Tennis Terms: If you’ve started to follow the game of tennis, you may have noticed that it has its own distinct terminology that differentiates it from other sports. Many of these terms, such as the score of “Love” for example, date back centuries ago to the mid-1500s. Tennis is a game with a long history and, as such, many of the terms used may seem archaic. The scoring system used in tennis to this day was originally developed in medieval France in the 15th century. The term “Love” itself is thought to have been derived from the French term “L’oeuf”.
While the exact origins are not known, it is believed that scoring was based on the positioning of the hands of a clock used to keep score. When the clock hand rotated one quarter, it was on the 15-minute mark. On the next quarter rotation, it was on the 30 marks, then 45 (eventually simplified to 40). Once at 60, the game was over and a new one would begin. On the other hand, the game has evolved over the years and many new terms have been added that didn’t exist back then. Tie-breakers, originally called “sudden death”, were not introduced to the game until the 1970s. Prior to that, Sets would be played indefinitely until one player won by a margin of two games.
Tennis Score Terms
The aim of each game is to be the first player to score four points. Tennis points are numbered as follows:
- Love – meaning zero
- 15 – when a player wins the first point of a game. If the opponent wins the next point we say 15-all
- 30 – when a player wins two points in a game
- 40 – when a player wins three points in a game
- Deuce – when the score is 40-40 it is called Deuce. A player must win two consecutive points from deuce to win a game
- Advantage – the point played after deuce. If the player with the advantage wins the point the game is over
Remember: in tennis, the server’s score is always called first. If they win the first point of the game we say 15-love. If they lose it we say love-15.
Tennis Court Terms
The tennis racquet is the basic tool of the game. While the original racquets were made from wood, these days the racquets are more likely to be made from graphite and the strings from plastic.
It’s yellow, it’s round and it bounces. The ball is what you hit between players.
The court is where the action happens! Tennis courts can be made out of a variety of materials, although they are commonly known as hard, clay or grass courts. The exact size of the court is determined by the International Tennis Federation – although ANZ Tennis Hot Shots courts are smaller in size to accommodate kids. Here’s a cool graphic that shows you exactly what a tennis court looks like.
The net divides the court in two. The aim of the game is to hit the ball over the net and into your opponent’s side of the court.
The line at the back of the court that runs parallel to the net.
The two boxes on either side of the net. A server must serve from one side of the court into the service box diagonally opposite them.
The external court lines that run parallel to the singles lines. These lines are considered ‘out’ in singles, but ‘in’ when playing doubles.
- ACE – A ball that is served so well the opponent cannot touch it with their racquet.
- AD – Short for Advantage. It is the point scored after Deuce. If the serving side scores, it is Ad-in. If the receiving side scores, it is Ad-out.
- ALL – An even score. 30-30 is, for example, 30-all. 3-3 would be 3-all.
- ALLEY – The area between the singles and doubles sideline on each side of the court. (The singles court is made wider for doubles play by the addition of the alley.)
- APPROACH – The shot hit by a player just before coming to the net.
- BACKCOURT – The area around the baseline. BACKHAND – The stroke used to return balls hit to the left side of a right-handed player (or to the right side of a left-handed player). Backhands are hit either one-handed or two-handed.
- BASELINE – The court’s backline that runs parallel to the net and perpendicular to the sidelines.
- DEUCE – A score of 40-all, or 40-40. (This means the score is tied and each side has won at least three points.)
- DEUCE COURT – The right side of the court, so-called because on a deuce score, the ball is served there.
- DOUBLE FAULT – The failure of both service attempts. On a double fault, the server loses the point.
- DOUBLES – A match with four players, two on each team.
- DROP SHOT – A softly hit ball with lots of backspin that lands near the net after crossing it.
- FAULT – A served ball that does not land in the proper service box..
- FOOT FAULT – A fault called against the server for stepping on or over the baseline with either foot during delivery of the serve.
- FOREHAND – The stroke used to return balls hit to the right side of a right-handed player (or to the left side of a left-handed player). Forehands are commonly hit one-handed.
- GAME – The part of a set that is completed when one player or side either wins four points and is at least two points ahead of his or her opponent, or who wins two points in a row after deuce.
- GROUND STROKE – A stroke made after the ball has bounced; either a forehand or backhand.
- HALF-VOLLEY – The stroke made by hitting a ball immediately after it has touched the ground, usually implies hitting the ball low on the short hop.
- LET – A point played over because of interference. Also, a serve that hits the top of the net but is otherwise good, in which case the server is taken again.
- LOB – A stroke that lifts the ball high in the air, usually over the head of the opponent at the net.
- MATCH – The overall contest, usually decided by the best two-out-of-three sets.
- NO-AD – A system of scoring a game in which the first player to win four points wins the game. If the score reaches 3-all, the next point decides the game.
- NO MAN’S LAND – A slang term for the area between the service line and the baseline.
- OUT – A ball landing outside the boundary lines of the court.
- OVERHEAD – During play, a stroke made with the racquet above the head in a motion similar to that of an overhand serve.
- POACH – To hit a ball in doubles at the net that would normally have been played by one’s partner.
- POINT – The smallest unit of scoring..
- RALLY – A series of good hits made successfully by players. Also, the practice procedure in which players hit the ball back and forth to each other.
- RECEIVER – The player who receives the serve. Also known as the Returner.
- SERVE – Short for Service. It is the act of putting the ball into play for each point.
- SERVER – The player who serves.
- SERVICE BREAK – A game won by the player/team receiving serve.
- SET – A scoring unit awarded to a player who or team that has won: (a) 6 or more games and has a two-game lead; or (b) 6 games and the tiebreak game when played at 6-all.
- SLICE – A shot that imparts backspin on the ball by hitting the ball with a high-to-low motion.
- SMASH – A hard overhead shot.
- SPIN – The rotation of the ball. (i.e., “topspin” or “backspin”)