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Explained: Tennis Rules and Regulations

A racket sport which originated in Birmingham in the late 19th century, tennis has grown into one of the most popular sports played and watched in the world today.

Giving rise to world stars such as Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic, Steffi Graf and Serena Williams, there are four tennis majors played each year - the Australian Open, French Open, Wimbledon and US Open.

We explore all of the various rules and regulations involved in the game of tennis, including scoring, court sizes and more.


The main rules of a tennis match are as follows:

  • An official tennis match starts with a coin toss to decide which player serves first and from which side.
  • The server then serves each point from alternate sides from behind the baseline.
  • If the server fails to get their first serve in, they are able to take a second serve. Missing a second serve will see the server double fault and lose the point.
  • If the server clips the net but the ball still lands in, a let is called and they get to retake the serve - whether it is a first or second serve.
  • Once a serve has been made, an unlimited amount of shots can be played.
  • A player will lose a point if they fail to get the ball over the net, return the ball in the incorrect court boundaries or let the ball bounce twice on their side of the court.


Tennis matches are compartmentalised by three means of scoring - a game, set and a match.


A game involves a race to win four points. The scoring system in a game is as follows:

  • 0 points - Love
  • 1 point - 15
  • 2 points - 30
  • 3 points - 40
  • Level score - All (Eg. 15 all)
  • 40-40 - Deuce
  • Player X wins point on Deuce - Advantage Player X

Should both players make it to 40, the score is called deuce. At deuce, a player must win two consecutive points to win the game. After winning one point, a player has advantage, which one more point needed to win the game.


A set involves a race to win six games. A player must win by two clear games to win a set, meaning that if a set reaches the score of 6-5, the leading player must win a seventh game to claim the set 7-5.

If a set reaches the score of 6-6, a tiebreak will be played to determine the winner by a score of 7-6. A tiebreak uses its own scoring system in which each player must race to seven points. Once again, in a tiebreak a player must win by two clear points.


Depending on the rules of individual tournaments, tennis matches are either the best of five sets or three sets. This means each player will either race to win three sets or two sets in order to be crowned the winner.

Court size

Tennis can be played on four main court surface types - grass, clay, hard surface and carpet.


The standard court size for a singles game of Tennis is 27ft x 78ft, leading to the playing surface area being 2,106ft².


The standard size of a doubles Tennis court is 36ft x 78ft. This means that the surface playing area is 2,808ft².


Once you have accessed a court to play on, all that is required to play a game of tennis is a racket for each player and a set of tennis balls.

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