How to Play Tennis: a Simple Guide for Beginners

Want to learn the basics of how to play tennis? Whether you’re a beginner, or you’ve played before but you need a refresher, you’re in the right place.

Tennis can seem complicated, with its unique scoring system that includes words like ‘love’ and ‘deuce’.

But playing tennis is actually quite simple, and here we’ve broken it down into steps to help you get started immediately. Use the tennis court diagram below for reference.

Playing Tennis in 3 Simple Steps

Before you start – Singles or Doubles. You can play tennis 1v1 (Singles) or 2v2 (Doubles). If you are playing Singles, any ball that hits outside the Singles Sideline (into the Doubles Alley) is out-of-bounds. For Doubles, you can use the full court.

Step 1 – The first serve

Stand on opposite sides of the court as your opponent, behind the Baseline and in between the Center Mark and the Singles Sideline to your right.

Serve the ball over the net, across the court, into the Deuce Court Service box (the box to your left, and your opponent’s right). You are allowed 2 attempts on each serve to get the ball into the Service Court.

If the ball hits the Net but still lands in the correct Service Box, that is called a “Let,” and you are allowed another serve. If it’s on your first serve, you are allowed 2 more attempts. If it’s on your second, you are allowed one more attempt.

Hit the ball back and forth until one of you hits it out or into the net. A ball is only called out if it falls completely outside the boundary line. If the ball touches any part of the line, it is still in.

The first point is awarded to the player who didn’t hit the ball out of play. For the second point of the game, you will serve from the left side of the court, into your opponents Ad Court Service Box (as seen below in the image).

Alternate serving from the right and left sides of the court after each point is scored. If you get mixed up about which side of the court you’re supposed to serve from, here’s a helpful tip:

You always serve from the right side of the court (or Deuce Court) for the first serve, if the score is tied, or if the total number of points scored (meaning 0, 1, 2, 3, 4, not 15, 30, etc.)is an even number.

Otherwise, you serve from the left side of the court (or Ad Court).

Step 2 – Scoring points

The game starts at “Love all,” meaning both players or teams have 0 points. Here is a break down of the tennis scoring system.

  • 0 points = “Love”
  • 1 point = 15
  • 2 points = 30
  • 3 points = 40
  • 4 points = 45

Before each serve, the player serving calls out the score, beginning with their own score. For example, if you have 2 points, and your opponent has zero, you would call out, “30 – Love.”

If you are tied at 40, you call, “Deuce.” This is called the Deuce Point. Because you must win by 2 points in Tennis, one player or team must win 2 more consecutive points to win the game.

If you win the Deuce Point, then it becomes your advantage, and you call “Ad-In.” Then you just need to win one more point to win the game.

If your opponent wins the Deuce Point, then you call “Ad-Out.” And then your opponent needs one more point to win the game.

To win the game, a player must reach 45 points and/or win their Ad-In point.

Here’s a video further explaining the basic rules and scoring of tennis.

Step 3 – Game, Set, Match

If you are just playing for fun, you can stop after the game, or start over.

But officially in tennis, there are a number of games in a set, and a number of sets to win a match. Usually it’s something like Best of 6 games wins a set, and Best of 3 sets wins the match.

Depending on the tournament, these numbers vary.

You could play a best of 5 games set, best of 3 games set, or whatever suits your available and stamina.

The Gear you Need to Play Tennis

More serious tennis players can end up needing for tennis, like shoes designed for playing tennis, a tennis bag, and tennis overgrip.

But if you’re just getting started or playing casually, you really just need a racquet and tennis balls. Check out these posts:

Tennis racquets – Most popular brands

Tennis Balls – Buyer’s Guide

Have Fun Playing Tennis!

We hope this information helps you get started playing tennis. Tennis is a great sport that can be an easy way to stay active, healthy, and have a good time with friends.

There should be lots of public tennis courts in your area. Once you understand the basic rules and scoring of tennis, it’s easy to get started playing.

Have fun out there!