Basic Tennis Terms: Your A-Z Guide

Every tennis term you'll ever need to know!

Tennis can be challenging to learn, especially if you haven't ever played it before. Some tennis terms will likely come up in conversation as you try to understand and improve your tennis game.

The problem with learning these phrases is that they're not always easy to understand because their meaning isn't explicit or obvious. This leaves many people confused about what certain words mean when used about tennis.

To help alleviate this confusion, we've put together an A-Z guide of the most commonly used terminologies in tennis along with their meanings and definitions so that you can get up-to-speed quickly on how everyone else is talking about the sport!

Tennis terms | A

Ace

An ace is a tennis shot that is both a serve and a winner since the tennis ball lands inside the service box and is not hit by the receiver. Aces are usually forceful and land on or near one of the rear corners of the service box. An ace is equivalent to a point won by the server when the receiver doesn't touch the ball.

Action

Another word for a spin.

Ad

The chair umpire uses this phrase to announce the score when a player has the advantage, which means they won the point immediately after a deuce.

Ad court

The left side of each player's court, so named because the ad (advantage) point that follows a deuce is always served to this side of the court.

Advantage

When one player gets the first point from a deuce and needs one more point to win the tennis game, this does not apply when deciding points are used.

Advantage set

Set won by a person or team who has won at least six games and has a two-game advantage over the opponent (as opposed to a tiebreak format). The French Open singles draws are the only major tennis event to utilize all advantage sets in the final sets. They were previously used at Olympic tennis competitions (until 2012), Davis Cup (until 2015), Fed Cup (until 2015), the Australian Open (until 2018), and Wimbledon (until 2018), before switching to tiebreaks.

All

When both players have the same amount of points or games, the chair umpire will use this phrase to declare the score. Unless both players have reached the score of 40, then the preferred term is deuce.

All-Comers

A tennis tournament in which all players except the reigning champion compete. In the Challenge Round, the victor of the All-Comers event will face the current champion.

All-court play (all-court game)

A style of play that combines all of the different playing styles, including baseline, transition, serve, and volley techniques.

Alley

The court area between the singles and doubles sidelines is collectively referred to as tramlines. This area of the tennis court is only used during doubles matches.

Alternate

When the main draw player or team withdraws, a new player or team is accepted into the tournament's main draw. This type of player may be referred to as a lucky loser.

Approach shot

A groundstroke shot is used as a setup shot as the player approaches the net, typically with underspin or topspin.

At net

Position of a player near the net.

ATP

An abbreviation for the Association of Tennis Professionals, the central governing body of men's tennis professionals, governs the ATP World Tour, which hosts the most prominent men's tennis tournaments.

ATP Champions' Race (ATP Rankings Race To London)

An ATP point ranking system begins at the beginning of the year and mimics the ATP entrance system ranking by the year’s conclusion. At the end of the year, the top eight players in the world advance to the ATP Finals.


ATP Finals

It is the annual season-ending competition involving eight of the world's top-ranked men (plus two alternatives), formerly known as the Tennis Masters Cup.


Australian formation

A formation in doubles in which the server and partner stand on the same side of the court before the point begins.


Australian Open

The Australian Open is the first Grand Slam of the year, taking place in Melbourne on a hard tennis court in January.



Tennis terms | B


Backcourt

The section of the court between the service line and the baseline.


Backhand

A groundstroke played with the back of the hand facing in the stroke's direction, often beginning with the arm crossing the torso.


Backhand smash

A type of smash that is performed on the backhand side.


Backspin

A stroke in which the tennis ball is struck with a more open-faced racquet in a low slicing action, causing the ball to spin backward.


Backstop

A wall, fence, or similar structure prevents a tennis ball from traveling too far beyond the court.


Backswing

The swing motion positions the tennis racquet to swing forward and strike the tennis ball.


Bagel

A 6-0 win or a 0-6 loss is referred to as a bagel.


Ball abuse

If a player strikes a tennis ball aggressively (when not in play) out of annoyance or anger, whether directed at the opponent, the crowd, the umpire, or anywhere else in their surroundings, they have committed ball abuse. During the tennis game, the player will be given a warning, a point penalty, or a game penalty, which may or may not be followed by a fine.


Ball boy or ball girl

A male or female was assigned to chase down the tennis balls and supply them to the server during a tennis match.


Ball toss

The act of tossing the tennis ball up in the air before hitting a serve.


Baseline

The line parallel to the net at each end of a tennis court represents the in-bounds limit of play.


Baseline game

A style of play in which most shots are taken from near the baseline.


Baseline judge

An official whose responsibilities include calling the shots in or out.


Baseline player

Often known as a baseliner, a player prefers to hit from near the baseline.


Big serve

A powerful serve that usually gives the server an advantage in the point.


Block

A defensive shot in which the racquet is used to block a hard-hit tennis ball rather than taking a backswing to return it.


Bounce

The upward movement of the tennis ball after it has struck the ground is referred to as bouncing. It's also a term used by recreational doubles players to tell their partner not to hit the ball.


Breadstick

A slang term describing the shape of the 1 in a 6-1 victory or defeat.


Break 

Winning a tennis game when one of the players is not the server, therefore breaking the serve.


Break back

Terminology for a successful receiver play following a service break.


Breaker

An informal phrase for a tiebreak.


Break point

Being one point away from the tennis match ending.


Buggy whip

Hitting the ball with no follow-through and only a brief whip-like motion.


Bumper guard

A plastic piece protects the outside of the racquet head's upper half.


Bunt

When the strength of the opponent's shot is used and returned with a short swing.


Bye

Occurs when top players advance without having to play a tennis match.



Tennis terms | C


Call

The decision of an umpire to rule on a play during a match.


Cannonball

The terminology for a hard serve with a flat trajectory.


Career Golden Slam

A player who has won all four major tennis tournaments in their career and an Olympic gold medal is said to have achieved a career Golden Slam.

Only four players in singles history have done so: Steffi Graf (1988), Andre Agassi (1996), Rafael Nadal (2010), and Serena Williams (2012).

Although the accomplishment has become more prevalent in doubles, the phrase is rarely used in that discipline.

Individually, nine wheelchair tennis players and three able-bodied players (Pam Shriver, Gigi Fernández, and Daniel Nestor) have done it, as have three teams (The Woodies, the Williams sisters, and the Bryan brothers).

Notably, tennis was not played in the Olympics from 1928 to 1984.


Career Grand Slam or Career Slam

A career Grand Slam is achieved by players who have won all four major titles during their career (although not in the same calendar year).


Carpet

A tennis court with a surface made of textile or polymer materials delivered in rolls.

Once common for indoor professional events, this surface was removed from significant pro tournaments in 2009.

This was one of the fastest court surfaces you could play on.


Carry

An illegal action in which the tennis ball is held/carried rather than hit.


Carve

A groundstroke with some spin to it.


Center court

A premium location for tennis court seating.


Centerline judge

A tennis game official is in charge of monitoring and calling the center service line.


Center mark

The term for the 2 X 14-inch baseline midpoint.


Center service line

It defines the boundary between the two service courts.


Chair

The location of the game umpire.


Challenge

When a player requests an official review of where the tennis ball landed via electronic ball-tracking technology, only in large tournaments are challenges accessible.


Challenger

A tennis tournament circuit one level below the top-tier ATP World Tour.

The ATP Challenger Tour is now made up of Challenger tournaments. Players compete on the Challenger tour to obtain ranking points that will permit them to enter the ATP World Tour tournaments. These tennis players are generally ranked between world no. 80 and world no. 300.


Challenge round

The final round of a tournament in which the winner of a single-elimination round faces the previous year's champion, who plays only that one match.

The challenge round was utilized in the early history of Wimbledon (from 1877 to 1921) and the US Open (from 1884 to 1911), and the Davis Cup until 1972.


Changeover

The time between matches when players switch ends of the court.


Charge and chip

Approach shot that consists of hitting a slice shot while quickly moving forward and following the shot into the net—an attempt to put the opponent under pressure.


Chip

A shot with underspin that usually results in a block.


Chop

Tennis jargon for a shot with swift downward action and having a lot of backspin.


Clay Court

A tennis court with a natural surface constructed of crushed shale, stone, brick, or clay that is used to play tennis, most famously at the French Open.


Clean winner

The opposing player is unable to reach and play a tennis shot.


Closed grip

The motion where the racquet face is pointing down.


Closed racquet

A racquet held with a closed grip.


Closed stance

Hitting the ball while your back is facing your opponent and keeping your body parallel to the baseline.


Code violation

A rule violation on the men's or women's professional tour match called by the chair umpire results in an official warning or penalty for the player.

The first violation results in a warning, the second in a point penalty, and the third and subsequent violations in each game.

A code violation may also be deemed severe enough to necessitate the player's instant forfeiture of the match (without going through the three or more automatic penalty stages).

For each code violation, an additional monetary fine is frequently imposed.


Consolidate a break

To keep service in a tennis game immediately after a break of serve.


Continental Grip

Holding the racquet in such a way that the bottom knuckle of the index finger makes contact with the top of the handle, and the heel of the hand makes contact with the bevel directly clockwise from it.


Counterpuncher

Defensive baseliner.


Crosscourt Shot

A shot that travels diagonally into the opponent's court.


Cut

Sideways and backspin are produced by a quick, slicing downward action.


Cyclops

An electronic device that is used to determine whether a serve is in or out of boundaries.



Tennis terms | D


Dampener

A little rubber device that is attached to the racquet's strings to absorb some of the vibration created by hitting the ball.


Daisy cutter

A low shot with a backspin that results in a low bounce.


Davis Cup

Annual men's tennis competition in which teams from participating countries participate in single-elimination style matches occurring over the course of the year.


Dead net

An unintentional shot that hits the net and falls into the opposing side of the court.


Deciding point

The point played in doubles when the game score reaches deuce, and there is no ad play. The tennis game is then settled in favor of the team that wins the deuce point.


Deep shot

A shot that lands along the baseline rather than near the net or in the middle of the court.


Default

A disqualification that results in losing a match.


Defensive lob

A lob hit when there is no time to prepare.


Defensive volley

A volley that is typically taken from below the top of the net.


Deuce

When both players have gained a total of 40 or a player wins three points respectively, this occurs. After Deuce, either player must score two points in a row to win the match.


Deuce court

The deuce court is the position on the receiver's right service court where a serve is received after a deuce score.


Dink

Lingo for a shot struck with minimal velocity.


Dirtballer

Term for a clay court player.


Double bagel

Two sets won to love (zero).


Double fault

A player action that has failed to deliver a valid serve for the second time in a row is called a double fault. A double fault results in the server losing the point.


Double hit

Occurs when the tennis ball is struck twice in a single hit, resulting in a point loss.


Doubles

A tennis game featuring two players on each side of the net using the entire court.


Doubles court

A term used to describe the playing area for a doubles match.


Down the line

A shot that travels parallel to the line from near the sideline.


Drag volley

Backspin is used to hit a volley.


Draw

Term for a tournament's player selection and scheduling method.


Drop shot

A soft, backspin-hit ball that lands close to the net on the opponent's side frequently utilized when an opponent is close to the baseline. A drop shot aims to get your opponent up to the net.


Drop volley

When a tennis ball is hit before the ball bounces and lands close to the net on the opponent's side, more concisely, it's a drop shot hit from a volley.



Tennis terms | E


Eastern forehand grip

The eastern forehand grip allows players to produce more topspin than continental grips while producing less spin than semi-western grips.


Elbow

The corner of the baseline and the doubles alley.


Entry system

The ATP and WTA tours utilize a ranking system that decides whether a player has a high enough rating to receive direct admittance (rather than as a qualifier or wild card) into the main draw of a tournament. The entry system ranking of a player differs from their Race ranking, which is reset to zero at the start of each year. Unless such points are lost at a tournament where the player previously won them, they retain their points, and the related entry ranks indefinitely.


Error

A shot that does not land correctly on the opponent's court resulting in a point loss.


Exhibition

A tournament in which players compete to entertain the audience or generate funds rather than earning ranking points on the ATP or WTA tours.



Tennis terms | F


Fault

Serve that fails to land the tennis ball in the opponent's service box, resulting in not starting the point.


Fed Cup (Federation Cup)

International, annual women's tennis competition in which teams from participating countries compete in a single-elimination style tournament with matches taking place at various stages throughout the year.


First serve

The first of two chances to serve that a tennis player is permitted at the start of a point.


Five

The number of completed tennis games (e.g., "7–5" is said as "seven–five"), or a spoken abbreviation of "15" in points (e.g., a score of 40–15 is often pronounced as "forty–five").


Flat (flat shot)

Shot with little to no spin that is often hit hard.


Flatliner

A tennis player with outstanding depth and accuracy who strikes the ball flat with an extremely low trajectory.


Follow-through

A portion of a swing after you hit the ball.


Foot fault

A type of service fault in which a tennis player steps on or over the baseline into the court before striking the tennis ball during the serve. A foot fault may apply if the tennis player steps on or across the center mark and its imaginary perpendicular extension from the baseline to the net.


Forced error

In contrast to an unforced error, an error made by an opponent's brilliant play. Counting both forced and unforced errors is quite subjective.


Forecourt

The precise location between the net and the service line.


Forehand

In contrast to the backhand, this is a stroke in which the tennis player strikes the ball with the front of the racquet hand facing the tennis ball.


Forty

The third point of a tennis game played is worth forty points if a person or team scores it.


Frame

The oval component of the racquet that holds the strings.


Frame shot

A mishit on the racquet's frame rather than the strings.


French Open (Roland Garros)

The French Open is the year's second Grand Slam, taking place in Paris. Roland Garros is traditionally played on clay courts at the end of May.


Futures

The ITF Men's Circuit is a series of men's tour tennis tournaments that are two levels below the ATP World Tour and one level below the ATP Challenger Tour. Players play in Futures events (usually when they are ranked below world number 300 or so) to earn enough ranking points to enter Challenger events.



Tennis terms | G


Gallery 

The spectators in the stands.


Game

A game is a portion of a set that consists of a sequence of points played with the same tennis player serving. Each set includes at least six games.


Game point

A situation where the server is ahead and just needs one more point to win the game.


Get

Reaching and returning a difficult-to-recover tennis ball.


Ghost into the net

Approaching the net from the baseline when the opposing tennis player is engaged in retrieving a tennis ball and hence oblivious of the player's approach.


GOAT

Abbreviation for Greatest Of All Time.


Golden set

A set won without conceding a single point.


Golden Slam

Winning the Grand Slam and the Olympic gold medal in tennis in the same calendar year. This has only been accomplished once before, by Steffi Graf in 1988.


Grand Slam

Winning all four of the world's most prestigious major events in a single calendar year. It can also mean any one of the four tournaments: the Australian Open, the French Open (Roland Garros), Wimbledon, or the U. S. Open.


Grass

A natural turf tennis court surface, most famously at Wimbledon.


Grinding

Playing out points by hitting a sequence of shots from the baseline.


Grommet strip

A plastic strip with small tubes placed in the frame’s string holes to keep the strings from rubbing against the abrasive frame.


Groundstroke (groundie)

A forehand or backhand shot that is made after the ball bounces once on the court.


Grunting

Noises made by players while serving or hitting the ball.


Gut

Racquet string type. Catgut or synthetic gut can be used to make this product.



Tennis terms | H


Hacker

Player whose sloppy strokes appear to be unintentional rather than planned.


Hail Mary

For defensive purposes, a very high lob.


Half-court

The section of the court along the service line.


Half volley

A groundstroke shot played with the tennis racquet close to the ground just after or simultaneously with a bounce.


Handicapping

A system in which competitors are given benefits or compensations in order to even out their odds of winning.


Hardcourt (hard court)

A type of court composed of asphalt or concrete with a synthetic/acrylic layer applied on top. They come in a variety of colors and play at a medium to fast tempo.


Hawk-Eye

Computer system linked to cameras that track the path of the ball for playback, used in conjunction with the player challenge system to contest and review defined line calls.


Head (racquet head)

The section of the racquet that houses the strings.


Heavy (ball)

When the opposing tennis player strikes the ball, the ball hit has so much topspin that it seems "heavy."


Hitting partner

A specialist who is hired to practice strokes during training.


Hold (hold serve)

To win the game while serving.



Tennis terms | I


I-formation

In doubles, the net player on the serving team crouches near the center service line, primarily to counter teams that prefer a crosscourt return.


In

A valid tennis shot that lands in the opponent's court.


Inside in

Running around the backhand side to hit a forehand down the line.


Inside out

Running around the backhand side and hitting a crosscourt forehand. Vice versa for inside out backhand shot. 


In to the net

Hitting the ball and then chasing it towards the net.


ITF

The world's governing body, the International Tennis Federation, is abbreviated as ITF.



Tennis terms | J


Jam

A tennis ball hit close to the opposing player's body, resulting in a feeble return.


Jump smash

A forceful hit made by a tennis player while jumping into the air.


Junk ball

A shot or return stroke in which the tennis ball is slow and possibly without spin is frequently used to disrupt the flow of the game and the opposition’s rhythm.



Tennis terms | K


Kick serve

Spin serve with a high bounce, also known as the American twist, first introduced in the United States in the late 1880s.


Knock-up

A non-scoring practice or warm-up session that usually precedes the start of competitive play.


Kill

The act of hitting a tennis ball so hard that your opponent cannot reach it.



Tennis terms | L


Lawn tennis

This reflects the fact that the game was initially played on grass.  The modern-day tennis game is also referred to as lawn tennis. 


Let

In tennis, the word let has two meanings. One says a point or serve will be repeated, while the other indicates the serve will be replayed. The first instance of let is when a serve hits the net and lands on the service box, indicating the serve will be replayed. When a point is interrupted by an external element, the entire point is replayed.


Line judge

The person in charge of determining whether the tennis ball is in or out of bounds.


Lob (moonball)

A stroke in which the tennis ball is launched well above the net. If the opposing tennis player or players are up at the net, the objective may be to win the point outright with an aggressive lob.

A lob can also be a defensive shot used to hit the ball above an opposing player at the net. The goal of a defensive lob is to give the tennis player time to recover and get in position or compel the opponents to chase down the lob if they are at the net.


Lob volley

A lob shot is one in which you hit the ball over your opponent's head while they are close to the net.


Long

A shot is considered long in tennis if it bounces outside the court lengthwise, past the baseline.


Love

In tennis, love is equivalent to a score of zero.


Love game

A tennis game won without allowing the opponent to score a single point.


Love set

A game set in which the losing tennis player did not win any games.


Lucky loser

A lucky loser is a tennis player who loses in the qualifying rounds but advances to the main draw after another player withdraws.



Tennis terms | M


Mac-Cam

A high-speed video camera named after John McEnroe is utilized to broadcast instant replays of close shots landing on/near the baseline.


Masters Cup

Former name for the year-ending ATP championship, in which the top eight highest-ranked players participate in a round-robin format.


Match

A match is a contest between two players (singles match) or two teams of two players (doubles match), usually played over three or five sets. A match consists of games and sets in which the winner is determined by the number of sets won.


Match point

The point in a game at which a tennis player has a chance to win the entire match by winning the final set with the following point (match point).


Mini-break

A term for losing a point on service during a tiebreaker.


Mini-hold

A point won by the server, generally in a tiebreak.


Mis-hit

A stroke in which the racquet does not make contact with the tennis ball at the "sweet spot" of the strings.

Mixed doubles

Doubles tennis played with a male and female on each team, on each side of the court.



Tennis terms | N


Net

A typical net consists of interwoven fabric, tape, and a cord that spans the entire width of the court. It is held up by the posts, which stand 3 feet and 6 inches from the ground, while the net stands 3 feet tall in the center. A tennis game aims to hit the ball over the net and into the opponent's side of the court.


Net cord

The cord that supports the net.


Net judge

A tennis game official who evaluates and calls lets on serves.


Net point

A point scored by charging and playing near to the net.


Net posts

Posts on each side of the court that support the net. The net posts are placed 3 feet (0.914 m) outside the doubles court on each side. The posts are placed 3 feet (0.914 m) outside the singles court when a singles net is used.


Neutral stance (square stance)

A stance in which the hitter's back foot is parallel to the baseline and the front foot is at a diagonal angle of up to 90 degrees.


No-ad

A scoring system in which the first tennis player to score four points wins the tennis game. If the score reaches 3-all, the next point determines the game's outcome.


No-man’s land

The area between the baseline and the service line where hitting groundstrokes or slams is difficult.


Not up

A tennis ball hit at a second bounce, resulting in a point loss.



Tennis terms | O


Offensive lob

A tennis ball intentionally hit high and deep into the opponent's court.


Offensive volley

A tennis shot hit from above the net.


On serve

When both tennis players or teams in a set have the same amount of breaks. Neither player nor the team can win a set while on serve unless there is a break of serve.


Open Era

When tennis tournaments became available to both amateur and professional players, this started in 1968.


Open grip

This happens when the tennis racquet is pointed upward and away from the court.


Open racquet

When the tennis racquet is gripped with an open grip.


Open stance

When facing the opponent and hitting parallel to the baseline.


Open tournament

Tennis players of all levels are welcome, including novices, intermediate tennis players, and professional tennis players.


Out

A tennis shot that lands outside of the approved playing area.


Overhead (overhead smash)

When the player hits the ball down with great force, usually on a lob.


Overrule

When the umpire reverses a call made by the line judge.


Overspin

Another word for topspin.


Overwrap

A spongy material wrapped around the handle of a racquet to improve comfort and grip.



Tennis terms | P


Passing shot

A passing shot occurs when one tennis player is at the net, and their opponent hits a shot that successfully passes around them and lands inside the court. It differs from a lob in that a lob goes over the opponent rather than around him.


Ping it

When an offensive shot is hit, and the ball is placed deep into the corners of the court.


Poach

In doubles tennis, a poach occurs when the net player intercepts a shot initially targeted at the person standing at the baseline.


Point penalty

Tennis players who commit more than one code violation may face a point penalty, which means they will lose a point as punishment for their bad behavior.


Pulp

A 30:30 score.


Pusher

A pusher is a tennis player who does not go for hitting shots and prefers to play defensively. People often associate defensive tennis with ugly tennis, so the term "pusher" has a negative connotation.


Putaway

An offensive shot to end the point with no chance of a return.



Tennis terms | Q


Qualification (Q)

A tennis player who qualifies for the tournament's main draw by competing in a pre-tournament qualifying competition rather than automatically by virtue of their world ranking, a wild card, or other exemption.


Tennis terms | R


Rally

A rally in tennis is when players hit the ball from one side of the court to the other side of the court, back and forth.


Rankings

Rankings are a hierarchical list of tennis players based on their most recent accomplishments, used in tournaments to determine qualification for entry and seeding.


Rating

The system by which national tennis organizations group tennis players of comparable skill levels. Their match record determines a player's rating.


Real tennis

An indoor racquet sport that evolved into modern-day tennis, or "lawn tennis." Real tennis is also referred to as court tennis in the United States and royal tennis in Australia.


Reflex volley

A volley in which the tennis player does not have time to plan the shot and instead reacts instinctively to position the racquet to return the ball. This happens a lot in doubles tennis and advanced singles.


Return of serve

A return shot is when one tennis player waits to see where the other player's serve lands before attempting to hit the ball back to the opposite side of the court.


Return of serve plus one

When a tennis player hits a fantastic return of serve and then follows it up with a winning shot.


Round robin (RR)

It consists of groups of three or four tennis players competing against each other in a tournament format. A player's ranking is then determined by the number of matches, sets, games won, and head-to-head records. At this point, the top one, two, or four players qualify for the tournament's next round.


Rubber

An individual singles or doubles match within the Davis Cup or Fed Cup.



Tennis terms | S


Scoring system

A match is made up of points, games, and sets. This scoring system tracks the progress of a match.


Second serve

After missing the first serve, the server is permitted a second serve.

If this serve fails, the server will forfeit the point (called a double fault).


Seed

A seed is one of the top 8, 16, or 32 highest ranked players in a tennis tournament, depending on the size and type of tournament.

These players have been assigned to specific positions in the draw, so they will only play each other in advanced rounds.


Serve

The serve is the stroke that starts every single shot in a match. While one tennis player is serving, the other is receiving, and they alternate after each game.

Serves can take various shapes and forms, but they are all distinguished by an action in which the tennis player swings the racquet above his head while remaining behind the baseline.


Server

The tennis player who serves for the duration of a game. In every tennis game, players take turns serving.


Service box

The rectangular region of the tennis court, defined by the sidelines and service lines where a serve is supposed to land.


Service court

The area comprised of the service sideline, service line, and center service line, with the net separating each side of the court.


Service line

The line denoting the back boundary of the service court on each side.


Serve and volley

Serve and volley is a tennis-playing strategy in which the player attempts to instantly reach the net after serving.

The serve and volley was a fairly popular strategy, but it is now it is increasingly difficult to find players who use it.


Set

The third stage of the tennis scoring system is a set.

A tennis player will win a set whenever they have accumulated a sufficient number of games.


Set point

A scenario where the leading tennis player needs one more point to win the set.

When a player serves in such a situation, they are referred to be "serving for the set."


Shank

In tennis, a shank occurs when a tennis player hits the ball with the racquet's frame or the ball hits the handle rather than the strings. It usually results in an uncontrollable and random shot.


Shot

In tennis, a shot occurs whenever a tennis player hits the ball or makes contact with the ball. A shot is a type of stroke: a forehand (stroke) can be hit inside-out, inside-in, crosscourt, down-the-line, with slice, or with topspin (shots).


Shot clock

This is a publicly displayed clock used during points to ensure that players serve within 25 seconds.


Singles

There is a match in which one player is on each side of the net.


Sitter

A shot hit with very little pace and no spin where the ball bounces high after landing and is thus an easy putaway shot.


Spank

When a player hits a flat groundstroke with a lot of speed.


Spin

The ball's rotation as it moves through the air, which influences its bounce and trajectory.


Slice

A slice is essentially a backhand shot with a slight variation. Instead of striking the ball from the top, your racquet swings through the bottom. This adds an underspin to the stroke, so the ball stays low and near to the ground once the ball bounces on the other side.


Split step

A footwork technique where a player performs a small bounce on both feet as the opponent hits the ball. This allows the player to move faster in either direction.


Squash shot

Typically, a forehand or backhand shot hit on the run from a defensive position, either with a slice or from behind the player's stance.


Stance

The phrase stance in tennis refers to how a player sets their legs when hitting a shot. Tennis stances are classified as open, semi-open, neutral, or closed.


Stick volley

A perfectly executed volley leading to a shot with a steep downward trajectory.


Strike

When a player hits the ball it is referred to as striking. A strike can also refer to "hitting a shot."


Stroke

A stroke is the way you swing a tennis racquet to hit the ball. Tennis strokes are the fundamental actions that must be mastered to participate in the sport.

Forehand, backhand, serve, return, volleys, and overhead are all examples of strokes.


Sudden death tiebreak

A version of the tiebreak played as best-of-nine points, with the final point being the deciding point to secure the set.


Super tiebreak

A tiebreak variation played to ten points rather than seven, typically used in doubles to decide a match rather than a third set.


Sweet spot

The sweet spot is the area of the racquet where a player hits the ball. The sweet spot is generally towards the racquet's center, and using it results in spectacular shots.



Tennis terms | T


T

The "T" on the court is where the service line meets the line that divides the court into two boxes.


Tanking

Tanking in tennis refers to the act of surrendering a match and continuing to play without the goal or desire to win.


Take the net

The act of going towards the net to control volleys directed at the opponent.


Tandem/Up and Back

In a doubles game, one player plays the forecourt and the other the backcourt.


Tape

The material that covers the top of the net.


Tennis ball

A rubber ball filled with air and covered in fur made of synthetic materials. An official tennis ball measures 2.57 to 2.70 inches in diameter and weighs 56.0 to 59.4 grams. Yellow and white are the only colors permitted in tennis tournaments.


Tennis elbow

An elbow joint strain caused by overuse.


Tennis Hall of Fame

The International Tennis Hall of Fame is located in Newport, Rhode Island, USA. It was founded in 1954 and hosts an annual tournament in accordance with the induction ceremony.


Thirty

In tennis, thirty is the worth of a player's second point in a game. The game score begins at 0 and progresses to 15, 30, and finally 40.


Tiebreak

A tiebreak is a type of game that is used to break a tie between two players. A tiebreak is normally used when both players are deadlocked at six games to 6. The scoring method in a tiebreak game differs from regular games (0, 15, 30, 40), and the points should be counted using the standard number system (0, 1, 2, 3, 4). Normally, the first player to reach 7 points wins the tiebreak and also the set.


Topspin

Topspin is added to the stroke when a player hits a ball in a "down-to-up" motion. This is the spin that most players employ in their shots. When the ball lands on the opponent's court, it bounces higher.


Touch

Touch refers to a player's aptitude and capacity to hit finely tuned strokes.


Tramline

The line that defines the limit of play on the side of a singles or doubles court.


Trampolining

This occurs when striking a flat ball with a racquet strung at a very loose tension. Trampolining produces a shot with extremely high velocity.


Triple

Winning singles, doubles, and mixed doubles in a tournament is a triple.


Tweener

A tweener is hit by a player who hits the ball between their knees with their back facing their opponent. Tweeners are one of the most admired shots among tennis enthusiasts.


Tweener racquet

Young professionals often use a tennis racquet with a mid-weight, medium-size head and medium stiffness as a transitional racquet.


Twist serve

Serve with a combination of slice and topspin, resulting in a curving trajectory and high bounce in the opposite direction of the ball's flight trajectory.



Tennis terms | U


Umpire

The highest-ranked official in a tennis match. The umpire has the last say and may reverse decisions made by other judges if necessary.


Underhand serve (or underarm serve)

A serve in which the player lobs the ball from below the level of their shoulders.


Underspin

The spin imparted on a ball by striking beneath it, causing it to spin in the opposite direction of travel.


Unforced error

A shot that falls into the net or out of bounds, resulting in a point being lost.


Unseeded player

A tennis player who is not a seed in a tournament.


Upset

When a lower-ranked opponent defeats a high-ranked player.


US Open

Played on hard courts in New York City, the US Open is the fourth Grand Slam of the year.



Tennis terms | V


Vantage

Another word for advantage, or when a player wins one of two points in a deuce.


Volley

A shot made by a player before the ball hits or the ball bounces on their side of the court, usually near the net.



Tennis terms | W


Walkover

A walkover occurs when a player's opponent fails to appear for the match, allowing the player to progress to the next round without having to play.


Warning

A warning is the customary outcome of a player's first code violation in tennis. It is issued by the umpire and does not result in a point deduction for the player.


Western grip

This is a grip created by placing the index knuckle on bevel 5 of the handle. The western grip is suited for players with a strong baseline game who play on slow courts that need a lot of topspin. However, changing grips and hitting shots close to the ground becomes considerably more difficult.


Whiff

A stroke in which the player completely misses the ball. In an official match, whiffing a serve is considered a fault.


Wide

In tennis, "wide" can refer to one of two things. A wide serve bounces on the outside edge of the service box, causing the opponent to move away from the court. Alternatively, a wide shot lands outside the court lines in width.


Wildcard

A wildcard is an invitation to a tournament's main draw or qualifying draw even if the player does not have a high enough ranking to qualify for it. It is typically offered to injured or local players.


Wimbledon

Wimbledon is the year's third Grand Slam, held on grass courts in England. It is regarded as the most exquisite of the four Grand Slams.


Winner

A winner is a good shot that successfully travels past the opponent, resulting in a point won in tennis.


WTA

WTA is an abbreviation for the Women's Tennis Association, which is the organization that governs all aspects of women's tennis. The Women's Tennis Association is the ATP's counterpart.



Tennis terms | Y


Yips

A bad case of nerves making it hard for a player to serve effectively.



Tennis term | Z


Zero pointer

Ranking points are earned by skipping certain professional tennis tour events where a top-ranked player has committed to competing (mandatory tournaments). As a result, even if the player participates in a different tournament in place of the mandatory event, no points will be added to their ranking.



Final thoughts

There you have it! An easy-to-understand, quick A-Z reference guide of commonly used terminologies in tennis along with their meaning and definition.

This should help you learn to play and understand what these words mean, so you can feel confident about using these phrases when talking about your favorite sport!



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