The game of tennis is a beautiful game. I mean, what’s not to love about it. It has gorgeous sleek equipment, fashionable outfits (who doesn’t envy Serena as she glides around the court in her designer threads), a fancy language for keeping track of scores, and sophisticated tea breaks. No wonder it used to be a sport mainly played by royalty and the elite of the society.

But fancy as it may be, tennis rules and regulations can become quite messy – especially if you are a beginner.

Besides the fancy language and terminology used to award points and explain technical aspects of the game, some tennis rules and regulations sometimes fall into grey areas, leading to altercations between officials and players. Those who remember John McEnroe’s frequent outbursts and arguments with match officials know what I mean. This led to tennis challenge rules being formulated and implemented.

The Basic Rules of Open Tennis

The basic open tennis rules can take a bit of time to figure out and master but, if you take your time learning this beautiful game, you’ll soon be proficient in all the tennis rules and regulations.


Who serves first? We mere mortals can’t solve this age-old problem, so we let the wise coin decide for us. Yes, first to serve is determined by a coin toss. The player to win the toss can opt to serve first or select the side of the court from which he would like to receive his opponents serve. 

The player who serves will continue serving the ball to the receiving player until the end of the set. At the end of the set, the players will change roles and the server will become the receiver and the receiver the server. This will happen after every set.

Fault, Double Fault, and Net Serve

In a game of tennis, the server has 2 chances to serve the ball within the service court. If, as the server, you fail to serve the ball in the diagonally opposite service court, it is called a fault serve. If on the second try you still fail to place your ball, it is a double fault and results in your opponent being awarded a point.

If your service ball hits the net, falls within the service court, this is a fault called a “net serve”. You will be entitled another chance to serve the ball into the service court. When it comes to “net serves”, there is no limit to the faults you can commit and your opponent will not get a point.

The Double Hit Rule

In tennis rules, double hit has been one of the most hotly contested rules in a match. The basic rule makes it illegal to intentionally give your ball a “second push” or double hit as it is commonly known. The rule was revised to make it easier to identify the offender and eliminate confusion by rephrasing the rule. The revised rule says, “Only when there is a deliberate ‘second push’ does the shot become illegal. Two hits occurring during a single continuous swing are not deemed a double hit.” 

Keeping Score

When it comes to the scoring system, tennis can be a bit confusing – until you get used to it. The server’s score is announced first before the receiver’s. This means it’s important to know who is doing the service at all times. The points in a game of tennis are awarded as follows:

• No points are scored = Love

• 1 point scored = 15 points

• 2 points scored = 30 points

• 3 points scored = 40 points

• 4 points earned = set point 

For you to win the game, you need to win with at least a 2 point lead. If it so happens that your scores are tied at 40/40, it is called a deuce. To win at this point requires that you score 2 consecutive points – the first is called an “Advantage”. If, however, you lose next point after the advantage, the score goes back to deuce. This will continue until one of you scores 2 consecutive points.

Set Rules

To win a set, you have to win a minimum of 6 games with a 2 game advantage over your opponent. Sometimes, the score can be tied at 5 – 5 or 6 – 6. At this juncture, a tiebreaker is needed. The rules of a tiebreak in tennis require the winner to be the one to score 2 points in a row. Failure for this to happen, the game continues and you and your opponent will exchange turns in serving after every 2 points until one of you emerges as the winner. 

Game, Set, Match

You have played a great match (and hopefully won). To signal the end of the game, the officials announce, “Game, set, match.” This announcement is a 3 word summary of the 3 main parts of the game you have just played. Now that you know the basic tennis rules and regulations, it’s time to hit the court.

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