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Fan's Guide to Tennis: Page 5 of 5: Tennis Glossary

Tennis1- History & Object
2- The Essentials (Scoring, Rules, Etc.)
3- Strokes and Spins
4- Court Diagram and Positions
5- Glossary of Tennis Terms


Ace: A serve landing in the service box that an opponent cannot touch or return with his racquet.

All-court player: A player comfortable in all areas of the court.

Backhand: A groundstroke hit on a player’s non-dominant side; can be hit with a one- or two-handed grip.

Baseliner: A player who rarely plays close to the net during a match.

Double fault: Two consecutive serves that do not land in the service box. Results in a point for the server’s opponent.

Drop shot: A short shot designed to hit the court just past the net on the opponent’s side.

Deuce: Used to break a tie for a game. The player who wins the point following the deuce is said to have the “advantage” (advantage to the player serving is called “ad-in,” to the player receiving “ad-out”). If the player holding the advantage loses the following point, the score returns to deuce. The first player to win a point while holding the advantage wins the game.

Fault: A serve that does not land in the service box.

Forehand: A groundstroke hit on the player’s dominant side, usually with a one-handed grip.

Game: A unit of scoring. The first player to win four points wins the game. Six games are needed to win a set.

Groundstroke: A ball hit after one bounce.

Half-volley: A ball hit immediately after it bounces on the court.

Let: A serve that bounces off the top of the net. If the serve lands in the service box, the server may repeat the serve. If the serve lands outside of the service box, the serve is counted as a fault.

Let cord: Any shot except a serve that bounces off the top of the net. If the ball lands in the court on the opponent’s side, play continues; if not, the ball is out and the point is awarded to the opponent.

Lob: A high, loopy shot meant to go over the head of a player at the net.

Match: A unit of scoring. The first player to win two of three or three of five sets wins the match and play is complete.

Overhead: A ball returned with a serving motion, usually following a poorly hit lob close to the net.

Passing shot: A shot from the backcourt that is designed to go past an opponent at the net.

Point: Anytime the ball does not go over the net and land in the opponent’s court, a point is scored. Four points are needed to win a game.

Rally: The act of hitting the ball back and forth over the net.

Serve: A shot that starts a point. Hit from behind the baseline into the opposite service box.

Serve-and-volley player: A player who goes straight to the net after he has served.

Set: A unit of scoring. The first player to win six games wins a set. The first player to win three sets in a best-of-five set match (or two sets in a best-of-three set match) wins the match.

Slice: A shot that uses backspin to create a low bounce and travels back in the direction from where it came.

Swinging volley: A groundstroke hit before the ball has bounced.

Tiebreak: Additional game used to break a tie in a set. Service alternates after each odd-numbered point and players switch sides of the court every six points. One player wins by capturing at least seven points, while earning at least two more points than his opponent.

Topspin: A shot that spins end-over-end, and bounces very high in the direction it was hit upon impact.

Unforced error: A ball that is not kept in play that should have been.

Volley: A ball that is hit in midair, before it bounces on the hitter’s side of the court.

Winner: A shot other than a serve that lands on the opponent’s side and cannot be hit by the opposing player.


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