Tennis Glossary: Over 200 Tennis Terms You Should Know

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Tennis can be a confusing game, especially for beginners who may be not familiar with the crazy amount of lingo being thrown around.

Fortunately, you’ve come to the right place, as we’re going to break down every single piece of vernacular you’ll hear when on the court.

Let’s dive straight in.

Tennis Glossary

Right then, let’s crack on with the tennis terms you should know.

A | B | C | D | E | F | G | H | I | J | K | L | M | N | O | P | Q | R | S | T | U | V | W | Y | Z

A

Ace: A well-hit serve, that lands within the correct service box, but cannot be returned by the opponent.

Ad: Short for advantage (see advantage).

Ad Court: Ad court is to the left-hand side of the players, assuming they are facing the net.

Advantage: When a game reaches a deuce, whoever wins the next point gets the advantage – meaning they are one point away from winning.

Advantage In & Advantage Out: Ad in and Ad out is used when referring to the points scored after deuce (40 X 40). If the serve wins the point, it is Ad In, if the receiver wins the point, it will be Ad Out.

All: Used to describe the score when it is tied, for example, 15 all.

All-Court Player: A type of tennis player who is proficient in all areas of the court.

Alley: The area of the court in between the singles and double sidelines.

Approach: A shot taken when the player is moving towards the net.

ATP: Acronym for the Association of Tennis Professionals.

Australian Formation: This is a strategy/ positioning in doubles tennis, where both players are located on the side of the court (usually around the middle). The front player will face the opposing front player, while the back player will play around the middle of the court.

Australian Open: One of the four Grand Slam events. The Australian Open was first held in 1905 and takes place between January and February.

B

Babolat: A well-known and highly popular Tennis brand, used by professional tennis players such as Rafael Nadal.

Backcourt: The area of the court around the baseline.

Backhand: A type of tennis stroke that hits the ball from the left-hand side of a right-handed player and the right-hand side of a left-hand player. Can be hit with one or two hands holding the racket (one-handed backhand/ two-handed backhand).

Backspin: A shot used to hit the ball so that it is rotating backward. Often used to draw the opposing player closer to the net in conjunction with a drop shot.

Backstop: Typically a wall where the tennis court ends. This will be a fence on a local court, which will stop the ball from going too far out of bounds.

Backswing: The part of a tennis swing where you wind up before hitting the ball. You bring the racket backward, before coming forward and hitting the ball.

Bagel: This is a phrase used when someone wins a set 6-0.

Ball Abuse: This is where a player (normally frustrated) hits the ball aggressively when the game is not in play. This can be towards the crowd or even the other player. This player may then receive a point or game penalty, and can even be monetarily fined.

Ball Toss: The act of throwing the ball in the air before serving.

Baseline: The back most line on the court, which measures 36ft (for doubles). The players are required to stand behind this line when they serve, and the ball must land in front of this line for it to be considered “in”.

Baseliner/ Baseline player: I type of player that generally likes to play big power shots from the back of the court.

Baseline Judge: A baseline judge will watch to see if the player touches the baseline with their foot when they are serving. Although this happens fairly often, it is rare that a player is punished for this, and is often a point of contention if they do receive a penalty.

Block: This type of shot typically doesn’t have a backswing and uses the pace of the opponent’s shot to return the ball – typically a servce.

Box Set Slam: When a player wins all four Grand Slam events in singles, doubles, and mixed doubles. No player has ever done this in a calendar season; however a few have done this throughout their career.

BreakPoint: This means that the receiving player (the player not serving) is one point away from winning the game – called breaking the serve.

Bumper Guard: Sometimes called a head guard, this is the top piece of the racket, made from plastic material designed to protect the top end of the frame when hitting groundstrokes.  

Bunt: Similar to a block, however, used during a rally, as opposed to returning a serve.

Bye: This is where a player can advance to the next round of the tournament, without having played. Usually, this is because that player is highly seeded (ranked).

C

Call: A call is a decision as to whether or not a shot landed “in” or “out”. This is usually made by a line umpire in professional tennis.

Cannonball: A term used to describe a serve hit at a high speed with minimal spin, liked by a player for its effectiveness in scoring an ace.

Calendar: Golden Slam: This is where a player wins the Olympics and all 4 Grand Slam events within the same calendar season.

Calendar Grand Slam: This is where a player wins all for Grand Slam events in the same calendar season.

Career Golden Slam: This is where a player wins all 4 of the Grand Slam tournaments as well as the Olympics throughout their career.

Career Grand Slam: This is where a player wins all for Grand Slam events throughout their career.

Carpet: A type of surface that is no longer played on the ATP and WTA professional circuit. It is however still used in the ITF pro circuit. This surface was dropped since it wasn’t spectator-friendly, due to the speed of the ball and how quick a point was won.

Carry: This is where the ball either hits the racket twice or is slightly dragged by the racket. This is a rule infringement and can result in a penalty.

Centre Court: Centre court is the main, usually the largest court in a tennis tournament (typically used when referring to Wimbledon). This is where high-profile matches are played, such as the finals.

Challenge: When a player disagrees with a judge or umpire’s call and wishes to review the call.  

Challenger: A tournament circuit that is typically below the highest level. Players low ranked play in these tournaments in a big to raise their ranking to play at the higher-level competitions.

Changeover: A term used when players switch sides on the court. A changeover occurs after the first game of each set, and after every off game (3 & 5).  

Chip and Charge: A strategy used when returning a serve. The returning player will return the serve usually with a slice, then move towards the net to hit a volley.

Chop: A term used to describe a shot with a lot of backspin.

Clay Court: A tennis court surface, red/orange in color that is made from crushed stone, brick, shale, or clay. Clay is most known as the surface of the French Open/ Roland Garros.

Code Violation: This occurs when a player behaves or conducts themselves against the code of conduct – such as verbal abuse towards a member of the officiating team.

Continental Grip: A common tennis grip used in a wide array of shots. This is the grip most new players learn first due to its versatility.

Consolidate a Break: When a player breaks their opponent’s serve in one game and maintains/holds their serve in the following game.

Counter Puncher: A type of tennis player that prefers the defensive style of play, often relying on unforced errors from their opponent.

Cross Court: A type of shot that goes to the other (left or right) side of the court.

Court: Where tennis is played.

D

Dampener: A small, usually rubber piece of material that is attached at the bottom of the center strings. This is designed to reduce the vibration of the tennis racket when making impact with the ball.

Davis Cup: An international men’s tennis tournament, held by the ITF where teams from 16 countries around the world compete in a knock-out format. This event takes place throughout the year.

Default: When a player is disqualified from a match, they lose by default.

Defensive Shot: i.e. a lob or a volley used to try and gain a footing in the rally when under pressure.

Deuce: When the score is 40-40 in a game.

Deuce Court: The side of the court to the players’ right, assuming they are facing the net.

Doubles: A type of tennis played with a team mater.

Doubles Court: The court in which doubles tennis is played. A doubles court is 9ft wider than a singles court.

Double Fault: When a player fails to serve on both attempts.

Double Hit: When the ball makes contact with the tennis racket twice.

Draw: The method used to determine which players will face each other in the early stages of a tournament.

Drop Shot: A type of shot used, that lands close to the opponent’s net.

Down the Line: A shot that is struck from the sideline, that is aimed straight and lands close to the opponents’ sideline.

E

Eastern Grip: A way of holding the racket that allows for more topspin than a continental grip. It is somewhat in between the continental grip and the western grip. This allows players to swap between a continental grip and an eastern grip, without completely changing how they hold the racket.

Elbow: The corner of the court.

Error: When a player loses a point due to a poor shot.

Exhibition: A non-competitive tennis match.

F

Fault: When a player delivers a serve outside of the serving box.

Fifteen: Used to describe 1 point.

First Serve: When serving you are allowed two attempts, with the first serve being your first attempt.

Flat: A shot hit with power and little to no spin.

Flatliner: A type of player that likes to hit the ball deep and with accuracy. Andre Agassi is well known for this style of play.  

Follow-Through: The part of the swing after the ball has been hit, typically with the racket moving forward, round, and up.

Foot Fault: When a player touches the baseline before making contact with the ball when serving.

Forced Error: A well-placed shot, that the opponent is unable to return.

Forcing Shot: A type of shot used to dictate the rally, making the opponent play defensive.

Forecourt: The area of the court close to the net, between the net and the service line.

Forehand: A type of shot where the palm of the main hand is facing the direction of the shot. This is on the right-hand side for right-handed players and on the left-hand side for left-handed players.

Forty: Used when a player has scored 3 points. 15, 30 then 40.

French Open/ Roland Garros: One of the 4 Grand Slam events, held in Paris between May and June.

Future Tournament: A low-level, professional tournament. These are used by lowly-ranked professionals to gain ranking points.

Frame: The main chassis of the racket, typically made from graphite or aluminum.  

Framed Shot: A mis-hit shot that hits the frame of the racket as opposed to the strings, typically resulting in an error.

G

Gallery: The term used to describe spectators located within the stands.

Game: A game is part of the scoring system in tennis. To win a game, you must win 4 points, whilst being 2 points ahead of your opponent.

Game Point: When a player is one point away from winning the game.

Game-Set-Match: The term used when a player wins a game that results in them winning the match.

Golden Set: Winning a set without losing a single point.

Grand Slam: There are 4 Grand Slam events in tennis: Wimbledon, US Open, French Open, and Australian Open. A player who wins all 4 of these tournaments achieves a Grand Slam.  

Grass: A type of surface that tennis is played on, with Wimbledon being the most well-known tournament that is played on grass.

Grip: This can mean one of two things. How a tennis player holds a racket and the part of the racket which is held.

Grinding: When a player is relentlessly playing, typically playing all over the court.

Ground Stroke: This is a forehand or backhand that is hit when the ball has bounced once inside the court.  

Grommet Strip: The grommet strip is part of the racket designed to protect the strings.

Ground Stroke: When a tennis player hits the ball after it has bounced.

Grunting: Synonymous with the sport of tennis – the noise a player makes when they hit the ball.

H

Har-Thru: A common type of court surface found in the US, very similar to clay courts and are often blue.

Hacker: A term used to describe an unorthodox player, who seems to win points by accident as opposed to with skill.  

Hail Mary: Usually an insanely high lob, used to try and remain in the rally for the lob. This is usually done with a low chance of success, but better than conceding a point.

Hard Court: This is a type of tennis surface made using concrete or asphalt. Due to the ball’s bounce being more predictable on this surface, many players like hard courts as it allows them to control the game with more ease.

Head (Brand): Famous tennis brand, used by professional players such as Novak Djokovic.

Head (Racket): The large oval-shaped part of the racket.

Hold Serve: When a player wins a game whilst it is their serve.

Hopper: A tool used to store and pick up tennis balls. Mainly used by coaches.

I

I-Formation: A type of formation used in doubles tennis. The server stands close to the center mark, whilst their partner crouches in the middle of their service box.

In: When a shot lands within the base and sidelines.

Inside-In: This is a type of shot where a play positions themselves in a way that allows them to hit a forehand, where they would usually hit a backhand. They then hit a straight shot, usually down the line.

Inside-Out: This is a type of shot where player positions themselves in a way that allows them to hit a forehand, where they would usually hit a backhand. They then hit the ball cross-court (diagonally).

Into the Net: When a player hits the ball and continues moving forward towards the net.

ITF: International Tennis Federation       

J

Jam: Sometimes called jamming the body. This is where a serve is directed straight towards the opposing player’s body. These types of serves are often hard to return with full effect.

Jump Smash: Where a player jumps to reach the ball and performs an overhead smash (see overhead smash).

Junk Ball: A type of shot used to disrupt the rhythm of play. Often hit with little power.

K

Kick Serve: Also called a topspin serve, is a technique used to generate a high bouncing ball with topspin.

L

Lawn Tennis: The formal name for tennis, played on a grass court.

Let: When the ball touches the net but lands inside the service box during a serve.

Line Judge: An official who is in charge of calling balls that land out of the side or baseline.

Lob: A ball hit at a high trajectory, to go over the opponent.

Long: If a shot lands behind the baseline, the shot would be called long.

Love: The term for zero points in tennis.

Love Game: A game where the opponent fails to score a point.

Love Set: A set where the opponent fails to win a game.

Lucky Loser: A player with the highest-ranking who failed to qualify for a tournament, yet can still play the tournament due to a qualified player withdrawing.

M

Match: The term used to describe the entirety of a tennis game. E.g. Rafael Nadal won the match and therefore won the tournament.

Match Point: The last point a player needs to win to win the match.

Masters Cup: The ATP Finals was formerly called the Masters Cup until 2009, at which point it was changed to the ATP Championship. In 2017 this was again renamed to the ATP Finals.  

Mind the Racket: A comprehensive, go-to online portal for all things tennis. Yes, this is us.

Miss-Hit: Accidentally hitting the ball incorrectly, usually resulting in an error and the loss of a point.

Mixed Doubles: A tennis match played in pairs of the opposite sex.

Moonball: A lob like shot, usually landing towards the back of the court with topspin. Usually done to disrupt the rhythm of play and to annoy the opponent, as opposed to a lob where the aim is for the ball to go over the opponent.

N

Net: A tennis net divides the court in half and measures 3ft in height.

Net Cord: The cable that runs between the two net posts that the net hangs from.

Net Cord Judge: An official in charge of calling lets during a serve.

Net Point: A point that is one from playing close to the net.

No-Ad: A game style that removes the requirement to win by two clear points.

No-Man-Lan: The area between the baseline and the service line, which totals 486 sq. ft.

Not Up: A call made by the umpire when a player hits the ball after it has already bounced twice.

O

Open Era: The open era began in 1968 when professional and amateur players were allowed to compete together in Grand Slam events. Before this, amateur players were only allowed to compete in Grand Slams, where there was little to no prize money.

Open Racket: This is a way of holding the racket so that the strings and the racket’s face are pointing upwards towards the sky.

Open Stance: A common way of positioning yourself when hitting a forehand, with your feet parallel to the baseline.

Out: A call when the ball lands outside of the sidelines and baseline.

Overhead: A type of tennis shot, similar to a serve, but used when rallying, typically when on the receiving end of a lob.

Overgrip: A piece of material that goes over the stock grip that comes with the racket.

Overrule: When the umpire decided a line judge’s decision was wrong and imposes their verdict.

Overspin: Another term for topspin (see topspin).

P

Pace: The speed of a shot.

Pair: Two tennis players who are playing together.

Partner: The person that you play doubles with, also called teammate.

Passing Shot: A shot that is placed out of reach of the opponent.

Placement: The ability to get the ball to bounce exactly where you want it to.

Poach: A term used in doubles tennis, when one player hits the ball that their partner should have hit.

Point: The lowest denominator of scoring in tennis.

Point Penalty: A punishment given to a player for a rule infringement, resulting in the loss of one point.

Puddler: A player that hits a lot of drop shots and lobs.

Pusher: A non-aggressive player, who doesn’t press for point-winning shots.

Putaway: A nicely placed shot that is unable to be returned by your opponent.

Q

Qualification Round: The final match in a qualification competition that will determine who can play in the main tournament.

Qualifier: Someone who competed in a qualification competition to gain entry to a tournament.

R

Racket/ Racquet: The tool used to hit the ball in tennis.

Racket Face: The front side of the racket.

Rally: A rally occurs when two players hit the ball back and forth.

Ready Position: The stance that a player takes when receiving a serve.

Receiver: The player that the ball is being served to.

Retriever: A tennis player that can consistently return difficult shots.

Retrieve: Return a difficult shot.

Return (Of Serve): This is where the receiving player can hit the ball back to their opponent’s side, with the ball landing within the appropriate lines.

Return Ace: When the receiver returns the serve in such a manner, that the original server cannot get to the ball.

Round: There are multiple stages in tennis tournaments, which are called rounds.

Round Robin: A type of tournament format, where each competitor will play all the other players in the tournament. Whoever wins the most games, is the tournament winner.

Replacement Grips: A replacement grip is a strip of material that you apply to your racket when the current grip is starting to wear. This should not be confused with an overgrip. A replacement grip is attached directly to the racket itself.

S

Second Flight: A way of describing a tennis ball’s movement after it has bounced once.

Second Serve: When serving, a player is allowed two attempts. The second serve is their last attempt to serve, if they fail to make this serve, their opponent wins a point.

Serve: Every game of tennis requires a server. To serve, a player stands behind their baseline, throws the ball in the air (ball toss), and hits the ball with an overhead shot. The goal is to land the serve in the service box diagonal to the server. The serving player changes at the end of every odd game in a set (1,3,5).

Server: The person serving the ball.

Service Box: The area of a tennis court that the ball must land in when serving.

Service Line: The line the displays the service box.

Set: The highest dominator of scoring in tennis. Typically a player must with 2 out of 3 games, or 3 out of 5 games to win a match of tennis. To win a set, a player must win 6 games by at least 6 clear games.

SetPoint: When a player is on the last point needed to win the set.

Sideline: The lines of the court that dictate where the ball can bounce to be considered “in”. These lines are to the left and right of the court.

Singles: A 1 v 1 type of tennis.

Singles Court: The court in which singles tennis takes place, which is narrower than its double court counterpart.

Slice: A type of shot that is hit with a lot of backspin and/or sidespin.

Smash: A high-powered shit, typically done overhead.

Spin: Spin refers to the rotation of the ball. If the ball is rotating in a backward motion, it is called backspin. Adding spin to the ball can help control the movement of the ball itself once it has bounced.

Straight Sets: When a player wins a match without dropping a set.

Strings: These are attached to the frame of the racket, and are used to make contact with the ball. Strings come in a variety of different materials such as natural gut, multifilament, and nylon.

Stroke: The term used when referring to a player’s technique when hitting the ball.

Sudden Death: A type of tiebreaker used to determine the winner of a match.  

Sweet Spot: The area of the strings where it is best to hit the ball. Hitting the ball in this area will provide the best power and control.

T

T: This is where the back and middle service lines meet.

Tanking: Losing a match in a bad manner or on purpose.

Take the Net: Moving forward towards the net.

Tandem: A double strategy, where each player will take either the front or the back of the court.

Tape: The type of material that covers the net cord.

Tennis Ball: The type of ball used to play tennis.

Tennis Elbow: A repetitive strain injury common amongst tennis players.

Thirty: The term used when referring to the second point in tennis. 1 = 15. 2 = 30.

Tie Break: A way of establishing the winner of a set if the score is tied.

Touch: This refers to a shot that is placed perfectly with the correct amount of speed.

Triple: This is where a player can win in singles, doubles, and mixed doubles at a tournament.

Two-Handed Backhand: A style of backhand where both hands are placed on the racket.

Top Spin: Hitting the ball in such a manner that it rotates in a forward motion, typically reducing the height of the ball after it bounces.

Tweener: A showboating style of shot, where a player hits the ball between their legs.

U

Umpire: An official who makes the main calls in tennis, who typically sits in a high chair overlooking the court from the side.

Underarm Serve: A type of serving that is done by throwing the ball up and in front of you, and swinging your racket from slow to high to make contact with the ball.

Unforced Error: When a player fails to hit the ball into the opponent’s side of the court when they were not under pressure.

Unseeded Player: A seeded player is determined by the tournament committee to be one of the best players in the tournament. Whereas an unseeded player was not deemed high skill enough to warrant a seed.  

Upset: When a heavy underdog can win a match.

US Open: Interestingly, the US Open is the only one of the 4 majors to have used the three main types of surface – grass, clay, and hard court.

V

Volley: A type of shot where the player hits the ball before it has bounced, typically when close to the net.

W

Walkover: When a player has to withdraw from a match, usually due to an injury.

Warning: Given to a player when they infringe the rules.

Western Grip: One of the more difficult styles of grip, not often used in recreational tennis. This grip allows for more spin than any other grip.

Whiff: When a player swings the racket but misses the ball.

Wide: A shot, that lands outside of the sideline.

Wild Card: Also known as “WC”, is a player who is allowed to compete in a tournament but did not qualify.

WTA: Acronym for Women’s Tennis Association.

Wilson: One of the most well-known brands in tennis. Roger Federer plays with a Wilson Racket.

Wimbledon: A tennis tournament held in London, England that takes place between June and July. Wimbledon is played on grass courts and is one of the 4 Grand Slam events.

Y

Yips:  When a player is anxious before the game and allows said anxiousness to affect their game negatively.

Z

Zero: Can be used to describe the game score, if a player is 5 sets up, to their opponents no games, it can be referred to as 5-0. 0 points in tennis are called “love”.

Final Thoughts

Well, there you have it, folks.

Hopefully the lingo thrown around in tennis isn’t as confusing anymore.

If you’ve got any questions, please feel free to drop a comment in the section below.

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