You might be here because you’re interested to learn to play tennis and get the essentials covered.
If you’re looking to get started on playing a new sport and think tennis will do the trick, stay tuned. Tennis is a sport that is well-loved around the world. It is estimated that over 17 million people play tennis in the US alone.
Tennis is a sport that requires a good mastery of technical abilities but can be played well into old age. Tennis is engaging and challenges players to anticipate, react and play with the flow. The tennis community is one of the biggest sports communities in the world, gripping the eyes of millions of fans every year for ATP Tournaments.
Everything You Need To Know About Playing Tennis At First
We’ll keep things short and simple for the sake of this post, providing you a rudimentary knowledge – just enough to get you out there and playing.
In essence, the most important rule to learn is how to play a tennis point. It’s only an issue of knowing how the score system works after you’ve grasped that.
What are the benefits of Playing Tennis?
What equipment is needed to play tennis?
Tennis requires really only a few pieces of equipment to get started. You can shop online or buy second hand if you are just starting out.
Do I need to join a fancy country club to play tennis?
No! I have been playing tennis for many years and joining a tennis club is not necessary!
Most places have free tennis courts that you can play on outdoors.
If you are looking to play indoors then you may need to find a gym or a club with indoor courts.
What tennis do I need as a beginner?
Getting a tennis racket is one of the first things you will want to do.
If you are a tennis newbie then you may want to borrow one from a friend before making a purchase.
Tennis rackets range in price from around $15 to well over $100.
If you buy a racket that is pre-strung it won’t cost you much.
Some premium rackets will cost you more and you will have to get them strung.
You will want to find one that works for you and your budget.
If you are just starting off….one like this would work just fine!
Start out by making sure the weight of the racket is not too heavy.
Get a feel for how the grip feels in your hand.
There are a few different brands of tennis balls to choose from.
You can start off with purchasing a can or balls (like this) or a bag (like this) depending on how much you plan on playing.
You will need to switch out balls once they start to go flat.
Having a good pair of athletic shoes is important to keep your body safe and strong.
Trust me… you do not want to experience shin splints.
Visit your local shoe store for court shoes that will protect your feet especially if you will be playing outside on a concrete court.
Can you play tennis in running shoes? You can…and if you are just trying out that may be a good option.
If you plan on playing tennis on a regular basis…I would get yourself a pair of court shoes (like this).
Here is a complete list of tennis equipment in case you have some questions.
You will want to pick out clothing that is comfortable and you can move well in.
Having pockets in your shorts, skirt, or pants is preferable so that you have somewhere to stick extra balls.
You can find my favorite cute tennis outfits here.
How Do You Play Tennis? The Basic Rules of Tennis
You have your equipment now…so how do you play tennis?
The goal of tennis is to hit a ball back and forth across the net until you can score a point.
In order to score a point your opponent is going to have to either miss the ball, hit it out of bounds, or hit it in the net.
One of the best things to remember when you are wanting to win a point is to let your opponent make the mistake.
Sometimes we try to get fancy and put a spin on a shot or hit it really hard and that is not the way to win.
Be patient and just focus on hitting the ball on the tennis court and over the net!
How to Start a Tennis Game
Whether you are playing doubles or singles they both start usually with a racket spin.
There are generally two ways of doing this.
You can either put your tennis racket head on the ground and let it spin until it drops or you can spin it in your hand away from your opponent and let them say “stop” (this method is easier on your racket.)
This is to decide what side of the court each player is on as well as who gets to serve first.
It is very similar to a coin toss.
If you look on the end of the handle to your racket you will see some sort of symbol. It will depend on what brand you have as to what you see.
If you have a Wilson racket you will want to have the spin be either “M” or “W”. If you have a Prince racket it will be a “D” or “P”….you get the idea!
Who ever wins the spin gets to pick whether they would like to choose the side that they start on or if they would like to serve first.
I won the flip….What should I pick?
This is going to vary from one person to the next but I always choose to serve first.
Your tennis serve is YOUR way of controlling the point, the game, and the match!
If you are not happy with your serve…then maybe pick the side until you feel more confident.
If the sun is in your eyes and you forgot your shades. Pick the side.
The Sequence of a Tennis Game
Once the server is decided they start the game by starting at the baseline to serve the ball from the right side of the court.
When serving they are aiming across the court diagonally to the service box on the other side of the net.
If the serve is “in” then that point is played out until the ball goes out of bounds, in the net, or bounces twice.
If the server misses the serve, they get a second chance to serve.
If the second serve is missed the point is over and the receiver wins the point.
To start the next point the server walks to the left hand of the court to serve the next point and the receiver switches sides as well.
Once the game is over…the serve goes to the opponent and they serve the entire next game.
Tennis Scoring…Don’t let it scare you!
One of the most frighting parts of learning how to play tennis is the scoring.
Have you ever watched a tennis match and had no clue what the players are talking about?
Does it seem like they are just yelling out random numbers?
It may seem a bit random at first…but you will get the hang of it. Here is a quick outline of the basics.
You play each “point”. Points add up to a game. Games add up to a set.
Winning sets…leads up to winning the match!
Points go like this:
First point won: 15
Second point won: 30
Third Point won: 40
Fourth Point: Game
All: This means you have a tied score. Expect when you have a deuce. Example: 30 All
Deuce: When the score is 40-40
Ad in: Server needs one more point to win.
Ad out: Receiver needs one more point to win.
In order to win a game you have to be 2 points up.
You must win at least 6 games and be ahead by 2 in order to claim a set. Once you have won 2 sets…then you have won the match.
Still confused? Read our complete guide on tennis scoring
Tennis Learning Tips: Doubles Tennis
Doubles tennis requires 4 people.
Each team consists of two people.
You use the outside alley lines as your out of bounds lines.
This allows for a larger playing area then singles play.
Singles tennis consists of 2 people.
You use the inner alley lines to determine what area is played.
How to Play Tennis Against a Wall
This is how I started to play tennis.
If you aren’t ready to play a match and want to practice this is the best way.
Find a wall or a backboard (some tennis courts have these.)
Then you just hit. It is one of the best ways to really get to know how to control your body when playing tennis.
It will give you lots of repetitive practice while you try to master all of the different strokes.
Here are some more ideas on how to practice tennis alone.
How to Get Into Tennis Tournaments
Once you are ready for some competition you can enter a tennis tournament.
You can find these in your city’s parks and recreational guides.
Check with tennis clubs in your area as well to see if they run any tournaments as well.
Types of Tennis Strokes
This is one of the most important strokes in tennis. It starts off every point…game…set…and match!
Serving a tennis ball requires you to toss it in to the air and make contact with it before it falls down to the ground.
You are aiming for the service box which is diagonal from you across the net.
You get two chances to get your serve in that glorious box.
That is a pretty cool part of tennis. You can blow your first serve…and you get a redo! Yay!
The goal is to get that first serve in…but if you don’t…luckily you get a second chance.
Learn how to serve like a pro here.
A forehand hit is when your grasp on your racket is so that your palm faces the net.
You can read our full beginner’s guide on how to hit a forehand here.
This hit is when your the back of your hand is the one that faces the net when you make contact with the ball.
You can do this using two hands or one…but we will get into that more later!
A volley is when you use your racket to just “punch” the ball over the net. You will use this hit when your are close to the net.
The overhead can be a powerful shot, but it can also be a cause for silly mistakes.
This shot is mainly used when a ball is high in the air and you have lots of time to make contact with it.
You bring your racket overhead and smash the ball with a powerful swing!
It can be a fun shot…but it can also wind up in the net or out of bounds if not done correctly.
The lob is a shot used to hit the ball high in the air and deep into your opponent’s court.
Lobs can be used strategically to get the ball to a place where your opponent is not.
This shot requires lots of practice to perfect!
How to Serve the Ball
Learning to serve is one of the most important skills you will gain as a tennis player.
Here are some basic tips for serving.
You will stand with your feet behind the baseline and toss the tennis ball into the air.
As the ball travels back down, you make contact with it pushing it over the net and diagonally into the service box where your opponent is.
There is no one way to serve a tennis ball…and there is no formula to follow that will get you the perfect serve.
Some people toss high others toss low.
Some people hop…others keep their feet planted.
You will want to spend a lot of time practicing this crucial stroke.
You can find more tips on how to improve your serve here.
Tennis Court Lines
What is the deal with all the white lines?
They mark the court in order to let you know where you can hit the ball and make it “playable.”
If you hit outside of the lines, the point is over.
What if the ball lands on the line? It is considered in! Even if it just grazes the line it is still considered in bounds and playable.
Let’t take a closer look at the different lines on a tennis court.
This is the line at the very back of the court. You will need to stand behind it when you serve.
You will also find this to be a popular hang out spot while playing out a point.
The service box is your target for when you are serving. If you serve and it lands outside the box, then it is not playable.
This is the line that designates where the court ends on the side when playing singles.
This is the outermost line and defines the boundaries for doubles play when it comes to width.
Tennis etiquette will help your match run smoothly. Here are a few guidelines to keep in mind to keep your tennis match friendly and on track.
Extra Balls on the Court
You do not want extra balls rolling about your court. Why? Because it is a good way to get a broken ankle or hurt.
If there is a ball that is loose…pick it up! Especially if it is on your side of the court.
Make Honest Calls
You are the line judge.
Your opponent is also a line judge.
If the ball landed outside the line you call it out.
If the ball lands inside the lines it is considered playable and you need to call it in…even if you miss it!
What if the ball lands and just BARELY grazes the line? That ball is in! Make honest calls and your opponent will to.
What if you aren’t sure if it was in or out?
This can happen as sometimes that ball is flying.
ALWAYS assume the ball was in…even if you are unsure.
RELATED POST: 8 Tennis Workouts to Get You in Shape
Keep Track of Scoring
It is the servers job to call out the score before each point.
This will help both of you remember the score though out your match.
It is important to do this because sometimes points get long and distractions can happen.
There is no scoreboard to check either.
What happens if you forget the score?
Check with you opponent and see if they remember.
If they don’t remember then go back to the score that you both remember last and play from there.
Play a Let
Someone else’s tennis ball enters the court you are playing on.
A stray dog tries to catch your serve.
Feisty squirrels attack your opponent.
If something random happens that disrupts the game call a “let.” This just means you forget about that point and redo it.
Did you forget your glasses?
Bad calls happen. Sometimes they are on purpose but most of the time they are by accident.
If your opponent made a call and you are SURE it was in, it is ok to double check with them.
They may have seen it from a different angle or called it before they had time to process it.
If someone questions your call don’t take offense.
Stick with what you said if you are confident with your call.
Time for a water break?
Playing tennis in the heat calls for extra attention to hydration.
This etiquette question is one I had to double check on.
In my days of competitive tennis you could ONLY take a drink of water during the change overs.
The USTA says that it is ok to drink water between points if needed.
You can read more about that HERE.
Are you ready to play?
I hope you have found this guide to be helpful and has made you feel confident about trying out tennis.
Make sure you check out these quick tennis tips if you want to step up your game.
Still getting in shape? Check out our guide on strength and conditioning for tennis.
Remember…practice makes perfect!
Frequently Asked Questions About Tennis
How can I get better at tennis?
You can improve your tennis skills by watching others. Take time to analyze how others play and try out some of the tactics they use. You can also practice tennis by getting out on the court as much as you can. If you are by yourself you can practice your serves or footwork.Is it hard to learn to play tennis?
No it is not hard to learn tennis. Another great part of learning to play tennis is you can really learn to play at any age. Tennis players can start at very young ages, but there are also many tennis players that start when they are older.How can I teach myself to play tennis?
You can teach yourself to play tennis by using books, videos, and this website. Learn about the types of strokes that are used in tennis and practice them. You will also want to watch videos on how to serve. Read about how to keep score in tennis and you will be almost ready to play your first match.