The Basics of Tennis: Everything You Need to Know

Are you looking to understand the basics of tennis? From the rules, to tactics, to techniques?

Well, you’ve come to the right place.

This guide will break down the game of tennis to its most fundamental components, so you can understand the sport from the ground up!

Why is it Important to Learn How to Play Tennis?

Going down to your local tennis club sounds like fun, but it can be intimidating if you don’t understand the rules, etiquette, and scoring system. The reality is, there is a lot to learn before you can start playing tennis consistently and to a decent standard.

Tennis is a difficult sport to master.

So we have put together this ultimate guide to understanding the basics. 

The mental ups and downs, unique scoring system, and the challenge of being able to time a swing while you are running towards a moving ball, all play into tennis being such a hard sport to pick up. 

However, this doesn’t mean you can’t learn the basics and accelerate your tennis knowledge. Using this step-by-step guide to improve your understanding of the game will help you feel more comfortable the next time you step on court.

How to Improve Your Understanding of Tennis 

Learning all of the aspects of playing tennis does take time and effort, and it certainly won’t all come overnight. However, you can use this guide to improve your tennis game, boost your confidence on the court and increase your chances of winning more tennis matches!

Step 1: Look at’s Courses

The first step you can take to improve your understanding of tennis is to check out our range of online courses. We have worked with ex ATP Professional turned master performance coach Dave Ireland to create a number of courses specifically designed to improve your tennis game from the comfort of your own home. 

Of course, there is no substitute for hard work, consistency, and getting out there and actually practicing the skills you are learning. However, doing all of this without any direction or guidance can actually do more harm than good. Forming good habits is especially important at the start of your tennis journey, as it will accelerate your improvement and growth later down the line. 

Understanding the rules of tennis, how tennis tactics work, key technical fundamentals, and movement patterns are all essential parts of becoming a better tennis player. 

We have put together a suite of courses that cover the following topics: 

You can even purchase our entire vault for a discounted price if you’re really serious about taking your tennis game to the next level!

We have put together these courses to help you get a head start on your tennis journey, from both a technical and tactical point of view. So, check out our range today.

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Step 2: Understanding the Rules of Tennis

Once you have checked out our tennis courses, the next thing you need to master is the rules of tennis

There are a number of do’s and don’ts that apply to tennis, which actually sit outside of just winning and losing points. 

We’ll come onto the scoring system itself in a minute, but the rules of tennis will become second nature once you understand them and have played the game a few times. 

Of course, the aim is to get the ball over the net and in between the white lines. However, when playing singles, you are playing within just the inner sidelines of the court, whereas when you are playing doubles, you can hit anywhere on the court, including the outer white lines. 

All points start with one player serving and one player receiving. The serving player always starts from the right-hand side of the court and serves diagonally into the left-hand service box (as they are looking at the court). 

Also, it is customary for no talking to be done during a tennis point, as this is deemed as a hindrance for the other player. 

If a player hits a shot that lands in the net, goes outside of the singles court or doubles court (depending on what version of the game is being played), or simply cannot return the ball, a point is awarded to their opponent. Also, if a player touches the net when the point is live (which is before the ball has bounced twice), the ball hits any part of their body or clothing, or if a player hits the ball twice, they also lose the point. 

Finally, a let is called when a serve hits the top of the net but still lands in the correct service box. In this case, the serve is played again to start the point. The only exception to this rule is when ‘no let’ scoring is used, for example when playing the FAST4 format.

Step 3: Get to Grips with the Scoring System

The next step towards gaining a basic understanding of tennis is to get a grasp of the rules. Tennis has a very unique scoring system. Not only because of the words and phrases used but also because it is not necessarily linear, like other sports. 

Tennis also has no time limit. So you simply keep playing until one player has won! 

You may have heard the term, ‘game, set and match’ before, even if you are relatively new to tennis. This is called by the umpire when a player has won the match since they have won the final point, which also wins them the game, set, and overall, the match! 

So, let’s dive into the different levels of the tennis scoring system. The first level is games. A game in tennis is won when a player wins 4 points before their opponent. But, the scoring increments don’t go up 1, 2, 3, 4. In fact, the score goes 15, 30, 40, game. Bizarre right? 

Anyway, if the score reaches 40-40, then a player must win two points in a row to win the game. This is called deuce. A deuce is played from the right-hand side of the court, and if a player wins the deuce point, they then have the ‘advantage’. The advantage point is then played on the left-hand side of the court. 

If the player with the advantage wins the next point, they win the game. If they lose it, the score goes back to deuce. 

The next level of tennis scoring is a set. In order to win a set, a player must win 6 games before their opponent does. So for example, a player may win a set 6-3. However, if the score reaches 6-6 in a set, a tiebreak is played. This is a game in which both players take turns serving and the winner of the tiebreak is the player that gets to 7 first. The winner of the tiebreak must win by 2 clear points. If a player wins a tiebreak at the end of a set, they will have won the set 7-6. 

Finally, most tennis matches are played as best of 3 sets. This means the first player to win 2 sets will win the match. Some men’s matches are played as best of 5 sets (first to 3), but this is only really done at grand slams and Davis Cup.

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Step 4: How to Win Points in Tennis

Once you understand the rules of tennis and how the scoring system works, the next thing to learn is how to win points in a tennis match. 

There are a few ways in which this can be done. You can hit a ball to a space so that your opponent can’t reach it. You can increase the speed of your shots to give your opponent less time to react. Or you can simply hit the ball in the court more consistently than your opponent and wait for them to make a mistake (otherwise known as an unforced error). 

Therefore, the aim of the game is to hit the ball in such a way that your opponent struggles to get it back. Or in other words, you make it uncomfortable for them to contact the ball. 

Try to hit the ball into spaces with plenty of depth and enough speed to rush your opponent. This way they will be forced into hitting a weaker reply, that you can then capitalize on and win the point more easily. This is known as playing aggressively from the baseline.

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Step 5: Learn Simple Tennis Strategy

Learning how to win points, in general, is great, but understanding how to implement tennis strategy into your game effectively will take your game to the next level! 

Strategy is about using your strengths as much as possible, whilst also trying to expose and capitalize on your opponent’s weaknesses. 

Part of using tennis strategy is developing a game plan to beat the opponent standing on the other side of the net, and part of it is using set plays to break down any foe. 

The idea is to think about how you can use your strengths to your advantage, to help you to create space and time on the court. For example, if you have a good serve out wide, it would make sense to look to hit a forehand into the open court, as you will rush your opponent and take their time away. 

However, suppose you are a very fit player that relies mainly on consistency over power. In that case, then sitting back behind the baseline and waiting for your opponent to make a mistake will be the best tactic for your game overall. 

That said, as you work your way into a match, you can recognize and expose your opponent’s weaknesses, making it easier to win points more effectively. 

For example, if your opponent is a very quick mover, it would make more sense to go back behind them, than into the open space. This may sound counterintuitive, but in fact, it makes a lot of sense. Quicker players that cover a lot of ground very well, will be running back into the open space if you pull them out wide with a shot. Therefore hitting a ball cross-court, and then going back cross-court will force this type of player to change direction, which is a difficult thing to do. 

On the other hand, if you are playing against someone who is not such a good mover, you may gain more success hitting to the open space, since they won’t be able to cover as much ground as quickly.

Step 6: Understanding Tennis Technique

While we’ve spoken a lot about tactics, rules, and winning points, if you don’t have a technique that is good enough to execute the shots you want to play, it will all go to waste! 

Many players obsess over technique; it is not necessarily the most important aspect of improving your tennis.

Whilst all player’s technique will be slightly different due to biomechanics, previous injuries, and playing style, there are a number of fundamental checkpoints on all shots that need to be hit in order to play them effectively. 

For example, learning how to hit the ball in the direction you want requires control and spin. The ability to do this is gained by learning how different spins are from different areas of the court. Learning how to hit spin takes time of course, but doing so will make it so much easier to hit the ball with power, while actually being able to keep the ball in the court!

We have delved into a number of technical areas of tennis and provide free content on essential topics such as: 

And a whole lot more!

Step 7: How to Improve Your Game

Once you understand how to use tactics and techniques in tennis, the next step is learning how to improve your game. Beware though, once you start on this journey you’ll never want to turn back! 

There are always things you can do to improve your tennis game.

Techniques to refine, fitness to improve, and tactics to implement. But, with the proper guidance you can really accelerate your learning and become the best tennis player you can be.

Understanding that tennis is a mental game is also something to consider when looking to improve your game. This is important because, however good your technique, tactics, and fitness may be, if you can’t hold it together under pressure, it will be difficult to win big points and big matches.

Step 8: Different Tennis Formats

Finally, another aspect of tennis that is important to understand is the different formats in which the game is played. The most basic change that is made to the game is changing tennis from singles to doubles.

This sees two players on each side of the court battling it out on the full court, including the doubles alleys. 

There are also lots of tennis-related games that can be played in specialized tennis lessons, such as cardio tennis, touch tennis, real tennis, and padel tennis. These variations of the game are based on the original game and are well worth trying out if you fancy something new.

Simple Guide to Understanding the Basics of Tennis

Overall, learning the basics of tennis will help improve your confidence the next time you head down to your local tennis club. Understanding the rules of tennis, the scoring system, how to win points, tactics, technique, and the mental side of the game are all important aspects of starting your tennis journey. 

What’s more, after you get started, you’ll want to keep on improving your game!

We hope this guide has helped you understand the basics of tennis and serves as a springboard for continuous improvement out there on the court! 

If you want some more free resources to help take your tennis game to the next level, check out these articles too: 

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