There are many different ways to hit the tennis ball, based on where the balls lands on the court, your positioning, and strategic preference. But before you start swinging, we'll want to identify your dominant hand. Typically, your dominant hand is that you write or play other sports with (though this is not always the case).
Shots and Swings: The Basics
Forehand: The forehand is a shot made with your dominant hand by swinging the racquet across one's body. Typically, the forehand will be executed with one hand on the grip and the other out for balance, however, some players use two hands. The forehand is considered a groundstroke which is a shot hit after the ball has bounced. Groundstrokes are usually hit when the positioning of the player is around the baseline of the court.
Backhand: The second type of groundstroke is done with the player's non-dominant hand, the backhand. This swing typically entails both hands on the grip with the bottom (dominant) hand’s palm facing towards the body and the top hand’s palm facing away from the body. For a right-handed player, a backhand begins with the racquet on the left side of the body, continues across the body as contact is made with the ball, and ends on the right shoulder. For left handed individuals, the reverse is true. Some players do you a one-handed backhand, where there is only one hand on the racket and it’s palm is facing into the body, however, this requires a high level of strength and control. If you're a tennis spectator, you'll know that Roger Federer is known for his one-handed backhand.
Two handed backhand visual:
Blackhand Slice: An extension of the backhand is the backhand slice. The slice is hit with one hand (dominant) holding the racket and the other hand is used to stabilize the racket. For right handed players the backhand slice will begin above the left shoulder and follow a banana shaped path as contact is made with the ball at an angle.
Serve: To begin points, the player must serve. The serve swing uses the dominant hand on the racket only. Players begin a serve by tossing the ball into the air and hitting it usually near the highest point of the toss. This swing starts in front of the player, the ball is tossed, and the player draws their racket parallel to their body and then upwards to make contact with the tossed ball.
Volleys: Typically done when a player is at the net (around the service line), volleys hit the ball before it has bounced on the player’s own side of the net. A forehand volley is hit with the dominant hand only on the grip and essentially punching the ball out of the air. The backhand volley is similar to a backhand slice but because it is a volley, the ball will not bounce. With both volley swings, they are short and controlled.
Swinging Volley: An extension of a volley is a swinging volley, which is either a forehand or backhand swing making contact with the ball out of the air, meaning the ball does not bounce on your side of the net. It can be used to put pressure on the opponent as you use the momentum of the shot to move forward to the net. Player beware, many make the mistake of using a swinging volley and overhitting the ball straight into the net or outside of the court when a standard "punching" volley would suffice and win the point.
Overheads: When a player is at the net and the opponent hits a ball with a high trajectory to you, many choose to hit a satisfying overhead shot. Overheads have a similar swing as the serve with the difference being that the opponent hits the ball to you while with a serve the ball is tossed by the player themselves.
Scoring in Tennis: The Basics
Have you ever tried to watch a professional tennis match and couldn’t keep up with the score? How do they know when to switch sides and what does “love” mean? Here’s a comprehensive guide on how to keep score in tennis for the next time you are watching or playing!
A regular tennis match is played as best 2 out of 3 sets. In order to win a set, you must win six games. If you “split sets,” meaning each player wins one set, you play a deciding third set. At the start of each game, each player starts at “love,” meaning zero points. Each game only consists of four points. Gaining one point is equal to a score of 15, two points is 30, and three is 40, which is a game point. If you are serving, and say "40-love", this means that you have 4 points, and your opponents has 0. If you win that next point, you have won that game. If the game gets to 40-all (40-40), it is called “deuce” and the player who wins two consecutive points wins the game. If you win the point at deuce, you have the “advantage” and it is your game point. In some cases, matches are played with “no-ad scoring,” meaning the player who wins the point at deuce will win the game automatically.
How to Start: A match begins with one player spinning their racquet or flipping a coin to determine who will serve first. The person who wins the toss will choose to either serve or receive and the player who loses the toss will decide which side of the court they will start on. The player who is serving will start the game from the baseline on the deuce side of the court (right side of the center mark) and serve diagonally to the deuce box on the other side of the net to their opponent. After the first point, the server will serve from the advantage side of the court (left of the center mark) to the advantage box on the other side of the court. The server will continue to switch serving from the deuce to ad-side each point until the game is over. The server should say the score (their score first and the opponents to follow) aloud before each point is played.
Switching Servers and Sides: Each game, the server alternates between the two players. After the first game is played, the players will switch sides of the court. For the rest of the set, the players will switch sides every two games. To make things easier, players switch sides only on odd number games (3-2, 5-2, etc).
Tiebreakers: At 5-5, the players can still complete the set by scoring a two game advantage of 7-5. However, if the score becomes 6-6 (6-all) a seven point tiebreaker is played to determine the winner of the set. Just like games are played, the server only serves the first point and the other player serves two points, and so on. At 6-6 in a tiebreaker, the player to win two consecutive points wins the tiebreaker and set, or match.
Doubles: Singles and doubles matches use the same scoring generally. The only difference is there’s four players on the court instead of only two. A traditional doubles set up looks like one player serving from the deuce side, their partner at the net on the advantage side, and the receiver on the deuce side on the other side of the court, and lastly their partner at the net on the advantage side.
Especially when playing recreationally, it's common curteosy for the server to announce the score before every point to ensure all players are in agreeance. If you ever lose track of the score, or are unsure about how to proceed in a tied match, ask your opponent! At the end of the day, we're all playing for the love of the game.