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This page is a glossary of tennis terminology.
- Ace – a serve where the tennis ball served is served in and not touched by the receiver, aces are usually powerful and generally land on or near the one of the corners at the back of the service box.
- Action – another word for spin.
- Ad court – the left side of the court of each player.
- Advantage – when one player wins a point from a deuce and needs one more point to win the game.
- All-court – A style of play which is defined as a composite of all of the different playing styles which includes baseline, transition, and serve and volley styles.
- Alley – the area of the court between the singles and doubles sidelines, also known as the tramlines.
- Alternate – a player or a team that gains acceptance into the main draw of a tournament due to a main draw player or team withdrawing, when there are no qualies with potential lucky losers.
- Approach shot – a shot used as a setup as the player runs up to the net, often using underspin or topspin and being a much faster shot than used during rallies.
- ATP – Association of Tennis Professionals, the men's professional circuit
- ATP Champions Race – The ATP points ranking system which starts at the beginning of the year and at the end of the year mirrors the ATP entry system ranking. The top eight players at the end of the year qualify for the Tennis Masters Cup.
- Australian formation – a formation used in doubles wherein the net player begins roughly at the center of the net; used mainly to counter teams that prefer a crosscourt return.
- Backhand – hitting the ball with the back of the racquet hand facing the ball at the moment of contact.
- Backspin – (also known as slice or underspin), is a shot such that the ball rotates backwards after it is hit. The trajectory of the shot involves an upward force that lifts the ball (see Magnus effect).
- Backswing – the portion of a swing where the racquet is swung backwards in preparation for the forward motion to hit the ball.
- Bagel – winning (or losing) a set 6-0.
- Ball Person – a person, male or female, tasked with retrieving tennis balls from the court that have gone out of play. They also supply the balls to the players before their service so that the server can choose a suitable ball amongst them to serve with. Ball persons in "net" positions normally sit on their knees near the net and run across the court to collect the ball, while ball persons in the "back" positions stand in the back among the perimeter of the arena.
- Baseline – the chalk line at the farthest ends of the court indicating the boundary of the area of play.
- Baseliner – a player who plays around the baseline during play and relies on the quality of his or her ground strokes.
- Big serve – a forceful serve, usually giving an advantage in the point for the server.
- Block – a defensive shot with relatively little backswing, usually while returning a serve.
- Breadstick – jargon for winning (or losing) a set 6-1, with the straight shape of the "1" being evoked supposedly by the straight shape of a breadstick. The term seems to be used relatively rarely.
- Break – to win a game as the receiving player or team, thereby breaking serve. Noun: break (service break) (e.g. 'to be a break down' means 'to have, in a set, one break less than the opponent', 'to be a double break up" means 'to have, in a set, two breaks more than the opponent').
- Break back – to win a game as the receiving player or team immediately after losing the previous game as the serving player or team.
- Break point – one point away from a break (expressed as the score of 30-40); a double break point (or two break points) is expressed as the score of 15-40; a triple break point (or three break points) is expressed as the score of 0-40.
- Buggy Whip – Describes a forehand hit with a follow through which does not go across the body and finish on the opposite side but rather goes from low to high and finishes on the same side (similar to the driver of a horse drawn carriage whipping a horse). Used by Rafael Nadal.
- Bye – Refers to the round of tournament where a player advances automatically without facing an opponent.
- Call – an utterance of a line judge declaring that a play was outside of the play area
- Cannonball – A somewhat older term used to define a hard flat serve.
- Can Opener – A serve hit by a right-handed player with slice landing on or near the intersection of the singles tramline and service line in the deuce court (landing in the ad court for a left-handed player).
- Carve – To hit a groundstroke shot with a combination of sidespin and underspin
- Challenge – to request the official review of the location where the ball has landed after a shot using the means of electronic ball tracking technology. See Hawk-Eye
- Challenger – A tournament/tour which is one level below the ATP tour. Players compete on the Challenger tour in an effort to gain ranking points which allow them to gain entry to tournaments on the ATP tour.
- Change-over – The rest time between certain games when the players change ends.
- Chip – blocking a shot with underspin
- Chip and charge – a play which involves hitting a slice shot while moving forward and following the shot into the net
- Chop – a shot with extreme underspin
- Clean the Line/Clip the Line – A shot in which some part of the ball lands on the line.
- Closed stance – hitting the ball with the body facing between parallel to the baseline and backturned to the opponent; a classic technique.
- Code Violation – On the ATP tour, occurs when a player commits a violation such as voicing an obscenity or hitting a ball into the stands (not during the point). The first violation results in a warning, the second a point penalty, the third a game penalty, and the fourth forfeiting the match.
- Counterpuncher – a defensive baseliner. See tennis strategy
- Court – the area designated for playing a game of tennis
- Crosscourt – hitting the ball diagonally into the opponent's court
- Cross-over – a player crossing the net into the opponent's court. It can either be done in a friendly fashion, or done maliciously thereby invoking code violation. The latter sporadically happens when it is uncertain whether the ball on a decisive point landed inside or outside the court when playing on clay, thus leaving behind a mark so that the offending party could point out to the chair umpire.
- Cyclops – A device used on Center Court to detect if a serve lands long past the service line. The device emits an audible noise when the serve is long.
- Davis Cup – An international, annual Men's tennis competition in which teams from participating countries compete in a single elimination format with matches occurring at several intervals during the year
- Dead net (dead net cord) – a situation when a player scores by inadvertently hitting the ball in such a way that it touches the upper cord of the net and rolls over to the other side; the player is said to have 'gotten (caught) a dead net (dead net cord)' and considered to be lucky which is often expressly admitted by the player himself/herself
- Dead Rubber – Refers to a Davis Cup match which is played after the victor of the tie has already been decided. Dead Rubbers may or may not be played depending on the coaches agreement to do so and are usually best of 3 instead of 5 sets. Typically the players who play the Dead Rubber are lower ranked members of the team who play the Dead Rubber to gain Davis Cup match experience.
- Deep – a shot that lands near the baseline, as opposed to near the net
- Default – a disqualification of a player in a match by the chair umpire, after the player received four code violations warnings, generally for his/her conduct on court
- Deuce – the score 40-40 in a game. A player must win two consecutive points from a deuce before winning the game. See advantage
- Deuce court – the right side of the court of each player
- Dink – hitting a shot with no pace
- Dirtballer – a colloquial term for a clay court specialist
- Double Bagel – two sets won to love: see Bagel
- Double Fault – two faults in a row in one point, causing the player serving to lose the point
- Doubles – a tennis game played by four players, two per side of the court
- Down the line – hitting the ball down the side of the court into the opponent's court
- Drop shot – a play in which the player hits the ball lightly enough to just go over the net; designed to catch a player who is away from the net off guard
- Drop volley – a drop shot executed from a volley
- Entry System – The ranking system used by the ATP and WTA tours which is so named because it determines whether a player has a sufficiently high ranking to gain direct acceptance (not as a qualifier or wildcard) into the main draw of a given tournament. A player's Entry System ranking is different from his or her Race ranking, which is reset to zero at the beginning of each year. A player carries points and the associated Entry ranking continuously unless those points are lost at a tournament at which the player had previously earned them.
- Exhibition – A tournament in which players compete for the purpose of entertaining the crowd but not ranking points on the ATP or WTA tours. Examples include the Kooyong tournament and the Sampras v Federer battle of the ages.
- Fault – a serve that fails to place the ball in the correct area of play, therefore not starting the point
- Fed Cup – An international, annual Women's tennis competition in which teams from participating countries compete in a single elimination format tournament with matches occurring at several intervals during the year
- First Service – the first of the two serves of a tennis ball a player is allowed at the beginning of a point.
- Five – an expression of a number of games completed (e.g. '7-5' is spoken as "seven-five"), or (curiously, in the UK) as a spoken abbreviation of "15" in points (e.g. a score of 40-15 is spoken as "forty-five")
- Flat – e.g. a flat serve; a shot with relatively little spin
- Flatliner – A player that hits the ball flat with a very low trajectory with exceptional depth and accuracy such that the ball strikes the lines often. Also said because their shots cause their opponents to "flatline". Examples include Andre Agassi and Novak Djokovic.
- Follow through – the portion of a swing after the ball is hit
- Foot fault – when a player, during the serve, steps on or over the baseline into the court before striking the ball, which results in a service fault. A foot fault may also occur when the player steps on or across the center hash mark and its imaginary perpendicular extension from the baseline to the net
- Forced error – when an opponent hits a difficult shot that causes the player to miss. As opposed to the Unforced error
- Forehand – a method of wielding a tennis racquet where the player hits the tennis ball with a stroke that comes from behind their body with the front of their racquet hand facing the ball
- Fry – jargon for winning (or losing) a set 6-1, with the straight shape of the "1" being evoked supposedly by the straight shape of a potato fry. The term seems to be used relatively rarely.
- Futures – A series of tennis tournaments which is two levels below the main tour and one level below the Challenger tour. Players compete in futures events in an attempt to garnish enough ranking points to gain entry into Challenger events.
- GOAT – Acronym for the "Greatest Of All Time"
- Game point – a situation when the player who is leading needs one more point to win a game
- Ghost In to the Net – refers to the tactic of approaching the net from the baseline while the opposing player is focused on retrieving a ball and therefore unaware that the player is approaching the net
- Golden Set – winning a set without losing a point
- Golden Slam – winning the Grand Slam and the tennis Olympic gold medal in a calendar year
- Grand Slam – the four most prestigious tournaments in a year: the Australian Open, the French Open (or Roland Garros), Wimbledon and the U.S. Open. Winning the Grand Slam is winning all four in a calendar year.
- Groundies – see Groundstroke
- Groundstroke – a forehand or backhand shot that is executed after the ball bounces once on the court
- Gut – Refers to a type of historically very popular racquet string made from natural materials (the intestines of cows).
- Hacker – A beginning to intermediate player
- Hail Mary – an extremely high lob, for defensive purposes
- Half volley – a volley shot made after a short bounce
- Hawk-Eye – A high speed computer system used to track the path of the ball and used with the challenge system to overall line calls
- Head – (racket) the portion of the racket that contains the strings
- Heavy (Ball) – A ball hit with so much topspin that it feels "heavy" when the opposing player strikes it.
- Hold – winning the game when serving
- Hopman Cup – An international, annual Coed tennis competition in which teams from participating countries compete in a single elimination format tournament
- I-formation – (in doubles) a formation where the server and partner stand on the same side of the court (deuce or advantage court) before starting the point
- Inside-out – running around one side (e.g. the backhand side) and hitting a crosscourt shot
- Inside-in – running around one side and hitting it down the line; less popular than the inside-out
- Insurance Break – Obtaining an overall advantage of two breaks of serve.
- ITF – the International Tennis Federation, the governing body of world tennis.
- Jamming – to serve or return straight to the opponent's body
- Junk ball – a deliberate yet poor quality stroke producing a slower and harder-to-predict return that is introduced deliberately to upset the flow of the opposition.
- Kick serve – a type of spin serve that bounces high
- Lawn tennis – "regular" tennis, as opposed to table tennis or real tennis, the game from which tennis is derived.
- Let (let service) – when the ball from a serve touches the net but lands in the service court; the serve is void, and the server gets to retake that serve.
- Let – a warning exclamation when multiple matches occur adjacent to one another and one match's ball bounces into the court of another match. The point is replayed in the offended match. Most often used in high school and college tennis, although it can also be used at the major tournaments if a ball falls out of a player's shorts or skirt onto the court.
- Let-check – An electronic device attached to the net which detects lets by detecting vibration of the net. It is not uncommon for professional players to complain that the device is adjusted to too sensitive a level.
- Line judge – a person designated to observe the passage of tennis balls over the boundary lines of the court. A line judge can declare that a play was within or outside of the play area and cannot be overruled by the players. A line judge must defer to an umpire's decision, even when it contradicts their own observations.
- Lob – a stroke in tennis where the ball is hit high above the net. If the opposing player or players are up at the net, the intention may be an offensive lob in order to win the point outright. In a defensive lob, the intent is to give the player time to recover and get in position, or, if the opponents are at the net, to force them to chase down the lob.
- Love – zero (score) (e.g. 'to hold to love' means 'to win the game when serving with the opponent scoring zero points'; 'to break to love' means 'to win the game when receiving with the opponent scoring zero points'). Thought to be derived from the French term, "l'oeuf", literally "the egg", meaning nothing.
- Love game – a shutout game, won without the opponent scoring
- Lucky Loser – The highest ranked player to lose in the final round of qualifying but still gain acceptance into the main draw of a tournament due to a main draw player withdrawing
- Mac-Cam – A high speed video camera used for televised instant replays of close shots landing on/near the baseline.
- Masters Cup – The year end tennis competition for the ATP tour where the top 8 players compete.
- Match point – a situation when the player who is leading needs one more point to win the match. If the player is serving in such a situation, (s)he is said to be 'serving for the match'. Variations of the term are possible, e.g. championship point is the match point in the final match of a championship
- Mercedes Super 9 – The former name for the 9 ATP Masters Series Tournaments
- Mini-break – to win a point from the opponent's serve in a tiebreak without losing points on your own serve.
- Mis-hit – when the racket fails to make contact with the ball in the "sweetspot" area of the strings
- Mixed Doubles – a tennis game played by four players, two male, two female, one of each player sex per side of the court
- Moonball – a medium-high offensive lob hit with topspin (in the UK, also a pejorative term for a defensive, very high return of shot)
- MOP – stands for Major Opportunity Point at 0-30.
- Net– the piece of netting stretched across the middle of the court; it is held up by the posts
- Net point – a point won or lost on approaching the net, as opposed to a point won or lost by a stroke from the baseline
- New balls – a new set of balls replacing the old ones during the game from time to time due to the fact that strokes make the ball heat up and alter its bounce characteristics; the player first to serve one of the new balls shall show it to the opponent expressly
- No-Man's Land – the area between the service line and the baseline, where a player is most vulnerable
- NTRP Rating – A tennis rating system which consists of a scale from 1 to 7 with a 1 being an absolute beginner and 7 a touring pro.
- OP – stands for Opportunity Point at 15-30.
- Open stance – hitting the ball with the body facing between parallel to the baseline and facing the opponent; a modern technique.
- Out – any ball that lands outside the play area
- Overhead – (also: 'smash') a situation when the player is hitting the ball over his/her head; if the shot is hit relatively strong, it is referred to as the smash (see: Smash); smashes are often referred as simply 'overheads', although not every overhead shot is a smash
- Overrule – reversing a call from the linesperson, done by the umpire
- Overwrap – A material wrapped over the handle of the racket to absorb moisture. Includes gauze and the popular overap Tournagrip (tradename).
- Passing shot – A shot that passes by (not over) the opponent at the net (see lob)
- Poaching – (in doubles) an aggressive move where the player at net moves to volley a shot intended for his/her partner
- Pressureless Ball – A special type of tennis ball that does not have a core of pressurized air as standard balls do but rather has a core made of solid rubber, or a core filled tightly with micro-particles. Quality pressureless balls are approved for top-pro play generally, but pressureless balls are typically used mostly at high altitudes where standard balls would be greatly affected by the difference between the high pressure in the ball and the thin air.
- Point – the period of play between the first successful service of a ball to the point at which that ball goes out of play
- Protected Ranking – a player injured for a minimum of six months can ask for a protected ranking, which will be based on his average ranking during the first three months of his injury. The player will be able to use his protected ranking to enter tournaments' main draws or qualifying competitions, when coming back from injury.
- Pulp – 30-30 in a service game; not quite 'Deuce' (Juice).
- Pusher – a player who does not try to hit winners, but only to return the ball safely
- Putaway – a shot to try to end the point from an advantageous situation
- Qualies – The qualifying rounds of a tournament where participants compete for a spot in the main draw.
- Racquet (Racket) – a bat with a long handle and a large looped frame with a string mesh tautly stretched across it, the frame made of wood, metal, graphite, composite, or some other synthetic material, used by a tennis player to hit the tennis ball during a game of tennis - (see also Racket)
- Rally – (Following the service of a tennis ball) – A series of return hits of the ball that ends when one or other player fails to return the ball within the court boundary or fails to return a ball that falls within the play area.
- Receiver – the person that is being served to
- Referee – a person in charge of enforcing the rules in a tournament, as opposed to a tennis match (see Umpire)
- Reflex Volley – a volley in which the player has no time to plan the shot, and instead reacts instinctively to get the racket in position to return the ball. This occurs frequently in doubles and in advanced singles.
- Retirement – a player withdrawing during a match, usually due to injury; and subsequently forfeiting their place in the tournament. For a pre-match withdrawal see walkover.
- Retriever – a defensive baseliner. See tennis strategy
- Return Ace – it's the shot when the opponent serves and you return the serve and the opponent doesn't hit the ball.
- Round of 16 – The round of a tournament prior to the quarterfinals in which there are 16 players remaining, corresponds to the 4th round of 128-draw tournament, the 3rd round of a 64-draw, and 2nd round of a 32-draw tournament.
- Round Robin – a tournament format in which players are organised into groups of 3 or 4 players and compete against all other members of the group, players are then ranked according to number of matches, sets and games won and head to head records. The top 1 or 2 players then qualify for the next stage of the tournament.
- Second Service – the second and final of the two serves a player is allowed at the beginning of a point
- Seed – For a given tournament there are specified number of seeds depending on the size of the draw. For ATP tournaments typically one out of four players are seeds. For example, a 32 draw International Series tournament would have 8 seeds. The seeds are chosen and ranked by the tournament organizers and are selected because they are the players with the highest ranking who also, in the estimation of the organizers, have the best chance of winning the tournament. The draw is then created with seeds placed such that they will not have to play each other in the early rounds and will likely only face lower ranked opponenents until the latter rounds of the tournament where they will likely face each other.
- Serve – (also, as a noun, 'service') to begin a point by hitting the ball into the opponent's half of the court.
- Service game – with regard to a player, the game where the player is serving (e.g. 'Player A won a love service game' means that Player has won a game where (s) he was serving without the opponent scoring).
- Serve and volley – a strategy to serve and immediately move forward to make a volley and hopefully a winner.
- Set point – a situation when the player who is leading needs one more point to win a set. If the player is serving in such a situation, (s)he is said to be 'serving for the set'.
- Shank – a mishit whereby the ball contacts the racket frame during the swing resulting in a shot which is misdirected.
- Singles – a tennis game played by two players.
- Singles Sticks – A pair of poles which are placed underneath the net near the singles sideline for the purpose of raising it for single play.
- Sitter – a shot hit by the opponent which is hit with very little pace and no spin which bounces high after landing thus being an easy shot to "put away".
- Slice – (rally) hitting a tennis ball with underspin; (service) serving with sidespin.
- Smash – the most frequent variety of the overhead shot (see: Overhead): an overhead shot at an angle close to perpendicular causing the ball to bounce off the opponent's court at angle close to perpendicular or in another manner that is hard to manage by the opponent.
- Spank – To hit a groundstroke flat with a lot of pace.
- Special Exempt – players who are unable to appear in a tournament's qualifying draw, because they are still competing in a previous tournament, can be awarded a spot in the main draw by special exempt.
- Spin – rotation of the ball as it moves through the air, affecting its trajectory and bounce. See Backspin & Topspin.
- Split step – a footwork technique, doing a small hop just before the opponent hits the ball.
- Spot Serving/Server – Serving with precision resulting in the ball either landing on or near the intersection of the center service line and service line or singles tramline and service line.
- Squash Shot – A forehand or backhand shot typically hit on the run from a defensive position, either with slice, or from behind the player's stance.
- Stick the Volley – A volley hit crisply resulting in shot with a sharp downward trajectory.
- Straight sets – a match victory in which the victor never lost a set
- Strings – The material weaved through the face of the racquet. The strings are where contact with the ball is supposed to be made
- String Saver – tiny pieces of plastic that are sometimes inserted where the strings cross, to prevent the strings from abrading against each other and prematurely breaking
- Stroke – a striking of the ball.
- Sweetspot – The central area of the stringbead which is the desired location for making contact with the ball.
- Tanking – to purposely lose a match, because of poor mental game or other reason; or to purposely lose a non-vital set, so as to focus energy and attention on a match-deciding set.
- Tennis Ball – a soft, hollow, air-filled rubber ball coated in a synthetic fur, used in the game of tennis.
- T – where the center line and service line intersect to form a T.
- Tennis Bubble – An indoor tennis facility consisting of a domed structure which is supported by air pressure generated by blowers inside the structure.
- Tennis Elbow – A common injury in beginner to intermediate tennis players possibly due to improper technique or a racket which transmits excessive vibration to the arm.
- Tennis Hall of Fame – The Sport's Hall of Fame located in Newport, Rhode Island.
- Tie – synonymous with match but used for Davis Cup.
- Tiebreak (also: tiebreaker) – a special game at the score 6-6 in a set to decide the winner of the set; the winner is the first to reach at least seven points with a difference of two over the opponent.
- Topspin – spin of a ball where the top of the ball rotates toward the direction of travel; the spin goes forward over the top of the ball, causing the ball to dip and bounce at a higher angle to the court.
- Touch – Occurs when a player touches any part of the net when the ball is still in play resulting in losing the point.
- Tramline – a line defining the limit of play on the side of a singles or doubles court.
- Trampolining – The effect which occurs when striking a ball flat with a racket which is strung at a very loose tension. Trampolining results in a shot which has a very high velocity.
- Tree – A player who is playing much better than they normally play, or a shot that a player hits that he/she would not normally make under normal circumstances.
- Treeing – Someone who is playing much better than they normally play.
- Tweener – a trick shot first popularized by Yannick Noah which involves hitting the ball between the legs from front to rear while retrieving an offensive lob.
- Twist Serve – A serve hit with a combination of slice and topspin which results in a curving trajectory and high bounce in the opposite direction of the balls flight trajectory. (See Kick Serve).
- Underspin – spin of a ball where the top of the ball rotates away from the direction of travel; the spin is underneath the ball, causing the ball to float and to bounce at a lower angle to the court.
- Umpire – (during play) – an independent person designated to enforce the rules of the game in a match, usually sitting on a high chair beside the net.
- Underhand service (serve) – a service whereby a player serving delivers the ball with his or her racquet below shoulder level. In intermediate level tennis this is considered unusual but an acceptable ploy. In upper-intermediate and professional events, the practice would generally be considered insulting, but there may be exceptions (for example, if the server is injured). Examples include those twice attempted during French Open 1999 Women's Single Final.
- Unforced error – during play, an error in a service or return shot that cannot be attributed to any factor other than poor judgement and execution by the player.
- U.S. Open – See US Open (tennis).
- Unseeded player – A player (male or female) who is not a seed in the tournament (see Seed).
- Volley – a forehand or backhand shot executed before the ball bounces in the court.
- Walkover – an unopposed victory. A walkover may be awarded as a bye, or more commonly because the opponent defaulted by being disqualified or failing to attend the match—including after withdrawal due to injury.
- Wild card – a player allowed to play in a tournament, even if his/her rank is not adequate or does not register in time. Typically a few places in the draw will be reserved for wild cards, which may be for local players who do not gain direct acceptance or for players who are just outside the ranking required to gain direct acceptance.
- Wimbledon – See The Championships, Wimbledon.
- Winner – (rally) a forcing shot that can not be reached by the opponent and wins the point; (service) a forcing serve that is reached by the opponent, but is not returned properly, and wins the point.
- Women's doubles – An event that two women play together and serve to two other women, serving with the server of the team's choice to go first, then the other team, and the other player of that team, and then the other player of the other team. Scoring is the same that of women's singles. See: Mixed doubles.
- WTA – Women's Tennis Association, the women's professional circuit.
See all sports glossaries:
Published - January 2009
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