Over 100 Tennis Terms

A B C D E F G H I K L M N O P Q R S T U V W  

A Ace A valid serve that is not reached by the opponent. The server wins the point immediately.
Advantage The score that follows one point played beyond deuce. If a player wins the "advantage" point, he or she wins the game.
All-rounder A player with the ability to play well both offensively and defensively.
Alley alley.jpg (2111 bytes)The area of the court between the singles and doubles sidelines, also known as the 'tramlines'.
Anticipation The ability to predict where the opponent is going to play the ball.
  Approach shot A ground stroke played just before you approach the net to volley. A shot played with the aim of winning a point quickly, often hit from mid-court deep into the corner of the opponent's court. The attacking player normally goes to the net to intercept any return with a volley.
ATP Association of Tennis Professionals - a body to represent the leading players.
The ATP Tour, the men's professional tennis organization. The ATP Tour includes tour events outside of the Grand Slam events, Grand Slam Cup, and Davis Cup.
Australian Grip A grip midway between the Eastern and continental, so named because it was developed in Australia to facilitate serve-and-volley play on grass.

B Backcourt court10.gif (657 bytes)Tactically, the area behind and up to the baseline from which the baseliner plays.
  Backhand For right-handed players this is a stroke played on the left hand side of the body, with the back of the hand towards the net.
Backswing The intial portion of the swing, so called because it involves bringing the racket back before swinging it forward; it can be straight-back or loop.
Ball machine

ballmach.GIF (8982 bytes)Powered by pneumatic propulsion, a ball machine such as this one holds 135 balls and will fire them every 3 seconds at speeds of up to 33m (110ft) per second. It measures 96cm (38in)x 56cm (22in)x 33cm (13in).

Ball toss The action of lifting the ball into the air with the non-racket arm when initiating the serve.
  Baseline court4.gif (586 bytes)The line at each end of the court that runs parallel to the net and marks the boundaries lengthwise of the playing area.  The line at each end of the court that runs parallel to the net and marks the boundaries lengthwise of the playing area. 
Baseline rally A rally where both players repeatedly exchange shots from their respective baselines.
Baseline tennis A tactical approach whereby players remain at the baseline and attempt to wear their opponents down through long rallies, or - should the opportunity arise - to win the point with a passing shot.
Best of three (or five) Refers to the maximum number of sets in any match. In "best of three" matches, players need to win two of the three sets. In men's tennis, most matches are "best of five," i.e. a match finishes when a player has won three sets.
Big point A crucial point deciding which player wins a set or an important game. For example, when the scores are level and the server is 30-40 down.
  Biomechanics Adding power; the effect of spin; balance and control; stroke mechanics; development of power and speed; and string tension. 
  Block Short punched ground stroke used to return a fast traveling ball.
(of service)
Where the serving player loses the game.
Breakback Situation where a player who has lost his or her service succeeds in winning the opponent's service game, usually leveling the scores.
Bye Free passage into the second round of a tournament. Players may be given a bye if a tournament doesn't have enough players (e.g. if there are only 28 players in a tournament designed for 32, there will be 4 byes in the first round). Byes are always awarded to seeded players.

C Centre mark (center mark) court11.gif (590 bytes)A 10.16 cm (4 in) line that marks the center of the baseline.  A 10.16 cm (4 in) line that marks the center of the baseline. When serving, players must remain on the correct side of this mark.
  Centrepoint A mid-point between two angles of a possible shot. 
Change of ends The players change ends of the court regularly during tennis matches, e.g. after every "uneven" game (1,3,5) in a set.
  Chip A short under spin ground stroke usually played to return a spinning serve or high bouncing ball. 
Chop A backspin, defensive shot used to return fast services. Occasionally also used for drop shots.
Clay court A court with a surface made of crushed shale, stone or brick. Its top surface requires regular maintenance.
Plays slow.
  Closed Applies to racket face angle. 
  Continental grip Name of the service grip that originated in Britain. 
Method of holding the racquet for playing powerful backhands, serves, volleys and smashes. The most common grip for forehand and backhand strokes.
Court A 78 ft (23.8 m) long area, divided into two equal sides by a net standing 3 ft (0.9 m) high at the center of the court. For singles the court is 27 ft (8.2 m) wide. For doubles the addition of alleys 4.5 ft (1.4 m) wide along the two longer sides increases the width to 36 ft (11 m). Courts may be of grass, clay, asphalt, concrete, wood, artificial grass, or other synthetic materials.
  Cross court (shot) A stroke played diagonally across the court from right court to right court or left court to left court, either long or short.

D Davis Cup An international team competition played between nations, begun in 1900.
Defensive lob A high, deep lob played from a defensive position which allows the defender time to recover court position and forces the offensive player away from the net: almost always hit with underspin.
Defensive player A type of player who generally stays at the baseline and tries to keep the ball in play without taking risks. Players like this leave the attacking to their opponents, winning most of their points from opponent errors.
Deuce A tie at 40 is called deuce. Because a game must be won by two points, play continues from deuce until one player leads by a margin of two points.
Deuce court The side of the court in which the first point of each game begins, also called the right court of the forehand court.
Double-fault Two successive service faults from the same court (both serve attempts fail). The opponent wins the point.
  Double-handed A player who keeps both hands on the racket handle during the forward swing of the racket. 
Doubles A match between two teams, each team consisting of two players.  
  Down-the-line Shot played approximately parallel to the sidelines as opposed to cross-court. Back to top
Drive A powerful stroke with slight topspin. Given its long, straight trajectory it is well-suited as a passing shot or attempted winner.
  Drop shot A shot played short, dropping into the forecourt - which hardly bounces close to the net.

E Eastern grip A basic tennis grip originating on the East coast of the USA.
Forehand grip. Describes a grip which allows the ball to be hit easily ahead of the body and the racquet swung all the way through.
Exhibition matches Matches arranged outside competitions as a form of public entertainment. The top 10 players in the world rankings can earn enormous sums in appearance money for exhibition matches.

F  Face The hitting surface (strings) of the racket in relation to the ball; the face can be open, closed, vertical, or flat.
Fault Called if the ball is served into the net, or if it strikes the net before hitting the opponent's court outside the service box or before exiting the court altogether.
Finish The end of the swing; also called the follow-through.
First flight The initial flight of the ball after it has been struck by the racket.
Flat serve A flat service is hit without spin and follows a low, straight trajectory. Given the high risk of hitting the net, it is generally better-suited for first serves.
  Follow through Refers to the continuing travel of the racket after the ball has been struck.  The follow-through affects the length, direction and speed of the ball.
  Foot fault A fault called when a player steps on to or over the baseline while serving, before actually striking the ball. Foot faults also occur if the player fails to serve from a static position.
Footwork A player's technique for moving most economically to the ideal position to play a stroke. Techniques include tango, side-step and cross-step.
  Forecourt court2.gif (717 bytes)The area of the court between the net and the service lines.  The area of the court between the net and the service lines. 
  Forehand A stroke played on the right hand side of the body for right handed players and on the left hand side for left handed players.

G Game Part of a set. Every set consists of at least six games. Composed of four (love, 15, 30, 40) and possibly five (advantage) scores.
Game point
(game ball)
The point needed to win a game.
Grass court wimbledon2.jpg (2552 bytes)Grass courts are becoming less and less common because of the time and money needed to maintain them. They are dependent on good drainage. Fast-playing surface.
Groundstroke A forehand or backhand stroke played after the ball has bounced. 
Gut A responsive string, made from animal intestines, used to string rackets; it is expensive.

H Half court court12.gif (904 bytes)The section of the court close to the service line.
Half-volley A groundstroke played immediately after the ball has bounced. 
Hard court usopen2.jpg (3085 bytes)A tennis court whose surface is made out of asphalt, concrete or a similar material.
Head The area of the racket containing the strings.
  Hitting area/zone The general area of the court where you strike the ball.
  Hopper The container for balls in a ball machine or a separate basket for holding large quantities of tennis balls.

I IMG International Management Group - one of the large Sports Management agencies that manage the affairs of a large number of tennis players and run some of the pro tournament events.   Advantage International and ProServ are the other main Agencies with tennis playing clients, although there are also a number of smaller agencies.
ITF International Tennis Federation - the body that oversees the Grand Slams, Grand Slam Cup, Davis & Federation Cup, and the Olympics. Back to top

K Kick serve A serve with heavy spin, causing it to change direction or bounce unexpectedly when it lands in the service court. Also known as a twist serve.
Kill To put the ball away and end the point.
Knockout competition A tournament whereby players are eliminated when they lose a match.

L Left court court14.gif (1910 bytes)The area to the left of the center line from the net to the baseline. 
Lawn Tennis Original name for tennis, alluding to the fact that the game was invented fro play on grass.
  Let When play is interrupted a let is called and the point replayed.
If the ball touches the net and then falls into the diagonally opposite service box, a let is called, and the server is permitted to serve again. When a service let is called, only the service in question is replayed.
Line judge Line judges have the task of deciding whether a ball has landed in the court or outside. Their decisions can only be overruled by the umpire.
  Lob A ball sent high in the air. A high, soft return behind an opponent who has approached the net. It is frequently used to force the opponent to retreat to the back of the court to play the ball. The lob can also be used as a defensive stroke, providing time for the hitter to regain court position.
Longline A stroke played straight down the court, either along or adjacent to one of the sidelines.
  Loop In ground stroke play the racket forms a loop as back swing and forward swing are joined in one continuous movement. 
  Love In tennis scoring love means nothing, hence love-thirty is 0-30.
A common (but unproven) explanation for the term "love" to signify a score of zero is that it originates from the French term "l'oeuf." Another explanation is based on the idea that to do something for love is to do something for nothing (zero).
Lucky Loser/
In some knockout tournaments, one defeat does not automatically result in elimination. Beaten players have the chance to play against other such losers, with the winners being awarded places in later rounds. These players are known as "lucky losers."

M Match In singles, it is composed of a best of three-set or five-set format. In doubles, it is one set with the first team to win eight games winning.
Match point
(match ball)
The score where a player only needs one more point to win the match.
Mini-break When the server loses the point during a tie-break, this is referred to as a mini-break.
Mini tennis See "Short tennis".
Mixed Doubles A match involving two teams, each team consisting of one male, one female.
Motor Learning Movement training, drills to improve response time, and patterns of play. 
MTC Men's Tennis Council - a democratic governing body for men's professional tennis.

N Net The net runs between the two halves of the court. Made of hemp, nylon or synthetic mesh, it hangs on a taut cord with a diameter not exceeding 0.034" which is suspended between two net posts. Height of net: 3 ft.
Net or Let The call from the net-cord judge when a serve touches the top of the net.
Net Player In doubles, the partner of the server when he or she takes a normal doubles position at the net.
No man's land court3.gif (745 bytes)The area between the service line and the baseline also known as a taboo zone.
  Non-playing hand The player's supporting hand - vital for balance.
Not up The call from the umpire when a ball, having bounced twice, is dead.

O Offensive player
Offensive players use aggressive tactics in an attempt to force errors from their opponents. They take risks in order to win points quickly. Offensive players often have a good serve and can volley well, in which case they usually employ "serve and volley" tactics - serving powerfully and trying to volley the return of serve for a winner.
Open Refers to racket face angle when a greater hitting area is presented to the ball.
Overhead Describes a stroke played above the head, e.g. a smash.
Overhead Smash Powerful shot often used to return a lob that has not been hit high or deep enough. The shot is hit in a similar manner to the serve.
Overrule The umpire's option and privilege to correct a decision made by one of the judges.

P Palming the ball Hitting or playing the ball with the palm of your hand. 
Passing shot A stroke that an opponent located close to the net is unable to intercept.
  Penalty points Points deducted for unsporting behavior.
Place-up The ball toss during the service.
Placement The ball is hit to a precisely chosen part of the court, usually one that the opponent cannot reach.
Poach In doubles, a tactic in which a net player leaves his or her area and moves into partner's territory to attempt a kill at the net.
Point The smallest unit of scoring in tennis. Back to top

Q Qualifying competition Tournament giving low-ranked players the opportunity to qualify for the tournament proper.

R Rally An exchange of strokes after the service has been delivered.


  Ready position A position of readiness adopted to receive the service, which acts as a starting point for all ground strokes and volleys. 
Receiver The player who receives the ball from the server.
  Return Primarily the stroke that returns the service but can be used to describe any shot during a rally. 
Round Robin A type of tournament in which all members of a group play each other in turn.
  Run the ball down To chase a ball that is some distance away.

S Second flight The flight of the ball after it has bounced. 
Second serve When serving, players have two chances to hit the ball in the opponent's service court. If the first attempt fails, they receive a "second serve."
Seeding A graded list of the best players entering a tournament. The best players are normally "seeded" before a tournament begins. This prevents these players from being drawn against each other - and knocking each other out - during the early rounds of the competition.
A combination of the forehand and backhand grips. This grip can be used for most shots, but particularly for volleys, serves and smashes.
or service
Every point begins with a serve. From a position behind the baseline, the server has to hit the ball diagonally over the net into the opponent's service court. Players get two attempts to serve the ball correctly in each point. In the first point of any game or set, the serve is played from the right-hand side of the court. After this the server alternates side (from right to left and vice-versa) at the start of every new point.
Serve and volley A tactic where players serve and then rush to the net with the aim of playing a winning volley off the opponent's return.
Server The player who initiates the point.
  Service The stroke used at the start of each point. 
Service Break When one player wins a game while the other player is serving; also called "a break".
  Service line court4.gif (586 bytes)The service line runs parallel to the net. Together with the center line and sideline, it demarcates the boundaries of the service courts.
Service sideline court15.gif (581 bytes)The boundary line of the service court.
  Set Singles: Usually composed of six games unless there is a tie at six. If there is a tie at six, a tie-breaker is used to determine the winner of the set. There are six games in a set and three or five sets in a match.  There are six games in a set and three or five sets in a match.
Doubles: In dual format, a "pro set" is used, which is composed of eight games.
Set point
(set ball)
The point needed to win a set.
  Shadowing Going through the motions without hitting the ball, hence 'shadowing the stroke'. 
  'Shake hands' Refers to the basic Eastern Forehand Drive grip. 
Short tennis
shorttennis.gif (7396 bytes) Short tennis or mini tennis is ideal for developing your ball sense skills and is a good game in itself. As a cheaper version of tennis, it's popular for teaching children how to graduate to the full size game, but adults can also develop hand-eye coordination skills for it. It is played on a badminton-sized court - 13.4 x 6.1m (44 x 20 ft) - with the centre-net height at 80cm (2ft 7 in).

shorttennis1.gif (6034 bytes)Rackets are short, lightweight and mainly plastic, and the ball is soft foam or low compression. Scoring is on "first to 11 points" basis, with a 2-point lead required after 10-10.


The boundary lines of the court lengthwise.

court5.gif (581 bytes)doubles sidelines

court1.GIF (595 bytes)singles sidelines

  Sidespin The way that a ball rotates. When one side of the ball rotates against the air resistance, it is forced to swerve to the opposite side; e.g. a ball approaching with left hand spin will swerve from right to left. 
  Sideways-on Applies to being parallel to the approaching ball's flight. 
Sign in When players enter their names for a tournament.
Singles A match between two players.
Slice A slice shot differs from a "drive" in that the backspin applied keeps it in the air for longer, causing it to travel further before bouncing.
Slice serve Side spin and topspin are applied to the serve, causing the ball to keep low and change direction after bouncing. For example, slice serves from right-handed players cut sharply away to the left. This serve is particularly well-suited to grass or indoor courts, because these surfaces slow the ball down less than hard courts.
Smash Powerful shot often used to return a lob that has not been hit high or deep enough. The shot is hit in a similar manner to the serve.
Sphairistike The name first given to tennis by its inventor, Major Wingfield.
  Spin The way that a ball rotates. The rotation of a ball resulting from special types of strokes like slice and topspin. Spin affects a ball's trajectory and the way it bounces.
  Split step Assuming the ready position before changing the direction of a run. 
  Sport Nutrition Basic nutrition, pre/post match diets, hydration, choosing snack foods. 
  Sport Psychology Skill development; the coach-parent-player relationship; coaching effectiveness; stress regulation (relaxation and energizing methods); goal-setting; concentration and attentional training; use of imagery and visualization; staleness and burnout; and characteristics of peak performers. 
  Sport Physiology Periodization; training to prevent injuries and develop power and strength; circuit training; flexibility training; and aerobic vs. anaerobic activity.  Back to top
  Sports Medicine Injury Prevention, drug education, physical therapy and over training. 
  Stay with the ball Refers to following through in the direction of your shot after hitting the ball.
Stop volley A volley where the player takes the pace off the ball, so that it drops softly on the other side of the net - making it difficult or impossible for the opponent to reach.
Stringing The elasticity of the strings depends on the tension with which the racquet is strung. In general, gut strings are more elastic than synthetic strings, as a result of which they are generally strung more tautly. Players who like to hit the ball fast and hard usually prefer tauter strings. Touch players, by contrast, tend to prefer slightly slacker stringing.
Synthetic courts australian2.jpg (2637 bytes)A court with a surface made of artificial grass, polyurethane, synthetic rubber or other synthetic materials. Can be fast or slow.
  Sweet-spot The central position on the racket face for producing the perfect shot. 
  Swinging The forward action of a basic ground stroke. 

T  The 'T' t.jpg (1367 bytes)The central area where the centre line joins the service line.


Taboo zone The area between the service line and the baseline also known as "no man's land".
Take back The preparation of the stroke prior to the forward swing. 
  Take-up The preparation of the racket in serving and smashing prior to the racket head being lowered into the 'throwing' position. 
Tennis Elbow Pain in the elbow caused by too much play and /or improper technique.
Tension The degree of tautness in the strings of a racket.
  Tie-break This is a point scoring system designed to shorten the length of a set. It is usually brought into operation when the set score reaches six games all. During tie-breaks players are awarded points numerically. The first player with 7 points wins the set, provided he or she has a lead of 2 points, e.g. 7-5. If not, play continues until this two-point advantage lead has been established, e.g. 10-8. The score for the set is then recorded as 7-6, i.e. seven games to six.
Tie-breaker Used to determine who wins a set in case of a tie. The first player to win seven points, leading by two, wins.
  Topspin The way that a ball rotates. When a player strikes the ball so that it spins from low to high as it travels forward. The top of the ball spins forwards against air resistance, forcing the ball down. When you play topspin shots aim higher over the net than for a basic drive.  The top of the ball spins forwards against air resistance, forcing the ball down. When you play topspin shots aim higher over the net than for a basic drive.  Topspin enables a player to strike the ball with more power, because the added spin helps to bring the ball down and keep it in play.
Touch Sensitivity when hitting the ball.
Tournament A meeting of many players in a format that leads to a champion.
  Tramlines court9.gif (644 bytes)The area of the court between the singles and doubles sidelines, also known as the 'alley'The area of the court between the singles and doubles sidelines, also known as the 'alley'.   
Twist serve A service played with topspin and side spin. The ball bounces awkwardly sideways and upwards from the service court.

U Umpire The umpire decides which player has won a point and also keeps the score. In major tournaments the umpire is assisted by a number of judges (e.g. line judges).
Underspin The way that a ball rotates. Occurs when a player strikes the ball so that it spins from high to low as it travels forward. The bottom of the ball spins against air resistance, which forces the ball upwards. Under spin shots need to travel much lower over the net than basic drives unless you are playing an under spin lob. This shot is called a slice. Under spin causes the ball to lose speed and to bounce lower.
Unforced error An error made while under no pressure from the opponent, e.g. miss hitting a ball.
  USPTA United States Professional Tennis Association. 
USPTR United States Professional Tennis Registry.
USRSA United States Racquet Stringers Association.

 V The 'V' The angle made between the thumb and first finger of the hand. 
Volley Occurs when a player strikes the ball before it bounces. The volley is most often employed when a player is playing close to the net. The half volley is a low return of the ball just after it has bounced.

W Warm-up A period in which players can loosen up and practice strokes before the actual match begins.  Back to top
WCTI World Championship Tennis Incorporated
  Western Grip An American type of grip that finds the palm of the hand more underneath the handle than behind it.
  Wide-body These are rackets that have a very broad side-on dimension. 
Wildcard Irrespective of their positions in the rankings, an organizer can invite one or more players to take part in a tournament, offering them wildcards. This gives event organizers the opportunity of offering places to promising young players, or alternatively to stars who have failed to register in time for the tournament.
Wimbleton A suburb of London that lends it name to " The Championships,"  acknowledged by tennis players as the number one tournament in the world.
WITA The Women's International Tennis Association was founded  in 1973, in 1990 changed its name to the Women's Tennis Association (WTA).
  Wrong-foot This is to send an opponent the wrong way. 
  WTA Women's Tennis Association.
COREL WTA TOUR, the women's professional tennis organization.  The COREL WTA TOUR includes Grand Slam events and the Fed Cup.
  WTC Women's Tennis Council - A board comprised of executive types from the WTA (4), directors of women's tournaments (4), and the ITF (see below - 2), that carries a lot of weight in the organization and politics of women's tennis. There is no equivalent in the men's game (although there used to be).  As of 1995, the WTC was renamed as the WTA TOUR Council.