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Tennis: Gameplay Basics

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Play of a Tennis Point

A tennis match is made up of a series of points. In tennis, opposing players are on opposite sides of the net. Each point is started by a serve. The player that hits the serve is called the server. The server alternates between the two sides for every game played.

To serve the tennis ball the server stands behind the baseline and between the centerline and the sideline. The server will alternate which sideline for every point that is played. The server must hit the ball over the net, without touching it, and into the service box that is diagonally opposite from where he/she is standing. The server gets two tries to get the ball in or loses the point. If the server hits the net, but the tennis ball still falls into the service box, this is called a "let" and the serve is done over with no penalty to either side.

Once the server hits the ball in the opposite team will attempt to hit it back and a rally will begin where each team must hit the ball over the net and into the opposite court without allowing the ball to bounce twice on their side of the court.

Black and white drawing of people playing tennis
Source: Sport Canadiana
Tennis Scoring

A tennis match is made up of a number of sets. Usually the sets are best two out of three or three out of five to win the match. Each set is made up of games. Typically the first player to win 6 games wins the set, but must win by at least two sets. Different tournaments may use different rules to break a 6 to 6 set tie. Some tennis matches will require the players to keep playing sets until one player wins by two sets. This can make for a very long tennis match. The most popular way to break the tie is to have a tie-breaker where the tennis players play to a certain number of points. Usually the winner must win by two points or more.

Each game is scored by points as described in the previous section. The serving side for each game alternates between the players or teams. It takes four points to win a game and the winner must win by at least two points. There are specific tennis terms for the number of points won. Zero points is called love, one point is fifteen, two points is called thirty, and three is forty. So when you hear a tennis score for a game called out as forty-fifteen it means the server has 3 points and the opponent has 1.

Tennis Equipment

The basic equipment for the tennis player includes the racquet, the standard tennis ball, and good tennis shoes.

The racquet has a long handle with an oval at the end that is strung tightly with strings. The tennis player tries to hit the ball in the center of the strings to get the most power and control over the tennis shot. Racquets vary in head size, length and weight. To get more power use a long, heavy racquet with a large head. To get more control, try a shorter, lighter racquet with a smaller head. Each player needs to find the right combination of these features as well as the tightness of strings to suit their tennis style of play.

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