If you’re like me, tennis rules can be pretty confusing. There’s a lot of terminology and hand gestures that go along with the game, and it can be hard to keep up. Luckily, I’ve done all the research for you and put together this handy guide to the rules of tennis. Just read on and you’ll be ready to hit the court in no time!
In tennis rules, love means zero. Well, it is not something easy to know about the rules. Right?
Don’t worry, let’s start without any further ado!
Table of Contents
Tennis Rules – A Complete Guide
Before knowing tennis rules, it should be clear to you that the rules are different for singles and doubles matches.
Therefore, before learning the rules for singles and doubles separately. We would walk you through the general rules of tennis that apply to the overall tennis sport.
Let’s get back to the topic.
General Rules of Tennis
Following are some of the general rules of tennis.
- A ball must land inside the bounds of the court for continuing the game. If the ball goes out of the traced bounds it ends up the player with the loss of a point.
- Players are not allowed to touch the net, post, or cross the opponent’s side.
- It is not allowed to hit the ball two times.
- Players /teams are not permitted to carry the ball or catch it with their racket.
- Players must keep patience and wait until the ball passes through the net and they can hit it back.
- If a live ball bounces twice and the player doesn’t return it, he/she loses a point.
- If the ball touches or hits the player, it is considered a penalty.
- If the player’s hand leaves the racket or any verbal misuse occurs, a penalty is charged.
- Any ball shot that bounces on the boundary lines are considered good.
- A serve should bounce before the opponent receives it.
Tennis Rules for Beginners
I remember the day when I started playing tennis for the first time, it was a little confusing to know all the rules. But don’t worry, tennis rules for the new players are not that scary.
You might be overwhelmed with the thought of learning the official rules of tennis. However, this practical guide will get you to hit in the correct direction. Plus, I have put them into this article in simple words so you can start your game from today.
If you have a friend that plays tennis then going along with him to play will be a good way to practice. However, you can also practice your game alone somewhere backyard or garage.
Once you have played the game, you’ll become confident and get a better understanding of how to play tennis and its rules and regulations.
First thing first!
Let’s start with the toss. The tennis match starts with a toss. It could be a coin toss or racket toss.
Have you ever noticed there is an alphabet at the end of your tennis racket?
If you keep a “Wilson” racket the alphabet will be “W”. You then can use W or M when you spin the racket for a toss.
You can spin it in your hand and stop when your opponent says “stop”. Another way is to spin it on its head and let it drop.
The one who wins the toss gets the chance to pick the side they want to play on. In addition to it, the player can also serve first if they want to.
The basic tennis rules for beginners are here.
- To win a point you must hit the ball inside the white lines.
- If the ball lands out of these white lines he loses the point.
- When the ball lands on the traced white lines on the court, it is considered good.
Tennis Rules Doubles
It is a two vs. two competition. The doubles matches involve four players on the court to play tennis.
The rules for doubles matches are as follows:
Court Size: The double court size covers the outermost traced line on the court which is 78 ft long and 36 ft wide.
Tennis Doubles Scoring Rules: The scoring rules for doubles matches are the same as the singles. Doubles matches are normally played with no-ad scoring.
This means that the score at deuce is sudden death. This lets the other team choose the side on which they want to play.
The team who wins the score is granted 15, 30, 40, and game. In doubles, the teams play up to 6 matches.
If the points reach 5-all the team plays 2 more matches. If the point reaches 6-all, a tiebreaker is played.
The number of sets in doubles matches: Usually, in doubles matches, you play 1 set or 2 sets out of the 3 sets. Instead of playing complete third set players mostly end up with 2 sets on a tiebreaker of 10 points.
If I talk about a typical format, then in Grand Slams teams play 3 out of 5 sets.
Third Set Rules: The rules for the third set may vary depending upon the type of tournament.
Both of the teams specify their rules before the match. It is infrequent that doubles teams play the third set.
If the first two sets are split 1-1, this leads to shortening the tournaments on a 10 point tiebreaker. This 10 point tiebreaker is similar to the 7 point tiebreaker it is just played to the 10.
Additionally, in tiebreakers teams must score 2 points to win.
Serving Rules for Doubles: In doubles, the team decides which teammate will serve from game to game.
Here the question that comes to mind is who will drive first? So in that case, If one of the players is serving at 0-0 then the partner will serve at 1-1.
This selection of serving can only be decided at the start of the game. However, some other factors that should be considered are:
- Who serves better in the sunlight?
- Who is better at the tennis net?
- Who serves better when it is windy weather?
- Who normally has an easier time starting a game?
Tennis Doubles Positioning Rules: Technically, there is no restriction on standing for the serving team.
The serving team has the benefit of positioning. If one of the teammates is serving then the other one will stand close to the net.
This is to earn the privilege of an easy volley got by the serve. The partner of the server can stand on the same side as their server. This is known as the “Aussie Formation” in tennis serving rules.
- Match Format: The doubles match is played up to 5 sets.
- Switching Sides In Doubles: Yes, you can switch sides in doubles matches but make sure it is in between the sets. This rule states that you should stay on the same side during the whole set.
You can also swap the sides on points.
Tennis Rules for Singles
Rules of tennis for singles are given below.
- Court Size: For singles, the innermost sideline of the court is used which is 78 ft long and 27 ft wide.
- Serving Order: The team that wins the toss chooses to serve first. This team will be the server until the first game ends. After that, the team switches the server and now the one who served in the first game will be the player.
- Tiebreaker Serving Order: So when a game set is tied (score reaches 6-6)then the tiebreaker rules are followed. This rule is followed by a set in which the goal is to reach the 7 points with a lead of 2. As a result, the team ends up winning the set.
- Match Format: It is all up to the players and the rules defined by the tournament. It is often played to 3 sets and some singles men matches are up to 5 sets. It depends on the players’ preferences.
Tennis Rules Serving
The one who is serving starts the point in the match. However, the good news is that the player gets two chances to put the ball in play.
Here are some rules for serving in tennis:
- Make sure you stand behind the baseline and in between the right sideline and the center mark.
- On the first serve, your ball should hit over the net and into the opponent’s service region. If it is not so, then the service is called a “fault”. If you do the same with the second serve then it is a “double fault”. Hence, your opponent wins the score.
- It is called a let when you serve a ball and it hits the net along the court before it bounces and lands in the correct court.
- After serving in one game of a set you receive your competitor’s serve. You have to switch the serving on every 3rd, 5th, and seventh in short on every odd-numbered play.
Tennis Scoring Rules
- Points: The points are measured from Love(0), 15, 30, 40 in the game.
- Games: Games are usually of four points. Moreover, the game is won when the player reaches 4 points with 2 advantage points.
- Sets: A set is of 6 games and is won when the player wins all of the 6 games along with 2 leading points.
- Advantage Set: Advantage set rules are used when the game score reaches 6-6 points. The team only wins with 2 leading games.
- Matches: A match is played up to 3 or 5 sets.
- Deuce: It happens when the score is 40-40. In order to win the match, the player has to win two points consecutively. If the player wins one point and loses the next, the score will be again in deuce.
- Tiebreaker Game: To decide which team wins, the players have to break the tie on a 6-6 score. They have to score 7 points with 2 advantage points.
Tennis Rules for Dummies
So you are also a beginner, holding a racket in your hand. But want to know about the tennis rules? It is no more difficult. I’ve created a cheat sheet to quickly guide you about the tennis game rules below.
- Serving: The team that wins the toss serves first.
- Fault and Double Fault: If the player who is serving doesn’t serve correctly it is called a “fault”.
The player still has the advantage to serve the second time and in case he repeats the same thing. The opponent’s team will have the point.
Tennis Scoring Rules: The scenario of how tennis is scored is as follows:
- No score or zero = Love
- 1 point = 15 score
- 2 points = 30 score
- 3 points = 40 score
- 4 points = set over / completed
Tennis Rules for Kids
Learning the rules of tennis is very important before smashing the balls on the court. Playing tennis as a kid proves to be a challenge.
Let’s not worry about it anymore. As I have covered for you.
- Starting a Point: A point starts with a serve. Each player who is serving the ball gets two chances of serving. If he fails to do so twice the time, the point is then awarded to the other player.
- In-Play: In a short tennis match, the ball must bounce before it jumps over the net. Therefore, volleys are not allowed. On the other hand, if the ball bounces more than one time then it is considered dead.
- Scoring Options: Unlike professional full-form tennis matches, these matches have different scoring methods. There is no 15, 30, 40 but the simple 1, 2, 3, 4 points.
- Determining the Winner: The first player to make the four points wins the game. And the first competitor to win the four games is the winner of the set.
- Court Size: The short tennis court size is half the size of a traditional tennis court. Because of the smaller dimensions than the traditional court, little players can play tennis on the badminton court as well.
Tennis Rules for High School
The USTA and ITF rules of tennis for high school are composed of the following points.
- Warm-up Your Opponent: Warm-up is as important for you as it is for your opponent. This means hitting the ball at a fair pace and straight to the opponent.
- Calling the Score: The server must call the point before he serves. This lets the receiver know that the point is about to start.
- Do Not Return Serves: To hit serves that are blatantly out of the back over the net is considered rude and unprofessional.
- Play Fairly To The Server: The recovery time in between the points according to the rules is up to 20 seconds. After each point, you can start after around 10-12 seconds.
In addition, if the receiver is not ready to serve the ball he should not make any attempt to shoot the ball.
If the opponent isn’t ready he/she can simply raise his hand and say “I’m not ready”.
If a player stands on a side of the court to catch his breath then he should work on his conditioning first.
- When in Doubt Call it “in”: If you are in any doubt make a call to your competitor. If you don’t see a call you can ask your friend whether they saw the ball or not.
- Don’t Interrupt other Courts: To make sure that you are not interfering with the other court just roll your ball behind and between the railing or fence of the other court.
This will let the players start the point and make a better score. Try not to roll the balls behind the players who are involved in the point since they can see the ball rolling behind them.
- Keep Balls Dry: If your shorts get sweaty more than normal then you should follow some remedy for it.
Plus you can’t keep the ball inside the pockets. This can result in the ball absorbing the moisture.
According to the tennis rules, this is considered equipment tampering and you can have a penalty on it.
- Educate Spectators: Do not appreciate the double faults or any skipped shots. Discussing these small etiquettes a little before the match can help the players maintain a professional environment even in hard matches.
Tennis Court Rules
- All players are required to have their permission to the match.
- If other players are waiting to play then one hour of play is allowed. This is for both singles and doubles matches.
- Players can stay at the court if no other players are waiting to have the court.
- Only 8 balls are allowed on the court when the match is on.
- Players are asked to be considerate about joining courts.
- Loud radios and abusive communications are not allowed.
- Tennis sneakers should be on at all times.
- Keep the surroundings neat and clean.
- Alcoholic drinks are not permitted anywhere on the court.
- Proper tennis clothing should be worn while at the court.
- Tennis courts are specifically made for no other sports but tennis only.
- If no attendant is present on the duty it is the responsibility of the players to follow the rules and regulations of the tennis.
- The time limit for singles play is an hour (1 hour). And for doubles matches it is 1/ 2 hours. This time limit is only applicable when all the courts are busy.
- Dogs or any pets are not permitted.
- Avoid taking skateboards, any wheeled vehicles along with you.
- Court lights can be turned on till 10:30 pm. The lights can stay on for an hour. The keys should be taken from the manager. The adults (the players of age above 18 ) are allowed to play in the dark.
Tennis Ball Rules
The tennis balls are made of rubber that is filled with pressured air to make the ball bounce more.
The ball for playing tennis weighs up to 50 grams. The diameter of the ball should lie between 2.5 and 2.63 inches but not more than this.
The general tennis rules for balls say that the ball should be changed after three hours during the tournament. Since the pressure slows down after some time of the play.
The set of rules for tennis balls is here below.
- The point is played again if the ball is damaged or broken.
- The number of balls for the match should be announced before starting (2,3,4, and 6 balls).
- The policy of changing the ball (if any) should be cleared.
- The ball can be changed at the start of a set.
- The ball can’t be changed at the start of a tiebreaker match.
Tennis Racket Rules
Rackets for tennis are mainly made of wood and nowadays to make them even stronger they are made of graphite or aluminum.
The rules, restrictions, and official rules of tennis for rackets are given as follows:
- Including the handle, the racket mustn’t be longer than 29 inches and no wider than 12.5 inches.
- Rackets for tennis should be strung with synthetic material just like nylon or titanium. However, the top professional players prefer having gut strings. Learn more about types of tennis strings in our separate article.
- Having a big racket provides you with a big “sweet spot”. This sweet spot is the center area that allows a swift hit. But these are a bit difficult to handle. A medium-sized racket is preferred mostly.
- The racket frame should be slim since it allows more flexibility.
- 100 grams racket weight is considered normal, while less than 285 grams is a lightweight racket and 310 grams or more is heavy.
- Go for a 16/ 19 string pattern which means 16 main strings and 19 in the cross of the racket.
- Use a heavy racket or light-weighted racket depending on the player’s preferences. If he has more power he can go for a heavy one in the beginning.
Tennis Tie Break Rules
If the teams have reached the score of 6-6 in a set. At this point, they play for 7 points to break the tie. The tennis rules instructions for a tiebreaker are a few and are mentioned below.
Win by 2 Points Margin: Players must win the tie by the margin of 2 points. The game can take as long as it takes the competitors to score 2 points to win.
However, the tie break scoring system is not similar to the normal tennis score such as 15, 30, 40. It continues like 1,2,3 and so on.
Switching Servers: After serving the first point at the start of a tie break. The serving is given to the one who received it in the first serving.
The opponent serves for the next two points. And during the match, the serving keeps on switching after every two points.
- Switching ends of the court: When a tie-breaker is being played, the players change the court ends when the score reaches equal to the sum of 6 such as 4-2, 3-3or 6-6, etc.
- Australian Open: In the Australian Open, the singles match players play a tiebreaker from 1-10.
- French Open: It is the only Grand Slam that does not play a tiebreaker to declare the match-winner.
- US Open: If there is a 6-6 tie then a 12 point tiebreaker is played in the Open US.
- Wimbledon: According to the 2019 Wimbledon rule, if the players tie on 12 games at once then they will have to play a tiebreaker round to win.
Wheelchair Tennis Rules
The rules for wheelchair tennis are followed by ITF. Let’s see what rules are defined for wheelchair players.
- Two Bounce Rules: The wheelchair tennis players are allowed to bounce the ball. The player must hit the ball before it hits the ground the third time.
- The Wheelchair: The wheelchair is considered as the player’s body. All the rules applied to the able-bodied player will be applied to the wheelchair.
It should be made of any non-reflective strong material. It can contain gears or controls for the player.
Furthermore, the wheels should not move in a way that damages the surface of the court.
- The Service: The serve is made immediately before the service, at this point the player can give one push when he is going to strike the ball.
The server should not touch the wheel throughout the service.
In the case of a quad player, the other player is allowed to bounce the ball for such a player.
The height of the wheelchair should be fixed and the buttocks of the player stay adjusted. For this purpose, straps may be used to keep the player stable.
- Point Loss: The player loses a point if the ball is not hit before the third bounce on the court.
- Moving the Chair with Foot: In case that the player can’t move the wheel with his hands due to the lack of capacity. He/she can use one foot to move the chair.
In accordance with the above-mentioned rule of moving the wheelchair with one foot. No part of the foot should be in contact with the surface of the ground:
- During the forward movement of the swing plus when the rackets hit the ball.
- From starting the service and until the racket hits the ball. If the player violates the above rules it can result in losing a point.
- Wheelchair vs. Able-bodied. When there is a match between the wheelchair player and an able-bodied player. All the rules composed by the officials will be applied separately.
Rules mentioned for the able-bodied are the same as the normal tennis rules. And for the wheelchair player, the rules are the same as discussed above.
Tennis Let Rules
In tennis, Let is a term that means a player has to replay the whole point. There are some conditions and cases for Let.
When such a case occurs during a match the Let call is given to that specific player.
However, it is made sure that the Let call made by the other player is just and should be prompt to stay away from any arguments.
There are some other cases that you might see when the let should be prompt. Such as when any distraction is made during the ball to the opponent. He/she may call the Let.
At the professional level, during the match, there are umpires appointed to call the Let. Furthermore, there are some devices fixed in the court to detect the let.
It occurs under three conditions:
- When the ball is served by the player and it touches the net.
- When the tennis ball touches the server or any part of his attire before landing on the ground.
- When the serving player serves before the opponent is ready.
Weird / Uncommon Tennis Rules
There are some uncommon tennis rules that many people are not familiar with. Knowing these rules assists you towards a more professional and enhanced tennis system. Let’s look at them.
- A player while playing can’t touch the ball except with the racket.
- Time gaps between set and score vary from 20 sec between points and about 1-1.5 mins between the sets.
- A player when not serving can stand anywhere in or outside of his region of court.
- Although it was not allowed back in the ’70s. However, according to the new tennis service rules, the player is allowed to hit the ball two times (unintentionally).
For instance, If the player hits the ball first with the racket strings and then the frame. It is considered okay.
The ITF rules state that the player can hit the ball over the net but it can not go through the net. However, the rules and regulations allow the ball to touch with the net boundary but not the center.
In case when the ball reaches over the net and due to some reason (wind) the ball goes back over the net.
The player in this scenario can reach over the net to hit it before it lands on the ground. However, the player is not allowed to touch the net.
Usually, the player is not permitted to hit the ball over the net. The tennis rules and regulation says that the player must make contact with the ball first. He/ she mustn’t touch the net while hitting.
While playing tennis the player or his companion can make calls for the shots made to their side of the court and likewise for the opponents.
The tennis rules say that if the server misses the swing he made to serve the ball it is called a fault. If he misses out on the swing his serve is considered ended.
The player mustn’t make the noise after hitting the ball towards the opponent. This can make your opponent get nervous and distracted. Therefore, there should not be any intentional noise made by the player except for yelling over having an injury. In other words, we call this yelling, ‘Grunting in Tennis‘.
The racket of the player mustn’t leave his hand to hit the ball. He must have a strong hold on his racket while playing.
One of the rules stated by Wimbledon tells the players to keep the ball around the net, net post, or court. If the ball hits the fence, audience or chair, or umpires before hitting the opponent’s tennis zone, In this case, the opponent gets the point.
The player can’t touch the tennis net with anything including his racket or any body part until the point is ended.
Last but not the least, the player can’t touch the tennis ball except with the racket until the point is completed.
Tennis Challenge Rules
The world of sports is full of challenges and do you know what the best part is? The challenges you face as a sportsman exceptionally raise your passion.
Although every field of sport offers challenges and the one who stays determined excels.
Similarly, the challenges you face playing tennis takes the toughest and impassioned player out of you. Moreover, it also improves your mental toughness which is very important for players, especially tennis players.
So, we’ve put together the tennis challenge rules in this section for you. As there are rules and limitations to every challenge therefore we are listing them below.
Five Challenges Rules
We have outlined the five challenges rules that tennis sport faces today.
- Two Challenges
- Successful Challenges
- Failed Challenges
- Tie-break Challenges
- No carry over
Let’s now look at each one of them and learn what they are exactly.
Every player is given two challenges in each set. If he has used both of them. He gets to have another chance in the next set until then he waits no matter how worse the call is.
As far as the player keeps his challenges right he gets challenges without any bounds. This means if a player uses one of his two challenges that goes correct then he will have his challenges back to two.
If a player is making a failed call then one of his challenges is deducted to a single challenge. After losing a challenge he/she is left with the only challenge that he can use till the next set.
In the case of tie-break challenges, the players are given one additional challenge. This is added to their present challenges (if any).
It is a favor to the players who are playing the tie-break so that they have at least one challenge.
No Carry Over
Every player gets two challenges in each set. If the player has his previous challenges they are not countable for the next set. These rules for professional tennis have been the same since 2008.
Rules of Lawn Tennis
The idea of playing lawn tennis can never lose its charm! Spending time while watching players playing lawn tennis is full of admiration and determination.
This sport never goes out of tradition. Some inspirational and professional tennis players such as Stephen Edberg named 6 Grand Slams of singles and three doubles Grand slams himself.
Pete Sampras, Rafael Nadal, and Steffi Graf are some of the role models in the tennis sport.
However, lawn tennis has some of its rules and regulations to follow. You can learn more about lawn tennis rules below.
Note: This is just a summary of tennis court dimensions. Read our detailed guide on tennis court explanation to get in-depth knowledge with visual information.
The tennis instruction by the officials is given to specify the court dimensions. The tennis court must be 27 ft wide and 78 ft long.
The net across the court should be 3 ft above the ground. The court has service box boundaries traced to distinguish the two zones of the court.
The service box margins are pulled parallel to the net and are 21 ft in length. The right side of the court is named “deuce” and the left side is the “ad” side.
The scoring method in tennis is the same as in the standard tennis rules. This means that the score starts from Love (zero) and goes up to 15, 30, and 40.
When the score reaches 40-40 it is called a deuce. In contrast to this, the tie-breaker points are simple points like 1,2,3,4 until 7.
If the score is 5-5 the game is tied and is won when one of the players wins the next two games. The players must secure six games to win a set.
Tennis Service Rules
Serving decision is always made by flipping the coin or the racket. The toss is made by following the tennis toss rules.
These toss rules allow fair play and tell which player is going to serve first and secure the point.
The server has two chances of serving, otherwise, the opponent gets the point. The servers change their sides after playing each point.
The opponent must serve the ball within the lines on the other player’s side of the court. If the ball lands on the line that is a good ball.
After serving the players can hit the ball even if it has not bounced once; however, the ball should not bounce more than one time.
Rules and Regulations
The official USTA rules and regulations of tennis apply to all tournaments whether it is being played on a big or small level.
There is invariability in the rules for the tennis sport. The composed rules are for all of the tennis matches.
These rules comprise the important factors to allow a fair and professional game. However, the instructions for tennis say that the court must have a chairman or head, a referee, and sufficient courts to have a better match.
There are beyond doubt rules for tennis that determine the winner of the tournament in an upright way.
Tennis Toss Rules
Winning the toss is a good opportunity for a player to decide whether he/she is going to serve or the opponent is.
The one who wins the flip can decide the side of the court he wants to play from. The player can also leave the decision over the other competitor to decide if he wants to serve or to choose the side of the tennis court.
Although the rules and regulations for tennis toss are straight and clear and players are required to follow them properly.
- The toss winner decides the side of the net he wants to stand on. The other player can’t do so. Rather the toss winner can leave the decision upon the opponent.
Tennis violations are the inadequate actions shown by a player. The referee is responsible to take action in accordance with the rules and regulations of tennis.
Before punishing the player for a violation the referee should consider the following points.
- To check if the action made by the player is dangerous to the other player or not.
- To check if his/her act is abusive.
- If the player is holding up the match without reason.
- If he/she is being unprofessional.
The above points are considered before making any judgment for a player’s violation.
Reaction Towards Violation
When a referee sees a player’s violation he quickly warns him/her. In case he does the violation a second time the referee will give the player a point punishment.
After that, if the player tends to make a third violation he is punished or penalized a game round of tennis.
Summary – A Final Look at Tennis Rules
Like any other sport, tennis is also bound by some strict rules that must be followed in order to play a fair game. It is important to make sure that the rules are specified to govern the game professionally. Rules for a sport help the team to deal with critical situations justly and positively.
These tennis rules assist a player towards professional, determined, and fair play. Following the rules and regulations not only makes you a better person in the sports field. But it also makes you a positive and open-minded person while facing any difficult situation other than tennis.
Hopefully, this complete guide for the tennis rules explained every aspect to you. So, do share this article with your fellows who are looking to learn tennis rules to advance their level in tennis.
Hey, it’s 32 years old Robert Dexter here, a huge fan of Roger Federer. I love tennis since the age of 12. I write about tennis whenever possible. I have keen interest in equipment and the technicalities of tennis. Other than tennis, I love to post new stories on Instagram, read books and cooking.