Tennis Game Rules for Singles


A laptop computer sitting on top of a desk

Want to learn how to play tennis? Or, do you want to understand what’s going on when you’re at a tournament or watching tennis on TV? Obviously, you’re going to need to know the rules of tennis in order to understand the sport. However, they can be a little complicated to remember at first, but we’ll walk you through every little detail as best and as simply as we can. So, read on if you want to learn more about the official tennis rules recognized by most tennis organizations.

Tennis Rules

An orange ball with a racket

First of all, the rules of tennis are different (although mostly similar) for singles matches and doubles matches. But before we go over that stuff, let’s review some of the general tennis rules and regulations that apply to all of tennis before we learn how to play tennis for singles and doubles.

General Rules of Tennis

A close up of a toy
  • A ball must land within bounds for play to continue; if a player hits the ball outside of bounds, this results in the loss of the point for them.
  • Players/teams cannot touch the net or posts or cross onto the opponent’s side.
  • Players/teams cannot carry the ball or catch it with the racquet.
  • Players cannot hit the ball twice.
  • Players must wait until the ball passes the net before they can return it.
  • A player that does not return a live ball before it bounces twice loses the point.
  • If the ball hits or touches the players, that counts as a penalty.
  • If the racquet leaves the hand or verbal abuse occurs, a penalty is given.
  • Any ball that bounces on the lines of boundary are considered good.
  • A serve must bounce first before the receiving player can return it.

Scoring

  • Points – Smallest unit of measurement. Points increment from Love(0)-15-30-40-game.
  • Games – Games consist of 4 points each, and is won when a player reaches 4 points with at least a 2 point advantage.
  • Sets – A set consists of 6 games and is won by the player/team who reaches 6 games first with least a 2 point lead.
  • Advantage Set – If a game score of 6-6 is reached and advantage set rules are used, a player/team can only win a set with a 2 game lead.
  • Matches – A match is usually played as best of 3 or best of 5 sets.
  • Deuce – Occurs if a score of 40-40 is reached. In order to win the game, a player/team must win 2 consecutive points in order to take the game. If a player wins one point, they have advantage, but if they lose the next point, the score returns to deuce.
  • Tie-break game – If a game score of 6-6 is reached and tie-break set rules are used, players must play a tie-break game in order to decide who wins the set. In a tie-break game, a player/team must reach 7 points with a two point advantage to win. For the serving format of a tie-break game, player 1 serves for the first point, player 2 serves for the next two points, player 1 serves for the next two points after that, etc.

What Do the Lines Mean?

  • Baseline – The baselines are the lines on either end of the court that determines the boundaries of play going lengthwise. They are also where a player serves behind.
  • Center Mark – The center mark determines the two halves of the tennis court. It mainly helps with service to determine where a player should stand prior to serving.
  • Center Line – The center line divides the two service boxes into a distinct left service box and right service box on either side of the court. Landing a serve on the line is considered good.
  • Net – The net stands 3 feet and 6 inches high where the posts lie while the middle of the net is 3 feet tall, with the posts 3 feet outside of the court on either side. Hitting a ball into the net is considered an out while any ball that hits the net cord and falls onto the other side is considered good except for a serve, which allows for a re-do, or let.
  • Service Line – The service line separates the forecourt from the back court, and it also marks the length of the service box.
  • Singles Sideline – The singles sideline is the innermost line running lengthwise and determines the boundary of play for singles matches as well as the width of the service box.
  • Doubles Sideline – The doubles sideline is the outermost line running lengthwise and is only used in doubles matches.

These are some basic rules of the game,

Subscribe to our monthly Newsletter
Subscribe to our monthly Newsletter