How to play tennis

Tennis is a popular sport and has been around since the 19th century. Today, crowds flock to tournaments such as Wimbledon and the US Open to see players compete against each other in thrilling battles on the court. Just how do you play tennis, however?

Playing the game

In a game of tennis, each player must hit the ball over the net and into their opponent’s side of the court. They should hit it in a way that makes it as difficult as possible for the other player to return the ball. The ball is only allowed to bounce once on the other side of the court and when their opponent returns it to them, it must land inside the white lines on the court (or on the line). If they fail to return it, the other player wins the point.

Players must win more sets than their opponent to triumph and each set consists of 6 games. Men play the best of 5 sets, whereas the women play the best of 3.


Scoring looks more complicated than it is. Each game consists of 4 points: 15-30-40- and game point. Really, this is just 1-2-3 and 4 (0 points is referred to as ‘love’). If both players are drawing on three points (40), we call this ‘deuce’ and the players must go ahead by 2 clear points to win the game. To win a set, a player must reach 6 games first. They must be 2 clear games ahead. If the two players are drawing 5-5 in the set, one of the players has to win 7-5 to win it. If the players are drawing 6-6, they play a tie-breaker game in which the first player to 7 points wins the set. It gets very tense!

Players start playing for a point by serving the ball from their side into the service area on their opponent’s side of the court. Their opponent can stand wherever they like to receive the serve. If the ball doesn’t bounce within the lines when they return it or if the ball hits the net and doesn’t land on their opponent’s side of the court, the player serving receives the point. If the ball lands on or within the lines during the game, it is still in play.

Famous tennis matches

There have been some thrilling on-court rivalries, one of the most memorable being John McEnroe and Bjorn Bjorg. They played the Wimbledon final in 1980, which many consider being the greatest tennis match of all time. The match was incredibly close and featured various tie-breakers, but it was the Swede, Bjorg, who won. The title was his fifth one at Wimbledon.

In the 21st century, the game saw a new rising star. Maria Sharapova had reached the last 16 in her Wimbledon debut in 2003. She returned to the tournament in 2004. She was just 17 years old and faced Serena Williams in the final. This time she won, with some fearless gameplay. When she lifted the title that year, the victory was as much of a surprise to her as to the rest of the world.