How to Speak Tennis | PBTH's US Open Terminology Guide

Saturday, September 3, 2016

* Clears throat *

** Serves best impression of British accent **

Pack your gym bag, we’re off to play some tennis! 

For as long as I could remember, I've loved the game with a passion. A favourite pastime for me and a flourishing professional career for others, tennis is now one of the most widely watched sporting events in the world and, an internationally recognized and historically significant sport that dates back hundreds of years.

For those starting out in tennis, there are certain tennis terms you must know in order to watch it or play it properly. Not to worry, I have your back!


The starting point of the game. One player serves from the deuce (right) side of the court behind the baseline with the hopes to hit the ball crosscourt into the service box on the other side of the net.

Hit the net? Good news. You get two chances! 

If your ball happens to graze the top of the net, but still lands in-bounds crosscourt this is called a “let", perhaps best described as a, “let’s just pretend it never happened!” ;)


Serve where the tennis ball lands inside the service box and is not touched by the receiver; thus, a shot that is both a serve and a winner is an ace. 

Aces are usually powerful and generally land on or near one of the corners at the back of the service box. Initially the term was used to indicate the scoring of a point.


Scoring term indicating zero (e.g. "15-0" is spoken "fifteen-love").

To hold to love means "to win the game when serving with the opponent scoring zero points". To break to love means "to win the game when receiving with the opponent scoring zero points. 

Thought to be derived from either the French term, "l'oeuf", literally the egg, meaning nothing or the Dutch word lof, meaning honour.


*** Argues with the UMPIRE (person designated to enforce the rules of the game during play, usually sitting on a high chair beside the net) ***

"It's not my fault!"

Serve that fails to land the ball in the opponent's service box, therefore not starting the point.

A DOUBLE FAULT consist in two serving faults in a row in one point, causing the player serving to lose the point.

A FOOT FAULT is a type of service fault in which a player, during the serve, steps on or over the baseline into the court before striking the ball. A foot fault may also occur if the player steps on or across the center hash mark and its imaginary perpendicular extension from the baseline to the net.


Stroke in which the player hits the ball with the front of the racket hand facing the ball. Pivot feet and turn hips and shoulders towards dominant side, pull racquet back and swing forward from low to high following through over opposite shoulder.

Contrasted with BACKHAND:

Stroke in which the ball is hit with the back of the racket hand facing the ball at the moment of contact. A backhand is often hit by a right-handed player when the ball is on the left side of the court, and vice versa.


Strongly hit overhead, typically executed when the player who hits the shot is very close to the net and can therefore hit the ball nearly vertically, often so that it bounces into the stands, making it unreturnable.


Most commonly executed when… Just kidding!

There's no such thing as a tennis selfie ;)

Last but not least, if you are attending a tennis match, always make sure to respect proper etiquette:

DO make sure your mobile phone is silent;
DON’T talk while the ball is in play. Your whisper may not be as quiet as you think;
DON’T move to or from your seat unless it is a change of ends;
Applause should always be respectful;
Leave babies and infants at home!


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