Tennis Terms Tips

Read these 156 Tennis Terms Tips tips to make your life smarter, better, faster and wiser. Each tip is approved by our Editors and created by expert writers so great we call them Gurus. LifeTips is the place to go when you need to know about Tennis tips and hundreds of other topics.

Tennis Terms Tips has been rated 3.5 out of 5 based on 8340 ratings and 8 user reviews.
What are the sidelines?


The boundary lines of the court lengthwise.

Where is no man´s land on the court?

No man's land

The area between the service line and the baseline also known as a taboo zone.

What is a drive?


A powerful stroke with slight topspin. Given its long, straight trajectory it is well-suited as a passing shot or attempted winner.

How do you generate underspin?


The way that a ball rotates. Occurs when a player strikes the ball so that it spins from high to low as it travels forward. The bottom of the ball spins against air resistance, which forces the ball upwards.

Underspin shots need to travel much lower over the net than basic drives unless you are playing an underspin lob. This shot is called a slice. Underspin causes the ball to lose speed and to bounce lower.

What is a rally?


An exchange of strokes after the service has been

What is a backhand?


For right-handed players this is a stroke played on the left hand side of the body, with the back of the hand towards the net.

What is a volley?


Occurs when a player strikes the ball before it bounces. The volley is most often employed when a player is playing close to the net. The half volley is a low return of the ball just after it has bounced.

What is a second serve?

Second serve

When serving, players have two chances to hit the ball in the opponent's service court. If the first attempt fails, they receive a "second serve."

What is match point?

Match point (match ball)

The score where a player only needs one more point to win the match.

What is a serve?

Serve or service

Every point begins with a serve. From a position behind the baseline, the server has to hit the ball diagonally over the net into the opponent's service court. Players get two attempts to serve the ball correctly in each point. In the first point of any game or set, the serve is played from the right-hand side of the court. After this the server alternates side (from right to left and vice-versa) at the start of every new point.

What is an overhead smash?

Overhead Smash

Powerful shot often used to return a lob that has not been hit high or deep enough. The shot is hit in a similar manner to the serve.

What does it mean to serve and volley?

Serve and volley

A tactic where players serve and then rush to the net with the aim of playing a winning volley off the opponent's return.

What is a baseline rally?

Baseline rally

A rally where both players repeatedly exchange shots from their respective baselines.

How do you win a deuce?


The score that follows one point played beyond deuce. If a player wins the "advantage" point, he or she wins the game.

What does it mean to double-fault?


Two successive service faults from the same court (both serve attempts fail). The opponent wins the point.

What does it mean to be at love?


In tennis scoring love means nothing, hence love-thirty is 0-30. A common (but unproven) explanation for the term "love" to signify a score of zero is that it originates from the French term "l'oeuf." Another explanation is based on the idea that to do something for love is to do something for nothing (zero).

What is the ITF?


International Tennis Federation - the body that oversees the Grand Slams, Grand Slam Cup, Davis & Federation Cup, and the Olympics.

What is a continental grip?

Continental grip

Name of the service grip that originated in Britain. Method of holding the racquet for playing powerful backhands, serves, volleys and smashes. The most common grip for forehand and backhand strokes.

What is the second flight of the ball?

Second flight

The flight of the ball after it has bounced.

What is a game?


Part of a set. Every set consists of at least six games. Composed of four (love, 15, 30, 40) and possibly five (advantage) scores.

What is the center mark?

Centre mark (center mark)

A 10.16 cm (4 in) line that marks the centre of the baseline.A 10.16 cm (4 in) line that marks the centre of the baseline. When serving, players must remain on the correct side of this mark.

What is the maximum number of sets in a match?

Best of three (or five)

Refers to the maximum number of sets in any match. In "best of three" matches, players need to win two of the three sets. In men's tennis, most matches are "best of five," i.e. a match finishes when a player has won three sets.

What is shadowing?


Going through the motions without hitting the ball, hence 'shadowing the stroke'.

What is a hopper?


The container for balls in a ball machine or a separate basket for holding large quantities of tennis balls.

What is a let?


When play is interrupted a let is called and the point replayed. If the ball touches the net and then falls into the diagonally opposite service box, a let is called, and the server is permitted to serve again. When a service let is called, only the service in question is replayed.

What is a slice shot?


A slice shot differs from a "drive" in that the backspin applied keeps it in the air for longer, causing it to travel further before bouncing.

What does it mean when an umpire overrules a call?


The umpire's option and privilege to correct a decision made by one of the judges.

What is a set point?

Set point (set ball)

The point needed to win a set.

What is a fault?


Called if the ball is served into the net, or if it strikes the net before hitting the opponent's court outside the service box or before exiting the court altogether.

What is an ace?


A valid serve that is not reached by the opponent. The server wins the point immediately.

What is a set?


Singles: Usually composed of six games unless there is a tie at six. If there is a tie at six, a tie-breaker is used to determine the winner of the set. There are six games in a set and three or five sets in a match.There are six games in a set and three or five sets in a match. Doubles: In dual format, a "pro set" is used, which is composed of eight games.

What is a serve?


The stroke used at the start of each point.

What is an eastern grip?

Eastern grip

A basic tennis grip originating on the East coast of the USA. Forehand grip. Describes a grip which allows the ball to be hit easily ahead of the body and the racquet swung all the way through.

What does it mean to swing in a loop?


In groundstroke play the racket forms a loop as backswing and forward swing are joined in one continuous movement.

Where is the hitting zone on the court?

Hitting area / zone

The general area of the court where you strike the ball.

What is a centrepoint?


A mid-point between two angles of a possible shot.

What is a groundstroke?


A forehand or backhand stroke played after the ball has bounced.

What is a stop volley?

Stop volley

A volley where the player takes the pace off the ball,so that it drops softly on the other side of the net -making it difficult or impossible for the opponent to reach.

What does it mean to leave the racket face open?


Refers to racket face angle when a greater hitting
area is presented to the ball.

What is a ball machine?

Ball machine

Powered by pneumatic propulsion, a ball machine such as this one holds 135 balls and will fire them every 3 seconds at speeds of up to 33m (110ft) per second. It measures 96cm (38in)x 56cm (22in)x 33cm (13in).

When should you get into the ready position?

Ready position

A position of readiness adopted to receive the service, which acts as a starting point for all groundstrokes and volleys.

What is a chip?


A short underspin ground stroke usually played to return a spinning serve or high bouncing ball.

When do you need to change ends?

Change of ends

The players change ends of the court regularly during tennis matches, e.g. after every "uneven" game (1,3,5) in a set.

What does the "V" refer to in regards to grip?

The 'V'

The angle made between the thumb and first finger of the hand.

What is an approach shot?

Approach shot

A groundstroke played just before you approach the net to volley. A shot played with the aim of winning a point quickly, often hit from mid-court deep into the corner of the opponent's court. The attacking player normally goes to the net to intercept any return with a volley.

What is an all-rounder?


A player with the ability to play well both offensively and defensively.

What does game point mean?

Game point (game ball)

The point needed to win a game.

What is a cross court shot?

Cross court (shot)

A stroke played diagonally across the court from right court to right court or left court to left court, either long or short.

What is a bye?


Free passage into the second round of a tournament. Players may be given a bye if a tournament doesn't have enough players (e.g. if there are only 28 players in a tournament designed for 32, there will be 4 byes in the first round). Byes are always awarded to seeded players.

What is the ATP?


Association of Tennis Professionals - a body to represent the leading players.

The ATP Tour, the men's professional tennis organization. The ATP Tour includes tour events outside of the Grand Slam events, Grand Slam Cup, and Davis Cup.

What is a split step?

Split step

Assuming the ready position before changing the direction of a run.

What is a twist serve?

Twist serve

A service played with topspin and side spin. The ball bounces awkwardly sideways and upwards from the service court.

What is a kick serve?

Kick serve

A serve with heavy spin, causing it to change direction or bounce unexpectedly when it lands in the service court. Also known as a twist serve.

What is a forehand?


A stroke played on the right hand side of the body for right handed players and on the left hand side for left handed players.

What is a clay court?

Clay court

A court with a surface made of crushed shale, stone or brick. Its top surface requires regular maintenance. Plays slow.

What is a tie-break?


This is a point scoring system designed to shorten the length of a set. It is usually brought into operation when the set score reaches six games all. During tie-breaks players are awarded points numerically. The first player with 7 points wins the set, provided he or she has a lead of 2 points, e.g. 7-5. If not, play continues until this two-point advantage lead has been established, e.g. 10-8. The score for the set is then recorded as 7-6, i.e. seven games to six.

What is the service sideline?

Service sideline

The boundary line of the service court.

What is a place-up?


The ball toss during the service.

What is a swing?


The forward action of a basic groundstroke.

What does it mean to swing double-handed?


A player who keeps both hands on the racket handle during the forward swing of the racket.

What is ball placement?


The ball is hit to a precisely chosen part of the court, usually one that the opponent cannot reach.

What does it mean to be a "lucky loser?"

Lucky Loser / Playback

In some knockout tournaments, one defeat does not automatically result in elimination. Beaten players have the chance to play against other such losers, with the winners being awarded places in later rounds. These players are known as "lucky losers."

What is a let?

Net or Let

The call from the net-cord judge when a serve touches the top of the net.

What is the WITA?


The Women's International Tennis Association was founded in 1973, in 1990 changed its name to the Women's Tennis Association (WTA).

What is an unforced error?

Unforced error

An error made while under no pressure from the opponent e.g. mishitting a ball.

What is a semicontinental grip?

Semicontinental grip

A combination of the forehand and backhand grips. This grip can be used for most shots, but particularly for volleys, serves and smashes.

What is a breakback?


Situation where a player who has lost his or her service succeeds in winning the opponent's service game, usually leveling the scores.

What is a big point?

Big point

A crucial point deciding which player wins a set or an important game. For example, when the scores are level and the server is 30-40 down.

What is a defensive player?

Defensive player

A type of player who generally stays at the baseline and tries to keep the ball in play without taking risks. Players like this leave the attacking to their opponents, winning most of their points from opponent errors.

What does it mean to play a match?


In singles, it is composed of a best of three-set or five-set format. In doubles, it is one set with the first team to win eight games winning.

What is the forecourt?


The area of the court between the net and the service lines.The area of the court between the net and the service lines.

What is a lob?


A ball sent high in the air. A high, soft return behind an opponent who has approached the net. It is frequently used to force the opponent to retreat to the back of the court to play the ball. The lob can also be used as a defensive stroke, providing time for the hitter to regain court position.

What does it mean to hit the ball down the line?


Shot played approximately parallel to the sidelines as opposed to cross-court.

What does it mean to be the server?


The player who initiates the point.

What does WCTI stand for?


World Championship Tennis Incorporated

What is a follow through?

Follow through

Refers to the continuing travel of the racket after the ball has been struck. The follow-through affects the length, direction and speed of the ball.

What does it mean to palm the ball?

Palming the ball

Hitting or playing the ball with the palm of your hand.

What is a chop?


A backspin, defensive shot used to return fast services. Occasionally also used for drop shots.

What doe sit mean to use a take-up?


The preparation of the racket in serving and smashing prior to the racket head being lowered into the 'throwing' position.

What are the different types of footwork?


A player's technique for moving most economically to the ideal position to play a stroke. Techniques include tango, side-step and cross-step.

What does it mean when the umpire calls not up?

Not up

The call from the umpire when a ball, having bounced twice, is dead.

Where are the tramlines located on the court?


The area of the court between the singles and doubles sidelines, also known as the 'alley'.The area of the court between the singles and doubles sidelines, also known as the 'alley'.

What is the taboo zone?

Taboo zone

The area between the service line and the baseline also known as "no man's land".

What is the WTA?


Women's Tennis Association. COREL WTA TOUR, the women's professional tennis organization. The COREL WTA TOUR includes Grand Slam events and the Fed Cup.

What is a slice serve?

Slice serve

Side spin and topspin are applied to the serve, causing the ball to keep low and change direction after bouncing. For example, slice serves from right-handed players cut sharply away to the left. This serve is particularly well-suited to grass or indoor courts, because these surfaces slow the ball down less than hard courts.

What does it mean to be an offensive player?

Offensive player

Offensive players use aggressive tactics in an attempt to force errors from their opponents. They take risks in order to win points quickly. Offensive players often have a good serve and can volley well, in which case they usually employ "serve and volley" tactics -serving powerfully and trying to volley the return of serve for a winner.

What is a mini-break?


When the server loses the point during a tie-break, this is referred to as a mini-break.

What is a synthetic court?

Synthetic courts

A court with a surface made of artificial grass, polyurethane, synthetic rubber or other synthetic materials. Can be fast or slow.

What does USPTR stand for?


United States Professional Tennis Registry.

When do you receive penalty points?

Penalty points

Points deducted for unsporting behavior.

What is a deuce?


A tie at 40 is called deuce. Because a game must be won by two points, play continues from deuce until one player leads by a margin of two points.

What is the baseline?


The line at each end of the court that runs parallel to the net and marks the boundaries lengthwise of the playing area.The line at each end of the court that runs parallel to the net and marks the boundaries lengthwise of the playing area.

What is sidespin?


The way that a ball rotates. When one side of the ball rotates against the air resistance, it is forced to swerve to the opposite side; e.g. a ball approaching with left hand spin will swerve from right to left.

What is a longline stroke?


A stroke played straight down the court, either along or adjacent to one of the sidelines.

What does the term first flight refer to?

First flight

The initial flight of the ball after it has been struck by the racket.

What does it mean to break serve?

Break (of service)

Where the serving player loses the game.

What kind of strings are right for me?


The elasticity of the strings depends on the tension with which the racquet is strung. In general, gut strings are more elastic than synthetic strings, as a result of which they are generally strung more tautly. Players who like to hit the ball fast and hard usually
prefer tauter strings. Touch players, by contrast, tend to prefer slightly slacker stringing.

Where is the service line located?

Service line

The service line runs parallel to the net. Together with the center line and sideline, it demarcates the boundaries of the service courts.

What does a line judge do?

Line judge

Line judges have the task of deciding whether a ball has landed in the court or outside. Their decisions can only be overruled by the umpire.

How do you stay with the ball?

Stay with the ball

Refers to following through in the direction of your shot after hitting the ball.

What does it mean to run a ball down?

Run the ball down

To chase a ball that is some distance away.

What is the importance of the non-playing hand?

Non-playing hand

The player's supporting hand - vital for balance.

What is an exhibition match?

Exhibition matches

Matches arranged outside competitions as a form of public entertainment. The top 10 players in the world rankings can earn enormous sums in appearance money for exhibition matches.

What is a drop shot?

Drop shot

A shot played short, dropping into the forecourt - which hardly bounces close to the net.

What is baseline tennis?

Baseline tennis

A tactical approach whereby players remain at the baseline and attempt to wear their opponents down through long rallies, or - should the opportunity arise - to win the point with a passing shot.

What is a hard court?

Hard court

A tennis court whose surface is made out of asphalt, concrete or a similar material.

What does USRSA stand for?


United States Racquet Stringers Association.

What is a flat serve?

Flat serve

A flat service is hit without spin and follows a low, straight trajectory. Given the high risk of hitting the net, it is generally better-suited for first serves.

Who is the receiver?


The player who receives the ball from the server.

What is a point?


The smallest unit of scoring in tennis.

Where is the T located on the court?

The 'T'

The central area where the centre line joins the service line.

What does IMG stand for?


International Management Group - one of the large Sports Management agencies that manage the affairs of a large number of tennis players and run some of the pro tournament events. Advantage International and ProServ are the other main Agencies with tennis playing clients, although there are also a number of smaller agencies.

What is a qualifying competition?

Qualifying competition

Tournament giving low-ranked players the opportunity to qualify for the tournament proper.

What is a knock out competition?

Knockout competition

A tournament whereby players are eliminated when they lose a match.

Why are grass courts so hard to find?

Grass court

Grass courts are becoming less and less common because of the time and money needed to maintain them. They are dependent on good drainage. Fast-playing surface.

What does it mean to be a wildcard?


Irrespective of their positions in the rankings, an organizer can invite one or more players to take part in a tournament, offering them wildcards. This gives event organizers the opportunity of offering places to promising young players, or alternatively to stars who have failed to register in time for the tournament.

What is a foot fault?

Foot fault

A fault called when a player steps on to or over the baseline while serving, before actually striking the ball. Foot faults also occur if the player fails to serve from a static position.

What is a half-volley?


A groundstroke played immediately after the ball has bounced.

What does it mean to be sideways-on to the ball?


Applies to being parallel to the approaching ball's flight.

Where is the half court?

Half court

The section of the court close to the service line.

Wat is anticiaption?


The ability to predict where the opponent is going to play the ball.

What is sports psychology?

Sport Psychology

Skill development; the coach-parent-player relationship coaching effectiveness; stress regulation (relaxation and energizing methods); goal-setting; concentration and attentional training; use of imagery and visualization; staleness and burnout; and characteristics of peak performers.

How do you generate top spin


The way that a ball rotates. When a player strikes the ball so that it spins from low to high as it travels forward. The top of the ball spins forwards against air resistance, forcing the ball down. When you play topspin shots aim higher over the net than for a basic drive. The top of the ball spins forwards against air resistance, forcing the ball down. When you play topspin shots aim higher over the net than for a basic drive. Topspin enables a player to strike
the ball with more power, because the added spin helps to bring the ball down and keep it in play.

What are biomechanics?


Adding power; the effect of spin; balance and control; stroke mechanics; development of power and speed; and string tension.

What is the purpose of using the wrong-foot?


This is to send an opponent the wrong way.

How big is the playing surface?

Tennis Court

A 78 ft (23.8 m) long area, divided into two equal sides by a net standing 3 ft (0.9 m) high at the center of the court. For singles the court is 27 ft (8.2 m) wide. For doubles the addition of alleys 4.5 ft (1.4 m) wide along the two longer sides increases the width to 36 ft (11 m). Courts may be of grass, clay, asphalt, concrete, wood, artificial grass, or other synthetic materials.

What is short tennis?

Short tennis

Short tennis or mini tennis is ideal for developing your ball sense skills and is a good game in itself. As a cheaper version of tennis, it's popular for teaching children how to graduate to the full size game, but adults can also develop hand-eye coordination skills for it. It is played on a badminton-sized court - 13.4 x 6.1m (44 x 20 ft) - with the centre-net height at 80cm (2ft 7 in). Rackets are short, lightweight and mainly plastic, and the ball is soft foam or low compression. Scoring is on "first to 11 points" basis, with a 2-point lead required after 10-10.

What does MTC stand for?


Men's Tennis Council - a democratic governing body for men's professional tennis.

What does USPTA stand for?


United States Professional Tennis Association.

What is the "shake hands" grip?

'Shake hands'

"Shake Hands" refers to the basic Eastern Forehand Drive grip. You shake hands with the racket and keep that grip.

What are the alleys?


The area of the court between the singles and doubles sidelines, also known as the 'tramlines'.

What does it mean to have touch?


Sensitivity when hitting the ball.

What is sports nutrition?

Sport Nutrition

Basic nutrition, pre/post match diets, hydration, choosing snack foods.

What is the backcourt?


Tactically, the area behind and up to the baseline from which the baseliner plays.

What is motor learning?

Motor Learning

Movement training, drills to improve response time, and patterns of play.

What is a western grip?


An American type of grip that finds the palm of the hand more underneath the handle than behind it.

Why should you train and what should I do?

Sport Physiology

Periodization; training to prevent injuries and develop power and strength; circuit training; flexibility training; and aerobic vs. anaerobic activity.

What is mini tennis?

Mini tennis

See "Short tennis".

What is sports medicine?

Sports Medicine

Injury Prevention, drug education, physical therapy and overtraining.

What is a block?


Short punched groundstroke used to return a fast traveling ball.

What is a smash?


Powerful shot often used to return a lob that has not been hit high or deep enough. The shot is hit in a similar manner to the serve.

What does it mean to sign in at a tournament?

Sign in

When players enter their names for a tournament.

What does it mean to spin the ball?


The way that a ball rotates. The rotation of a ball resulting from special types of strokes like slice and topspin. Spin affects a ball's trajectory and the way it bounces.

What is the umpires job?


The umpire decides which player has won a point and also keeps the score. In major tournaments the umpire is assisted by a number of judges (e.g. line judges).

What is a passing shot?

Passing shot

A stroke that an opponent located close to the net is unable to intercept.

What is an overhaead?


Describes a stroke played above the head, e.g. a smash.

What does it mean to warm-up?


A period in which players can loosen up and practice strokes before the actual match begins.

What is the WTC?


Women's Tennis Council - A board comprised of executive types from the WTA (4), directors of women's tournaments (4), and the ITF (see below - 2), that carries a lot of weight in the organization and politics of women's tennis. There is no equivalent in the men's game (although there used to be). As of 1995, the WTC was renamed as the WTA TOUR Council.

When is there a tie-breaker?


Used to determine who wins a set in case of a tie. The first player to win seven points, leading by two, wins.

What is a seeding?


A graded list of the best players entering a tournament. The best players are normally "seeded" before a tournament begins. This prevents these players from being drawn against each other - and knocking each other out - during the early rounds of the competition.

What is a return stroke?


Primarily the stroke that returns the service but can be used to describe any shot during a rally.

What is a wide body racket?


These are rackets that have a very broad side-on dimension.

When do you need to use a take back?

Take back

The preparation of the stroke prior to the forward swing.

What part of the surface represents the left court?

Left court

The area to the left of the centre line from the net to the baseline.

What is a closed face?


Applies to racket face angle.

What is the purpose of the net?


The net runs between the two halves of the court. Made of hemp, nylon or synthetic mesh, it hangs on a taut cord with a diameter not exceeding 0.034" which is suspended between two net posts. Height of net: 3ft.

Not finding the advice and tips you need on this Tennis Tip Site? Request a Tip Now!

Guru Spotlight
Sherril Steele-Carlin