The tennis court is divided into sections. On the very outside are the sidelines and the baselines. The sidelines are on the side and are wider for doubles play (36 feet). The inner sideline is used for singles play (25 feet). The baseline is the same for both (78 feet from one baseline to the other). The goal of the game is to land your shot on or inside the baseline and sidelines without it being returned by your opponent into your court. Simple enough, right?
Within the court there is a service area and a center mark. After the serve, the service areas and center mark are irrelevant. The goal of the serve is to place the ball on a fly into your opponent’s service area. You serve from either side of the center mark into the opposing service area (right-left or vice versa). You switch sides on each point. You get two chances to serve the ball into the service area. If your first serve goes into the net or lands outside the service area (a “fault”), you serve again. If it happens a second time, you lose the point (known as a “double fault”). If the serve hits the net and lands INSIDE the service area, it is know as a “let” and is essentially a “do-over” with no penalty.
Scoring in tennis is antiquated but easy to learn. The points in a game are LOVE(0) – 15 – 30 – and 40. So in each game each players starts with LOVE, or zero. When the first player scores, they then have 15. On their next point they have 30, and so on. The score of the server is announced first. For example, if the serving player has scored one point in a game and his opponent has two, the score of that game would be “15-30”. The goal is to get the winning point, the one beyond forty. But there’s a catch. What if each player has 40? Then it’s a situation called “deuce”. The next player to score has the “advantage”, i.e. “Advantage Federer”. If they win the next point, they win the game. If the other player wins the next point, it is back to “deuce”. A game could conceivably have many “deuces” and be very long before one player wins. On the scoreboard pictured here the player on top has the advantage over his opponent.
Winning The Match
We talked about winning a game, but what about winning the match? Matches are divided into sets. Usually the match is the best 2 out of 3 sets, although some men’s tournaments can be best 3 out of 5. Sets are divided into games. In general, the player who wins 6 games wins the set. But, as usual, there are exceptions. If the score is 6 games to 5, the player is required to win 7 games instead. If the set is tied at 6 games, there is usually a tiebreaker. In the tiebreaker, the first person to 7 points, when leading by two, wins the tiebreaker, and the set. The set is scored 7-6 for the winning player. Some tournaments do not use tiebreakers and may require the winning player to win the set by two games. This can lead to long sets, as you can imagine.
For more information on tennis rules and tips on how to improve your game, go here. You’ll also find some great diagrams that may make things clearer.