What Are The Rules For Playing Tennis?

Are trying to learn how to play tennis or do you just want to understand what’s going on in the tennis match that you watch on tv? In order to understand the sport, you need to learn the basics of tennis. Therefore we will in this guide go through everything that you need to know.

At first it may seem very complicated, but if you read the whole article you will find it quite simple and easy to understand.

“The game of tennis played on a rectangular court with a net running across the centre. The aim is to hit the ball over the net landing the ball within the margins of the court and in a way that results in your opponent being unable to return the ball. You win a point every time your opponent is unable to return the ball within the court.

General Rules

  • A ball must land within bounds for play to continue; if a player hits the ball outside of bounds, this results in the loss of the point for them.
  • Players/teams cannot touch the net or posts or cross onto the opponent’s side.
  • Players cannot hit the ball twice.
  • Players must wait until the ball passes the net before they can return it.
  • A player that does not return a live ball before it bounces twice loses the point.
  • Any ball that bounces on the lines of boundary are considered good.
  • A serve must bounce first before the receiving player can return it.

Serving and Choosing Side

Tennis Court

You serve from behind the baseline, starting on the right-hand side of the court, anywhere between the singles sideline and the centre mark on the court.

You have 2 chances to make a proper serve each point, a first serve and the second serve. If you didn’t make a proper serve on neither of them, it counts as a double fault and the point will go to the opponent. If the ball touches the net and after that lands on the correct side, the serve won’t count, so you will have a “second” first serve.

  • Proper Serve – You have to put the ball into the service box diagonally opposite. The server must stand between the centre mark and an imaginary continuation of the sideline.
  • Foot Fault – When serving you need to have your feet behind the baseline, if you don’t it will count as a fault.

But how do I know which side to serve on? You always start to serve on the right-hand side and after that you go to the left. However, it is easy to forget which side you recently served at. What most tennis players are using to know which side to serve on is this; You think about whether the current score is odd or even. If the score is even, then you know that you should serve on the right side. If the score is odd, then you should serve on the left-hand side.

Who Serves First?

To determine who serves first, you flip a coin or spin a racket. The on who wins the toss gets to decide one of four things: that he wants to serve or receive first, which side of the court she wants to start on (if the opponent chooses who serves first), or that he wants to leave the choices up to her opponent. Whoever starts serving continues to serve until that game is over. Then the serve moves to the other player.

The Score System

In tennis you always have to win by 2 points. So if the score is 40-40 and you win the next point, you haven’t won the game yet. Instead you have “advantage” (AD – 40). If you win the next point again, then you have won your game. That’s why some games seem to go on forever. Until one player achieves a two-point advantage, the game will go on and potentially go on forever. But, that’s also what makes tennis so exciting.

How Do You Win a Tennis Match?

A tennis player must win six games to win a set, but he must win the set by at least two games. If a set gets to 5-5, a player must win 7-5 to win the set outright. If the score in a set gets to 6-6, a tiebreak is played. Tiebreaks are the penalty shoot-outs of tennis, though actually the system makes a much better job of reflecting the play so far in a match. In the tiebreak you play first to 7 points. The player that wins the tiebreak, wins the set, 7-6.

Tennis matches are played best of three sets. So potential outcomes for a match is 2-0 or 2-1. However, there are some tournaments like Davis cup and Wimbledon that are played best of five sets.

Hidden Rules – Equipment

The equipment for a tennis player depends on which level you are playing at. There are no strict rules about your equipment, more than you need a racket and a ball. However, there are some “hidden” rules that are important to know about.

Tennis Clothes

First of, you will need suitable clothes. It obviously differs depending on your gender. However, one thing that is crucial for both men and females, is that you have some kind of pockets on your shorts. Because, when you play tennis, you need to be to have somewhere to store the balls when serving.

Women’s Clothing

The majority of the female players, choose to wear shorts or tennis skirts. However, you choose on of these or not. The main factors to think about is comfort, freedom and most importantly practicality. If you end up choosing a tennis dress/skirt. You will need some kind of ball clip to attach the waistband. Another very essential item that all female players need is a sports bra.

Men’s Clothing

For men, the clothing options are many. However, what you should avoid is cotton t-shirts. These retains all the sweet and it will not be comfortable at all to play with. Focus on synthetic t-shirts, these shirts have a lighter feel and will cool you down in the heat.


One of the most important things for a tennis player is their shoes. Click below to read our article about tennis shoes and different surfaces.

Read Our Article About Tennis Equipment

Fred Simonsson

I'm Fred, the guy behind TennisPredict. Apart from writing here, I play tennis on a semi-professional level and coaches upcoming talents.

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