The game of tennis can be dated back as far as 12th century France when it was called jeu de paume and involved hitting the ball with the palm of your hand until rackets were added in the 16th century. The tennis we know today, however, has more similarities with a game called Sphairistike created in 1873 by a Londoner called Major Walter Wingfield. If you’re interested in taking up this historic and exciting sport, or just want to understand the game when you’re watching it on TV, here’s a simple guide to help you understand how tennis is played.
Before stepping foot on a tennis court you will need: A tennis racket with a grip that’s comfortable to you, a good amount of tennis balls (you may lose some), sun cream, appropriate shoes, clothing and a cap for sunny days.
The games always start with a ‘serve’ from the baseline. The player that serves alternates after every game. Each player has two attempts to deliver the ball into the opponent's service box (inside the lines on the tennis court). You score a point if the ball bounces more than once in your opponent's side or if they fail to hit the ball back to you.
Make sure you warm up and cool down before and after playing
Take lessons or get help from a more experienced player
Practise makes perfect, don’t be disheartened if you don’t pick it up instantly
Make sure you take a water bottle and stay hydrated
The expression ‘game, set, match’ derived from tennis and will help you to understand how to win. The aim is to score enough points to win a game, then win enough games to secure a set, then achieve enough sets to win the match.
To win a game you first need to understand the points system:
No points scored = love, 1 point scored = 15 points, 2 points scored = 30 pointed, 3 points scored = 40 points, 4 points scored = set point or 40.
For a player to win a game they must have a two-point lead. If the score is tied 40-40 (this is called deuce) a player must score two consecutive points - an advantage point and then a game point. If the player has an advantage point but then losses the next point, the score will go down to deuce again.
To win a set you must be the first to win 6 games as long as you have a two game lead. For example, if your opponent has won 5 games then you’ll need to win 7 in order to win the set. For women’s tennis it is usually the best of three sets and then the best of five sets in men’s tennis.
Whether you're watching or playing, tennis can be great fun once you understand the rules. If you fancy learning about another new and exciting sport, why not check out our Beginner's Guide To Fishing article.