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A beginner’s guide to playing tennis

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This short guide will tell you all you need to know about tennis, ready to get you on the court and swinging racquets in no time.


First things first, you’re going to need some equipment. As with any sport, you’ll need the gear as well as the idea to get going. A basic checklist of what you need to get started includes:

  • Tennis racquet
  • Comfy sports trainers
  • Tennis balls
  • Comfy sports clothing

Don’t fret too much about getting the ‘perfect’ racquet or shoes as there can be an overwhelming number of options out there. To get started, simply find something affordable that works for you.

Scoring system

Now you’ve got your equipment, you’ll next need to learn how the scoring system works.

The game has some unique terms which can be confusing at first, but it is all relatively straightforward once you learn it. You start the game at zero points each (known in tennis as ‘Love All’), to win the game, you need to score four times against your opponent.

Each score is weighted with points differently, with the aim of the game to be the first to 45 points.

Here is a breakdown of the scoring system:

  • 0 points = ‘Love’
  • 1 point = 15
  • 2 points = 30
  • 3 points = 40
  • 4 points = 45

For example, if you score 3 points and your opponent hasn’t scored, the score would be “40 – Love”. If you and your opponent are both tied at 40 points, this is called ‘Deuce’.

If this happens, the winner of the game is the first person to score two consecutive points. So, if you were to score a point while it’s deuce, you would then have ‘Advantage’. If you then score again, you would win the game. However, if your opponent scores during your advantage, you are both set back to deuce until somebody wins.

How to play

Now that you’ve learnt the basics, next comes the most crucial part; how to play.


The game always begins with one player serving. To serve, you must be standing on opposite sides of the court, behind the back line of the court (known as the baseline), and to the side of the centre mark.

To serve, you must throw the ball up and hit it with your racquet across the court. During your first serve, you will be aiming for your opponent’s box on your left (your opponent’s right).

You are allowed two attempts on each serve to get the ball into the court. If you fail in doing this, you will concede a point to your opponent.

If you get the ball into the correct box but it hits the net on the way over, that is called ‘Let’, and you are allowed another serve. If this occurs during your first serve, you are entitled to two more attempts. If it happens during your second serve, you are allowed just one more attempt.

If you hit the ball successfully into your opponent’s box and they fail to return the ball, you have earned a point. Once the first point has been scored, the game restarts again from a serve.

You alternate serving from the right and left sides of the court. So, for your next serve, you would serve into your opponent’s left side (your right).

You and your opponent will then swap who serves once the game has been won.


To play the game, once the ball is served, you must then play the ball back and forth against your opponent until you get the ball to bounce twice in your opponent’s half (which wins you a point), or until one of you plays the ball out of the court or into the net.

It is worth remembering that when scoring points, only the first bounce has to be within your opponent’s court to count as a point, the second bounce can occur wherever. If you hit the ball out of the court or into the net, you concede a point to your opponent.

For measuring if the ball was ‘out’ or not, remember that if the ball touches any part of the boundary line of the court, it still counts as in.

Winning a match

Tennis matches are often made up of multiple games, with the person who wins the most games winning the match.

If you are just playing recreationally, you could stop and start over after each game. However, in official tennis games, there are usually several games in a set, and then several sets are needed to win a match. The numbers of which can vary by tournament.

Find the number of games that works best for you and go with it, just be sure to agree it with your opponent before you begin.

What to expect from tennis lessons for beginners

As anybody who is used to teaching tennis to beginners will tell you, there is really no reason to worry about your skill level when joining a tennis class.

All tennis players must start somewhere, and you can expect that everybody who attends tennis lessons for beginners will be there for the same reason as you, to learn and get better at tennis.

There are several options for tennis courses and tennis lessons for beginners out there, all of which are designed to not only teach you the basics of tennis but also help you keep fit, improve your technique and meet new people.

Wherever you choose to go, you are most likely to be coached by someone who has had plenty of experience in teaching tennis to beginners. Remember, when it comes to being new at tennis, or any sport for that matter, you definitely aren’t the first and you certainly won’t be the last. So get out there and have some fun.

Sam Davis Content Contributor, Warwick Sport

Sam is a content writer and sport enthusiast with a keen interest in football, judo, and hockey.


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