• Introduction
  • The object of the game
  • Scoring in tennis
  • Serving rules in tennis
  • Gameplay
  • Game intervals
  • The Tennis Court
  • Rules and regulations of tennis equipment
  • Other rules of tennis
  • Sources


  • Points: 15-30-40-Game
  • Game: A game consists of 4 points. If both players are tied at 40, the player who gains a two-point lead wins the game. 
  • Set: Once a player wins six games with at least a 2 point lead, they will win a set.
  • Match: A player/team needs to win 3 out of 5 sets to win a match (sometimes 2 out of 3).
  • Deuce: Tied at 40-love (40-40), player/team must win 2 consecutive points to win a game. 
  • Advantage Set: If game score is 6-6 and advantage rules are used, a player/team needs a 2 game lead to win a set. 
  • Tiebreak: If the game score is at 6-6 and tie break rules are used, a player/team that wins a tie break game wins the set. A tie break game is played until either side reaches 7 points with at least a two-point lead. After the initial rally, the players serve until two points are played.  

Intervals and changes

  • There can be a maximum of 20s between points.
  • Players change ends on the 1st, 3rd, and 5th games.
  • If set ends and the number of games played is even,
    players change ends after the first game of the next set.
  • Players are allowed a 90s break when changing ends.
  • Players are allowed a 2min break at the end of each set (except after the first set).
  • Players can also request to go to the bathroom or request maintenance on the court.


  • The player who wins the toss chooses who serves first. The other player chooses which side of the court they want to start first. 
  • Players will serve one game at a time.
  • Players have two tries for a successful serve.
  • Serves must land diagonally over the net into the opponent’s service court.
  • Serve must bounce first before the receiver can return it.
  • The first serve is always from the right side of the court.
  • After every point, the server switches sides until the game is over.
  • Both overhand and underhand serves are allowed.
  • If the ball hits the net from a serve and lands in the opponent’s service court, the player will serve again. 


  • Singles court uses narrower sidelines.
  • Singles games can be played to the best of 3 or best of 5 sets.
  • Whenever the ball is at play, a point will be given (ball stops at the net, bounces twice, or is ”out”).
  • A side has only one attempt to return the ball.
  • Every shot that lands on the line are considered in.
  • Calling a let means the same point will be played again.


  • Doubles court uses wide sidelines.
  • Doubles games are often played to the best of 5 sets (but can also be played to best of 3).
  • The team that wins the toss chooses which team and which player serves first.
  • The same player always serves for the duration of the game. 
  • After the first game, the serving team chooses which player serves in the second game.
  • Teams switch ends after the 1st, 3rd, and 5th games. 
  • Tie-break: Same as with singles, but each team’s players take turns for two consecutive points until the end of the tie break. Teams also change ends whenever the total score can be divided by 6.


Tennis has a long history that started in the 12th century. Back then, the sport was called real tennis and it was played with a ball and bare hands or a glove with various rules. It was also known as court tennis (US), royal tennis (England & Australia) and courte-paume (France). By the 16th century, bare hands and gloves gave way to tennis rackets, which helped spread the popularity of tennis amongst European royalty. It also became known as the sport of kings. 

Modern-day rules of tennis have their roots in 1873 when Major Walter Wingfield invented lawn tennis that could be played outdoors. At that time, lawn tennis was played on an hourglass-shaped court with a significantly higher net. In 1875, lawn tennis rules were changed to have the same point system that is still used in today’s tennis. The hourglass-shaped court was also changed into the same dimensions we see today.

Nowadays, tennis has become one of the most well-known racket sports in the world. Its biggest tournaments are called Grand Slam tournaments, which include the Australian Open, French Open, US Open, and Wimbledon. Tennis has also cemented its position as one of the main racket sports in the Summer Olympics.

The object of the game

The object of tennis is simple; you must hit the ball over the net into your opponent’s court in a way that they are unable to return it. Naturally, your opponent tries to do the same thing and prevent you from returning the ball to their side of the court. 

If your opponent can return the ball from your serve, a rally occurs. This continues until either player commits a fault, such as hitting the ball outside of the court or into the net. The player who wins the rally scores a point.

Tennis can also be played in three different ways; singles (1 vs 1), doubles (2 vs 2) and mixed doubles.

Scoring in tennis

A tennis match consists of the best of 3 (women’s matches) or 5 sets (men’s matches). For example, in a best out of five sets match, the first player to win three sets is the winner. To win a set, a player must win 6 games as long as the player has a two-game lead. If players are tied at 6-6, a tie break is played. This means that the first player to reach 7 points wins the set.

On the other hand, to win a game, a player must win 4 points as long as they lead by at least two points. Here’s how the point system works:

  • Love (zero/tie)
  • 15 (single point)
  • 30 (two points)
  • 40 (three points)
  • Deuce (tied at three points)
  • Advantage (player needs one point to win a game)

Serving rules in tennis

The basic rules of tennis state that players serve for an entire game at a time. Each serve has to fly diagonally over the net into their opponent’s service court. Although most players prefer to perform overhead serves, underarm serves are also allowed. A player serves each point behind the baseline and from alternating sides. The server’s feet must also stay behind the baseline before hitting a serve. On the other hand, the receiver may stand anywhere in the court as long as they let the ball bounce once. 

The serving player has two attempts at a successful serve. If the first one hits the net or doesn’t land in the opponent’s service court, there is still one attempt left. However, if the ball hits the net and lands on the opponent’s service court, a let will be called and the serve will be redone. If the ball clips the net and doesn’t land on the service court, it is considered ”out”. 

In doubles, the players from opposing sides take turns serving in each game. However, the serve rotates in a way that each player serves once every fourth game. If players want to change serving order, they can do so after every set. In a tie break situation, each team’s players take turns for two consecutive points until the end of the tie break.  Doubles also use the same service court size even though the court uses wider sidelines.


Once the ball is at play, players are free to move anywhere on their side of the court. The ball can hit the net as long as it falls on your opponent’s side of the net. However, the player or their racket cannot touch the net in any situation. The player’s racket can go past the net as long as it makes contact with the ball on their side of the net. If any of these happen during gameplay, it is deemed a fault and leads to losing that point. Other common faults include;

  • Hitting the ball outside of the court 
  • Failing to return the ball to your opponent 
  • Letting the ball bounce twice on your side
  • Touching the ball twice
  • Catching the ball
  • Distracting the opponent verbally or visually

In doubles, the players follow the same gameplay rules as in singles. The only real difference is that the match is played with wider sidelines. 

These rules are overseen by a chair umpire, who is the final authority during the match, and a line umpires who make sure the balls are ”in”. There can be anywhere from one to nine line umpires overseeing a match and all have their designated lines. Additionally, there is also an off-court referee, who makes sure that competition is both fair and played under the rules of the International Tennis Federation (ITF). The referee is also ”the final authority on all questions in tennis law” and supervises the conduct of players, coaches, etc. 

Game intervals

The basic rules of tennis state that players change ends in the 1st, 3rd, and 5th games. While switching sides, players also get a 90s break before the next serve. If the set ends and the number of games played are even, players change ends after the first game of the next set. After the first set, players are also allowed a 2min break at the end of each set. If need be, players can also request a bathroom break or maintenance on the court.

In 2012 the Association of Tennis Professionals (ATP) passed a new rule stating that there can be a maximum of 20s between points. This made the sport slightly faster-paced and more exciting for spectators. 

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Tennis follows strict rules as well as a sportsmanlike etiquette.

The Tennis Court

The singles tennis court is 23.77m (78ft) long and 8.23m (27ft) wide. On the other hand, a doubles court has the same length but is slightly wider at 10.97m (36ft). The net height is 1.1m (3.5ft) at the net posts and dips to 0.9m (3ft) in the center. 

The service line is 6.40m (21ft) from the net and is divided into two left and right service courts. The baseline also has a center mark to determine where the player should stand during serving. Between the service line and the baseline is an area called “no man’s land” where the ball can land freely. 

Tennis can be played on a few different playing surfaces; grass, clay, hard and indoor surfaces. 

Grass courts are the fastest type of tennis courts available because of their low bounce capacity. While they make up for entertaining gameplay, they are also more unpredictable than other surfaces. Grass courts need constant upkeep in mowing, watering, and reseeding. 

Clay courts usually made of crushed shale, stone, or brick, which give them their signature deep red color. Clay surfaces are naturally slower, but also gives balls a higher bounce. 

Hard surfaces are often made from asphalt or concrete with some sand mixed in for cushioning. Hard courts are rigid and create a faster, more predictable bounce. It is suitable for beginners and experienced players alike. 

Indoor surfaces, or carpet surfaces, are made from synthetic materials that are usually put over a wood or cement surface. Indoor courts often create a fast-paced game due to low-bouncing balls. Additionally, the minimum overhead clearance for indoor courts should be 12.2m (40ft) above the net.

Rules and regulations of tennis equipment

In addition to regular athletic wear, tennis only requires two pieces of equipment; a tennis racket and a tennis ball. 

Tennis racket consists of an oval-shaped head, a slim shaft and a wider handle area (grip). The frames were originally made from wood whereas the strings were made from the dried stomach lining of a cow. Nowadays tennis rackets come in many sizes, stiffnesses, weights, shapes, grip sizes, and balance points. They are usually made from synthetic materials like aluminum or graphite and wound with nylon strings. As technology progressed, the tennis world had to make some adjustments as well. The modern rules of tennis state that a racket must not be longer than 73.66cm (29in) or wider than 31.75cm (12.5in). On the other hand, the maximum hitting surface can be 39.37cm (15.5in) long and 29.21cm (11.5in) wide.

Tennis balls are made from a felt-covered rubber compound and filled with pressurized air. On top of that, the International Tennis Federation (ITF) has made clear definitions of what a competition level tennis ball should be like. First, the ball should be in a fluorescent ”optic yellow” color. Second, the official rules of tennis also state that the ball has to fit the official diameter of 6.54-6.86cm (2.57-2.7in) and weigh between 56-59.4g (1.98-2.10oz). Modern regulation tennis balls are also kept in a pressurized container until initial use. In a professional match, tennis balls are changed every six games. 

Other rules of tennis

A tennis match starts with a coin toss to determine which player serves first and which side they start from. In some cases during gameplay, a player might hit the ball past the net and land in the opponent’s court. This is considered ”in”. 

Tennis also follows a somewhat strict etiquette regarding both the players’ and spectators’ sportsmanlike conduct, language, and even clothing. For example, while not against the rules, taunting, targeting your opponent, excessive celebrating, and constant drop/lob shots are generally frowned upon. Players are also expected to shake hands after an intense match in good spirit. 

As far as the correct attire goes, players need to wear a matching set of clean athletic clothes. It is also important to remember that sleeveless tops are prohibited in some courts. While women often opt for tennis dresses or skirts with built-in shorts, they are also allowed to wear shorts on the court. After the controversy of Serena Williams’ catsuit attire, The Women’s Tennis Association (WTA) ruled that women can wear mid-thigh length leggings and compression shorts without a skirt or dress. 

The legendary Wimbledon tournament is notoriously strict in its all-white clothing rule. The history behind this is that during Victorian times, white clothing showed fewer signs of sweating. 

Did you learn anything new about the rules of tennis? Let us know in the comments below.

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