A simple guide to understanding the game of tennis

In light of the recent controversy at the US Open finals, and for those tuning in for the first time to watch tennis and still feel a bit lost about the game, worry not, we have you covered.

The basic rules, violation and scoring are much easier to understand than one might think, and we are here to simplify them as much as we can, for our readers.

Tennis is a game that is played on different surfaces – clay, grass and hardcourt. These courts are usually 78 feet long and 36 feet wide, the net is 3.5 feet above the ground, and placed in the middle of the court. For the singles competition, the inner court used is 27 feet.

The game can be played in a singles competition or doubles competition. Singles is when there are a total of two players on the court, each on opposing sides, and doubles is when there are four players on the court, comprising of a team of two on opposing sides.


The scoring system of tennis can sometimes seem a bit complex, but with a little familiarity, the scoring becomes a bit simpler to understand.

The basic idea is to hit the ball within the designated area of play so that your opponent cannot hit it back. For the singles competition, the designated area is the inner court and for doubles, the entire width and length of the court is utilised. The player who hits the ball outside this designated area loses a point to the opponent.

There is a hierarchy of scoring when it comes to tennis, and the higher you go, the closer you get to winning the match. The hierarchy goes in this order. POINTS, GAME, SET, AND MATCH.

In most sports, games usually start in zeros, the same applies to tennis, the only difference is, zero is called love. The first point scored is counted as 15, the second point scored is counted as 30, the third point scored is counted as 40 and the fourth point scored is game. You need four points to win a game. So far so good?

If the points end in a 40-40 draw, a deuce is initiated. The winner of the deuce wins the game. To win a deuce, a player must score two consecutive points.

Basically you need to win four points with a difference of two, to win a game, you need to win six games with a difference of two to win a set and for men’s competition you need to win three sets to win the match, for women, you need to win two sets to win a match.


In tennis, the player that serves the ball is called the server and the player returning the serve is called the receiver. A coin toss is used to decide who serves, the opponent is then allowed to choose ends.

When you serve in tennis, you need to stand behind the baseline, on the right-hand side of the court, and serve the ball into the diagonally opposite box of the court, without the ball making contact with the net. When the ball hits the net and bounces back, or lands anywhere asides the designated area, this is known as a fault, and when the ball hits the top of the net but still lands in the receiving player’s box, it is known as a let. If a let happens, the player is allowed to attempt the service again.

A player basically gets two services, the second service is awarded when there was a fault with the first service.

A fault is when the ball lands anywhere asides the diagonally opposite box. If this happens twice, it is known as a double fault and the opponent wins the point.

The serving player becomes the receiving player after each game.

The receiving player must let the ball bounce a maximum of once before returning the hit, anything asides this is a violation.


Before one can dive into any sports, be it as a spectator or as an aspiring athlete or basically for leisure, the rules are a thing you need to understand fully to either enjoy the game or avoid frustration, in that order. And like every other sport, tennis is a game with its own violations.

A violation is basically when a player conducts him or herself in an unruly manner, disregarding the code of conduct set in place by the governing body of the sport. Below are some examples of violations that can be committed in tennis: lateness, time violation, verbal misconduct, unsportsmanlike conduct, ball abuse, racket abuse and more.

The following penalties can be issued for code misconduct:





Loss of point

Loss of game.

So it is important to note that the rules are to be adhered to avoid being frustrated. You can thank us when you make it to the Wimbledon.

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