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Complete List of Tennis Terms

A newcomer to tennis could be forgiven for feeling a bit confused when an umpire announces the score as ‘15-love’- what could love have to do with tennis scoring?!

Not to worry, we’re here to explain.

Tennis is packed full of jargon – as most sports are – but don’t let that put you off, once you get into the swing of things it’s actually quite simple.

To assist you we’ve compiled a list of must-know terms so that you can embark on your tennis betting journey safe in the knowledge that you have the basics of the sport covered.


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Ace:
A serve that lands in the correct service box that the returner is unable to touch.
Ad Court:
The side of the court where the second point of each game begins. It is also known as the ‘backhand court’.
Advantage:
The player who wins the first point after ‘deuce’ is said to have ‘advantage’. From this point, the player who has advantage needs one more point to win the game.
Approach Shot:
Used to allow a player the time to transition from the back of the court to the net, an approach shot is hit to around the service line or just before. Spin is often used on an approach shot.
ATP:
The Association of Tennis Professionals (ATP) is the governing body that oversees the top two tiers of men’s tennis.
ATP World Tour:
The ATP World Tour is the top-tier men’s professional tour. This tour plays host to the biggest events in men’s tennis outside of the grand slams.
Backhand:
A type of shot in which a player hits the ball by swinging their racket across their body.
Backcourt:
The section of the court from the baseline to the service line is known as the ‘backcourt’.
Ball Kid:
These are the boys and girls who collect and hand out the balls for the players. Other duties include ensuring the players have water and towels. Ball kids were previously referred to as ‘ball girls’ and ‘ball boys’.
Call:
A ‘call’ is made when a line judge or the umpire declares the ball to be in or out of play.
Center Line:
This is the line that extends from the middle of the service line to the net and is the boundary marker for the two halves of the service court.
Chair Umpire:
The chair umpire is the senior official who enforces the rules of the game. The chair umpire is positioned in line with the net and sits in a high chair.
Challenge:
When a player requests an instant replay review of where a ball has landed. Due to the amount of technology required, challenges are generally only on offer in big tournaments. In tournaments where ‘Hawk-Eye’ ball-tracking technology is available, players are allocated a set number of ‘challenges’. This allows them to challenge a call made by an official by utilizing an instant replay.
Challenger Tour:
The Challenger Tour is the second tier of men’s tour tennis. Players – usually ranked 80 and below – play on this tour in an attempt to earn enough ranking points to compete on the ATP Tour.
Changeover:
The 90-second break that takes place after every odd-numbered game. Players change sides of the court during this period.
Chip:
The aim of a chip is to put your opponent under pressure. This is done by using backspin when blocking a shot.
Chip-and-Charge:
In this tactic, after utilizing a chip shot, a player runs up to the net.
Clay:
Clay is one of the three surfaces that tennis is played on. A clay surface consists of more than just clay, with crushed brick, shale or stone also added. The French Open is the biggest tournament played on a clay surface.
Code Violation:
A rule violation that results in increasingly severe penalties; one code violation leads to a warning, a second results in a point penalty, a third sees a game penalty enforced, and a fourth code violation results in a match forfeit. There are various actions that result in a code violation including swearing or hitting the ball into the stands.
Court:
A regulation tennis court is a rectangle that is 78 feet long and 36 feet wide. The tramlines that run on each long side of the court are not in play for singles matches, and this reduces the court width by nine feet. A court has a net across the middle. The net measures three feet tall in the middle and three feet six inches at each end.
Crosscourt Shot:
A shot that is hit diagonally across into the opponent’s court.
Davis Cup:
An international event in which participating countries face off in elimination ‘ties’. Each tie consists of four singles matches and one doubles match. The Davis Cup takes place annually.
Deuce:
When the score in a game is 40-40. From this point, a player needs to secure two consecutive points to win the game.
Deuce Court:
The right side of the court. A player will first serve from the deuce side of the court and on every even numbered point, including, as the name suggests, when the score is at deuce.
Double Fault:
When two consecutive faults are served. The server loses the point.
Double Hit:
When the ball is struck twice in the same stroke. The player who hit the ball twice automatically loses the point.
Doubles:
A match contested by two teams of two players. In doubles, the tramlines are in play, allowing players to make use of the full court.
Down the Line:
A ball that is hit down the perimeter of the in-play court.
Draw:
The schedule of matches for a tournament. The make-up of the draw is determined by a combination of the seedings and a random selection.
Drop Shot:
Often played with backspin, a drop shot should only just clear the net. This shot is often utilized when an opponent is deep in the court.
Error:
A shot that lands out of bounds or in the net when a player was not under significant pressure.
Fault:
A service that does not land within the boundaries of an opponent’s service box.
Fed Cup:
An international women’s competition in which countries do battle in an elimination-style event. Fed Cup ties include four singles matches and one doubles match.
First Serve:
The first of a player’s two available serves.
Foot Fault:
When a player, in the motion of serving, steps across either the center line or the baseline.
Forced Error:
An error that occurs due to pressure from an opponent.
Forehand:
A shot in which the ball is hit with the front of the racket making contact with the ball.
Frame:
The part of the racket that encases the strings.
Futures Tour:
The third level of men’s tour. Players on the Futures Tour are aiming to break into the Challenger Tour.
Game:
A sequence of points with the same player serving. A set is made up of at least six games.
Golden Slam:
This is achieved when all four grand slams and an Olympic gold medal are won in the same year.
A Grand Slam:
The premier tennis events. There are four grand slams each year: the Australian Open, the French Open, Wimbledon, and the U.S. Open.
The Grand Slam:
Not to confuse the issue, but ‘a’ grand slam and ‘the’ Grand Slam are different things! ‘The’ Grand Slam refers to a player winning all four grand slam events. When a player wins all four grand slams in one year, it is referred to as a ‘calendar Grand Slam’.
Grass Court:
Grass is one of the three surfaces which tennis is played on, and it produces a quick surface with fairly low bounce. The biggest grass-court tournament is Wimbledon.
Grip:
The way that a racket is held. There are three commonly found types of grip: the Continental, the Eastern, and the Western.
Groundstroke:
Striking the ball after it has bounced once.
Half Court:
Midway between the net and the baseline.
Half Volley:
Hitting the ball with a low racket position as it bounces or just after, which results in a low shot.
Hard Court:
Hard courts are one of the three main types of courts used in tennis and are made from concrete or asphalt topped with a synthetic layer. The biggest tournaments played on hard courts are the Australian Open and the U.S. Open.
Hawk-Eye:
A computer system that uses cameras to track the path of the ball. When Hawk-Eye is available, players are able to challenge calls through the use of instant replays.
Hold:
When a server wins their service game.
ITF:
The International Tennis Federation, world tennis’ governing body.
Knocking Up:
When players warm up before a match by hitting the ball to each other.
Let:
When a serve hits the tape at the top of the net and falls into the correct service box. This is not counted as a legitimate serve, but is also not a fault, with the server awarded an additional service attempt. An umpire can also call a let when there is a distraction such as a ball rolling on to the court which may cause either a dangerous situation or a distraction.
Line Umpire:
Officials who make calls regarding whether or not the ball lands in play. A line umpire can be overruled by the chair umpire.
Lob:
A shot that is hit high and deep into the opponent’s court, usually when they are at the net. This can be used as an offensive and defensive shot.
Love:
‘Love’ is the term used to indicate a score of ‘zero’.
Love Game:
A game in which one player does not score a point.
Match:
A contest between two players (a singles match) or four players (a doubles match). Depending on the event, a match will be played either as a best-of-three sets match or a best-of-five sets match.
Match Point:
When a player requires just one point to win a match, it is said that they have ‘match point’.
Mid-Court:
The middle of the court, roughly around the service line. Also known as ‘half-court’ or ‘no man’s land’ as it can leave a player vulnerable.
Mini-Break:
In a tiebreaker, a mini-break is when a player wins a point on their opponent’s serve.
Mixed Doubles:
A doubles match that is contested by two teams that consist of a man and a woman.
Net:
No prizes for guessing this one. A net spans the width of the court and stands at three feet and six inches tall at each end, and three feet in the middle. It’s held up by two posts and is made up of interlaced fabric, with a tape (known as the net chord) running across the top of it.
New Balls:
In professional tennis, the balls are changed every seven games with the umpire calling for ‘new balls.’ This is done because the balls can lose their shape and speed the more they are used.
Official:
The tournament referee, the chair umpire, and the line umpires are the officials for any tennis match. These officials ensure that the match takes place in accordance with the rules of tennis.
On Serve:
If both players have won their service games in a set then it is said that the set is ‘on serve’.
Open Era:
In 1968, tournaments became open to both amateurs and professional players, ending a split in the tennis community. This event shaped the modern professional game and is known as the ‘Open Era.’
Out:
When a ball does not land inside the boundaries of the court.
Overhead:
A shot a player hits from above their head. A ‘smash’ is the most frequently hit overhead.
Overrule:
If the chair umpire disagrees with a call made by one of the line umpires, they can change the call. This is known as an ‘overrule.’
Passing Shot:
A forceful groundstroke that is hit so that it passes an opponent who is stationed at the net.
Point:
The action that occurs between a legal serve and when the ball is hit out of the boundaries of the court or into the net.
Point Penalty:
A player can be deducted a point by the chair umpire if they are deemed to have made a code violation.
Qualifier:
A player who secured their position in the main draw of an event by coming through the pre-tournament qualifying.
Qualifying:
Lower-ranked players have the opportunity to enter the main draw of tournaments by coming through a pre-tournament qualifying event.
Racket:
Rackets are the instruments with which players hit the ball. A racket is a long-handled oval frame that has meshed string running across it. Modern day rackets are made of a composite of synthetic materials, having originally been made of wood.
Racket Abuse:
When a player throws their racket or bangs it on the ground or other objects. Depending on the frequency and intensity of the racket abuse, this can result in a code violation.
Rally:
The exchange of shots that occurs following a successful serve and prior to the ball going out of play.
Rankings:
The merit-based system that is used to determine the entrance to tournaments and the seedings in the tournament draw.
Receiver:
The player who is served to.
Retirement:
When a player is forced to withdraw from a match due to factors such as illness or injury.
Return:
Usually said in the context of a ‘return of serve,’ this is when a player hits the ball back to their opponent.
Second Serve:
If a player fails to register a legal serve on their first attempt, they are able to make a second attempt.
Seed:
The ranking given to a player for the purpose of positioning them in a tournament draw. Seeding is determined by position in the world rankings.
Serve:
The starting stroke of each point. A serve must land in the service box diagonally across from where the server is positioned.
Service Box:
The area in the court where a serve needs to land for it to be legal.
Service Line:
The line which runs parallel to the net to demarcate the boundary of the service box.
Serve and Volley:
A strategy that involves the serving player running to the net after they have served and then volleying the return.
Set:
A set is made up of a collection of games. Players need to win at least six games to win the set, and they must to do so by a margin of two games. The exceptions to this rule are in the case of a tiebreaker which takes place when the score is 6-6, or when the score is 6-5 and the player with six games wins the next game to win the set 7-5. Matches are either played as a best -of-three sets or best-of-five sets.
Set Point:
When a player requires one more point to win the set.
Shot:
The act of making contact with the ball.
Singles:
A match that involves two players.
Slice:
A shot that is hit with backspin.
Smash:
A forceful overhead that is commonly hit from the front half of the court.
Spin:
The rotation of the ball which affects the way it travels through the air and bounces. There are two main types of spin: topspin (the ball rotates toward the direction it has been hit, causing it to slow and bounce higher) and backspin (the ball rotates back toward the direction it was hit, causing it to have a flat trajectory and bounce low).
Stance:
The way a player stands when they hit the ball.
Straight Sets:
A match won in the minimum number of sets; the loser does not win a set.
Strings:
The mesh that makes up the face of the racket.
Stroke:
A fancy way of saying ‘shot!’
The ‘T’:
The point on the court where the center line meets the service line.
Tennis Ball:
Tennis balls are hollow, rubber balls that are covered in synthetic fur.
Tiebreak:
If a set is tied at 6-6, then a tiebreak or mini game is played. The first player to win seven points with a difference of at least two wins the tiebreak.
Toss:
Prior to the start of a match, the umpire tosses a coin. The player who calls correctly chooses whether they would like to serve or receive first.
Touch:
If a player makes contact with the net with any part of their body or racket, it is termed a ‘touch’ and they lose the point.
Tramline:
The tramlines are the four-foot wide areas on each side of the length of the court. The tramlines are not in play during a singles match, but are in play in a doubles match. Also known as the ‘alleys’.
Tweener:
A trick shot in which a player hits the ball between their legs. This tactic is primarily used when a player is chasing down a lob which has gone over their head. It looks great when it works out, but terrible when it goes wrong! A shot that a player hits between their legs. Considered a trick shot.
Unforced Error:
An error that did not result from pressure from an opponent.
Volley:
A shot in which the ball is hit with the racket low just after the ball has bounced.
Walkover:
If a player forfeits a match prior to the start of the match, it is known as a walkover.
Wildcard:
A wildcard enables a player to take part in a tournament they did not have a high enough ranking to qualify for. Wildcards are usually given to players returning from injury, local players or young players.
Winner:
A shot that the opposing player cannot return.
WTA:
The Women’s Tennis Association, the organization that oversees the top two tiers of women’s tennis.