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Main tennis rules

Tennis is a sport rich in history and complexity, yet the fundamental rules of the game are relatively straightforward. Understanding these main rules can enhance your appreciation of the sport, whether you’re a player or a spectator. Here’s an overview of the essential rules of tennis:

Objective of the Game

The primary objective in tennis is to hit the ball over the net into the opponent’s court in such a way that the opponent cannot return it within the bounds of the court. The game can be played in singles (one player per side) or doubles (two players per side).

Scoring System

Tennis has a unique scoring system:

Points: The first point won is called “15,” the second “30,” and the third “40.” Winning four points wins the game, provided there is a margin of at least two points over the opponent.

Deuce: If the score reaches 40-40, it is known as “deuce,” which requires a player to win two consecutive points to win the game.

Advantage: After deuce, if a player wins the next point, it is called “advantage.” If they win the following point, they win the game. If they lose the next point, the score returns to deuce.

Match Structure

Games: Winning six games wins a “set,” provided there is a two-game margin over the opponent.

Tiebreak: If the set reaches a 6-6 score, most modern formats employ a tiebreak game where players continue to score points sequentially until one player leads by two points, starting at 7. The winner of the tiebreak game wins the set 7-6.

Sets: Matches are typically best-of-three or best-of-five sets. In men’s Grand Slam events, players play best-of-five sets, while women play best-of-three.


First Serve: At the start of each game, one player serves, and the service position alternates game by game. The server must stand behind the baseline, between the center mark and the sideline.

Service Box: The serve must land in the diagonally opposite service box. If the serve hits the net but still lands in the correct box, it is a “let” and the serve is retaken. A serve that misses the correct box is a “fault.” Two consecutive faults result in the opponent winning the point (a “double fault”).

Service Changes: Players change the service side of the court after each point during a tiebreak and after every odd-numbered game.

In-Play Rules

Lines: If a ball lands on any part of the line, it is considered in. A ball that lands outside the lines bounding the court dimensions is “out.”

Net: During play, if the ball hits the net and goes into the opponent’s court, play continues. If the ball hits the net and fails to go over, the point is lost.

Player Contact: Players cannot touch the net or the opponent’s side of the court with any part of their body or racket. Doing so results in the loss of the point.

Changing Ends

Players switch ends of the court after the first game and then every subsequent two games, and at the end of each set to balance out any environmental conditions like sun or wind.

Code of Conduct

Tennis often emphasizes sportsmanship and respect. Excessive noise, racket abuse, and unsportsmanlike conduct can result in penalties, including point deductions or disqualification.