The Basics of Tennis -- A Guide for the Clueless!


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To properly learn how to play tennis, it is best to go out to the tennis courts with an instructor or a friend that already knows how to play and who can give you some pointers. Of course, if you want to get a good idea as to how to play tennis before you hit the courts, here are some pointers:

  • The main pieces of equipment needed when learning how to play tennis are tennis racquets, tennis balls, and a tennis court.

  • A regulation tennis court as a few different lines on it – the tennis net goes across the very middle of the court. The closest parallel lines to the net (on either side of the net) are called the service lines. The parallel line furthest from the net is called the baseline. The two long strips on both sides of the court, perpendicular to the net are called the alleys.

  • In singles tennis, the alleys are considered “out” – if the ball bounces in them, it does not count. In doubles tennis (tennis with two teams of two, one team on each side of the net), the alleys are “in. ”

  • A game starts with a serve. The serving player starts behind the baseline on the right-hand side of the court (his right-hand side) and hits the ball into the service box on the other side.

  • The service box is the box on the opposite side of the court – both over the net, and on the server’s left-hand side (the returner’s right-hand side). The service box is between the alley and the middle of the court, between the service line and the net. The ball must bounce once in this box for it to be considered a good serve.

  • If the server misses the box, he gets one more chance to get it in. A server always gets two tries. If he misses, it is the opponent’s point.

  • If the serve goes in, the person returning must hit the serve either before it bounces (if he knows that the ball would be in) or after it bounces once – if it bounces more than once, then it is the server’s point. The person returning must hit the ball over the net, and it can bounce anywhere on the opponent’s side of the court (remember that the alleys are out, though).

  • The two players hit the ball back and forth until one person misses – either by missing the ball when it bounces on his side, or by hitting the ball out of bounds onto the opponent’s side. The person who did not miss gets a point.

  • The server switches sides for every serve – the second serve will be served on his left-hand side of the court and into the opposite side service box (on the opponent’s left-hand side).

  • This article on how to play tennis will not get into scoring (love, fifteen, thirty, forty, deuce, etc. ) except to say that a player wins a game after scoring at least four points and wins by two.

  • The next game, the other person serves and they continue to switch off, game after game, until someone wins the set. Generally, to win a set, a player must win at least six games, and two more than his opponent.

  • A match is made up of a number of sets (often 5 or so), and the player that wins the most sets wins the match.

    These are only the basics on how to play tennis. Again, if you really want to learn how to play tennis, it is best to go out and play with someone who already knows how. Although, it can be very fun to simply go out and hit a few balls back and forth with a friend, regardless of whether or not you know how to play tennis properly.

    Anne Clarke writes numerous articles for websites on gardening, parenting, fashion, and sports. Her background includes teaching and gardening. For more of her articles on tennis, please visit E-Tennis .

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