Rules Of Tennis | How it is Played?

Regardless of the fact in which region of the world you live in, you cannot say that you haven’t heard of this game before. It is one of the most competitive and physically tough games in the world.

Rules of Tennis

Tennis is believed to be descendant of a game that developed in France in the 12th century, which was played with palms, and after little modifications in the rules it is still played today in all parts of the world.

Objective of the Game

The objective is to score as many points as you can. These points are scored by hitting the ball over the net landing the ball within the margins of the court. But you only get a point when your opponent is unable to return the ball. So it all boils down to your agility, how well can you hit the ball and how fast you are.

How to Play?

Tennis involves can be played individually or as a team of two. At all levels, Tennis is played in a Tennis court with both players/teams having their own sides, it is played with a racquet and ball. Both teams/players are supposed to hit the ball in their opponent’s court and everytime their opponent misses the ball or causes a foul, they get a point.

To learn how a service is done, who takes the first serve and what’s the point scoring mechanism in Tennis ( it’s different from traditional sports and can be difficult to grasp if you are new to this game), make sure you give the next section a thorough read.

Time Duration of A Tennis Match

There is no time duration of a tennis match because it only ends when a player reaches a certain number of points. Every match consists of 3-5 sets, and how long each set goes ultimately affects the timespan of the game. One set consists of 6 games, at least.

Another important factor regarding the duration of a Tennis game is the surface on which it is played on. Matches on clay go slower while matches on grass go at a swift pace. A 2-set match on clay can last for up to 90 minutes while the same game on grass would end in 60 minutes.


For deciding sides and first service, a coin toss takes place before the game.

General Rules of Tennis

  • If the server fails in the first attempt, he gets another chance. And if he fails to make a successful service in the second attempt, then it is called a foul and a point will be lost.
  • You have to hit the ball before the second bounce, every time it’s sent into your court by the opponent.
  • Players can switch sides during a game or tie-breaker point by mutual consent.
  • You cannot hit the ball into the net.
  • You cannot touch the net with a racket or body.
  • In case you commit any of the above offenses, this results in a point for your opponent.
  • The ball in a tennis game changes after every 6 games.
  • As a receiver, if you hit the ball directly off the service – without letting it bounce in your court – it would count as a foul and the server will get a point.
  • Coach cannot interfere and pass instruction to the player when play is on, neither he is allowed to pass any instruction through any gesture.

Scoring Rules in Tennis

Scoring rules in tennis can be very difficult to understand if you have no idea about the game. Let me make it easier for you.

  • If you score one point, you score 15. If you score 2 points, you score 30. And if you score 3 points, you score 40.
  • If you score 4 points and you are at least 2 points ahead, you win the game.
  • The only time it’s different is when both the players are on the same score i.e. 40 points. To win the game from here, you have to score 2 consecutive points.
  • Each set consists of several games. In competitive tournaments, a women’s set consists of 3 games and a men’s set consists of 5 games.
  • Once the player has won 6 games in a set and is at least 2 games ahead, he wins a set.
  • After you have won the game, the other player will serve the ball for the next game.
  • Winning 2 sets or 3 sets faster than your opponents wins you the match.
  • If it’s a tie breaker – each of you have won 6/6 sets -then the first to score 2 consecutive points will win the match. The one who did the first serve of the match also serves first in the tie-breaker.

Tennis Field

Tennis is played in a rectangular shape court including a base line and service areas and two tram lines down the either side. For a single match, you use the inner side tram line while for a double match you use another tram line.

Court: As per the international laws, the court must be 78 feet long and 27 feet wide for single matches. The service line is always 21 feet away from the net.

Net: The net must be 3 feet and 6 inches high at the posts, and 3 feets from the center. The net posts should be 3 feet outside the doubles court on each side and for a singles net, it should be 3 feet outside the singles court on each side.

Surface: It can be played on grass, clay, hard surfaces and even on carpet. But in the international circuit, tennis games are played on grass. Before you set up a tennis court in your personal lawn, learn these methodologies and how they are applied there:

Advantage Service Court: This is the receiver’s left side service box.

Alley: The lanes on each side of the court are called Alley. Only used when playing doubles.

Baseline: The line furthest from and parallel to the net. Raremost line of the court.

Center Service Mark: It is the line that divides the service boxes on each side.

Black Court: Area between the service line and the baseline.

Tram Line: Tram line is the parallel lines running down the length of the left and right hand sides of the court. During singles play, the ball must not bounce within the tramlines during service. While in the doubles, the ball may bounce within it but only during the run of play.

Playing Equipments in Tennis

There are no protective gears worn by players in tennis as it is extremely safe. The only two things required are a ball and racket (depending on number of players). That’s all you need to play tennis.

Tennis Racket: Tennis racket must be no longer than 29 inches including the handle and 12.5 inches in width. It’s hitting surface is traditionally flat with criss-crossed strings.

Tennis Ball: A tennis ball has a traditional size and is very similar to a street cricket ball. They are fluorescent yellow at major sporting events, however, in recreational play they can be virtually any colour. ITF has defined the standard weight and measurement of a tennis ball according to which the ball must be 6.54-6.86 cm in diameter and a mass in the range between 56.0-59.4 grams.

Referee in Tennis

Though Tennis is usually unambiguous but referee is still part of the game and his job is to assure that the competition is fair and within the rules of International Tennis Federation.

Advantage in Tennis

The term advantage refers to the situation when scores are tied on 4. The player who wins the points is said to have the advantage. Winning one more point from here would result as a win from here.

And if the other player wants to win from here, he first has to kill the advantage by scoring a point and then score two consecutive points to win the game. If he scores a point but fails to score in the next attempt both the players will be back to tie-break situation on 40 points. And this goes on until a winner is decided.

Ace in Tennis

If the receiver fails to touch a legal service, a point is awarded to the server and this is known as ACE.

Let Serve in Tennis

When the ball lands in the service court despite hitting the net cord, it is called a LET. Such a service is not considered a fault and the server can repeat the service. However, a ball that lands outside the service box is still a fault.

Deuce in Tennis

When both players are on the score of forty points, it is called Deuce. The player who wins two consecutive points from here wins the game.

Difference Between Single and Double Tennis

There are many differences between the single and doubles tennis. First of all, we’ll look at the things that remain constant in both:

  • Point winning rules
  • Games winning criteria to win a set
  • Sets to win matches

Things that Differ in Doubles

The ball serving sequence in doubles is as follows:

For instance, Player A and B are in Team 1 while X and Y are in team 2. Player B is going to serve first on Team 1 and Player X is going to serve first on Team 2.

It has been determined through toss that Team 2 is serving the first game in the set. The sequence for the serving will now be as followed:

  • Game 1 – Player X serves
  • Game 2 – Player B serves
  • Game 3 – Player Y serves
  • Game 4 – Player A serves

Servers in Double tennis can serve from anywhere behind and along the baseline from the center mark.

The scoring rules remain the same, but there is an exception. Now there are 4 players participating in the game instead of 2, so the tie-breaker scoring is done with following serving sequence considering the same scenario as above:

  • Point 1 – Player X Serves
  • Point 2 – Player A Serves
  • Point 3 – Player A Serves
  • Point 4 – Player Y Serves
  • Point 5 – Player Y Serves
  • Point 6 – Player B Serves
  • Point 7 – Player B Serves
  • Point 8 – Player X Serves
  • Point 9 – Player X Serves

Are Doubles and Mixed Doubles the Same?

By doubles in tennis, we mean 2 teams of 2 players each competing against each other. Or in simple words, instead of 1 player per side, 2 players now guard one side of the court as a team.

By mixed doubles, we mean pretty much the same thing but this time we have 1 male and 1 female teamed up against the same combination of 1 male and 1 female on the other side. The rules for doubles and mixed doubles are the same.


The review system in Tennis was introduced in 2006, using which a player can challenge the umpire if they feel his judgement is wrong. For instance, if the umpire calls the ball out and you think the ball landed in, you can challenge the call. In each set, a player gets 3 challenges – which you lose one by one if the umpire’s decision was right.

By using Hawk-Eye technology, the trajectory of the ball is seen to determine whether the player is right or umpire. You get one extra challenge if the match goes to the tiebreak.

For e.g. if during the service, the serve is challenged and turned out to be out, the server then gets another service.

A player should make an immediate call during the play if he thinks that the ball is out, there are no restrictions regarding it.

Tennis Attire

Fancy clothing including fancy watches, jewellery and no more than 1 logo is allowed on the shirt worn by players on the field. Players can only wear white-soled shoes to protect the surface of the tennis field.

International Tennis Tournament

Tennis is one of the most followed games in the world, numerous international events take place yearly and all the current top players participate in them, both males and females in singles and doubles.

Grand Slam Tournaments

Grand Slam tournaments are like the World Cup in cricket and Football. Here are the 4 tournaments that fall in this category.

  • Australian Open
  • French Open
  • Wimbledon Open
  • US Open

Team Cups

These tournaments feature double and mixed double games.

  • Davis Cup (Men)
  • Fed Cup (Women)
  • Hopman (Men/Women)
  • Laver Cup (Men)

Famous Playing Venues

More often than not, you’ll see bigger tournaments being played on these famous venues:

  • Centre Court, All England Club
  • Arthur Ashe Stadium, USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center
  • Court Philippe Chatrier, Roland Garros
  • Indian Wells Tennis Garden, Indian Wells
  • Rod Laver Arena, Melbourne Park
  • Qizhong Stadium, Shanghai
  • Roy Emerson Arena, Switzerland
  • Court Central, Monte Carlo Country Club

Tennis Awards

ATP gives away yearly awards based on performance and rankings. Here are a few annual awards in Tennis:

  • Player of the year
  • Doubles team of the year
  • Coach of the year
  • Most improved player
  • Comeback player of the year
  • Newcomer of the year

The Governing Body

The ATP (Association of Tennis) is a men’s tennis governing body which was formed in September 1972. Drysdale was the first president of the association. Women Tennis is taken care by WTS (Women Tennis Federation) and both the associations have the same objective of promoting the game and organizing competitive tennis tournaments worldwide.