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Tennis Court Etiquette

The following rules of etiquette are mostly common courtesy, and should be followed whether you’re playing tennis at the country club or at public courts. Most of us know the right thing to do, we just need a gentle reminder every now and then.

Show respect and courtesy
To your opponent(s), your partner, and others on or near the courts. Keep your voice down and confined to your court as much as possible so as not to disrupt players on adjacent courts. If you get into a loud dispute with your opponent, take it off the court and away from other players.

Do not walk onto another court during a game
Wait for the players to finish the game, or minimally the point, before walking onto their court. It is very distracting to have someone disrupt a game in progress, so if you must cross another court, do so after the game is finished, and go around the court, not through the middle.

Do not retrieve your ball from the other court
As with the above, it is common courtesy not to disrupt players on court during a match. If your ball rolls onto an adjacent court, wait for them to finish the game and kindly ask for “a little help” to get their attention. Under no circumstances should you run over onto their court in the middle of a game to retrieve the ball yourself.

Always wear proper tennis shoes
This isn’t because of the country club dress attire, it’s because black-soled shoes leave marks on the courts that are difficult to get off. Make sure you wear tennis shoes onto the courts. The proper shoes also give your feet the needed lateral support when running down balls, and making abrupt changes in direction.

Use the tennis courts for tennis
A great deal of money goes into maintaining tennis courts, and it is not for BMX racing with bicycles or roller hockey and rollerblading. These other activities can damage the court surface, leaving it unplayable for tennis players, and can result in a large expenditure for repairs.

Close the gate behind you
Whether you’re coming onto the courts, or leaving, it is common courtesy to close the gate behind you. This will keep the balls inside the confines of the gate and they won’t roll outside.

Pick up after yourself
Don’t leave empty soda cans or old tennis balls out on the court when you leave. Dispose of any garbage you have in trash containers on or near the court – if there aren’t any, take it with you. If you have old tennis balls that you don’t want anymore, don’t leave them on the court – give them to the park and rec or local school.

Monitor children on the courts at all times
Everyone who plays tennis wants to encourage kids to play the game as well, but the kids must also follow these rules. Since kids can tend to get distracted, it’s up to the adults with them to assist. Stray balls, running around and yelling are actions that need to be managed.

Have fun!
The entire objective of playing tennis, aside from being good aerobic exercise, is to have fun. You can follow these rules of etiquette and still have a good time on the courts - the players on adjacent courts will appreciate it.

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Tennis basics 101

At first glance tennis seems like an easy game to play. You just have to whack a ball over a net, right? Well, yes, but there’s a little more to it than that. You soon discover this when you start playing. Serving is difficult and scoring the game can be quite confusing.

For those just introducing themselves to the sport of tennis this guide will take you through the basics and set you well on the road to playing a good game of tennis.

The court

The game of tennis is played on a court 78 feet long by 27 feet wide on a variety of surfaces including clay, grass, carpet and hard. The court is divided in half by a net over which players must hit the ball. There are white baselines at each end of the court, where serves are taken and beyond which the ball must not bounce - if it does, then the ball is out and the hitter loses the point. Each side is lined with two white marks to indicate the width of the court. The inner line shows the dimensions for singles play and the outer for doubles play. Stretching from the net, to halfway down the court, there is a short white line dividing it into boxes - this is the service court.

The play

Tennis can be played as a singles game - with one player on each side of the net - or as doubles play - with two players on each side. Each point is started with a serve, taken from behind the baseline. The ball must bounce into the service court on the diagonally opposite side and the point continues until one player fails to hit the ball back or puts it outside the court dimensions.


Standing with both feet behind the baseline you need to take up a sideways stance. Keep your left foot pointed towards the right-hand net post. Your left hand is holding the ball and will be raised into an upright position to release the ball above your head - a good height to throw the ball is about 18 inches above your normal reach. Make sure you don’t release the ball too soon - it will fly at an angle towards the net and force you to lean forward to hit it. Ideally the ball should be thrown about 1 foot in front of your left foot.

While the ball in the air you need to bring your racket back and up towards the throwing action you will use to hit the ball. You should be ready to hit the ball at full stretch, with your racket arm straight, at the highest point you can reach it. At this stage you are switching the weight of your body from your back foot to the front one to give added strength to your shot.

Make sure that you hit the ball with an "up and over" action - as if you were throwing the racket at the ball. After you hit the ball, follow through with your swing and this will carry you forward into the court to hit the returned shot.

(Note: These instructions presume you are a right-handed player.)

Continuing Play

Once the serve is successfully hit, the play continues with a variety of different shots. The most common shot you will play is the ground stroke (the name given to a shot that is taken after the ball has bounced once). These can be broken down into the forehand (made with the face of the racket, with the palm of your hand facing the ball) or the backhand (made with the reverse side of the racket, with the palm of your hand facing away from the ball).

Hitting these shots successfully very much depends on how you grip the racket. There are two distinct grips for the two distinct shots in tennis - the forehand and backhand - so it important to learn each one to play the shot well.

For the forehand

The most common grip in tennis is the eastern forehand and the one you will use for your forehand drive and the majority of your shots. It has often been dubbed the "shake hands" grip because you take the racket in your hand as if you are going to shake hands with it. To ensure that you have the correct grip, it’s a good idea to place your hand flat on the racket strings, then slide your hand down to the handle. Now wrap your fingers around the racket and keeping tension out of your fingers. Your first finger should be forward slightly as if your were holding the trigger of a gun.

For play on hard courts, players have developed a western grip and it is good for those high bouncing balls. For this grip, move your thumb clockwise on to the top of the handle and your palm will slide under the handle, making it easier to play waist-high shots.

For the backhand

First adopt the eastern forehand, then move your hand anti-clockwise around the handle, tucking your thumb underneath and making sure your palm is more on the top. Wrapping your thumb around the handle like this, allows the grip to be more firm. However, you must make sure that your fingers are not too close together.

Many players adopt a two-handed backhand for extra strength. Adopt the same grip, bracing your second hand adjacent to the first.

As a general rule, adopt the eastern forehand for the serve and overhead smash, as well as the forehand ground stroke. For volleys (made when you hit the ball without letting it bounce first) simply adopt the forehand or backhand grip, depending on the direction of the volley.

The score

Probably the most difficult thing for beginners is the scoring of the game. If all the "love", "deuce" and "tie-breaker" is totally confusing to you during a tennis match, then you’ll need to brush up on how tennis is scored. It may seem complicated at first but learning the basics will help you understand the game better.

The Match

Firstly, the full game is called a match and a player wins a match by winning either 2 out of the possible 3 sets or 3 of the possible 5 sets (as in some men’s games).

The Set

A player wins a set by winning 6 games (but he must win by two games. For example, he cannot win a set at 6-5. He must win one more to make it 7-5). If the players tie at 6 games each in a set, they must play a tiebreaker. The player who wins this must get to 7 points but again he must win by 2 points. The tiebreaker will continue after one gets to 7 until one player is two points ahead - it is not unusual, therefore, for a tiebreaker to go to 12-10 or some similar score. The exception to this rule is the Wimbledon Championships - here the last set in a match cannot be decided on a tiebreaker and the players will continue to play until one wins by two games.

The Game

Each game is divided into 4 scores - "15", "30", "40" and "game". If a player has no score in a game, then he is at "love". So the players start their game. When one scores a point he will be at "15-love". The second player wins the next point and the score goes to "15-15" and so on until one reaches "game". If both players tie at "40-40", this is called "deuce" and now the win-by-two rule comes into play again. At "40-40" the next player to win a point will go to "advantage" and then to "game".

Point to remember

The server’s score is always given first, so if the core is "30-15" you know that the server has won 2 points in the game and is at "30".

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