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Tennis Regulations:


There’s two different ways that you can play, there’s doubles or singles. A Doubles match would be when two partners play two partners and a singles match is one-on-one and the match consists of sets and games.


A set consists of the first person to win six games winning by two, with a tiebreaker being played at six-to-six. The winner of a match is the first person to win two out of three sets. The attire for tennis differs at every club and facility that you’re playing at one of the main recommendations for tennis is an all court purpose shoe or sneaker, which is basically a shoe with a non-marking outer sole. This is recommended so you don’t mark up the courts and scuff up the paint job, especially on hard courts.


The equipment needed for tennis is a tennis racket, and multiple tennis balls and access to a regulation court. The courts measurements for doubles is 36 feet by 78 feet and for singles is 27 feet by 78 feet and the net is three feet high in the middle.


On the court are a few different white lines that outline the playing territory for the game as well as the out of line boundaries that result in the loss of a point. The boundaries will vary depending on whether it’s a singles match or doubles match.


For doubles, you will pay attention to the doubles alleys (doubles lines), which are used exclusively in a doubles game. You will also want to be mindful of the service line, which marks off the service boxes and indicates where the initial serve has to land to be considered ‘in.’ You will also want to be aware of the base line, which is the farthest line marked on the back of the court.


Within the game of tennis there are penalties one of which is the ‘foot fault,’ which is when your foot has gone on or over the line before you’ve made contact with the serve. There’s also a ‘double fault’ penalty, which indicates that you have missed both of your opportunities to get your serve in. And the last penalty is called the ‘let,’ which carries two variable meanings. A let can mean that you hit a serve and the ball hit the net then went in, and as a result you get to repeat that serve and that serve only. A let penalty can also mean any hindrance in play. For example, if you’re playing a game and the people playing next to you hit a ball that rolls onto your court, you can call a let and replay that point and only that point


When playing in a doubles match, the first serve will always be served from the right hand side of the rectangular shaped court. The served ball must land within the service box diagonally across the net. One partner of the pair will serve the ball while the other partner waits, diligently watching, and awaiting to receive the ball as it returns.


The tennis match begins as the server serves the first ball. You have to get the ball from your side of the net to the opponents’ side of the net, and if the ball doesn’t make it, it’s referred to as a fault. In the case of a fault during your serve, you will get a second chance to try to serve again successfully. If you fault a second time, it is called a ‘double fault.’ In the case of a double fault, your opponent will be awarded a point.


A tennis match is made up of multiple sets, which are comprised of games, each game consists of points. So each match consists of points, games, and sets. A set consists of a number of games (six games minimum), and each game is comprised of points. The set is won by the side that is first to win 6 games, with at least 2 games margin over the other side; 6-to-3 or 7-to-5. When both sides are tied at the end of the set, or at the end of six games, then a tie-breaker will take place.


Most tennis matches are played in a best-of-three sets format, so if you’re the winner of two consecutive sets, than you’ve won the match. Since you are playing within a ‘best out of three’ format, once you’ve won two consecutive sets (two of the three possible sets), you’ve already achieved the best of the three, and there would be no need to play the third set. The match ends as soon as this winning condition is met. While most tennis matches employ the best-of-three formula, some matches are played using a best-of-five sets formula instead. The best-of-five sets formula is practiced during the men’s singles or doubles matches at the Majors as well as the Davis Cup matches.


The current score is typically called out loud by the person serving the ball at the start of the game. The server calls out their score first, followed by their opponents score second. The score calling system is unusual in the game of tennis, as a unique language has been established to refer to the number of points achieved by either side. The terms and numbers that are used to signify one point or two points earned, do not correlate to the actual and literal number of points earned, and do not reflect their true numeric value. It is easiest to understand when viewing the chart below. The scoring system could be very hard to follow without knowledge of what each term means. For instance, one point would not be one point, instead one point is called ‘15.’

To give you an example of this, if the server has won three points so far in the game, and the non-server has only won one point, the score to be announced would be “40-15”.


If both sides have won the same number of points, the score will be expressed by the referenced term followed by the word ‘all.’ For example, if both sides have scored once, then the current score vocalized by the server would be “15-all.” If both sides have scored twice it would similarly be expressed as “30-all,” and so on. However if each side has accumulated three total points, then the server will vocalize “deuce,” when serving, instead of “40-all.” From that point on in the continued game, as long as the score remains tied between both sides, the score is expressed as ‘deuce,’ regardless of how many more points have been played.


The system or order of scoring points will increase in this order; love > 15 > 30 > 40 > game. But if you and your opponent, let’s call him Mike both reach 40 points, within the same game, which is called a deuce then you will need to score two consecutive points in a row, and two points more than Mike in order to win the game.


In a standard game, scoring beyond the “deuce,” which signifies that both players have scored a total of three points each, requires that one of the players must achieve a two point lead ahead of their opponent in order to win the game. Once you’ve reached this point in the game, the scoring is called “advantage scoring” or “ads.” Whichever side wins the next point after the “deuce,” is the side that is said to have the advantage. If the side with the advantage point looses the following point, the score is again a “deuce,” since the score becomes a tie yet again. If the side with the advantage point wins the next consecutive point, than they are now 2 points ahead of their opponent following the tie, and will win the game.


When the server is the player with the advantage, the score may be referred to as the ‘advantage in.’ On the contrary, when the server’s opponent is the side who has the advantage, the score may be expressed as the ‘advantage out.’ These terms can similarly be shortened and expressed as the ‘ad in’ or ‘van in’ or ‘my ad in’ and ‘ad out’ or ‘your ad.’ During professional tournaments the umpire will be the person announcing the scores and will instead use the players’ names; ‘advantage Williams’ or ‘advantage Nadal.’


The role of receiver and server will rotate back and forth, server becoming receiver and receiver becoming server, rotating with each new game. On the initial serve, the ball is served from the right hand side of the court, and must land within the service box, on the other side of the net, on the server’s left side (diagonally across). You can take a look at the image below to get a better visualization of this.


In a singles match, since there is only one player on each side of the net, the receiver will return the ball from the service box diagonally across from the server. Whereas in a doubles match, since there are two players on either side, the player of the pair standing diagonally across from the server, would be the player responsible for returning the initial serve.


Once the ball is successfully served, it can be returned anywhere within the guiding lines of the court, and is no longer limited to the service boxes and service lines. The guiding lines in a doubles game are slightly wider than that of a singles tennis match. As there are more players involved in a doubles match, the boundaries of the court are extended through the doubles alley’s, providing a larger total playing area.

Within an advantage set, the set will continue until one team or player wins six games and achieves a two game lead over their opponent or opponents. So, the set continues on until one team wins the set by two games.


The United States Tennis Association rules no longer include advantage sets, meaning advantage sets are no longer used within United States Tennis Association followed games. However advantage sets are still played in the men’s and women’s draws in singles matches of the Australian Open, French Open, Wimbledon, and Fed Cup. Wimbledon plays a best-of-three match, the first two are played as tie-break sets, and the final is played as an advantage set. All other mixed doubles at the Gran Slams are played as best-of-three and the final set played is a ‘super tie-break’ set, which can also be referred to as a best-of-two set.


A tie-break set is played in accordance with the same rules as an advantage set except with one distinguishing difference. Unlike an advantage set, within a tie-break set when the score is tied at 6-to-6, a tie-break game or tiebreaker is played.


A tie-break game is typically played until one player wins seven points by a lead of two or more points. However, the tie-break point requirements can vary, sometimes instead of 7 points the rule may be 8 or 10 points instead. When the set score is tied at 6-6, a 7-point tie-breaker game will often be played to determine who wins the set. A score of the number of games won within a given set is counted in the ordinary numerical fashion, except when a player or team has a score of zero having not won any games, in that scenario their score is expressed as ‘love.’ The score is written out using numeral digits, separated by a dash and will be announced by either the judge or the server at the start of each new game.


A popular alternative to the advantage scoring format, is the ‘no-advantage’ or ‘no-ad’ scoring model, created by James Van Alen. The ‘no-advantage’ system was created in an effort to minimize the duration of playing time within the match. Within the no-advantage scoring system, the first player to win four points, wins that game. No-ads scoring eliminates the two point lead requirement, thus establishing a game winner, sooner. In the case of a tied game, a deuce within this scoring system, the next player to win a point, wins that game (match point). This no-advantage scoring system is practiced in most World TeamTennis matches. When the no-advantage system is implemented, at deuce, the receiver has the option to choose which side of the court he or she would like to return the serve from. However, in no-ad mixed doubles play gender always serves to the same gender at game point and during the final point of tiebreaks.


Because of the way the game of tennis is scored, set by set and game by game, a player may win the match despite having lost majority of the games. Similarly, a player can loose the match despite having won majority of the games and/or points. An example of this was when Rodger Federer won the 2009 Wimbledon final against Andy Roddick, despite Roddick having won 39 of the games played and Federer winning 38 of the games. See table below for a detailed summary of their 2009 Wimbledon final match:


Rodger Federer Andy Roddick Game Winner
Game 1 5 7 Roddick
Game 2 7 6 Federer
Game 3 7 6 Federer
Game 4 3 6 Roddick
Game 5 16 14 Federer
Total Points 38 39


Now that we’ve all got a bit of an education, it’s time to get on the tennis court…. and hit some balls!