The Basics of Tennis – A Grand Game

Tennis is a grand game, there can be no denying that. It is a great game with a grand history. In the coming weeks I will be taking tennis back to the roots, looking at the history of the game, its greatest moments, players and events. Today however, I want to take a look at the basic rules of tennis.

The tennis rules that make up not only the structure of the game but also the etiquette that goes along with it.

I have brushed on tennis rules before, and have also looked at the point scoringsystem in minor detail, but today I want to look at the game as a whole. The broad spectrum of tennis rules, if you will. 

Starting the Match; A Gentleman’s Affair

While in the amateur tennis circles many a match must started based on the grounds of a simple gentlemen’s agreement, in active competition it is the old-fashioned coin toss. A fair an honest way to start any match.

Whoever wins the toss gets to choose who serves first and from which side of the court.

The game begins and after the first point is won the server moves to the other side of the court, staying on the same side of the next. This horizontal swap continues throughout the match. 

Tennis ball on a coloured court.

Two Chances to Get it Right

When serving, tennis rules state are lenient. They give you a continual second chance. The second serve is not optional, you cannot choose to take it or not, but rather a chance at redemption that comes each and every point of every service game you have.

A second chance to save the point and keep yourself in the game. Just don’t waste it. As a rule of thumb, make your second tennis serve a little more easy going that the first. Play for the longer point, and not the booming ace. 

Game, Set… Not just Yet.

Playing tennis is one thing, winning at playing tennis is something else. A good tennis match can last anywhere from an hour to two or three. It depends on your abilities, your stamina, and the caliber of opponent you are facing.

The basic rule of thumb is that winning six games, with a two game cushion, gives you a victory in the set. However, it takes two or maybe even three full sets before you can claim to have won the tennis match. So it is feasible that you could play three, four, maybe even five sets before victory is yours.

Tennis balls on tennis rackets

Two Squares and a Rectangle; Your New Kingdom

So, a tennis match takes paced on two sides of the net, but your focus should be on winning points, and winning the game. That means the two squares and one rectangle on the opposite side the net. Return the ball over the net, and keep it within the outer edges of the court, and you are in the middle of a game. Keep the ball inside those lines in such a way that means it doesn’t come back to you, and you win the point.

Just don’t forget that while you are busy attacking the other side of the court, you have an identical space on your side of the net that you need to protect. 

No Distractions Allows; The Gentlemen’s Agreement Returns.

It is only fitting to end with a little bit of gentlemanly advice. When playing a tennis match, it is only fair that you play within the constraints of the gentleman’s agreement.

What this means is that you play fair, you don’t try to distract your opponent either when they are serving or during the game by doing anything that it not sporting. Gamesmanship is not appreciated in any sport, but in a tennis match it is taken even more serious.

This extends to touching the net, which is a big no-no in thte tennis rules book.

Just remember, gamesmanship will cost you a point instantly. 

Tennis ball with the shadow of the net

And the Number One Rule When Playing Tennis.

Have fun. It is a simple rule, but the most important. It doesn’t matter who you are, whether you are knocking the ball around against a garage wall, or serving for the match on Wimbledon’s center court, the ultimate tennis rule is to have fun.

Nothing is worth doing if you don’t enjoy it, so relax, take it easy and just let the good times roll. 

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