Tennis Terms (Top 6 Basic Breakdowns)

By Lin
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Tennis has its own slang and terminology that may seem confusing at first, but once you get used to it, you will be using these words when watching matches or playing yourself. 

Check out this article for an explanation of some common tennis terminology below.

Table of contents

  1. On Court
  2. Equipment
  3. Scoring
  4. Rules
  5. Strokes
  6. Titles

1. On Court

Tennis Court Diagram


The line at the farthest ends of the court indicates the boundary of the area of play.

Center Service Line

The line between the two service boxes.

Singles Sideline

Marks the outer limits of the side of the court during a game of singles.

Doubles Sideline

Marks the outer limits of the side of the court during a game of doubles.

Service Box

They are separated into left and right boxes by the center service line. A serve is supposed to land in the opponent’s right service box.

Doubles Alley

The space between singles and doubles lines.

No Man’s Land

The area between the service line and baseline, It’s the largest box on the court. It’s the area most pro players tend to not stay on during the contest.

Service Line

The top line of the no man’s land.


Interlaced fabric, cord, and tape are stretched across the entire width of the court; it is held up by the posts.

2. Equipment


A padded tape can be wrapped over the racquet handle to absorb moisture or add gripping assistance.


The strings are where contact with the ball is supposed to be made.

Sweet Spot

The central area is the best location for hitting the ball.

Ball Machine

A machine that shoots tennis balls onto the court at a similar speed and trajectory as a human player, allowing an individual to practice their strokes without the need for a partner.

Racquet Dampener

A small rubber device is affixed to the strings of the racket to absorb some of the vibration caused by hitting the ball.

3. Scoring


A score of zero.


The first point of a game


When a player wins the two points of a game


When a player wins the three points of a game


A score of 40–40 in a game. A player must win two consecutive points from a deuce to win the game.

Advantage (AD)

When one player wins the first point from a deuce and needs one more point to win the game; not applicable when using deciding points.


A game consists of a sequence of points that one player must have four points or two points ahead to win and is a segment of a set. Six games equal one set.


A set consists of games and the first player to win six games with a two-game advantage wins the set.


A contest between two players (singles match) or two teams of players (doubles match), normally played as the best of three or five sets.


The player who plays around the baseline during play and relies on the quality of their groundstrokes.

4. Rules


A ball landed inside the boundary lines of the court.


A ball landed outside the boundary lines of the court.


A call is when a player’s serve hits the net but lands in the correct service box.


Serve that fails to land the ball in the opponent’s service box.


A serve lands in the service box and the returner is unable to touch it with their racket.

Service Break

A game wins by the serve receiver.


A game is played when the score is 6–6 in a set to decide the winner of the set; the winner is the first to reach at least seven points with a difference of two points over the opponent.

Break Point

The point which, if won by the receiver, would result in a break of service; arises when the score is 30–40 or 40–ad. A double break point or two break points arises at 15–40; a triple break point or three break points arises at 0–40.

5. Strokes


A stroke in which the player hits the ball with the dominant hand.


A stroke in which the player hits the ball with the non-dominant hand.


A grip is how you hold the racquet handle. For more details on grips, see our article on tennis grips guide.


The starting stroke of each point. The ball must be hit into the opponent’s service box. 


Shot with underspin (backspin), or a serve with sidespin.


Play in which the player hits the ball lightly enough to just go over the net, designed to catch a player who is away from the net off guard.


A stroke is where a player hits the ball back over the net before the ball touches the ground.


The stroke made by the receiver of a serve.


A Stroke is when the ball is hit high above the net to win the point offensively or defensively to give the player time to recover and get in the position.

Tweener Shot

A tweener in tennis is a between-the-legs shot typically played when a person runs down a lob and has no time to turn.


Stroke in which the player hits the ball over their head.


Forehand or backhand shot that is executed after the ball bounces once on the court.

Serve and Volley

Method of play to serve and immediately move forward to the net to make a volley with the intent to hit a winner and end the point.


A series of shots made successfully by players. Also, the practice procedure for players hit the ball back and forth with each other.


The Spin goes forward over the top of the ball, causing the ball to dip and bounce at a higher angle to the court.


A stroke in which the player misses the ball completely. 

Open Stance

The feet are aligned parallel to the net.

Semi-open Stance

The feet are set on a diagonal to the ball direction.

Neutral Stance

The feet are set perpendicular to the net.

Closed Stance

The feet and the body are turned sideways to the net.

6. Titles

Grand Slam

A player who wins four grand slam champions in a calendar year. For more details, please see our article on what is a grand slam in tennis.

Career Grand Slam

A player who wins four grand slam champions in his or her career.

Golden Slam

A player who wins four grand slam champions and one Olympic Gold Medal in the calendar year.

Year-end No.1 Ranking

A player’s ranking of the year-end No.1 after all ATP tournaments.

What’s Next

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Editor of All Points Tennis and a huge Roger Federer fan, I've spent countless hours studying his moves, especially his forehand and one-handed backhand. I also love writing about all the technical stuff like rackets and strings. I'm super pumped to share my insights with fellow tennis lovers here.