Playing tennis: your how-to guide

July 28, 2015

Tennis can be played indoors or out – on clay, grass or a synthetic surface. It can also be enjoyed simply for fun at your local park or club. Here's your how-to guide to playing tennis and what you need to know before you hit the court.

Playing tennis: your how-to guide

The objective

Your goal in to tennis is to hit the ball into the opponent's court in such a way that it can't be returned.

  • The court is a large area to patrol, so good players require stamina, agility and cunning.
  • Only one bounce it permitted on your side of the court, so be prepared and stay on your toes!


A match is scored as a series of duels. Players must win four points (15, 30, 40 and 'game') to win a game.

  • A 40:40 tie is called 'deuce' and a player must then win two consecutive points ('advantage' and 'game') in order to win.
  • Service ( a serve) alternates with each game and the first to six games or more, with a two-game advantage, takes the 'set'.

Most matches are played to the best of three or five sets.

  • If, in any set other than the decider, the score reaches six games each, players must engage in a 'tie break' and the player who scores seven or more points with a two point advantage, wins.

Playing tennis shots

In a long rally, you'll use forehand and backhand, lob high balls over your opponent's head and fire back quick volleys.

Practise the basic shots, as follow below, then master the service – which must open each point. Remember: a good serve puts your opponent on the defensive.

Good things come in fours: 4-step breakdown

4 easy steps to serve

  1. Stand at the baseline with your body sideways on, and transfer some of your weight to your back foot.
  2. With a straight arm, toss the ball up and slightly forward, and bring your racket arm back into a 'throwing' position.
  3. As the ball reaches its highest point, bring your racket arm forwards, overhead.
  4. Aim to strike the ball at as high a point as possible, as this maximizes power of the impact and the angle of the bounce, making the serve harder for your opponent to reach and return.

4-step forehand

  1. As the ball approaches you on your racket side (your right, if you're right-handed), bring the racket head back in a loop, so that it reaches head height.
  2. Turn your body away, so that you put all the muscle power of your legs and torso into the shot.
  3. Bring the racket around, aiming to make contact in front of your body as the ball bounces up to waist height.
  4. Follow through, so that your racket arm comes across your body, finishing high.

4-step backhand

  1. If the ball is coming to your non-racket side (your left, if you're right-handed), draw the racket across your body so that it lies horizontally across your midriff.
  2. Step up to meet the ball in front of the body.
  3. Strike it (double-handed style) as your weight comes onto your front foot, so that your forward momentum adds power to the shot.
  4. Push with your legs as well as your arm at the moment of impact, finishing high.
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