By now it shouldn’t come as much of a surprise when I say how much I love tennis. I’ve recommended it as a great workout, I shared my experience in my first tournament, and I even suggested it as a must-try outdoor activity. Are you getting the hint that I think you should try it? Lol!
I had never picked up a racquet until two years ago, and now I can’t put it down! Before that, I watched tennis on TV, and I understood the basic rules of the game, but it’s different when you’re actually on the court.
I was going to make today’s post about tennis drills that you can try, but then it dawned on me: what if some of you don’t even know where to start, and just want to try a basic match with your friend? So I decided to save the drills for another day. Today, I’m going to set you up with all of the information you need to make your first experience on the tennis court a fun one!
book a court
First things first, make you sure you book a court time. Many parks offer free tennis courts so you may want to wander over and call dibs if one is available. If that’s not an option for you, call your local tennis/racquet club and book a court in advance. And don’t forget to bring your own tennis balls! Most clubs will not provide them for you.
If you’re going to play at a club, ask what clothing requirements they have. There are still some clubs out there that require you to wear all white (yawn). Also, grab a pair of decent shoes because you will be running and you don’t want to trip or hurt yourself. Please, please, please don’t play in flip-flops. I’ve seen this done and it’s not pretty!
Now that you’ve found a court, and you’re dressed appropriately, you need to know the basic rules of play.
mind the lines
There are a few sets of lines that you need to become familiar with. Here is a basic layout of the court:
sidelines: There are two sets of lines marking the outside edges of the court. The inside lines are called singles sidelines, and are used when two people are playing against each other (called “singles play”). The outside lines are called the doubles sidelines, and are used when a total of four people are playing (two per team, called “doubles play”). Any ball that lands outside of the appropriate line, is called out.
service line and service boxes: When a player serves, the ball must land on the other side of the net, in the opposite service box. The service boxes are outlined by the service line, the center line, the net, and the sidelines.
baseline: This is where you will stand to serve, receive serves, and generally while playing, although you can run up towards the net at anytime during play. If a ball lands past this line, it is called out.
Tennis has a unique scoring system. Basically a player wins by 4 points, but must win by 2. Instead of counting up the points from 1 to 4, points are counted as follows: love, 15, 30, 40, win. If players are tied, it’s referred to as “15 all”, or “30 all”. If players are tied at 40 it’s called “deuce”. If the score is at deuce, the next player to win a point is said to have the “advantage,” and must win the next point to win the game. If a player has the advantage, but loses the next point, it goes back to deuce. The next person to score a point is said to have the advantage, and so on, until someones wins by 2.
A series of games make up a set, and a series of sets make up a match. If you’ve ever wondered where the term “game, set, match” comes from, now you know! In order to avoid sounding like a complete rookie, always refer to your play as a tennis match vs. a tennis game.
other basic rules
- If a ball lands outside of the lines, it is considered to be out. However, if any part of the ball touches the line, it’s considered to be in. When in doubt, be a good sport and call it in.
- Hitting the ball before it bounces is called a “volley”. Volleys are usually easiest to hit when you’re closer to the net, such as near the service line or even slightly closer.
- You cannot touch the net. Doing so forfeits the point to the other player.
- If it’s your turn to serve, and the ball does not land in the correct service box, it’s called a fault. If you fault two times in a row, your opponent gets a point. If the ball lands in the correct service box, but it touches any part of the net on the way over, it’s called a “let” and you’re able to serve again without penalty. I haven’t really explained serves here because they’re definitely the hardest part of the game, and not really necessary when you’re just beginning. Simply hit the ball over the net to get the game started.
That’s all you really need to know for your first tennis match! However, if you would like to learn more of the basics, including court conduct, additional scoring details, and how to serve properly, check out this great guide for beginners from the United States Tennis Association.
Will you be trying tennis this summer?