of the court. 21 feet from the centre net is a service line. A 60 feet wide and 130 feet long space is left around the court for players to run in order to play overrun balls. The baseline indicates the boundary in which the ball must bounce on for it to be active play. The nature of the surface for a tennis court in a tournament is chosen at the onset of the tournament and used throughout the tournament.

To begin a tennis game, the player who serves first is determined by a toss which can either be a coin flip or racquet spin. The player or team who calls the toss correctly serves first, while the other player or team picks the side of the court they wish to play.

During serve players must remain on the baseline, players also are not allowed to step in the court or in the centre mark, players who fail to do this commit foot fault. If a player fails to play the ball in the opponent service centre two times during a service, he has completed his first service and will move to the second service, where if he fails to successfully serve the ball in the opponent service centre will lead to loss of point.

Players commit an out if the ball hits the net, an exception to this, occurs when the ball hits the net and lands on the other player’s ball during a rally which is the successive play after a serve.


Depending on the sort of match being played, either singles or doubles, the number of players on the court is decided. In a singles match, one player is on each side of the court, while in a doubles match, two players are on each side of the court.


Tennis Equipment - Rules of Sport
Tennis Equipment. (Photo credit:

Equipment needed in a tennis match includes a racquet which can either be wooden or an alloy with handle, and strings in a weaving pattern. A racquet should measure about 32 inches long and a handle 12.5 inches in width. The surface of a racquet 15.5 inches long and 11.5 inches wide. The tennis ball is usually bright yellow in colour is required for tennis matches, usually 2.5 – 2.625 in diameter. Headband, wrist bands for sweat absorption,  tennis shot and tennis shorts and shirt or dress often made from polyester is needed.


A tennis match contains 5 sets for men and 3 sets for women. A set has six games. In a game, a player is required to be two points ahead of his opponent to win a game. A game begins at the love which is zero points, the first point equals 15 points, the second 30 and the third 40, before a final point called game point seals the victory. Points are earned when an opponent fails to return the ball to his opponent court or plays the ball past the baseline. When a game is tied at 40-40 points, this is known as a deuce, a player must win two successive times to win a game. If a game ties at 6-6, this is known as a tie-break, a player must win with 7 points with at least two points lead over his opponent.


A player with the most sets emerges the winner. For a tennis match which involves male player, players with the most wins in 5 sets emerge Victor while in a female tennis match, players with the most win in 3 sets win the match.

Tennis Rules

  1. Tennis match begins with a toss, which involves either a flip of the coin or spin of the racquet to determine the player to serve first and players choice of the court.
  2. A server foot must be on the baseline during serves. The foot of the server must not move past the baseline before he hits the ball.
  3. If a server fails to play the ball within their service area of the opponent court in the first two serves, they can try the second service where if they fail, it will be counted as a double fault and result in loss of point.
  4. If a served ball touches the net before it moves into the service area of his opponent, a let is called and he takes the service again. If a served ball touches the net but does not go into his opponent service area, an out is called and the service is a loss.
  5. A receiver of service can stand wherever he wishes to stand to receive the serve.
  6. Once a service has been successfully made, the successful play between both player is unlimited until a side fails to play the ball within the baseline or the ball hits the net without entering the opponent court.
  7. The first point equals 15 points, the second point equals 30 points and the third point equals 40 points.
  8. Four points are required to win a game. In the event of a deuce (40-40) player are required to score two successive points to win the game. When they score the first extra point they are in advantage, if the opponent scores, they return back to deuce.
  9. To win a set, a player must play 6 games, winning the games by 2 or more than his opponent. If they tie the game, 6-6, a tie break is played, which is a 7th game which a player must win by two or more points.
  10. Players lose a point if they touch the net or distract their opponent.
  11. The ball must touch the line or the area within the line to be called in, if the ball lands outside the baseline, it is an out.
  12. Every 6 games, the ball used is replaced.
  13. Players lose a point if they hit the ball outside the baseline or if the ball touches the net without entering the opponent court or if the ball bounces twice in their court before they return the ball.
  14. During odd-numbered games, players must switch sides.
  15. A Penalty is given if a player engages in verbal abuse or if the racquet leaves a player’s hand.

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