Tennis 🎾 - The basics

Tennis is a racket sport played on a rectangular court with a tennis racket and tennis ball. Players try to hit the ball over the net and in the boundary lines. The game is very popular around the world and can be played in singles and doubles. 

The modern game came from England in the 19th century, and the highest governing body of the sport is the International Tennis Federation. The game can be played on the different surfaces of grass, hard court, and clay. 

Millions across the world recreationally play tennis, and there are also quite a few professional tours. The two biggest ones are the men's ATP (Association of Tennis Professionals) and the women's WTA (Women's Tennis Association). 

Those tours have many tournaments throughout the year, with the biggest ones being the Majors in Wimbledon, U.S. Open, French Open, and Australian Open. Tennis has also been an Olympic sport since 1988. 

Online Tennis 

When it comes to online tennis and betting options, there are tons of them out there. Every match for the ATP and WTA will have odds posted, and there are also odds posted for other tours. For the two big tours, there are many betting markets, and this is especially the case for bigger tournaments such as the Majors. 

The bigger the match and the bigger the tournament, the more betting options you will find. For example, there will be tons of bets available for the Wimbledon final, especially proposition bets

Tennis is one of the most popular sports when it comes to live betting at online sportsbooks. Pretty much all sportsbooks that offer live betting will offer it for tennis, where you can wager on the match as it happens. Live tennis betting is fast and furious and very exciting. 

With tennis being such a popular sport, you will also see unique bonuses and promotions at sportsbooks. Like the betting markets, the bigger the tournament, the more bonuses and promotions you will see available. The Majors are the tournaments where you will see the most promotional betting offers. 

Rules and Gameplay 

A tennis court is 78 feet (23.77 m) long, and 27 feet (8.2 m) wide for singles play and 36 ft (11 m) for doubles play. There is a net across the center of the court that the player has to hit the ball over while staying within the court's margins. 

The main goal is to score more points than your opponent in winning a certain number of sets, consisting of games. You want your opponent not to return a ball to your side of the court, and that is when you are rewarded a point. 

Tennis scoring is unique in that you need four points to win a game; however, it is not just single points. One point is 15, two is 30, and three is 40, with the next point being the one that wins the game. 

If the score is 40-40, three points for each player, it is called a deuce, and when it reaches deuce, a player has to win the game by two points. If they win the first point of deuce, it is called ad where they have the advantage, only needing one more point to win the game. 

In a game, a player serves the entire game, and when it is over, their opponent will then take their turn serving. 

In tennis scoring, you will also hear the term love. Love means zero in the game, so if a player is up 40-0 in a game, it is called 40 – love. You can also refer to games and sets as love, so if a player is ahead in games 4-0, they are up 4 – love, and if they win the set love, they win 6-0. 

You need to win six games to win the set, and most matches are the best of three sets. For some men's tournaments and all of the majors, it is the best of five sets. 

If a set is tied at six games each for the players, they will then play a tiebreaker. In a tiebreaker, it is the first player to seven points, and in the tiebreaker, they use the typical scoring system of a single point. 

There are some tournaments where there are no tiebreakers in the deciding set. For example, in a Wimbledon's men's match, if both players have won two sets, the fifth set cannot go to a tiebreaker. A player has to win by two games to win the set and, therefore, the match. 

There is singles tennis with one player against another and doubles tennis where two players are facing off against another two players. In a singles match, only the inner tram of the court, on the side, is in bounds while in doubles, the outer tram line is the boundary. 

In doubles, any player on a team of two can hit the ball when they want, as it does not have to switch from player to player, but for the service games, each of the four players take their turns serving. 

Here are some other rules for the sport of tennis: 

  • The serving player gets two chances from the service backline. 
  • They must hit the serve over the net and in the opposite service court to be playable. 
  • For each point, the server must serve from the alternative side of the baseline. The server cannot have their feet go in front of the baseline when serving, or it is called a fault. 
  • If the server misses their first serve, they get a second serve. If that serve misses, it is called a double fault, and their opponent will get the point. 
  • If the server hits their first serve clipping the top of the net and still lands in the service area, it is called a let, and the player gets two more serves. If it goes out of the service area after clipping the net, it is out, and they get one more serve. If a player clips the net on the second serve, they receive another serve. 
  • The player receiving the serve can stand where they want on the baseline. 
  • When the server hits the ball in the service area, the ball is in play, and the players continue to hit the ball over the net in-bounds until a player fails to do so. 
  • A point in tennis is won when the opponent fails to return it to the court. 
  • A player cannot touch the net at any point with their body or racket, and if they do, they lose the point. 
  • If a player impedes the opponent when it is their turn to hit a shot, they will lose the point. 
  • Any part of the ball on the line is in bounds. 
  • A player will lose a point if they hit the ball out of bounds, into the net, or the ball bounces twice on their side of the court. 
  • If a player demonstrates unsportsmanlike conduct, they are warned. After a warning from the main tennis match chair umpire, the main referee can dole out a penalty of a point, game, or even disqualify a player. 
  • There are line judges at the ends of the court that call balls in or out. In the main tours, there is the Hawkeye system where a player has three challenges per set where they can challenge the ruling, which goes to instant replay to see if the ball is in or out. 

A few key terms to know for tennis are: 

  • Ace – When the opponent does not touch a serve from a player. 
  • Winner – When a player hits a shot in bounds, and the opposing player cannot hit it. 
  • Unforced error – When a player makes an error when having a clean shot opportunity. 

How the Teams Work

In tennis, doubles teams that work together while in singles matches it is just one on one. In doubles, the players work together to try to keep the opposing team from hitting the ball back on their side of the net. They can hit the ball as many times in a row on their side of the court. In doubles they are protecting their half of the court, and in doubles play, the court is bigger.  

Strategy and Tactics 

There are no lack of strategies and tactics for the sport of tennis for singles and doubles alike. There are many different types of players in singles, from baseline sluggers, defensive players, big servers, and net players. 

The strategies of plyers will change during the match, but all want to play to their strength. The matchups in tennis between the players will have an outcome on the strategy they come up with before the match. For example, if a baseline player is going up against a player that comes to the net, they will often alter their tactics accordingly. 

The strategies and tactics will also change during a match, depending on how it is going. If a net player is ahead in the match playing their style, why switch it up? However, on the other side of the coin, if that net player is getting beaten, they may change their tactic to get back into the match. 

History of Tennis 

There is evidence that tennis's origins go back many centuries with ancient Egyptians, Greeks, and Romans all playing a racket type game. Around 1000 AD, French monks played a courtyard game that resembled tennis with a rope hung across the courtyard. 

It is at this time when the term tennis was believed to be coined, as the while they served, the monks would yell "tenez," which means no take in French. Many forms of the game were played throughout Europe over the next several centuries. 

In the middle of the 19th century, Harry Gam and Augurio Perera came up with a game with rackets and a ball called a pelota. The game was played on a croquet lawn in England, and in 1872 they formed the first tennis club. It is at this time when the term lawn tennis was coined. 

Walter Clopton Wingfield came up with a game called sphairistikè, which meant ball game in Greek and came to be known as sticky. Wingfield is seen as the person who created what we now call tennis. In 1874 the first tennis tournament was held, and only three years later, the All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club held their own tournament at Wimbledon. However, at this time, there was debate on how to standardize the rules of the game. 

The game came across the pond to the United States in 1874 by socialite Mary Ewing Outerbridge, and in 1880 the first tennis tournament in the U.S. took place. The United States National Lawn Tennis Association (now the United States Tennis Association) was established in 1881, and in that year, the first U.S. Open was held. 

The sport grew in popularity over the next several decades, and in 1968 the Open Era began. At this time, all players could compete in all tournaments, being able to take money and not have to deal with amateur status. It is at this time there was the establishment of an international professional tennis circuit. Because of the tournaments being broadcasted on television, the sport skyrocketed in popularity that has continued to this day. 

The Wall of Fame 

There is the International Tennis Hall of Fame, located in Newport, Rhode Island, and opened in 1954. As of 2020, there are 257 inductees into the International Tennis Hall of Fame, with 26 countries represented. To see a full list of the inductees, CLICK HERE.

Like in any other sport, it is highly debated who the best tennis player is of all time in both the men's and women's game. To add to the debate's fire, some of the top players that are mentioned are still playing today. There is always the debate between the older players before the Open Era and the ones that came after. 

As of 2020, Roger Federer is considered the top player of all-time, and his nickname is King Roger. However, while he has the Majors wins of all-time, two younger players are in the GOAT debate that are still active, as is Federer, in Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic. Other players on the men's side mentioned as the best ever are Rod Laver, Pete Sampras, Bjorn Borg, Ivan Lendl, Jimmy Connors, and John McEnroe.

In the women's game, Serena Williams is seen as the best player of all time, but many also think Margaret Court holds that title, but she was before the Open Era. Other players mentioned as all-time greats in the women's game are Steffi Graf, Martina Navratilova, Chris Evert, Monica Seles, Venus Williams, and Billie Jean King. 

Distinctive Elements 

One of the distinctive elements of tennis is that it is probably for the most popular singles sport. The game is played on different surfaces between players with vastly different styles, which adds to the sport's draw and excitement. 

Another distinctive element for tennis has to do with the huge rivalries that have formed between the top players in the last several decades. Some even are going on as of 2020 with King Roger and his major rivalry with both Nadal and Djokovic. 

Other major rivalries throughout the decades between the top players are Borg and McEnroe, McEnroe and Connors, Sampras and Andre Agassi, Seles and Graf, and Evert and Navratilova. 

Tennis is known as a game of a combination of speed and power. The tournaments are held worldwide, and the Majors are always THE sporting event at the time. 

Tennis is a game with no lack of personalities, heightening the popularity of the sport. 

The surface issue is also a very distinctive element. Some players are specialists on one type of surface while not playing as well on other surfaces. For example, Rafael Nadal is trying to catch the GOAT Federer but is considered the best clay-court player of all time and has won nine French Open titles on clay. 


There are many statistics for the sport of tennis both for all-time and for every match. One stat that is always key is the number of Majors won, as that is the argument always brought up when talking about the best players of all time. 

Many stats are essential for every match, such as aces, winners, first-serve percentage, second serve percentage, unforced errors, and double faults. 

Sports bettors always pour over tennis stats when they handicap a match. Handicapping a match is researching the players in question to get a better idea of what the winning bet will be for it. Often bettors look at head to head records as well as records on the type of surface played. Anytime you handicap a tennis match, it gives you a better chance to win a bet on that match. 

Popularity and Cultural Impact  

Tennis is one of the most popular sports globally to play, watch, and follow on the professional level. It is a sport played on every continent, and the world tour is played in many countries every year. The players and their personalities and rivalries add to the draw of the sport. 

The biggest tennis stars are some of the world's biggest sports stars that endorse products and back worthy causes. 

The cultural impact is huge as well for tennis with the massive popularity of the sport. From TV shows to films, the sport is in the public eye, and there was even a movie named Wimbledon! The sport was seen by one that is mainly for the affluent, but that has changed in the last few decades. 

Tennis has not waned in popularity, and that is not surprising with the world-class legends still in the game and the millions that enjoy playing a sport that is always fun and exciting.

About Ayden Fahlstrom
Ayden Fahlstrom author profile

Ayden loves sports. There is no doubt about that. He is a walking calendar when it comes to the latest events in sports. He has grown into the passion of writing about them, and settled into his role as a writer after many freelancing jobs. He can write about any sport out there! This is the guy!

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