If you are looking for a tennis terms list, I assume you’re a beginner player looking to improve your tennis terms vocabulary. It can’t be 100% true.
No matter if you are a beginner, intermediate, advanced, recreational player, or just a tennis fan, we all, at some point, want to know the tennis terms and their meanings. Let’s make these weird terms, no longer weird.
However, if you are a beginner-level player, we recommend reading our detailed guide on practicing tennis alone to improve your skills.
Each term has a meaningful context once you know the term’s definition. So, we have prepared a list of A to Z terms for tennis to give you a glossary of terms that you can use as a guide later on.
If you are just a tennis fan, you can learn only the most common terms. But if you are a tennis player, we recommend going through the complete list so you know your beloved sport tennis in detail.
Moreover, tennis is the only sport that can easily confuse you with its weird jargon. For example, in tennis, “Love” means zero. This is where things start getting confusing.
Similarly, the tennis scoring system is the weirdest system ever in the world.
Although remembering all these tennis terminologies won’t help you improve your skills, you would be able to hang with a professional tennis player confidently.
Let’s move straight to buzzwords and their definitions without spending more time.
Table of Contents
Tennis Terms List
Before we move to the tennis terms and definitions, you should know how this list is prepared and organized.
First, I have explained all terms with definitions. Then, at the end of this list, I have categorized terms. For example, terms for baseline, volley, balls, match, coaching, etc.
Tennis Terms Starting with “A”
An ace is a tennis serve that lands in the opponent player’s service box but the opponent couldn’t hit it with their racket.
In other words, a service that didn’t touch the opposing player’s racquet after landing in their service box.
Generally, most of the aces are hit by tall players because a tall player has a clear view of the service box over the net.
King of tennis, Roger Federer has performed more than ten thousand (10,000) aces throughout his career.
It is considered to be a win because the other player didn’t touch it. You earn a single point upon winning this shot.
Ad is the shortcut of the word “advantage”. A player is said to have an ‘Ad’ or ‘Advantaged’ if the player wins the next point immediately after a deuce (40-40 score).
If the player who served first gets the advantage, he/she is said to have ad-in and ad-out in the case of the returner’s player.
3. Ad Court
The left side of the court of each player is called the “Ad Court”. This is the area where advantage (ad) is always served. It means when you hit the ball to the opponent’s ad-court you are serving to their right side(deuce) of the court.
Ad court is divided by the service line. On the other hand, the right side of the court of each player is known as the “Deuce Court”.
4. Advantage Set
If a player wins at least 6 games and has the 2-game advantage over the opponent player, then the first player is said to have an advantage set.
5. All Court Game
All court game is the playing style of the tennis player where the player uses different playing styles including volleys, serve, baseline and transition.
6. Approach Shot
When a player hits the ball aggressively from the baseline to transition up to the net, this shot is called an approach shot.
A player can execute this shot either with topspin or underspin.
ATP stands for Association of Tennis Professionals. ATP is the main organizing body for men’s professional tennis.
Alley is a narrow area on the side of the court or doubles sideline. This area is used in doubles match only and is invalid or considered as out of bounds for singles.
Tennis Terms Starting with “B”
The area of the court between the service line and the baseline is called the backcourt.
If you are a right-handed player, you will hit backhand when the ball is on your left side. In this scenario, you are forced to move your racquet to the left and then hit the ball with the backside of the racquet. This is called a backhand shot.
If the player performs backhand with one hand only, it is called a one-handed backhand, and two-handed backend in the other case.
The other names of the backspin are underspin or slice. When a player hits a ball in such a way that it generates a backward spin in the ball, it is called a backspin.
In this case, the speed of the ball slows down and the ball stays low.
Bagel in tennis refers to the set with a score of 6-0. It’s a slang word in tennis because it resembles the shape of a zero. A women tennis player who loses a set 6-0 frequently, is called a bagel girl.
When the score in a match is 6-0, 6-0, it is known as a double bagel.
5. Ball Boy
A person (usually a kid), is responsible to give new balls to the tennis professional in case the ball goes out of the court. The same ball boy is also responsible to supply balls before service.
In the case of a girl, this person is known as a ball girl. Although not required, ball boys are brought to the tennis court to reduce the amount of inactive time during the play.
I have written a very detailed article about ball boys/girls, how you can be the one? I would suggest reading that article as well.
6. Ball Abuse
Sometimes when the player is angry or frustrated, he/she may hit the ball toward the umpire, audience, or the opponent player while not in the play.
So, this reckless hitting is called ball abuse, which may result in a warning, a point penalty, or even a game penalty.
A white line indicating the outer/farthest boundary of the tennis court is called the baseline. The length of the baseline for the singles court is 27 feet while for the doubles court is 36 feet.
Each player prevents the ball from going over this line. If the ball goes over this line, the opponent player wins a point.
A baseliner prefers to play around the baseline. Baseliners are fond of groundstrokes (forehands and backhands). Generally, baseline players play aggressively.
An aggressive baseliner relies on strength of their forehanded groundstroke, and they try to move their opponent around the court.
In tennis, ball bounce occurs when the ball moves in an upward direction and its speed is slow.
This happens after the ball hits the ground, due to which a vertical force pushes the ball upwards, and the horizontal force generates a spin in the ball, as a result, the speed of the ball gets slow.
There are various reasons for a ball bounce but the most common are court surface (clay or grass court), weather, power of the shot, and the type of spin in the ball.
A break in tennis occurs when the player wins a game, the game during which the opponent player was serving. In simple words, a break occurs when the receiving player wins the game.
11. Break Point
A point won by the receiver player when the break occurs is called a breakpoint. A breakpoint can occur at 0-40, 15-40, or 30-40. Breakpoint also occurs when the server couldn’t have an advantage in a deuce.
A player who wins the breaking point wins the game.
12. Bumper Guard
A bumper guard is a strip of plastic that is installed around the head of the racket to protect it.
The bumper guard wears out after some time. Therefore, we need to replace it to keep the racket in good condition.
Tennis Terms Starting with “C”
When the ball goes out of the playing area, the line judge (aka linesman or lineswoman) calls out verbally. This is called “call” in tennis.
When the flat serve goes very fast, it is called Cannonball. In simple words, a very fast low serve is known as a cannonball.
3. Centre Mark
A small mark that divides the baseline into two equal parts is called the center mark because it’s located at the very center of the baseline.
In the case of doubles, this mark is located 18 feet from both sides.
When the payer doesn’t agree with line calls, he/she may request an official review of the area where the ball landed.
Whenever the player wants to challenge, they need to first let the umpire know and then the video is replayed in slow motion using some electronic technology like Hawk-Eye.
This option is available only in large tournaments and for a limited number of times.
5. Change Over
When the players exchange the ends after every odd-numbered game, they are given 90 seconds of rest which is called a change over or change of ends.
6. Code Violation
Whenever a player commits a mistake or goes against the code of conduct, we call it a code violation.
In this case, the player is given a warning or even a penalty by the umpire. Examples of code violations are ball abuse, racquet abuse or verbal abuse, etc.
7. Continental Grip
There are different ways to hold the racquet while playing, continental grip is one of them. Continental grip is the very basic grip that every player learns in the beginning.
This grip helps increase maneuverability and precision. Due to its versatility, shots that can easily be performed using this grip include service, slice, volleys, overhead, drop shot, and defensive lob.
Tennis Terms Starting with “D”
When you hit the ball with your racquet, it generates a vibration that transmits back to your wrist, arm, and shoulder and may result in some injuries.
So, to reduce this vibration, we install a small piece of rubber on the racket to make our playing experience comfortable. This piece of rubber is called a dampener.
2. Deep Shot
When the tennis ball lands near the baseline (nearly hitting the baseline), it’s called a deep shot.
When a player continuously receives 4 code of conduct warnings, he/she is disqualified from the match. This is known as default.
A default can also occur if a player misses the match without any valid reason. A default can occur even before the fourth warning if the code violation is considered to be served.
A player is disqualified by the chair umpire. When both players are disqualified, this is called double default.
A deuce occurs when the score in a game is 40-40. The player who wins 2 consecutive points after a deuce wins the game. If a player wins one point after a deuce, he/she is said to have an advantage.
5. Drop Shot
Sometimes the tennis players hit the ball in such a manner that the ball nearly goes over the net and lands on the opponent’s serving court.
This shot intends to bring the opponent player near the net. This shot is called a drop shot.
6. Doubles / Doubles Match
Doubles is the kind of tennis match in which four players play as a team of two, it means two players on both sides of the court playing as a team.
7. Double Fault
If a player loses his/her serve twice, it’s called a double fault.
Tennis Terms Starting with “E”
Eastern is another way to hold the racket or another type of tennis grip. This grip is used by professional and recreational players. Generally, players use this grip for aggressive shots.
Transitioning from continental grip to eastern grip is easy because it doesn’t require much change in the way you hold the racket. It can be either forehand or backhand.
When the tennis ball doesn’t land in the opponent’s court after it’s hit, it is called an error. This shot results in the loss of a point.
Tennis Terms Starting with “F”
If the ball doesn’t land in the service box of the opponent’s player, it’s called a fault. In other words, an unsuccessful serve resulting in no point is known as a fault.
2. Foot Fault
If the foot of the server player touches any part of the baseline or center mark (during service), it’s called a footer fault and results in a fault.
When a player is supposed to serve, he/she is not allowed to change their stance freely to avoid unfair advantage.
3. Flat Serve
As the name suggests, this kind of service moves the ball in an almost horizontal forward direction and it generates a very little spin in the ball.
When the ball hits the court, it bounces low and moves straight from where it hits the court.
This stroke is the opposite of the backhand. When the ball lands on the dominant-hand side of the player, then the player is supposed to hit the ball on the front side of the racket.
Generally, it’s performed one-handed.
5. Frame Shot
A shot that hits the racket frame rather than the stringbed is called a frame shot. There are different techniques to reduce the chances of frame shots. Practicing without strings is one of those techniques.
Tennis Terms Starting with “G”
A series of points in tennis is known as a game. A minimum of 6 games combined makes a set and sets form a tennis match.
A player wins the game if he/she wins at least 4 points over their opponent.
2. Game Point
When the server player is leading and he/she needs at least one more point to win the game, then this point is called a game point.
A grip in tennis refers to the way the player holds the rackets in the hand. Different types of grips are eastern, western, semi-western, continental, etc.
GOAT stands for Greatest of All Time. This term is not limited to tennis only, rather it is widely used in other sports like boxing, basketball, etc.
In the tennis GOAT race players are Nadal, Federer, and Djokovic.
5. Golden Set
When a tennis player successfully wins at least 24 points in a set of 6-0 without losing a single point, we call this set, the golden set.
Players who won the golden set include Bill Scanlon, Pauline Betz, and Yaroslava Shvedova.
6. Grand Slam
In tennis grand slam refers to the 4 tennis majors which include the championships of France (Roland Garros), the United States, Britain (Wimbledon), and Australia.
A player must win all these 4 majors along with a tennis Olympic gold medal in the same calendar season to win the Golden Slam.
Only one tennis player, Steffi Graf, has ever achieved the golden slam in 1988.
A grommet is a small strip of plastic that is integrated into the racket string holes to protect the strings from the frame. Grommets are installed in the shape of small tubes.
Grommets are also responsible for proper interaction between the frame and the strings to give you the most desirable performance.
Groundstroke is one of the most common strokes in tennis. It is executed from the back of the court, which is also known as the baseline area. We can execute it either forehanded or backhanded using either topspin or backspin.
In simple words, groundstroke is a tennis stroke executed from the back of the court after the ball bounces once on the court.
Executing groundstroke from the back of the court is not necessary, it can be executed from any part of the court (not near the net, which will be considered a volley) as long as the ball bounces on the court once.
A player who is fond of groundstrokes is called a baseline.
Grunting refers to the loud noises or screaming of the tennis player while hitting the ball. From the hitter’s perspective, grunting is considered as hitting performance enhancer technique.
On the other hand, it’s considered as performance hindering for the opponent player.
Tennis Terms Starting with “H”
1. Half Volley
The half volley is a groundstroke executed when the ball bounce is very low almost near the ground.
2. Hawk Eye
Hawk-Eye in tennis refers to the electronic technology connected to the cameras to track the path of the tennis ball. This track is later used for replay purposes when a player opens a challenge.
This technology is not limited to tennis only, it is also used in Cricket, Badminton, Rugby, football, etc.
When a player wins the service game, we call it a hold.
Tennis Terms Starting with “I”
1. Inside-In & Inside-Out
When a player plays around and follows the direction of the ball to convert it from the backhand shot to the forehand. This allows the player to hit a more dominant shot.
So, when your run around a backhand side to convert it to a forehand, it is known as Inside-in, and inside-out in the other scenario.
Tennis Terms Starting with “J”
When a player returns the ball straight to the opponent’s body it makes it tough for the opponent to extend the racquet to hit the ball. This situation is called jamming.
2. Junk Ball
When a player hits a slow ball that doesn’t have any spin, it is called a junk ball. The junk baller intends to upset the flow of the opposition.
Tennis Terms Starting with “K”
1. Kick Serve
When a player introduces a lot of topspin in his service, this is called kick serve. This kind of serve bounces very high after it lands on the opponent’s court.
Tennis Terms Starting with “L”
1. Lawn Tennis
Lawn tennis refers to the summer tennis game which is played in the open air without bounding walls. It refers to the ancient version of tennis.
Whenever there is an interference in the service, or if the valid serve touches the net and lands in the service box, in this scenario, the service is to be replayed which is called a let.
For example, an umpire would announce a let like this “Let. First serve” or “Let Second serve”.
When a player hits a stroke in such a way that the ball moves very high over the opponent and lands on the backcourt of the opponent.
A lob stroke intends to gain a point or not to let the opponent reach the ball. A lob can be either an offensive or defensive shot.
Another purpose of this shot is to get some time to readjust the position of the player who hit the lob stroke.
In tennis, love refers to a score of zero. For example, we call a score of 15-0 verbally “Fifteen-love”.
Tennis Terms Starting with “M”
In tennis, a set is comprised of a series of points and sets combine to make a game. While the games combine to make the match.
A match is played as either singles or doubles. Generally, we play a match as the best of 3 or 5 sets.
2. Match Point
When a situation arises where the leading player needs only one more point to end and win the entire match, we call this point, the match point.
When a player hits a shot very high over the net and it lands in the baseline area of the opponent player, this shot is called moonball. It’s similar to a lob shot. This type of shot contains a lot of topspin.
Tennis Terms Starting with “N”
A light cotton netting used as a ball stopper or boundary that divides the court into two equal parts is called a net. It is located in the mid-court.
2. Net Point
While approaching the net, a point won or lost is called a net point.
3. Net Cord
A cord located at the top of the tennis net is called a net cord. The same cord passes along the net.
4. No man’s land
The area between the baseline and the service line is called “No Man’s Land” or the “Dead Zone”.
Tennis Terms Starting with “O”
When a shot lands outside the valid playing area, it is called “out” in tennis. This type of shot results in a lost point.
An overgrip is tape wrapped over the grip of the racquet, which is known as an overgrip. Overgrip makes it comfortable to hold the racquet and enhances control.
Another reason is to absorb sweat to avoid the racket handle from becoming more sweaty which may result in a loose grip.
Tennis Terms Starting with “P”
1. Paint the Line
When a player hits a shot in such a way that the ball lands very close (not over) to the lines of the court, we call this scenario to paint the line.
When a player is at the net and the opponent successfully hits a shot in such a way that the ball passes by the first player, is called a pass or passing shot.
It’s different from a lob shot that passes over the player.
In doubles, when you are playing at the net and you hit a volley that was intended for your partner, this is called poaching. Poaching is usually considered an aggressive move.
4. Ping It
When a player hits the ball in such a way that the ball goes to the deep corners of the court, it is called “Ping it”.
Tennis Terms Starting with “Q”
A player who reaches the main draw of a tournament through his/her efforts and competing in the pre-tournament competition.
Tennis Terms Starting with “R”
1. Racket Abuse
When a player hits the racket or throws it away in frustration or anger, it’s called racket abuse which may result in a warning from the umpire.
A series of valid hits are made by the player after the first service of the ball. This rally ends when one of the players fails to return a valid hit (the ball falls out of the valid playing area, or any play failed to return within the playing area).
3. Real Tennis
Real tennis refers to ancient indoor tennis, we also call it royal tennis or court tennis (courte-paume in French). While modern tennis is called lawn tennis.
A receiver, also known as a returner, is the player who receives the first serve.
A return or return of serve is the stroke made by the returner of the serve. This stroke can be executed in different ways like backhand, forehand, or slice.
6. Return Ace
A shot when the opponent of the receiver’s return could not hit the ball is called a return ace.
Tennis Terms Starting with “S”
When a player withdraws from a match due to any kind of injury, we call this situation a scratch.
When only two players play against each other in a match, this match is called singles.
3. Seed / Seeding
A seed is a top-ranked tennis player whose position, in a tournament, is arranged in such a way that he/she doesn’t play against another top-ranked player in the early rounds.
This gives both of the top players the to keep winning until they meet in the final round. The number of seeds in a tournament depends upon the size of the draw.
For example, a 32-draw tournament consists of 8 seeds.
The serve or serving is the very basic stroke in tennis that begins at every single point in tennis. When the first player performs a service, the opponent player performs the return of the serve.
5. Serve and Volley
This is a style of playing in which the serving player moves immediately up to the net after performing the service. This is a very tough playing style to master. With time, this style has died out. Now we call it a dead art.
6. Service Box
The service box is a rectangular area covered by service lines and sidelines. This is the area where the ball, after the service, is supposed to land.
If you are serving, you must place the ball into your opponent’s service box to make the serve valid.
7. Service Line
A service line is a line that runs parallel to the net or it’s the line that is at the back of the court where the server stands when performing a service.
8. Set Point
When a situation arises in tennis where the leading player needs at least one more point to win the set, we call this point, a set point.
Shank is a mistake that happens unintentionally. This happens when the ball hits the frame instead of the stringbed and the ball moves in an unintentional direction. Most of the time, such a shot lands the ball outside the court.
A slice happens when a spin is introduced into the ball. It’s called slice serve when a sidespin is introduced into the ball. This kind of spin rotates the ball in a backward direction.
When groundstrokes are hit with a slice, the ball moves with a low bounce and flat trajectory.
The rotation introduced in the ball as it moves through the air is called spin. Spin can be topspin or backspin.
Sweetspot is the central part of the head of the racket where the ball is supposed to hit. Whenever the ball hits away from the sweet spot, it creates a vibration transmitted back to the arm.
When the ball hits the center of the sweet spot, it gives ideal comfort, control, and power.
Tennis Terms Starting with “T”
1. Tennis Elbow
A tennis elbow is a condition or injury in which the player feels pain in the outer part of the elbow. This type of injury is common among beginner and intermediate players because this injury occurs due to poor game style or improper technique.
Another reason for tennis elbow is an excessive amount of vibration being transmitted from the racket head to the arm.
There are various ways to prevent and cure this injury, and using arm friendly racket is one of them.
2. Tiebreak / Tiebreaker
Whenever a situation arises when the game is tied at 6-6 or 6-all and the advantage set is no longer effective, then a tiebreaker round is played to decide the winner.
A tiebreak game can be played as a 12-point breaker or a 10-point breaker.
When a tennis player hits the ball with a racket in such a way that it generates forward rotation in the ball as it travels through the air, we call this spin a topspin.
This type of spin causes the ball to drop. But when it hits the ground in the opponent’s area, it causes the ball to bounce high.
The term tweener refers to the middle or intermediate players. If we take this term from the racket’s perspective, then it means a racket of mid-head size, mid-weight, and mid-stiffness used for intermediate players or for beginner players who want to transition to the intermediate level.
From another perspective, the tweener term refers to the trick shot in which a player hits the ball between the opponent’s legs. This type of shot is difficult to handle.
Tennis Terms Starting with “U”
When a player hits the ball in such a way that it generates a backward rotation in the ball as it moves through the air.
This type of ball stays low and floats when it hits the ground.
Whenever a highly-ranked player is defeated by a lower-ranked player, this situation is called upset because it upsets the defeated player.
Tennis Terms Starting with “V”
When a player manages to hit the ball before it lands on the ground, this shot is called a volley. You can perform it as either forehanded or backhanded.
Tennis Terms Starting with “W”
Whenever the opponent player doesn’t show up due to any injury, the other player is promoted to the next match without playing. This promotion is called a walkover.
This is another type of tennis grip. This grip is ideal for baseliners and for those players who perform a lot of topspin.
WTA stands for Women’s Tennis Association. Unlike the ATP, WTA is the organizing body to handle women’s tennis tournaments.
Tennis Terms Starting with “Z”
1. Zero Pointer
When a top-ranked tennis player skips any mandatory professional tennis tour event, he/she is given a zero pointer which means zero points. Later this zero pointer is added to their 16 best results.
This zero-pointer can hurt their ranking. This is the reason that all professional tennis players try hard to avoid a zero-pointer.
By now, you know the meaning and definition of all terms of tennis, I know it’s not easy to remember all those terms. So let’s organize these terms more simply so you can understand them well.
Here I am going to mention the names only, you can read the description above. Tennis coaches also use all of the above tennis terms when training their students.
Below I am going to categorize only the most popular and most commonly used terms.
Basic Tennis Terms / Tennis Court Terms
Here are some of the basic tennis terminologies that every beginner player should know.
- The Court
- Service Box
Funny Tennis Terms
- Bagel Girl
- Junk Baller
Tennis Technical Terms
- Inside-in & Inside-out
- Return Ace
- Zero Pointer
Tennis Ball Terms
- Backspin / Underspin
- Approach Shot
- Drop shot
- Kick Serve
- Return Ace
Tennis Racket Terms
- Bumper Guard
- Racket Abuse
- Tweener Racket
Tennis Shot Terms
- Drop Shot
- Approach Shot
- Passing Shot
Unusual Tennis Terms
- Poach / Poaching
- Hot Dog
Wrapping it Up
Unlike other sports, tennis has some mind-boggling terms that can confuse a new player at first. Once you understand these terms for tennis, it will no longer be chemistry for you.
Some of these terms are weird, funny, or even technical, so I recommend you go through the whole list, especially if you are a beginner-level player.
If you find this tennis terms list useful, share it with others. Don’t forget to bookmark this article to use it as a tennis terms dictionary for later purposes.
1. What does love mean in tennis terms?
Surprisingly, in tennis, love means zero or nil. It describes the lack of points. For example, a score of 15-0 is read as “Fifteen-love”.
2. Where do tennis terms come from?
Tennis history goes back to the 12th century when the ancient version of tennis ‘jeu de paume’ started. Since then tennis is evolving so do terms related to tennis.
With time, tennis adopted new terms, some of which are funny, weird, and technical.
3. What does walkover mean in tennis terms?
When a tennis player couldn’t appear in the match due to an injury, the other player is promoted to the next match without playing. This kind of promotion is called a walkover.
4. What does let mean in tennis terms?
Let means a point where a replay is required or challenged by the player. For example, Let Service.
5. What does ad mean in terms of tennis?
Ad is the short word for advantage. The advantage is a point that a player wins after a deuce. If the server wins ad-point it’s called ad-in and ad-out in the other case.
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.