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Basic Rules to Tennis

The rules of tennis are fairly simple. One player hits or serves the ball from a corner of a marked out area called a court, that is divided down the middle with a three feet high (0.914 meter) net. The opposite player's goal is to return the ball, bouncing it no more than once in his own court, aiming for the other player to not be able to hit it. A point is gained when a player is not able to return the ball at all or he hits it out of the court. The ball is always served cross court or diagonally. The overall goal of tennis is to gain points to win games, sets and matches.

Types of Courts

Tennis is required to be played in a regulation size tennis court. This means that it has to be 78 feet long (23.77 m) and 27 feet (8.23 m) wide (for singles matches) or 36 feet (10.97 m) wide (for doubles matches). The court must have a 3 feet (0.914 meter) high net (with 3 feet net posts), dividing it down the center. The type of court floor varies. It may be asphalt, clay, concrete, grass, artificial grass, wood or made of other synthetic materials. The parallel line at both ends of the court, which marks its border, is known as a 'baseline', while the line marking the side of the court is known as 'sideline'.
A line parallel to the baseline, known as 'server line', is marked at a distance of 21 feet from the net, on either side. The center line, which is perpendicular to the net, is drawn halfway between the sidelines and exactly divides the courts into two halves on either side. Moreover, the server line and the center line on either side, divides each side of the court into four quarters. The quarter courts near the net are known as 'service courts'.

Singles Basics

The server is chosen by a coin toss. The player who wins the toss can choose to serve or choose the side he wants. If the toss winner chooses to serve, his opponent gets to choose the side and vice versa. This applies to both singles and doubles games. In singles, the server (person playing first) and receiver (one who receives the serve) change position (left/right), after every point and the ends are changed after every odd numbered game.

Doubles Basics

Serving is alternated from team to team and from player to player so that each player serves every fourth game. Both partners (receivers and servers) can stand anywhere they want, however it is traditional for partners to stand side by side. The order of serving needs to be decided before the first game of any set begins.


A match can either be 'Best of Three Sets (First player to win 2 sets, wins the match) ' or 'Best of Five Sets (First player to win 3 sets, wins the match)'. A player wins a set, when he wins 6 games, provided he is ahead of his opponent by two games. If the difference between the players is less than 2 games, the game may continue till either wins the set by a margin of two (known as the Advantage set scoring method). Alternatively, if both players are tied with 6 games to their name, whoever wins the tie-breaker game, will win the set (this is known as the Tie-Breaker Method). The latter strategy is mostly adopted in ATP tournaments. Wimbledon, one of the four prime grand slams, uses the advantage set scoring method, due to which there is a possibility of a game continuing for a long time in some cases.


Offical Tennis Rule Handbook