Do you speak tennis? Like practically every other sport, tennis has its own set of terms and jargon that might sound a little confusing to the beginner. If you’re just starting out or want to be better informed while you watch matches, you can use the following list of tennis terms to help you expand your tennis vocabulary.
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Have we forgotten any? Let us know in the comments section below :-)
Ace: a serve that lands in bounds on the opponent’s side of the net that goes untouched.
Action: Synonym of spin.
Ad Court: the side of the court to each player’s left.
Advantage In or Ad In: a point more than deuce in a tie game, giving the player that scores it the advantage and positioning him/her one point from winning.
Advantage Out or Ad Out: refers to receiver advantage.
All: a term for a tied score, for example, 30-all.
All-Court Player: one who can play comfortably from anywhere on the court.
Alley: the space on the court that is between the singles and doubles sidelines.
Approach Shot: a shot that is used to transition to the net from the baseline, usually hit around mid-court.
At Net: a player’s position close to the net.
ATP: the Association of Tennis Professionals (ATP) is the governing body of men’s tennis.
Australian Formation: in doubles tennis, the strategy of both players playing on the same side of the court prior to the start of the point.
Backcourt: the area of the court from service line to baseline.
Backhand: a stroke played with the back of the hand facing in the direction of the stroke, typically starting with the arm crossing the body.
Backhand Smash: a type of smash played over the backhand side
Backspin: a shot in which the ball is hit with a more open-faced racket to low slicing motion causing a reverse spin.
Backstop: a wall, fence or the like, that prevents a ball from going too far beyond the court.
Backswing: the motion of a swing that moves the racket into position to swing forward and strike the ball.
Bagel: term for a 6-0 win or a 0-6 loss.
Ball Boy or Ball Girl: a male or female who is given the task of chasing down the balls and providing the server with balls during a match.
Ball Toss: occurs before executing a serve.
Baseline: the line at each end of a tennis court, parallel to the net, that marks the in-bounds limit of play.
Baseline Game: the style of play where most shots are hit from around the baseline.
Baseline Judge: an official who duties are calling the shots in or out.
Baseline Player or Baseliner: a player who prefers hitting from near the baseline.
Big Serve: a powerful serve, usually giving an advantage in the point for the server.
Block: typically a service return, the act of using the racket to block a hard hit ball, rather than taking a backswing to return it.
Bounce: the upward movement of the ball after it has hit the ground. Also, it is a term used by recreational doubles players, letting their partner know to not hit the ball.
Breadstick: slang for the shape of the 1 in a 6-1 win or loss.
Break or Break Point: the winning of a game when a player is not the server, hence the breaking of the serve.
Break Back: jargon for a successful receiver play after a service break.
Breaker: Colloquial term for a tiebreak.
Break Point: one point away from the end of the match.
Buggy Whip: the act of hitting the ball with no follow through but a short whip-like motion.
Bumper guard: A piece of plastic that protects the outside of the upper-half of the racket head.
Bunt: To use the power of the opponents shot and hit it back with a short swing.
Bye: occurs when top players qualify to advance without playing a match.
Call: the umpire’s decision to rule on a play during a match.
Cannonball: lingo for a hard serve usually on a flat trajectory.
Career Golden Slam: in addition to having won all four major titles in their career, a player that has also won an Olympic gold medal is said to have achieved a career Golden Slam. Only four players have ever achieved this in singles: Steffi Graf (1988), Andre Agassi (1996), Rafael Nadal (2010) and Serena Williams (2012). The term is rarely used in doubles, although the feat has been more common in that discipline. It has been achieved individually by nine wheelchair tennis players and three able-bodied players (Pam Shriver, Gigi Fernández, Daniel Nestor), and by three teams (The Woodies, the Williams sisters, and the Bryan brothers). Tennis at the Olympics was not played 1928–1984.
Career Grand Slam or Career Slam): players who have won all four Major championships over the course of their career (but not within the same calendar year) are said to have won a career Grand Slam.
Carpet: a tennis court with a surface consisting of textile or polymer materials supplied in rolls. Previously common for indoor professional events, the surface was dropped from major pro tournaments in 2009.
Carry: an illegal action where the ball is held/carried as opposed to hitting the ball.
Carve: a groundstroke hit with spin on it.
Center Court: premium seating location for the tennis court venue.
Centerline Judge: a game official who is responsible for monitoring and calling the center service line.
Center Mark: term for baseline midpoint that is 2 X 14 inches.
Center Service Line: marks the boundary for both service courts.
Chair: tennis games glossary for the location of the game umpire.
Challenge Round: final round of a tournament, in which the winner of a single-elimination phase faces the previous year’s champion, who plays only that one match. The challenge round was used in the early history of Wimbledon (from 1877 through 1921) and the US Open (from 1884 through 1911), and, until 1972, in the Davis Cup.
Challenge: when a player requests an official review of the spot where the ball landed, using electronic ball tracking technology. Challenges are only available in some large tournaments.
Challenger: A tour of tournaments one level below the top-tier ATP World Tour. Currently, Challenger tournaments compose the ATP Challenger Tour. Players, generally ranked around world no. 80 to world no. 300, compete on the Challenger tour in an effort to gain ranking points which allow them to gain entry to tournaments on the ATP World Tour.
Changeover: the time when players switch ends of the court between matches.
Chip: a shot with underspin that is typically a block.
Chip And Charge: type of approach shot which involves hitting a slice shot while rapidly moving forward and following the shot into the net. Aimed at putting the opponent under pressure.
Chop: jargon for tennis shot struck with a rapid downward action, having plenty of backspin.
Clay Court: a tennis court with a natural surface made of crushed shale, stone, brick or clay on which tennis is played, most notably at the French Open.
Clean Winner: tennis shot that the opposing player is unable to reach and play.
Closed Grip: motion where the racket face is pointed down.
Closed Racket: jargon for a racket held with a closed grip.
Closed Stance: hitting the ball with your back turned to your opponent and your body parallel to the baseline.
Code Violation: a rule violation on the men’s and women’s professional tour match called by the chair umpire which results in a player receiving an official warning or a penalty. The first violation results in a warning; the second, a point penalty; the third and more, a game penalty each. A code violation may also be judged severe enough to result in the player having to forfeit the match immediately (without having to go through the three or more automatic penalty stages). There often follows additional monetary fine for each code violation.
Consolidate A Break: to hold serve in the game immediately following a break of serve.
Continental Grip: way of holding the racket in which the bottom knuckle of the index finger is in contact with the top of the handle and the heel of the hand with the bevel directly clockwise from it.
Counterpuncher: Defensive baseliner.
Court or Tennis Court: measures 78 feet X 27 feet wide for singles and 36 feet wide for doubles with a net in the middle. Service lines are marked 21 feet from each side of the net and parallel to it.
Crosscourt Shot: a shot that travels diagonally into the opponent’s side of the court.
Cut: quick, slicing downward movement resulting in sideways and backspin.
Cyclops: an electronic device used to determine if a serve is in bounds or out.
Dampener: a small rubber device affixed to the strings of the racket to absorb some of the vibration caused by hitting the ball.
Daisy Cutter: jargon for a low shot with backspin resulting in a low bounce.
Davis Cup: annual men’s tennis competition in which teams from participating countries compete in a single-elimination format, with matches occurring at several stages during the year.
Dead Net: the accidental shot that hits the net and falls into the opponent’s side of the court.
Deciding Point: In doubles, the point played when the game score reaches deuce and there is no ad play; the game is decided in favor of whichever team wins the deuce point.
Deep Shot: shot that lands near the baseline, as opposed to near the net or mid-court.
Default: the loss of a match by disqualification.
Defensive Lob: a lob that is hit when there is no time to prepare.
Defensive Volley: a volley generally taken from below the top of the net.
Deuce: occurs when both players have accumulated a count of 40 or three points each. Either player must make 2 points in a row to win the match after Deuce.
Deuce Court: location to the receiver’s right service court where a serve is received following a deuce score.
Dink: lingo for a shot hit with very little velocity.
Dirtballer: slang for someone who is a clay court player.
Double Bagel: two sets won to love
Double Fault: player action that has failed to produce a valid serve twice in a row.
Double Hit: occurs when the ball is struck twice during a single hit resulting in the loss of a point.
Doubles: a game played with two players on each side and using the full court.
Doubles Court: term for the playing area for a doubles match.
Down the Line: a shot from near the sideline that travels parallel to the line.
Drag Volley: a volley that’s hit with backspin.
Draw: term for the system of player selection and schedule of a tournament.
Drop Shot: a ball hit softly and with backspin that lands close to the net on the opponent’s side; typically used when an opponent is near the baseline.
Drop Volley: a ball hit before it has bounced and that lands close to the net on the opponent’s side.
Elbow: Corner of the baseline and the doubles alley.
Error: a failed shot that results in a lost point.
Exhibition: Tournament in which players compete for the purpose of entertaining the crowd or raising money, but not ranking points on the ATP or WTA tours.
Fault: a serve that lands out of bounds.
Fed Cup (or Federation Cup): International, annual women’s tennis competition in which teams from participating countries compete in a single-elimination format tournament with matches occurring at several stages during the year.
Fifteen or Five: count for the first point of a game going to a player or side.
First Flight: movement of the tennis ball from the racket hit until just before it bounces.
First One In: In a tennis league, where players don’t warm up with practice serves prior to the match; rather, when each player is serving for the first time during the match, they serve as many balls needed until the first ball goes in.
First Serve: the first of two attempts by a player to serve the ball in bounds.
Five: number of games completed (e.g. “7–5” is spoken as “seven–five”), or a spoken abbreviation of “15” in points (e.g. a score of 40–15 is sometimes spoken as “forty–five”).
Flat: lingo for a rapid, straight shot without spin.
Flatliner: Player who hits the ball flat with a very low trajectory with exceptional depth and accuracy.
Follow Through: movement of the arm with the racket after the ball has been hit.
Foot Fault: occurs when a player steps on the end line before making contact with the ball during a serve.
Foot Fault Judge: an official who monitors and calls foot faults.
Forced Error: a shot that is placed in such a way that it is mis-hit by the opposition.
Forehand: a stroke played with the palm of the hand facing in the direction of the stroke.
Forcing Shot: tactic where a player’s shot places the opponent on the defensive.
Forecourt: specific location between the net and service line.
Forty: count for the third point of a game going to a player or side.
Frame: term for the oval part of the racket that houses the strings.
Frame Shot: a mishit on the frame of the racket rather than the strings.
Gallery: lingo for spectators in the stands.
Game: tennis match where the winning player or side must accumulate 4 points and lead their opponent by 2 points.
Game Point: a serve that can decide the outcome of the match with the scoring of one point.
Game-Set-Match: a statement that a winner has been decided and the match has ended.
GOAT: Colloquial acronym for “Greatest Of All Time”.
Golden Set: the win of a set without losing a single point. Congrats are in order!
Golden Slam: winning the Grand Slam and the tennis Olympic gold medal in a calendar year. This has only ever been achieved once, by Steffi Graf in 1988.
Grand Slam: one of four tournaments: Australian Open , French Open, U.S. Open, and Wimbledon make up the premium championships known as the Grand Slams of tennis.
Grass Court: a type of tennis court which has a natural grass turf surface, most notably at Wimbledon.
Grinding: taking your opponents best shots and running down every one, typically in a frenzied manner while refusing to give up.
Grommet Strip: strip of plastic containing small tubes that are placed in the frame’s string holes to prevent the strings from rubbing against the abrasive frame.
Groundstroke or Groundie: the act of hitting the ball after it has bounced once in your court.
Grunting: noises made by players while either serving or hitting the ball.
Hacker: lingo for a series of swings or shots by a player that appear to be luck more than skill.
Hail Mary: extremely high lob, for defensive purposes. A last resort return of a near impossible to get to shot.
Half Court: term for court area near the service line.
Half Volley: action occurs when the tennis ball is struck as it hits the court.
Hardcourt or Hard Court: a type of court which is made of asphalt or concrete with a synthetic/acrylic layer on top. They can vary in color and tend to play medium-fast to fast.
Hawk-Eye: computer system connected to cameras to track the path of the ball for replay purposes; used with the player challenge system to contest and review designated line calls.
Head: the top portion of the racquet where the strings are found.
Heavy Ball: jargon for tennis shot hit with topspin.
Hit on the Rise: term for a ball played before reaching the bounce high point.
Hold or Hold Serve: to win the game when serving.
Hopper: tennis balls holder.
I-formation: formation used in doubles where the net player on the serving team crouches roughly at the centre service line; used mainly to counter teams that prefer a crosscourt return.
In: valid tennis shot landing in the opponent’s court.
Inside-in: running around the backhand side to hit a forehand down the line. Vice versa for inside in backhand.
Inside-out: running around the backhand side and hitting a crosscourt forehand. Vice versa for inside out backhand.
In To The Net: hitting the ball then following it toward the net.
ITF: abbreviation for International Tennis Federation, the governing body of world tennis.
Jam: ball hit near the opposing player’s body resulting in a weak return.
Jump Smash: jargon for a player’s vigorous hit while jumping into the air.
Junk Ball: a shot or return stroke in which the ball tends to be slow and possibly also without spin; often introduced unpredictably to upset the flow of the game and the rhythm of the opposition.
Kick Serve or Kicker: term for robust spinning hit resulting in a change of direction when it lands.
Kill: lingo for a heavy hit that leaves the opponent unable to reach and play it.
Lawn Tennis: name for the original tennis game location, played on grass.
Let: a ball touching the net on the serve but landing in bounds.
Line Judge: a person with the responsibility of ruling the ball in or out of bounds.
Lob: a ball hit high in the air into the opponent’s court.
Lob Volley: type of volley shot aimed at lobbing the ball over the opponent and normally played when the opponent is in the vicinity of the net.
Long: hit that is called out of bounds as it lands beyond the opposing baseline.
Love: tennis game where the losing player scores no points.
Love Game: a game won without the opponent scoring a single point.
Love Set: a game set where the losing player won no games.
Lucky Loser: highest-ranked player to lose in the final round of qualifying for a tournament, but still ends up qualifying because of a sudden withdrawal by one of the players already in the main draw. In Grand Slam events, one of the four highest-ranked losers in the final qualifying round is randomly picked as the lucky loser.
Mac-Cam: named after John McEnroe, a high-speed video camera used for televised instant replays of close shots landing on/near the baseline.
Masters Cup: former name of the year-end ATP championship, in which the eight highest-ranked players compete in a round-robin format.
Match: tennis game that includes games and sets where the winner is declared based on greater number of sets won.
Match Point: the point in a game where a player can win the entire match by winning the final set with the next point.
Mini-Break: term for a loss of a point on service during a tiebreaker.
Mini-hold: point won by the server, usually in a tiebreak.
Mis-hit: stroke in which the racket fails to make contact with the ball in the “sweet spot” area of the strings.
Mixed Doubles: typical doubles tennis played with a male and female on each team.
Moonball or Lob: a type of groundstroke that is hit with a lot of topspin, usually with the forehand, to create a high, slow, floating shot that lands close to the opponent’s baseline.
Net: suspended from a steel cable, equipment divides a tennis court into halves. Also, the verb, ‘to net’, refers to hitting the ball into the net.
Net Cord: cable support for the net.
Net Judge: a game official who monitors and calls lets on service.
Net Point: a point won by charging and playing close to the net.
Net Posts: posts on each side of the court which hold up the net. The net posts are placed 3 feet (0.914 m) outside the doubles court on each side, unless a singles net is used, in which case the posts are placed 3 feet (0.914 m) outside the singles court.
No-Ad: A system of scoring a game in which the first player to win four points wins the game. If the score reaches 3-all, the next point decides the game.
No-man’s land: lingo for the area located between the baseline and service line where it is a challenge to hit groundstrokes or slams.
Not Up: term for tennis ball hit at a second bound resulting in a point loss.
Offensive Lob: A ball that is purposefully hit high and deep into opponent’s court.
Offensive Volley: a shot taken from above the net.
On Serve: when both players or teams have the same number of breaks in a set. While on serve, neither player or team can win the set without a break of serve.
Open Era: period in tennis which began in 1968 when tournaments became open to both amateurs and professional players.
Open Grip: occurs when racket faces upward and away from the court.
Open Racket: occurs when the racket is held with an open grip.
Open Stance: facing the opponent and hitting parallel to the baseline.
Open Tournament: both amateurs and professional tennis players are welcome.
Out: term for tennis shot that ends up outside the designated playing area.
Overhead and Overhead Smash: the act of hitting down on the ball, typically on a lob with great velocity.
Overrule: to reverse a call made by a line judge, done by the umpire.
Overspin: lingo for topspin.
Over Wrap: a spongy material wrapped around a racquets grip to improve comfort and grip on the racquet.
Pace: refers to the speed that the ball is hit. Do I hear a “pick up the pace to very high?”
Pair: doubles tennis team.
Partner: refers to one of the two players on a doubles team.
Pass: tennis shot that is hit past the opposing player.
Pickup Shot: see half volley.
Placement: strategic tennis hit that the opponent cannot play or reach.
Poach: jargon for play by one doubles player that was intended for the partner of the team.
Point: term for tennis scoring referred to as fifteen, thirty, forty, and game.
Point Penalty: results in a point loss as determined by the umpire.
Puddler: lingo for an inexperienced player who hits plenty of chip and drop shots.
Punch Volley: to hit a ball hard and fast with a very short swing.
Pusher: a competitor who plays defensively as opposed to trying to score.
Putaway: a perfectly placed unreturnable shot.
Qualies: short for qualification rounds or similar.
Qualification Round: final round of play in a pre-tournament qualification competition, also known as qualies.
Qualifier or “Q”: a player who reaches the tournament’s main draw by competing in a pre-tournament qualifying competition, rather than automatically by virtue of his/her world ranking, by being awarded a wild card, or other exemption.
Qualifying Draw: see draw.
Racket or Racquet: the tool of the trade in tennis used to hit the ball. It has a long handle with an oval frame on the end containing a series of woven cords that are stretched tight across it. Rackets today can be produced using steel, aluminum, graphite, titanium, carbon, and fiberglass.
Rally: a lengthy back and forth series of shots between players or sides.
Ready Position: receiver’s position before a serve.
Receivers: tennis game terms for players who receive the serve during the game.
Referee: game official presiding over the tournament, but leaves the officiating up to the umpire.
Reflex Volley: a volley that happens more by reaction than plan.
Retrieve: tennis game terms for the return of a difficult shot.
Retriever: a skillful defensive player who is proficient at returning difficult shots. Don’t we all want to grow up to be a retriever?
Return Ace: a returned serve in which the serving player does not touch the ball and it lands in bounds resulting in a point.
Reverse Twist: jargon for a served ball with spin resulting in a high bounce to the receiver.
Round: match series of a tournament that determines a player’s advancement to the next round.
Round Robin: to assess player standings based on win-loss records during a tournament.
Run Around the Backhand: lingo meaning to vigorously play a ball on the forehand rather than the backhand.
Sandbagger: A tennis player who plays on a lower level team.
Scoring System: is established based on game points, then a set is based on games and finally to a match based on sets.
Second Flight: jargon for tennis ball after it bounces.
Second Service: the second attempt of putting a serve in play.
Seed: is a ranking system of players based on skills and recent matches. The best players are considered top-seeded and are not required to play until the end of a tournament.
Serve: the act of putting the ball into play.
Server: a player who serves the ball in turn.
Serve and Volley: the motion of serving and making an aggressive follow shot on the return to score a point.
Service Court: area consisting of the service sideline, service line, center service line with the net in between each side.
Service Line: line marking that designates the back boundary of the service courts for each side.
Service Line Judge: a game official who monitors and calls served hits.
Set: series of at least 6 games to include a two-game margin win, unless there is a tiebreaker.
Set Point: final game or match point, that if successful becomes that player’s win.
Shank: a hit where the ball hits the handle or frame of the racket, usually resulting in a missed shot.
Shot: the motion of hitting the ball with the racket.
Sideline: tennis game terms for the side line boundary of the court.
Sideline Judges: game officials who monitor and call the shots in or out of the sidelines.
Singles: a match played by one player on each side of the net.
Singles Court: used for single matches.
Slamboni: a mini hockey Zamboni with squeegee and vacuum technology for quickly drying the courts after rain.
Slice: lingo for a shot hit with both backspin and sidespin.
Smash: an aggressive shot that lands down hard into the opponent’s side.
Snap Volley: wrist action volley that packs a wallop.
Stop Volley: a short easy volley that lands just over the net.
Straight Sets: a match is won without a set being lost.
Strings: refers to the hitting surface of the racket.
Stroke: a hit, shot or swing at the ball.
Sudden Death: usually, a 9 point tiebreaker where the first player to reach 5 points wins while it’s ‘sudden death’ for the loser.
Sweet Spot: jargon for the ideal hitting area from the racket face.
T: region of the court where the service lines meet the center service line.
Tanking or Tank: colloquial term for losing a match on purpose.
Take the Net: jargon for the act of moving towards the net to control the volleys aimed at the opponent.
Tandem/Up and Back: strategy whereby one plays the forecourt and the other, the backcourt at a doubles game.
Tape: tennis game terms for canvas material covering the top of the net.
Team Tennis: a contest among teams that include singles and doubles matches. Results are based on the team that wins the most games.
Tennis Ball: rubber ball filled with pressurized air, covered with wool and nylon material and weighing between 2 and 2 1/16 ounces.
Tennis Elbow: the pain of playing the game–caused by joint strain at the elbow.
Topspin: the spin put on a ball by hitting the top of the ball, causing it to spin in the direction it is traveling.
Thirty: count for the second point of a game going to a player or side.
Tiebreaker: the method used to determine the winner of a set that is tied. Usually settled with a short game of 13 points where the first player to reach 7 points is declared the winner.
Top Seed: the best of the best player in a tournament.
Touch: accurate control of hit followed by precise placement.
Triple: successful accomplishment of winning singles, doubles, and mixed doubles at a tournament.
Twist: lingo for a serve that combines topspin and sidespin.
Two-handed Backhand: shot delivered with both hands on the racket handle.
Umpire: a game official who is the ‘boss’ of a tennis match. The final word, the umpire may also overturn decisions by other judges if necessary.
Underhand serve (or underarm serve): a serve in which the player lobs the ball from below shoulder level.
Underspin: the spin put on a ball by hitting under the ball, causing it to spin in the opposite direction of travel.
Unforced Error: term used to describe a shot that goes into the net or out of bounds resulting in a lost point.
Unseeded Player: a player who is not a seed in a tournament.
Upset: the defeat of a high-ranked player by a lower-ranked player.
Volley: a shot hit prior to the ball bouncing on your side of the court.
Walkover: jargon for an easy win resulting from the opponent’s default.
Western Grip: type of grip used if a player wants to generate a lot of topspin on the groundstrokes, is created by placing the index knuckle on bevel 5 of the grip.
Whiff: a stroke in which the player misses the ball completely. Whiffing a serve is considered a fault in an official match.
Wide: service shot that lands beyond the sideline or service sideline.
Wild Card or “WC”: a player allowed to play in a tournament, even if his or her rank is not adequate or he or she does not register in time.
Winner: a shot that is not reached by the opponent and wins the point; sometimes also a serve that is reached but not returned into the court.
Wrong-foot: lingo for shot to the opponent’s side while this player is moving or turned in a different direction.
WTA: the Women’s Association of Tennis is the governing body of women’s tennis.
Yips: a bad case of nerves making it very difficult for a gamer to serve well.