All Tennis Rules – A Must Read For Any Player

tennis rules

In the heat of competition, tennis players sometimes forget the basic rules of the game. Here is a quick guide to help you stay in line and be respectful of your opponent. These guidelines will also keep the game flowing smoothly so that players can experience all the excitement tennis has to offer. Rule number one: always remember to have fun!

If you’re ever lucky enough to be playing tennis and someone shouts “fault”, do you know what that means? Or if they yell “out”, is the ball suddenly out of bounds? Here’s a quick guide to tennis rules so you can confidently play – or at least look like you know what you’re doing.

Interesting Tennis Rules You Need to Know!

Before we dive into the general rules that any tennis enthusiast might have come across, let us raise your interest in the sport by elaborating on some very fascinating rules that you might have not heard of before.

  • A player is not allowed to touch the ball with any object other than the racket until the point is declared over.
  • A player is not allowed to touch the net with anything until the point is stated as over.
  • The ball must not hit the court or the net before it lands.
  • Players can’t throw a racket or drop it in an attempt to hit the ball.
  • The player throwing the ball is not allowed to make any noise when throwing the ball to the other side of the court.
  • Players must not whiff the ball when performing a serve.
  • In an unofficial match, a player is only allowed to make the calls for balls that land on his/her side of the court; however, either player can call a let.
  • Players are not allowed to cross the plane of the net but they can perform a swing across the net only after first making contact with the ball on their side.
  • Hitting the ball twice during a swing is permitted.
  • Players can stand wherever they choose on their side unless it is their turn to serve.
  • It is permissible to make underhand serves.
  • Players are allowed to take time out during a match within limits (For example, 1.5 minutes between games).
Basic Rules of Tennis

Basic Rules of Tennis

Now we will be covering the rules for single and double matches separately (although the rules are very similar). As these general rules are applicable for both single and double matches, they can even be called universal rules in tennis.

Universal Rules of Tennis

  • The ball needs to land within the confined grounds for the match to continue. If one of the players hits the ball outside the defined boundary, they will lose a point.
  • Players/teams are not allowed to touch the nets and posts. In addition to that, they are not allowed on their opponent’s side of the court.
  • Players cannot carry the tennis ball around or catch it with the racquet.
  • Apart from the swing exception, players can’t hit the ball twice.
  • Players must hit the ball when the ball has passed the net; only then can they hit it back in return.
  • Failing to return a live ball before it bounces twice will result in the deduction of a point.
  • In the event that the ball hits or touches the players, the player that has struck the ball will receive a penalty.
  • If the racket leaves the hand of either player, a penalty will be given. Verbal abuse is also not tolerated and can result in a penalty as well.
  • Balls that bounce on the lines of the boundary are considered to be good and mean that the game can carry on.
  • When conducting a serve, the ball must bounce first before the receiving player can strike it back.

What is the Point System in the Game?

Tennis is one of those games that have a unique point system. Hence, along with discussing the rules, it’s important to know how the scoring scheme works as well. There are a set number of points to be gained in any tennis game and the scoring system remains the same in every single game.

The point system of tennis is explained below:

  • 0 point is commonly called love
  • 1 point means that the player or team has a score of 15 
  • 2 points mean that the team or player has a score of 30
  • 3 points mean that the player has a score of 40

However, if both players have 40 points each, then they have to play again until one player gains an advantage over the other i.e. until one player has a total of two points over their opponent and therefore is at a better place to win the game.

Key Differences in the Rules (Singles vs. Doubles)

Court Boundaries

When playing a singles tennis match, the rules are vastly different than those for a doubles match. The court has well-defined lines that demarcate the par to the court that is inbound. Different boundaries are used to identify whether the ball is inbound or outbound for both types of matches. 

In singles, each player’s line includes the alley on their side of the court but no part of the opposite side of the court; whereas, in a double’s tennis game, the players are allowed both the alleys on both sides.

Switching Service

In any singles tennis game, the player and the opponent take turns to see who is going to serve the ball at the start of every game. However, under these tennis rules, this option becomes different in a tennis match, namely because the players on a single team have to alternate between which one serves the ball.

Service Rules of Tennis

According to tennis rules, it is important to serve the ball while the player stands behind the baseline. You must also ensure that your ball lands in the competitor’s service box, otherwise your opposition will get a point.

Service is a very important part of the game as it enables you to get a head start over your rival and send them balls that are harder to hit back, thereby increasing your chances of getting a point. The most preferred serve is the one that lands in the serving box of the opposing player and bounces once before being hit back. Hitting near the other player during service is also not considered to be a bad serve. 

First Service 

According to tennis rules, every player is given two opportunities to make a serve. This allows the player to correct any mistake they might have made in the first serve. 

The first time they hit the ball into the other player’s service box is called the first service.

Second Service 

The second service is also called the “let” and it helps ensure that the first player to serve in a given match has the option of getting another service.

If a player makes a mistake during their second service, they are at a loss and their rival will then receive a point. 

Order of Service

Tennis rules dictate that the order of the service is decided by a simple coin toss before the start of the game. 

However, since sometimes tennis is played in sets of matches, the players first flip a coin to understand who will serve first and then they coordinate by rotating from serving to receiving for every game played within the set.

Foot Faults

While performing a service motion, the server cannot change his or her position either by running or walking. Only slight movement of the feet is permissible.

They are also not allowed to touch the baseline of the court with their feet. Players also are not allowed to stand on the imaginary extension of the sideline or the extension of the center mark. If any player commits these faults, a foot fault can be issued.

Tie Breaking Rules

  • In case of a tie break, the person that is due to serve will start the game and serve a point to the deuce side of the court. 
  • The next two points will be served by the opponent, beginning on the ad sides.
  • If the match is between doubles, the player on the rival/opposing team will serve these points.

How to Win in a Tie-Breaker Match

Players are meant to switch their sides of the court after every six points. This would mean that if the score is 4 – 2, they will switch. To score this tiebreak game, “zero”,” one”,” two” etc. are used. 

This would mean that, in order to win the match, you would need to score seven points by two to win the tiebreak. It also introduces the possibility of the game carrying on for a while, as the scores can be either very high or very low. Whichever player wins the game will win the set.

Unknown Rules of Tennis

If you’re a tennis enthusiast like us and play the game often, you might have come across some situations and wondered what the rules have to say on the matter. 

Well, worry no more as we are here to tell you some unknown rules of tennis that you might not have heard of before.

  • There is no rule against drinking an alcoholic beverage before a match; however, it would be considered quite unwise to consume any before a very tough and hectic tennis match. Although there isn’t any official rule on the topic, if the facility prohibits any alcoholic items on the court, then players need to abide by the rules.
  • If you’re a new beginner, people might con you and tell you that hitting too many serves leads to a penalty; however, this is not the case as you are allowed to serve as many times as you please.
  • Ambidextrous people can play with their forehands and backhands. A great example is Monica Seles. These people are allowed to switch the racket between their hands during the play and, although it might confuse their opponent, it’s perfectly legal.
  • In an officiated match, if an item falls off from the player during a game, it is considered as a let. However, if it occurs again, a point will be deducted from the player. If a match is not officiated, it will depend on the rival (the player that has not dropped an item) to initiate a let.
  • You are allowed to speak to your partner at any time during the play; however, the timing of the conversation should be appropriate. It must not take place at a moment that might cause the opponent to lose their focus and then lose a point.

Changeover Rules of Tennis

If you have ever watched a tennis match from start to finish, you will notice that after a while the players seem to change their sides and go from their side of the net to the other.

This changing of sides is not random and is done keeping some very important changeover rules in mind. Players are required to abide by these rules to make the game as fair as possible.

Essentially it is done because the conditions on both sides of the court aren’t the same; for example, sometimes one side of the court can have more wind or the sun could be facing one direction more than the other. Hence, to make the game fair, both players are exposed to both conditions.

Once a match has started, the players will change their sides when the first game is officially over. After that, they are obligated to switch sides every time the sum of the game reaches an off number.

Apart from the first changeover, players are allowed to sit down on their chairs and have a break before they switch sides. During the first changeover, the players are not allowed to sit down; however, they can have a quick sip of water or can get something from their bag.

Total Duration of Changeover

In a professional setting, the total duration of changeover is 90 seconds. Two minutes are granted at the end of the set, none after the first set, and the rest during the tie-break change of ends.

During the changeover process, both players can choose to interact with each other; however, this freedom of communication should not be abused.

Now you can call yourself a pro on tennis rules! We hope that our article has educated you about the rules of tennis and effectively cleared up any queries you might have about the subject.

Final Thoughts

The rules of the game are not that complicated and most people find them easy to understand. If you’re a beginner, we recommend playing with someone who has an understanding of how the game is played in order for you to get familiarized with tennis etiquette and know when it’s appropriate to call “out” or hit the ball back over the net. 

The rules of tennis are difficult to understand at first, but with this quick guide you can get the basics down. If you want more in-depth knowledge about these sports rules or how they apply to your game, look at our wiki category in our website.

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