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Rules of Tennis

Rules of Tennis

The rules of tennis have not changed much since the 1890s, except that between 1908 and 1960 the server had to keep one foot on the ground at all times. Now they can have one or both feet off the ground.

The Foot Fault Rule

During the service motion the server shall not

a) Change position by walking or running although slight movements of the feet are permitted, or

b) Touch the baseline or the court with either foot, or

c) Touch the area outside the imaginary extension of the sideline with either foot, or

d) Tough the imaginary extensions of the centre mark with either foot.

There have been additions of electronic gadgetry which has brought Lawn Tennis into the 21sr Century, but the basic rules remain the same as they were when tennis first began.


To decide who should serve first the umpire in a tournament tosses a coin. In a friendly match at a Tennis Club one player usually spins a racket asking the opponent to choose rough or smooth, referring to the strings in the racket.

The winner of the toss or spin has four options to choose from.

i. To serve

ii. To receive

iii. To choose ends

iv. To ask the opponent to choose

In tennis love means nil and the score goes up 15, 30, 40, Game. Should the players be level and they both reach 40-40 that is called Deuce and they play on until one gets two advantage points, which is the game.

Players change ends after the first game and then every odd game, for example they do not change at 1-1 but change after the next game 1-2 and so on. In doubles the scoring is exactly the same, except the four players alternate the serve each game in rotation. For example Player 1 on Team A serves first, then Player A on Team B, followed by Player 2 on Team A and finally Player 2 on Team B.

A match is the best of three sets, although in Grand Slam tournaments the men always play the best of five sets.

Because some historical matches went on to 22-20 or more in the third set, a tie-break was introduced in 1965 which was played if the players reached 6-6 in the first or second set, the third set is usually played out until one or other player is two games ahead.

The Tie Break

When a game reaches 6-6 the players play a tie break. The server begins by serving one point to the deuce court. The balls are sent down to the opponent and the next player serves two points as usual. From then on the players serve two balls each. They change ends when a total of 6 points have been played. The winner is the first one to reach 7 by a margin of two points.

To shorten tie breaks, sometimes the 9 point tie breakers are used. They start by serving two points each until someone reaches 5 points. If six points have been played and there is no winner the final server serves the last three points, with the receiver choosing which side to receive the final serve.


A complex computer system used to track the path of the ball and display a record of its most statistically likely path as a moving image, was introduced in 2005. Named Hawkeye, it was developed by engineers at Roke Manor Research Ltd of Romsey in Hampshire in 2001.

It was tested by the International Tennis Federation in New York City in 2005 and passed for professional use. It is now used at all Grand Slam Tournaments, the Federation Cup and the Davis Cup and a limited number of high- level ATP and WTA Events.

It is coupled with a points system and is now part of the adjudication service. A player is allowed to challenge a line judge or chair umpire's call of a point. If a player has three incorrect challenges in a set they cannot make another challenge until the next set.

New Doubles Rules

In 2006 the Association of Tennis Professionals introduced a new scoring method for doubles in ATP events. The idea was to shorten doubles matches so more of them could be played on the show courts during tournaments. It was also designed to encourage more singles players to enter the doubles.

A tie break was introduced to replace the normal third set, and the first pair to win 10 points by a two-point margin were awarded the match.

A sudden death point was also introduced to replace deuce. When the pairs are equal they will play one point and the pair that wins the point wins the game or match. These new rules do not apply to Grand Slam events or the Davis Cup where the full five sets are played.

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