How To Play Tennis – The Beginner Guide

Tennis is a sport that can be played by people of all ages, backgrounds and physical abilities. It is a game that is loved the world over and can be quite inexpensive to get into if you know what to buy. So, no matter your circumstances, you’ll be able to pick up a tennis racket and play!

However, if you’re just starting to play it can be a challenge to know where to start. What the tennis rules are, tennis etiquette, how to play the correct shots, not to mention what to actually bring on to the court with you!

Whilst tennis is not a complicated sport to play, some of the terminology and rules can be difficult to understand to someone that has never heard them before.

So, if you are just starting out on your tennis journey and want to learn all of the ins and outs of the game, at the most fundamental level, you’ve come to the right place!

Here, we will give you all the information you’ll need to start your first tennis session feeling confident and motivated to get out there on the court!

What To Bring To The Court

Stepping onto the tennis court without the right equipment, clothes or shoes can be an embarrassing experience. It is something that a lot of tennis players have done, even the professionals have forgotten their shoes at times!

But, this can actually put off some club level players completely as they are unsure as to what is required to play the game, so have a bit of a mental block!

So, let’s cover off a few of the on court essentials you should always remember to bring along with you to your first tennis session.


Tennis Racket

Obviously, you’ll need to bring a tennis racket along with you! But, it can be a challenge for people that are new to the game to know what size, weight or type of tennis racket they should be using.

The standard length of an adult tennis racket is 27 inches, so most rackets you will see in your local sports or pro shops will be around this length. If you are an adult player, be sure not to use a 23 or 25 inch racket as these are designed for juniors.

They are less strong, more flexible and are really designed to be used with softer tennis balls (spongs, red, orange or green felt balls). These should definitely be avoided if you want to get the most out of your game!

You should play with a racket weight that you can swing comfortably without making too much of an effort to move around. If you are constantly tensing up your muscles as you swing to hit your shots, you may well be using a racket that is too heavy for you.

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It is great for helping you pick your next racket and string combination and is a quick and simple process to go through. Simply fill out our player questionnaire and we’ll do the rest!


Tennis Balls

Another essential of course are tennis balls. They again come in different shapes and sizes. As we have mentioned, junior players have a range of different options available to them in terms of ball weights, pressure levels and bounce heights.

However, there is also a fair amount of variation in the characteristics of traditional yellow tennis balls too! Different brands and ball types have different playing characteristics, so it is well worth shopping around to find the best option for you.

Take a look at different balls geared towards playability (which may be lighter in weight and have a thinner felt on them), as well as those aimed at maximising durability (heavy duty balls that are often heavier in weight and have thicker, more durable felt).

Whichever tennis balls you go for, be sure to bring a fresh can to your next tennis session for the best playing experience!


Appropriate Apparel

Now, deciding what tennis outfit to wear can cause some contention amongst new tennis players.

Some like to go for the classic all white look, to come across classy and elegant on the court, whilst others like to show their personality and express their style in their tennis clothing.

Either way, there are a few clear do’s and don’ts that you should consider before you pick your tennis outfit!

First of all, make sure you are wearing something loose fitting that is not going to restrict your movement. Breathable sports kit is ideal, as it helps to keep you cool as you sweat on the court.

Secondly, if you can wear shorts or sweatpants with pockets or a skirt, dress or leggings that can store tennis balls in the elasticated material around the outer leg, this would also be ideal.

The reason being that you will often be using one tennis ball to play with, but need to store another one if you are playing points (especially between first and second serves).

Finally, trying to avoid anything that could call off or get in your way whilst swinging your tennis racket can be a big help. So, large floppy hats, excessive amounts of jewelry, sunglasses on your head or even loose watches are probably not advisable.



This is a very important part of preparing well for your first few tennis sessions. Tennis shoes are specifically designed to support you through all the twisting, turning, stopping and starting that your feet and ankles go through on the court.

Therefore, choosing a pair of good fitting, comfortable tennis shoes that feel stable and allow you to move around the court with agility is very important.

Not only will doing this improve your overall experience on the court, but it will also reduce your risk of injury or causing damage to the court itself.


Tennis Bag

With all of this new tennis equipment, you’ve got to have something to carry it all in! A high quality tennis bag is great for staying organised and reducing your stress levels on the court.

Knowing that all of your equipment and accessories are taken care of, just sitting there on the edge of the court can give you that comfort that relaxes you and allows you to better enjoy your game!

Knowing the Rules

One of the more misunderstood things about the game of tennis is how the game is actually played!

Most recreational players watching tennis on TV will understand how to win or lose a point, but the scoring system can be a bit challenging for some, not least because of the obscure terminology!

First of all to recap, here are the ways in which you can win a tennis point. Your opponent hits a shot into the net or outside of the court, you hit a shot that your opponent cannot return before it has bounced twice or they may not be able to reach it all!

In terms of the traditional tennis scoring conventions, you will usually play a best of 3 set match, with full sets which are first to 6 games.

Each set is won by winning at least 6 games, but can also be won 7-5 or on a tie break if the set goes to 6-6. A tie break is a single game that is the first to 7 points (but a player must win by 2 clear points if the score reaches 6-6 in the tie break).

To win a game, you must win 4 points before your opponent does. One of the unique things about tennis is the way that the scoring system is named. Each point has a numerical value that does not actually represent the number of points the player wins (it is simply a funny name!).

So, the first point you win gives you 15, then 30, then 40, then if you win the next point you win the game! However, if both players are at 40-40, this is referred to as deuce.

Then, if a player wins another single point they will have what’s called an ‘advantage’. Winning another point avatar having advantage wins you the game.

It can all be a bit strange and confusing at first, but if you remember that you have to essentially win 4 points to win a game and 6 games to win a set, you’ll be calling out the score like a pro in no time!

You should also be aware that there are a few different variations of tennis scoring systems that tend to be used at the recreational level.

The above is the most common form of scoring system for matches, however for organised box leagues, internal tournaments or simply in coaching sessions, a few other scoring systems may be used.

You may substitute out the final set for a ‘champions’ tie break, which is a tie break to 10 points (win by 2 clear points). This speeds up the match if it does end up going to a deciding set.

You may play a Fast4 format, where games are first to 4 games rather than 6, there are no advantages if the game goes to deuce (there is simply a sudden death point), and there are no lets played if the ball clips the top of the net and goes in on the serve.

You may even play one long set to 8 or 10 games to keep the match shorter and the playing time more predicable.

But, whatever scoring system you use when you next play tennis, be sure to enjoy it and remember that every point counts!

Understanding the Basic Tennis Strokes

Now that you understand what you need to bring on to court with you and how to score a match properly, let’s explore the different tennis shots you may encounter when out there on the court.



Usually referred to as the big weapon, the forehand tends to be the most powerful and aggressive groundstroke. It is played on your dominant side of the body and most advanced level players will look to use their forehand to attack their opponent as often as they can.

Most players have a longer backswing and more elaborate follow through on their forehand as they have more space to swing into, but this can also lead to issues with consistency and timing.



The backhand may be the less powerful and weaker shot of some tennis players, but this is because it is played on the non-dominant side of the body and usually with the assistance of the non-dominant hand.

Having a ball played to the backhand can be a big fear for some players, however it certainly doesn’t need to be. Developing a sound technique and giving yourself plenty of space and time to hit the ball can help you develop a solid, consistent and dependable backhand stroke.



The serve is one of the most technically difficult shots in tennis, but also one of the most essential. It is the shot that starts the points and can be a massive asset to your game if developed correctly.

It does not have to be feared or thought of as a weakness, but should instead be embraced as part of the game and a shot that you can work on day in day out on your own to develop.



Returning serve well is all about being alert and ready for anything. You may need to shorten your backswings a bit to control the fast incoming ball, but returning does not need to be intimidating if you can understand where to position yourself and how to approach the shot.

Simply take a few steps back behind the baseline to begin with (you can always adjust to your opponent’s serve ends up being slower), keep your racket in front of you and take compact swings at the ball, aiming at large targets on the other end of the court.



Some players only come to the net to shake hands, but getting yourself up there to try and finish off the points more quickly can be a great tactic.

Not only can this take your opponent by surprise, but it can also save you time and energy as you will have the skills to finish the point on your terms.

The volley is played when you hit the ball without it bouncing, so you really don’t need to take a big swing at the ball. Simply redirect the ball into the open court using your opponent’s pace and take their time away from them!


Overall, whilst tennis is not necessarily a difficult sport to get into or play, there are a few fundamental things to learn before you can simply walk on to the court.

Making sure you have the right equipment, shoes, apparel is essential to being as prepared as you can be, whilst understanding the scoring system and the different shots you may need to play can help you feel right at home on the tennis court!

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