Tennis Rules for Beginners

Tennis is played between two opponents and called a singles match, or four opponents and called a doubles match. Opponents play on a marked surface called a tennis court, divided into equal halves by a net. Tennis racquets are used to hit the ball from one part of the court to another and the scoring system is by ‘games’, which are won to win a ‘set’ and then sets to win the ‘match’.

Tennis can be played on a number of surfaces, including grass and clay. The way the ball moves on a surface influences the game and a good player takes this into account when competing or planning a strategy. Basic tennis rules are easy to understand and master and once you get the hang of the method of scoring, it’s simple enough to keep pace with the game. The following are the basic rules of tennis for beginners to get started.

Tennis Scoring System

Tennis scoring rules are as follows. Each match is divided into sets and games. To win, you must win at least two sets out of three in women’s tennis and three sets out of five in men’s tennis. Each set, is divided into games, and the first person to reach 6 games, with a difference of two, wins the set―example scores are 6 – 4, 6 – 3. Should both opponents reach a tie at 6 games, it goes into a tie-break, with the first person to pass 6 with a difference of two, winning the set.

Players alternate serving after each game and change sides of the court after the first and then every odd-numbered game, so each player serves and receives serve, alternately. Each game is divided further into four points of 15, 30, 40 and ‘game’. The score is read out by listing the score of the person who’s serving first. In tennis, a score of ‘0’ is referred to as ‘Love’. To illustrate the scoring system better, let’s assume two players X and Y; their scoring according to tennis rules is as follows. Assume Player X is serving to Player Y:

Point Won By     Score

Player X                   15 – 0
Player X                   30 – 0
Player Y                   30 – 15
Player Y                   30 – 30
Player Y                   30 – 40
Player X                   40 – 40 (Deuce)
Player Y                   Advantage Player Y
Player X                   40 – 40 (Deuce)
Player X                   Advantage Player X
Player X                   Game Player X

As shown in the table above, when opponents reach a tie at 40 – 40, the score reads Deuce; the person to win the next two points in succession wins the game by reaching ‘Advantage’ and then ‘game point’. This is the simplest scoring system, assuming no faults are made during service or return. A fault is counted for any of the following:

  • If the ball hits the net
  • If the ball fails to land in the receiver’s service court
  • If the ball falls outside the limits of the court
  • If the server’s foot touches the baseline or beyond, inside the court before the ball is hit (this is also known as a foot fault)
  • If the person serving makes two consecutive faults, it is known as a double fault and the point is lost
Beginner Tennis Rules

Tennis rules and regulations use a number of ways to refer to the position of the game. Some of these can enable you to understand the status of a game, irrespective of when you begin to watch. The following are tennis terms commonly used:

  • Game Point is reached either when one player is at 40, or when a player is at an Advantage following Deuce―when this game is the decider in a set, the same point changes to a Set Point, and to a Match Point, when the game is the decider of the match. In ‘finals’ matches, match point is referred to as the Championship Point.
  • When the person receiving serve is at Game Point in his/her favour, the point is known as Break Point. Should the player receiving serve win the game, he/she is said to have ‘Broken Serve’.
  • A Tie Break is played when both players reach 6 games all. This is played with each point equalling 1 point, and continues until one player reaches 6 points with a difference of two.
  • In women’s tennis, a match ends in two sets if one opponent wins both, the same applies to three sets won in men’s titles. In these matches, the winner has won in Straight Sets.

Tennis is often referred to as a Gentleman’s game and many rules dictate the behaviour of players on the court. Players shake hands with each other and the umpire at the end of every match. Traditional tournaments like Wimbledon, played in Britain, still follow rules dictating clothing worn must be the traditional ‘whites’ and acceptable player behaviour conduct is enforced.