Do you speak tennis?

     No matter what field of endeavor that you want to learn about, it's important to be able to "speak the language." Therefore, I provide you with this glossary of tennis words.  As you might expect, some of the words also apply to other sports.


15: This is the number used for the first point a player wins in a standard game of tennis.  We go "around the clock" in tennis scoring, one quarter of the way with each point.  Do you know tennis' word for zero?

30: This is the number used for the second point won in a standard game of tennis.  We are now two quarters of the way around the clock.  If you were serving and had two points, and your opponent had one point, then just before starting the fourth point, you would call out "30-15."  The server's score is always called out first.

40: You may have expected us to use the number "45" for a player's third point, and that would be logical, but somewhere along the line, the tennis powers decided that 40 was a better choice, because it is spoken with only two syllables, while the number 45 has three.  If player wins a fourth point (following the "40" point), and the opponent has two points [30] or less, then the player wins a game!

Ace:   [noun]  a serve that is hit so well that the receiver doesn't even touch the ball before its second bounce, or doesn't touch the ball at all;   With a near-ace, a strong serve that the receiver actually touched, but was unable to do more than that, we usually call this a service winner.   [verb] to hit an ace

Ad Court: [noun] commonly spoken slang for advantage court;  the left-hand side of the tennis court.  Whenever one player has the Advantage and is about to win a game, the server and the receiver start the point to the left of the center mark.  Players also begin the point on the left side when the score is: 15-love, 30-15, and 40-30; whenever an odd number of points have been played.

Ad In, Ad out: [noun] tennis slang that denotes one player has the advantage and is about to win a game if he/she wins the advantage point.  Ad In means that the server has the advantage.  Ad Out means that the receiver has the advantage.

Adult: [adjective] For players, this refers to those who are 19 years of age or older.  Also refers to parents of junior players.   Juniors have also played in some adult and professional tournaments, with limitations placed by the organization or association that runs the event

Adult Discipline: [noun] a situation where an adult, such as a teacher, coach, parent, guardian, etc, who is accountable for the unsportsmanlike behavior of a junior player, either stops a match in progress, or prevents a match from taking place at all.  If a match was in progress when Adult Discipline occurs, then the match is called a Retirement.  If Adult Discipline occurs before a match begins, then it is scored as a Default.

Advantage: [noun] refers to a player who is about to win a game.  The advantage point is always a game point.  If a player holding the advantage loses the point, then the score goes back to Deuce.  The score in a game can go back and forth between "Deuce" and "Advantage _____" for several minutes or longer.

Advantage Set:  [noun] a set where the outcome is decided by one player or the other winning six games and also achieving a margin of two games.  No tiebreaker is used.  If the score reaches 6-all, the players continue playing until one of them is leads by two games.  Advantage sets can go on for several hours, ending with scores like 14-12, 18-16, 27-25, etc.

Advantage Scoring, or Regular Scoring: [noun] scoring of a game using the 15, 30, 40, Game, Advantage _________, Deuce, Ad In, Ad Out; The player must win four points and be ahead by two points to win this type of game.  If the score becomes "Deuce" [3 points or more for each side], then one player or doubles team must win two consecutive points to win the game.

Amateur: [noun] a player who may not accept any prize money beyond expenses.  Contrast with: Professional.

American Twist serve: [noun] also called a kicker; a spin serve, where the right-handed server grazes the ball from
7 o'clock to 1 o'clock, with the racket head finishing left-to-right.  The [right-handed] American twist serve moves sideways to the server's right after bouncing, in addition to bouncing abnormally high.  A good left-handed American twist serve will move sideways to the server's left after bouncing.  Excellent examples will clear the net by roughly seven or eight feet.

Approach shot: [noun] any shot that helps the player come up to the net.  Possibilities could be: a serve, a groundstroke, a swing volley, a drop shot, or a lob.  Approach shots must either make the opponent run, or put the opponent on the defensive, or both.  If the overall quality of the approach shot is poor or doesn't sufficiently attack the opponent in some way, then the net-rusher will often lose the point.

ATP: [noun] acronym for Association of Tennis Professionals.  Jack Kramer and Cliff Drysdale and others helped create the organization in 1972.  Today, the ATP World Tour supervises the vast majority of professional men's tennis tournaments all over the world. History

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Australian Open: [noun] the first Grand Slam event of the year, held in Melbourne during the second half of January.

Backhand: [noun] a groundstroke, normally hit on shots arriving on the player's non-dominant side.  For right-handed players, backhands are usually hit when the ball bounces on the player's left-hand side.  For left-handed players, backhands are most often hit when the ball bounces to the right of the player.  Backhands can be hit with one or two hands.

Backhand Volley: [noun] a backhand shot hit before the ball bounces

Backspin: [noun] another name for slice or underspin on groundstrokes, volleys, lobs, dinks, drop shots, etc.

Baseline(s): [noun] the two lines forming the ends of a tennis court.  They run parallel to the net, and 39 feet away from it.  The baseline covers the entire width of the court: 36 feet for doubles, and 27 feet for singles.
[adjective] refers to a player [also: "baseliner"] who prefers to play near the back end of the court and not come up to the net unless it's necessary, for example, when a short ball or a drop shot comes along that ought to be attacked or retrieved.

to Break Serve: [verb] refers to the winning of a game by the receiver.  The server is normally expected to win a game, and so, if he/she does not hold serve, that is significant.  Among strong players, one service break per set is enough to win a match.  With tiebreakers, they don't even need to break serve to win a set!

Break Point: [noun] a point in which the receiver is about to win a game; If a receiver wins a break point, then he/she wins a game and is said to have broken serve.

Bye: [noun] A word used to denote an empty line in a draw sheet;  A player who is paired with a Bye slot moves on to the next round without actually having to play a match.  A draw for a tennis tournament traditionally has 2, 4, 8, 16, 32, 64, 128 etc lines in it.  If the actual number of players entered in a tournament is not equal to a power of 2, then the remaining slots in the draw are designated with the word "Bye."

Center mark: [noun] a short strip of paint, about four to six inches long and two inches wide, that moves inward from the baseline; The center mark splits the baseline in half, showing a boundary that the server must be on one side of prior to serving.  The rules talk about "an imaginary extension of the center mark and the sidelines" that the server must be inside of.

Center service line: [noun] the line which cuts the service box area in half, forming two service boxes on each side, adjacent to the net.  In the very center of the court, it runs parallel to the sidelines, extending 21 feet from the net to each service line and stops, forming what we often call the "T."

Chair Umpire: [noun] an umpire who normally sits in an elevated chair near one of the net posts; can be a solo chair umpire who oversees a particular match alone, or acting with the help of several line umpires

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Changeover: [noun] this is when the players take a break as they switch ends of the court.  Changeovers always take place after on odd number of games have been played.  Add up the game score, and if you get an odd number, then it's time to change ends.

Circuit: [noun] a group of tournaments, usually in the same part of the world; for example: the spring European clay court circuit.  Tournaments in the same circuit are held in sequence, one right after the other.

Clay courts: [noun or adjective] soft, porous tennis courts that are topped with a layer of crushed brick.   Players often slide on clay courts and Har-Tru courts, but for the most part, not on hard courts.  Most clay courts have a red-orange type of color.  The #1 clay-court tournament in the world is Rolland Garros [the French Open], a Grand Slam event that starts in the last week of May, in Paris.

The Code: [noun] a section of the USTA rule books [Rules of Tennis and Friend at Court] that describes many key elements of etiquette and sportsmanship, especially related to matches that have no officials.  The full title of it is: "The Code: The Players' Guide to Fair Play and The Unwritten Rules of Tennis." To get your own copy of a USTA rule book, here is a link: USTA shop <-- go to "NOVELTY," then click on "Books."

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Compass Draw: [noun] a type of tournament structure that allows players to keep playing after 3 or 4 losses.  Players go "north," "south," "east," "west," "northwest," etc to a different section on the draw sheet after they lose in the original group or subsequent groups.

Court: [noun] a tennis court is a rectangle, 78 feet long, and 36 feet wide for doubles, 27 feet wide for singles.    The singles sidelines and doubles sidelines cover the entire length of the court.  The doubles alleys, created by the two sidelines, are 4 1/2 feet wide.  
     The forecourt, created by the service line, the net, and the two singles sidelines, is split in half by the center service line.  The center service line, runs perpendicular to the net, goes under it, and extends from one service line to the other, creating the two service boxes on each side.  The service lines are 21 feet away from the net and parallel to it.
     The back court area, formed by the baseline, the two singles sidelines, and the service line, is a 27' by 18' rectangle often called "No Man's Land," due to the difficulty of returning a shot landing at the player's feet.

Crosscourt: [adjective or noun] describes hitting the ball from corner to corner after it crosses the net.  Sharply hit crosscourt balls that go over the sideline, instead of the baseline, make the opponent run a long way, sometimes completely off the court!  Contrast with: Down the line

Default: [noun] situation where [a] a player is required to leave a tournament after having the Point Penalty System applied, or [b] if the player says he/she won't play, for reasons that do not include injuries, being sick, or personal difficulties of some kind.  Also, [c] if a junior player has been disciplined by an adult and is not allowed to start a match, that is also noted as a default.  In the case of a junior being prevented from completing a match due to an Adult Discipline, that would be called a Retirement.

Deuce: [noun] in cards, the word means "two."  In tennis, the word means that both players have at least three points. In Advantage scoring, whenever the score becomes deuce, a player must win two consecutive points in order to win the game.  With No-Ad scoring, if both players win three points, then the next [7th] point decides the game.

Deuce court: [noun] refers to the right-hand side of the court.  Whenever the score is deuce, the server and receiver begin the point by standing to the right of the center mark.  The server always serves to the service box that is diagonally opposite from his/her position.  The right-hand side is also used at 15-all, 30-all, and 40-15, whenever an even number of points have been played.

Dink: [noun] a short ball, much like a drop shot, that lands close to the net.  Often used when the player is deep on the other side of the court from the dink's bounce point.  The shot might also be used when the opponent has been run sideways and off the court, as a final winner, ending the point.  Often hit crosscourt.

Doubles: [noun] two players playing against another two players.  We have boy's doubles, girl's doubles, men's doubles, women's doubles and mixed doubles [man and a woman against another man and woman]
[adjective] used to describe a player, match, tournament, part of the court, i.e., a doubles player, a doubles match, a doubles tournament, doubles sideline, etc

Double Elimination: [adjective] refers to a type of tournament where two losses are required to remove a player or doubles team from competition.

Doubles alley(s): [noun] The long, narrow strips found on the sides of a normal tennis court.  Formed by the singles sidelines, the doubles sidelines, and capped by the baselines, the two doubles alleys are 4 1/2 feet wide, and 78 feet long. They are only used in doubles matches.  Once in a great while, you might see a singles-only tennis court without the doubles alleys, but this is unusual.

Double-Bagel: [noun] used to denote a match where the final score was 6-0, 6-0.  Sometimes called "The Bicycle."

Doubles Sideline: [noun] the outermost sideline of a normal tennis court.  It covers the entire 78 feet of the length of the court.  Running parallel to it and 4 1/2 feet toward the center of the court, is the singles sideline.

to be Down a Break (of serve): [verb] situation where the losing side in a given set has had its serve broken once; Normally, the losing side is two games behind at this point.

Down the line: [adjective or noun] refers to hitting the ball straight ahead [not corner to corner];  Sometimes people will say "up the line," which means the same thing.

Draw Sheet: [noun] a listing of the pairings in a tournament; draw sheets have a power of 2 in the number of lines in the first and subsequent rounds: 2, 4, 8, 16, 32, 64, 128, etc.  The #1 and #2 seeds are placed on the top and bottom lines of the list.  Synonym: bracket

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Drop shot: [noun] an abbreviated type of groundstroke, where the player swings abruptly downward and under the ball, grazing it, in order to pop the ball up and produce heavy backspin. The idea is to get the ball to land as close to the net as possible and have it bounce a second time before the opponent can run up and retrieve it.  [verb] to hit a drop shot

Drop volley: [noun] a delicate volley where the net player takes the speed off the ball by absorbing its pace and also giving it some underspin, placing the ball close to the net, with the idea of getting the ball to bounce twice before the opponent can run up to the net and make conact.

Eastern backhand grip: [noun] a one-handed backhand grip, normally found by placing the index finger knuckle and the heel of the hand on the upper horizontal panel of the grip, "on top" of the grip, with the racket-face perpendicular to the ground.

Eastern forehand grip: [noun] often called the "shake hands" grip, the palm of the hand is behind the grip, centered close to the vertical panel of the grip [racket face vertical].  In the 1960's and 70's, the grip was defined as having the heel of the hand on the upper corner bevel, with the index finger knuckle on the vertical panel.  The grip seems to have been re-defined a little bit, with both index knuckle as well as the heel on the vertical panel.

Forced error: [noun] an error made after a high-quality shot that was not an outright winner, but was so difficult to make a play on it, that it was virtually impossible to get the ball back over the net.  Contrast with: Unforced error

Forehand: [noun] a groundstroke hit on the player's dominant side.  For example, a left-handed player's forehand would be for shots that bounce on the player's left side.  For a right-handed player, a forehand would be for shots that bounce on the player's right side.  Forehands are predominantly hit with one hand, but once in a while, we see a player who hits a two-handed forehand.  These players will frequently hit both of their groundstrokes with two hands.

Forehand Volley: [noun] a forehand shot hit before the ball bounces

Full-Western forehand grip: [noun] a forehand grip found by placing the palm and heel of the hand underneath the grip (racket face vertical), or covering the lower horizontal panel of the grip.  The Full-Western forehand grip is very good for hitting high balls, but weak for hitting low-bouncing balls that are significantly below the waist.

Futures: [noun] entry-level professional tournaments; formerly called Satellite tournaments.

Game: [noun] a unit of scoring [in normal "advantage" scoring] that is most often determined by the first player to win four points and be ahead by two points.  The first point won is called "15."  The second, "30."  The third point is called "40."  We say "40" rather than the expected "45" because the word "forty" has only two syllables, while "forty-five" has three.
     If both players earn three points [40], then the score is called "Deuce."  Once the score gets to Deuce, the winning player must win two consecutive points.  If one player wins the Deuce point he/she is said to have the Advantage.  If the other player then wins the Advantage point, then the score goes back to Deuce.  This can go on for several minutes or more until somebody wins two points in a row.
     Old tennis slang uses the expression "Ad-In" to mean that the server has the advantage, and "Ad-Out" to indicate that the receiver has the advantage.  In a serious match with Chair umpire, he/she would say "Advantage _________, using the player's last name after "Advantage."  The relatively large numbers for the point score [15, 30, 40] are in contrast to the lower numbers used to indicate the game score in a set [5-2, 4-1, 7-6, etc] or even lower numbers for the set score [1-0, 1-all, 2-0, 2-1, 2-all] See also: No-Ad Scoring

Gamesmanship: [noun] the use of somewhat unethical tactics to win, but such tactics are not specifically laid out in the rules of the game.  For example, some people feel that screaming at contact with the ball is unethical, and though it has been condemned in The Code section of the USTA rule books, it is not specifically forbidden by the ITF Rules of Tennis.

Grand Slam: [noun or adjective] the four "Majors" held each year in Australia, France, England, and the USA.  They are two-week events [fortnights] with the largest prize money, and full, 128-slot draws in Men's and Women's singles. The term used to mean winning all four majors in a calendar year, but now it just refers to any of the four Grand Slam events [Australian Open, Roland Garros, Wimbledon, and U.S. Open].  Today, if somebody wins all for majors in a single year, we call that a Calendar Grand Slam.  Don Budge was the first person to do it, in 1938.  
    If a player wins all four majors and also the Olympic Singles, we call that a Golden Slam.  Players who win all four majors during their career as a pro are said to have won a Career Slam.

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Grass courts: [noun] tennis courts that have natural grass as a surface to play on; Most grass courts of high quality are cared for by clubs or institutions that have very, very strong financial backing, because maintaining grass tennis courts requires a great deal of money and/or labor.

Groundstroke: [noun] refers to forehands and backhands, shots that are hit by the player after the ball bounces on the court [ground].  Contrast them with forehand and backhand volleys, which are hit before the ball bounces.

Hacker: [noun] slang, refers to a low-skilled or mediocre player.  However, sometimes a strong player will call himself a hacker, just to add a little fun to things.  In tennis, the word "hacker" was used in the 1960's and 70's, long before it had any meaning in today's online world.  The word has nothing to do with computers in this context.

Half-volley: [noun] a forehand or backhand shot where the player makes contact with the ball a few inches after it bounces up from the court.  Half-volleys are not really volleys, since the ball bounces before the player hits it.

Hard courts: [noun] tennis courts that are made of asphalt, cement, or composed of several layers of material to try and cushion the impact and still provide a smooth, uniform surface.  Contrast with softer surfaces such as: Clay, Har-Tru, and Grass.

Har-Tru: [noun or adjective] a brand name that usually refers to soft, porous courts topped with crushed greenstone, similar to clay; a slow surface that allows players to slide into their shots;

Hindrance: [noun] this occurs when a player is impeded, obstructed, interfered with, etc from hitting a shot or sequence of shots.  Hitting the ball into a permanent fixture and the yelling, shouting, etc from a spectator are not allowed as claims of being hindered.  There are situations where a hindrance claim is valid, and it is acceptable to ask for a official.  See The Code, paragraphs 33-41, in Friend at Court

to Hold Serve: [verb] refers to the winning of a game by the server.  The server is supposed to have an advantage, which is why he/she is expected to win while serving, so we use the word "hold."

ITF: [noun] acronym for the International Tennis Federation; The ITF oversees the Grand Slam events, Davis Cup, Fed Cup, Hopman Cup, and international junior, and entry-level professional tournaments.  The ITF is the group whose "responsibilities include determination of the Rules of Tennis."  When you read a tennis rule book, part of it should be called the "ITF Rules of Tennis."  Link

Junior: [noun or adjective] refers to a players who have not yet become 19 years of age.  The USTA has national junior rankings for players who are 12-and-under, 14-and-under, 16-and-under, and 18-and under.

Kicker: [noun] see American Twist serve.

Lawn tennis: [noun] the most popular form of tennis today; started in the 1800's after vulcanized rubber had been invented in 1844 and later used in making tennis balls.  Major Walter Wingfield of the UK had an 1874 patent for the game, played on croquet lawns, but after he let his patent expire in February of 1877, his hourglass court was changed by the All England Club to a rectangle.  The very first Wimbledon, a Gentlemen's singles tournament with 22 entries, was held later that same year.  Men's Doubles was added in 1879, and Ladies' singles came along in 1884. Ladies' Doubles and Mixed Doubles tournaments were first held in 1913.  Reference: The Bud Collins History of Tennis [2008, 2010].

Let: [noun] refers to the replaying of a serve, or the replaying of an entire point;  Service lets occur when the ball clips the net and goes into the correct service box.  If it happens on a first serve, then the server gets two chances to get the serve in.  If a service let happens on a second serve, only one serve is allowed.  If an unexpected distraction occurs during a point, such as a ball rolling on the court, either player can promptly call a let and have the entire point replayed, which means that the server gets two serves.

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Line Umpire: [noun] an umpire whose job is to make calls on shots landing on one or more lines in a match

Lob: [noun] normally hit when the opponent is up at the net, this shot is hit over the opponent's head in order to force him/her away from the net and back to the baseline; Two basic types of lobs are: (1) Offensive lobs, hit with a low trajectory with the idea of hitting an outright winner, and (2) Defensive lobs, hit with a high trajectory, in order to allow the player to recover and get back into position and hopefully get back into the point.  Lobs can be hit with underspin or topspin.

Lob-volley: [noun] a volley played most often with both singles players [or all four four doubles players} up at the net; the idea is to make the opponent run back toward the baseline by popping it over his/her head.  It can be a rather dangerous shot.  If it's not hit strongly enough, the opponent can hit an overhead at you from close range.

Love: [noun] used to call out a "zero" when announcing the score. For example, "30-love" means that the server has two points and the receiver has none.  Derived from "l'oeuf" [French for "the egg"] and also the expression "Shall we play for love or money?"  It's a convenient word for tennis players to use to call out the score, because love is easy to understand and has only one syllable.  [adjective] used to describe a game or a set in which one player failed to score any points or a games; A "love game" means four points in a row won by the same player and none for the opponent.  A "love set" is six games to zero.

Lucky Loser: [noun] a player who lost in the qualifying tournament, but was chosen at random to fill a slot vacated by a main draw player who withdrew due to an injury, illness, personal problem, etc.  Normally, a lucky loser is a player who was eliminated in the final round of the quallies, but there may be extenuating circumstances where he/she lost prior to the final round.

Main draw: [noun or adjective] refers to the uppermost draw [bracket] available for a given tournament.  A main draw player is someone who is admitted directly into a tournament, and does not have to play in the qualifying event.

to Make a Comeback: [verb] refers to situations where a losing player or doubles team turns things around, starts winning, and eventually wins the entire match.

Match: [noun] a tennis match, where one player defeats another, or one doubles team defeats another doubles team, is most often determined by the best two out of three sets.  In Davis Cup and Men's Singles at the Grand Slam tournaments [majors], the matches are determined by the best three out of five sets.

Match Point: [noun] a special point that, if it is won by the player or doubles team that is ahead, determines an entire match

Match Tiebreak: [noun] a special kind of tiebreaker used to replace a final SET.  This would replace a third set in a best-of-three set match, or a fifth set in a best-of-five set match.  At the tournament's discretion, it can be won by winning a total of either 7 points or 10 points, with a margin of two points.  The match tiebreak game decides the entire match.

Mixed doubles: [noun] a type of doubles where both teams have one male player and one female player.

Moon ball: [noun] this shot is similar to a lob, but normally not hit as high up in air as a lob; used to break up an opponent's rhythm or slow down the ball in order to force the opponent to generate his/her own pace.  Both players are usually at the baseline.

MTMCA: [noun] acronym for Modern Tennis Methodology Coaches Association, an organization for teaching professionals and coaches founded several years ago by Oscar Wegner.  Featuring a simplified method of teaching, Coach Wegner has had a major influence on the way tennis is taught all over the world. Website

NAIA: [noun] acronym for National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics.  Smaller four-year schools that do not belong to the NCAA often belong to NAIA.

NCAA: [noun] acronym for National Collegiate Athletic Association, the governing body for most college sports in the United States.  NCAA Division 1 and Division 2 schools offer athletic scholarships, but they are not permitted in Division 3.  The NCAA has the responsibility of keeping college sports amateur, and has penalized schools for paying athletes beyond their room, board, and tuition.

NJCAA: [noun] acronym for the National Junior College Athletic Association.  Mission: "The purpose of this corporation shall be to promote and foster junior college athletics on intersectional and national levels so that results will be consistent with the total educational program of its members." Website

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No-Ad Scoring: [noun] a scoring system used to save time by having a maximum of seven points per game.  If the score goes to three points apiece, then the receiver picks one side [left or right] to start the point.  The seventh point determines the game.

No Man's Land: [noun] the large rectangular area inside the ends of the court, bounded by the baseline, the singles sidelines, and the service line.  The name was chosen because players who stand in this area and get a shot bouncing near their feet will have great difficulty returning such a ball, and lose the point.  Some players will stand inside the baseline anyway, because they know their opponents are not skilled enough to regularly hit deep shots that land close to the baseline.

Novice: [noun] a synonym for "beginner"

to be On Serve: [verb] refers to a situation where both sides have held serve; nobody has broken serve yet.

Overhead: [noun] a shot normally hit in response to a lob.  The player first gets under the ball, then turns sideways with the racket down behind the back.  At the last second, the player reaches up to the ball and finishes with a throwing motion similar to the serve.  Overheads can be hit on the fly or after a bounce.  The word "smash" is also used.

Permanent Fixture: [noun] refers to several on-court elements, such as the net post, if outside the singles stick in a singles match, the back fence or side fence, line umpires' chairs, the chair umpire's chair, the roof [on an indoor court], lights [indoor or outdoor court]

Placement: [noun] refers to being able to put the ball in a specific area of the court.  Also a synonym for winner, an unplayable shot that cannot be returned or even touched before it bounces twice, if at all

Point:  [noun] an exchange of shots, beginning with a serve from behind the baseline, between two players or doubles teams.  A point can have only one shot, such as an ace, or it can last for 30 or 40 shots, or more.  
     Most points are lost, they not won.  Among the ways to lose a point are: Hitting the ball into the net, hitting the ball beyond the baseline or the sidelines, hitting two serves that didn't go in the correct service box[double-faulting], hitting the ball into the ground before it gets to the net, touching the net during a point, reaching over the net to hit the ball, hitting a permanent fixture with the ball, and getting hit by the ball before it bounces.
    Also, we have: Game point: a point where one side or the other has an opportunity to win the game; Break point: a point in which the receiver has an opportunity win the game;  Set point: a point where one side or the other has a chance to win a set;  Match point: a point where one side or the other has an opportunity to win the entire match.

Point Penalty System: [noun] a three-step process for responding to code violations, such as delay of game and misconduct; The basic sequence is: First offense: Point; Second offense: Game; Third offense: Default.

Pro Set: [noun] a shortened match comprised of a single set, normally the first player to win eight (8) games [but a different total might be used] with a tiebreaker at 8-all

Professional: [noun] refers to someone who plays or teaches tennis for a living, for prize money, etc.  Also carries the idea of being serious and hard-working about the sport.  Contrast with: amateur.

PTR: [noun] acronym for Professional Tennis Registry, a teaching professional's organization founded by Dennis Van der Meer in 1976.  "PTR's mission is to educate, certify and service tennis teachers and coaches around the world in order to grow the game." Website

Punch-volley: [noun] a type of forehand or backhand volley where the player takes little or no backswing, reaches forward [punches] to meet the ball, and then abruptly stops the racket.

Qualifier: [noun] a player who has won all of his/her matches [or enough matches] to move on, and has now been placed into the main draw.   When you print out a draw sheet for a major professional tournament, you can often find the capital letter "Q" next to a player's name, indicating that this player qualified for the event.

Qualifying Tournament: [noun] a tournament for players who hope to participate in a main-draw event in which they are not ranked high enough to be directly admitted.  Players may have to win three or four rounds in such an event before they are given a slot in the main draw.  Also called "the quallies."

Rally: [verb] 1. to hit the ball back and forth with someone.  2. to make a comeback after being behind in the score.
[noun] refers to the length or quality of an exchange of shots, i.e., "They just had fantastic, 30-shot rally."

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Real tennis [noun] a type of tennis played on indoor courts in the 1400's and 1500's by commoners and royalty, such as England's Henry VIII and France's Francois I.  Players can hit the ball off the walls in this version of tennis.  Contrast with: Lawn tennis.  Link

Receiver: [noun] the player who must return the ball hit by the server; the player who hits the second shot of every point

Red, Orange, and Green Ball Tennis. [noun] a graduated system for children's tennis, designed with shorter rackets, shorter nets, smaller courts, and less bouncy tennis balls.  Formerly called QuickStart Tennis.

Retirement: [noun] situation where a player cannot finish a match due to an injury, sickness, or some personal difficulty.  When a player retires from a match, he/she can still participate in doubles, consolation matches, and play-offs in the same tournament.  In matches where junior players are prevented from completing a match due to an Adult Discipline, that is also noted as a retirement.

Return: [noun] short for return of serve, [verb] to get the ball back over the net

Return of Serve, or Serve Return: [noun] the shot played by the receiver to get the ball back into the server's court.

Roland Garros: [noun] the correct name for what we Americans call the French Open and the stadium where it was first held; This is the second Grand Slam event.  It is held in Paris in late May and early June, and the only Grand Slam tournament that is played on clay.  In 1913, Roland Garros was the first person to fly a plane across the Mediterranean Sea.  He was also a fighter pilot in World War I, where he was shot down and died in 1918.  The Stade de Roland Garros was built in 1928 to accommodate France's famous Four Musketeers, who won the Davis Cup by defeating America's Big Bill Tilden.  France won the Davis Cup six years in a row, from 1927 to 1932.  Link

Round Robin Tournament: [noun] a type of competition where the players play one match against everyone else listed on their draw sheet or section.

Sandbagger: [noun] a player who likes to play in competitions that are too easy for his/her skill level; The player often wins without having to struggle for it.

Seed: [noun]  Some players in a tournament are known to have performed significantly better, in the past, than the rest of the field.  Therefore, to avoid having these above-average players [seeds] knock each other out of an elimination draw in the early rounds, they are given special slots in a draw sheet that increase the odds that they will meet each other in the last few rounds of a tournament.  For more information, see Draw Regulations in "Friend at Court." USTA shop <-- go to "NOVELTY," then click on "Books."  Or, click on these online rules and look for Friend at Court.
[adjective] describing a player who has a seed: a seeded player

Semifinals: [noun] the round of four players or doubles teams: This round takes place just before the finals, which have the last two entries remaining in a single-elimination draw.

Semi-Western forehand grip: [noun] a popular grip today, where the heel of the hand is usually located on the lower corner bevel of the grip (using a vertical racket face); The grip is basically "in between" the Eastern forehand grip [vertical panel] and the Full Western forehand grip [lower horizontal panel].

Single Elimination Draw: [noun] a competition using a standard draw sheet of 2, 4, 8, 16, etc lines for the players, byes, etc, where one loss causes a player to be eliminated from the competition

Seniors: [noun or adjective]  refers to players who are usually 30 or 35 years of age and older.  The ITF has senior rankings for players all the way up to 85 and over. Go Super-Seniors!!  Link

Serve: [noun]  the first shot in every point in a tennis match.  It must be hit with the server standing behind the baseline, to the left or right of the center mark, inside the imaginary extensions of the sidelines and the center mark, without allowing the ball to touch the court after the server tosses the ball into the air.    It does not have to be hit with an overhand throwing motion.  As long as the server doesn't let the ball bounce, the player can go underhand, sidearm, etc.  The server must be essentially standing still, i.e., not moving sideways or running up to the baseline, like a bowler in cricket or a javelin thrower in track & field.  [verb] to carry out the first shot in a tennis point by tossing the ball up and hitting it over the net and into the diagonally opposite service box.

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Server:  [noun] the player who starts every point in tennis from behind the baseline.

Service line(s): [noun] the lines that form the back ends of the service boxes on each side.  The service lines are parallel to the net and 21 feet away from it.  They connect the two singles sidelines, but do not extend into the doubles alley.

Service box(es): [noun] These are the two boxes on each side of the court, bounded by the service line, the center service line, the singles sidelines, and the net.  To start a point, the server must hit the serve so that it lands in the box diagonally opposite from server's the side of the center mark.  The service boxes are not part of the doubles alleys; if you hit your serve into a doubles alley, it's out.  They are 13 1/2 feet wide and 21 feet long.

Set(s): [noun] a group of games, normally consisting of the first player to win six games.  Advantage sets are determined by the first player to win six games and also achieving a margin of two games.  Tiebreak sets are determined by either the first player to win six games and be ahead by two games, or the player who wins a 7-point tiebreaker if the score reaches six games all.  Most tennis matches are decided by winning two out of three sets.
     The Australian Open, Rolland Garros, and Wimbledon all use tiebreak sets to start off their men's and women's singles matches, but use advantage sets if the players reach a final third set for the women, or a final fifth set for the men.  The U.S. Open uses tiebreak sets for all sets in men's and women's singles matches.

Set Point: [noun] a point in which the player who is ahead is about to win a set, provided that he/she/they actually win the point

Shot tolerance: [noun] a specific number, used to measure the point in a rally when a player either gives up, or gets tired and starts making errors.  The higher a player's shot tolerance number is, the better.

Singles: [noun or adjective] refers to tennis where one player competes with another player; A singles player is someone who [predominantly or exclusively] plays singles.  Contrast with: Doubles

Single Elimination: [adjective] usually describes a kind of tournament where one loss eliminates the player or doubles team, who has no more matches to play

Singles Sideline: [noun] At two inches wide, this is the inner sideline that covers the full 78 feet of a tennis court.  It also forms the outside boundary of the service boxes on each side of the court.  It runs inside and parallel to the doubles sideline, which is four and a half feet away.

Singles sticks: [noun] sometimes called net sticks; Most tennis courts have their net posts located three feet outside the doubles sideline. They must be three and a half feet tall.  [The net should be three feet tall in the middle.]  However, if you want your net to be "regulation" in a singles match, then the net must be three and a half feet tall at a point that is three feet from the singles sideline.  For most tennis courts, this point is a foot and a half inside the doubles alley. Therefore, for regulation singles matches, we raise the net with 3.5 feet tall singles sticks, located three feet outside the singles sideline.  [see ITF Rules of Tennis: Rule 1. The Court]

Slice: [noun] a kind of spin on groundstrokes, volleys, lobs, drop shots, etc, where the player brushes downward and under the lower side of the ball; also refers to a type of spin on the serve that curves to right to left for a right-handed player, or a serve that curves left-to-right for a left-handed player.   Synonyms: Underspin, backspin; [verb] to put a slicing type of spin on the ball, either with a serve or some other stroke

Slice serve: [noun] a serve where the player grazes the vertical outside half of the ball, such that a right-handed slice serve will curve to the left, and a left-handed slice serve will curve to the right.

Smash: [noun] synonym for overhead.  Sometimes the two words are used together: Overhead smash.  This shot is normally hit in response to a lob.  The player first gets under the ball, then turns sideways with the racket down behind the back.  At the last second, the player reaches up to the ball and finishes with a throwing motion similar to the serve. Smashes can be hit on the fly or after a bounce.

Sportsmanship: [noun] refers to good, wholesome, honorable, fair, respectful behavior by a player, coach, official, etc. Noxious or malicious behavior is sometimes called "unsportsmanlike conduct."

Standard game: [noun] a game that is scored using the sequence: 15, 30, 40, Game, Advantage _________, Deuce, Ad In, Ad Out;  The player must win four points and be ahead by two points to win this type of game.  If the score becomes "Deuce" [3 points or more for each side], then one player or doubles team must win two consecutive points to win the game.

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Swing-volley: [noun] a type of forehand or backhand volley, usually on a slow, high ball, where the player takes a full backswing and a full finish

Tiebreak game: [noun] a special game used to determine the outcome of a set.  Used when the score reaches 6-all.  The winning side must win seven points and be ahead by two points.  See Tiebreaker (7-point, Set) below.

Tiebreak Set: [noun] a set that will be determined by a tiebreaker if the score becomes six games all.  Contrast with: Advantage Set.

Tiebreaker (7-point, Set): [noun] a special game used to determine a set after the score becomes six games all.  The winning player must win seven points and be ahead by two points.  If the score in this game goes to 6-all, 7-all, etc, the players continue until one side or the other achieves a margin of two points.  After the first point, the players switch serving and receiving every two points.  They change ends every six points.  The 7-point tiebreaker counts as one game.  Whoever wins it also wins the set by a score of seven games to six.  

Tiebreaker (9-point): [noun] the first tiebreaker used by the public in the early 1970's, it ended on point #9, even though the score had become 4-all, a.k.a. "Sudden Death." The 4-all point could be a set point or a match point for both players.  Servers changed in a 2-2-2-3 rotation, giving three serves to the same player on points 7, 8, and 9.    Later on in the 1970's, it was clear that this tiebreaker was too much like tossing a coin, and so, the 9-point tiebreaker was replaced by the 7-point [set] tiebreaker that we still use today.  Tiebreakers were invented by Jimmy Van Alen.  Their use helped advance tennis as a sport, because television producers could more easily estimate how long matches would take to broadcast.

Tiebreaker (10-point, Match): [noun] also called a Match Tie-Break; a special game, normally used to save time and replace an entire, final set.   The procedure is the same as the 7-point Tiebreaker, except the winning side must win 10 points and be ahead by two points.  Whichever side wins this kind of tiebreaker not only wins the set, but the match as well.

Topspin: [noun] produced by brushing up on the ball, this popular type of spin brings the ball down into the court more quickly than a ball without much spin on it.  Players can swing very forcefully upwards on this type of shot and still have the ball drop down into the court.

Topspin Serve: [noun] on this serve and the American Twist serve, the player "chings" the ball, or grazes the back side of the ball, rather than hitting through the ball.  Oftentimes, the right-handed player will push the toss up slightly behind him/her and to the left, while the left-handed player will toss the ball slightly behind him/her and to the right. While the Topspin serve and the American Twist serve both jump up after bouncing, the American Twist serve will also move sideways in addition to bouncing high.

Underspin: [noun] spin produced on groundstrokes, drop shots, lobs, volleys, etc, by brushing down and/or underneath the ball.  Such shots will often "sail" or go higher in while flight than a ball with little spin on it.  Also called slice.

Unforced error: a type of error made on a ball that the player ought to have been able to get back, but did not.  Since the charting of these errors is based on human interpretation, points will occasionally end with one person recording a given point as ending with an unforced error, while another viewer claims that the same point was a forced error!

Unseeded player: [noun] someone who is not had the type of success that has been recognized with seeded players.
These players are placed randomly in a draw sheet.  The difference between the skill levels of seeded players and unseeded players can be very significant, or almost impossible to detect.

Unsportsmanlike Conduct: [noun] bad behavior; examples: verbal abuse, racket abuse, ball abuse, profanity, obscenity, physical abuse, threatening someone, or some other noxious behavior that is flagrant enough to warrant a code violation.  See Tables 14, 15, 16, and 17 in Part 3, USTA Regulations, Section IV, Player Responsibilities and Conduct, in Friend at Court.

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to be Up a Break (of serve): [verb] situation where the winning side in a given set has broken the serve of its opponent once

USPTA: [noun] acronym for the United States Professional Tennis Association, the oldest tennis teacher's group in the United States.  Founded in 1927, the USPTA's mission is "to elevate the standards of tennis-teaching professionals and coaches."  In addition, the USPTA "offers unequaled opportunities for tennis-teaching professionals to improve their teaching skills and increase their business knowledge... also serves as a forum for the exchange of information, ideas and experience among its members."  Web site

USTA: [noun] acronym for United States Tennis Association, the governing body for tennis in the USA.  American juniors and amateurs who wish to get a ranking must join USTA.  There are also several benefits for those who join, such as a magazine, e-zine, promotional deals on equipment, clothing, information on children's tennis, umpiring, books, and more.  The USTA is in charge of the U.S. Open, one of the four Grand Slam tournaments on the professional calendar.   Web site

Volley: [noun] a forehand or backhand shot hit before the ball bounces. Contrast with groundstrokes, which are hit after the ball bounces. [verb] to hit the ball before it bounces

Walkover: [noun] situation where a player has an injury, sickness, or personal difficulty and notifies the tournament that he/she is not going to play; The player's opponent advances to the next round and has a "w.o." noted on the draw sheet, instead of a numerical score.  If the tournament makes a mistake in the draw sheet somehow, a walkover can also be used to advance a player to the next round.

Wild Card: [noun] tournaments can admit players into the main draw who did not play the qualifying event for some reason.  For example, the Grand Slam events offer a small number of acceptances [wild cards] to players who are well-known or have been successful in the past, but not currently ranked high enough to be admitted directly into the first round.

Wimbledon: [noun] also called "The Championships," this Grand Slam event is where serious lawn tennis competition got started, in 1877.   The oldest and [according to many] the most prestigious tennis tournament in the world, its name is for the London suburb where it is held.  Wimbledon is the only Grand Slam event that is played on grass courts. Link

Winner: [noun] refers to hitting an unplayable shot that the opponent cannot even touch, or, like a drop shot, one that the opponent cannot reach before the ball bounces twice.  Synonym: Placement

WTA: [noun] acronym for Women's Tennis Association.    It was founded in 1973 by Wimbledon Champion Billie Jean King, with help from World Tennis magazine publisher, Gladys Heldman, and the other players in The Original Nine: Rosemary Casals, Nancy Richey, Peaches Bartkowicz, Kristy Pigeon, Valerie Ziegenfuss, Julie Heldman, Kerry Melville Reid, and Judy Tegart Dalton.  Today, the WTA Tour oversees the vast majority of women's professional tennis tournaments all over the world.     History


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