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Tennis: Terms to Know

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A valid serve that is not reached by the opponent.


A stroke in which the player turns so the shoulder of the racket-bearing arm faces the net before bringing the racket forward and across the body to meet the ball.


The lines on either end of the court representing the outer limits of the length of the court.


When a game is won by the player receiving serve. To be "up a break" in a set means a player/team has broken the opponent's serve one more time than the player/team has been broken.


Time spent between an odd number of games in the match when players prepare to change sides of the court.


To hit a shot with backspin (slice) and follow it into the net. A chipped approach shot bounces less, thus making it harder for the opponent to hit a forceful passing shot.


A tie at 40 is called deuce. Because a game must be won by two points, play continues from deuce until one player leads by a margin of two points.

Double fault

If both serve attempts fail. The opponent wins the point.

Drop shot

A lightly hit shot with backspin that drops softly over the net, generally intended to be an out-right winner (if the ball bounces twice before the opponent reaches it).

Foot fault

If the server's foot enters the court before the service is completed. The baseline is part of the court.


The player pivots the body so the shoulder of the non-racket-bearing arm faces the net. The player then swings the racket forward to meet the ball.


When a ball is hit just after it bounces. Half-volleys are among the most difficult shots in tennis and are typically hit be a player not in position to volley his or her opponent's shot.


If a served ball touches the net and then land in the proper (diagonally opposite) service box, a let is called and the server is permitted to serve again.


A high shot struck when the opponent is at the net. A lob can be offensive, if hit with topspin and with the intent of clearing the opponent's head and bouncing away from the retreating player. Lobs are often defensive, struck by a player on the run who needs time to regain position.


Term meaning zero points. The derivation of "love" is either a corruption of l'oeuf (French for "an egg") or playing not seriously, but for the love of the game.

On serve

When neither player/team is up a break (that is, the players/teams are either tied or the serving player/team is down by only one game).

Passing shot

When a player hits a groundstroke in attempt to pass an opponent who has taken position at the net.


A piece of equipment used to hit the ball. It features a network of tightly-knit strings inside an oval-shaped frame. The racket is held by its lower portion, known as the grip.


The player who receives the ball from the server.


Begins every point of a tennis match; the server is the player who initiates the point.


To follow a serve immediately into the net with the intent of winning the point with a volley or a forced error by the opponent. This is an increasingly rare tactic in modern tennis.


Employed when a set becomes tied at 6 games. A tie-break is generally played to seven points, but because it too must be won by at least two points, it may be extended.

Top spin

When a player strikes the ball so that it spins from low to high as it travels forward. Topspin enables a player to strike the ball with more power -- the added spin helps bring the ball down and keep it in play.

Under spin

Occurs when a player strikes the ball so that it spins from high to low as it travels forward. This shot is called a slice. Under spin causes the ball to lose speed and to bounce lower.

Unforced error

When a player makes a mistake -- hits the ball out or in the net -- deemed to have not been caused by the opponent's shot.


Occurs when a player hits the ball before it bounces. The volley is most often employed when a player is playing close to the net.


A shot that the opposing player cannot return, similar to a service ace.


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