This page is a glossary of tennis terminology.

A

  • ace: Serve where the tennis ball lands inside the and isn't touched by the receiver; thus, a shot that's both a serve and a winner is an ace. Aces are most of the time powerful and generally land on or near one of the corners at the back of the service box. Initially the term was used to indicate the scoring of a point.
  • action: Synonym of
  • ad: Used by the chair umpire to announce the score when a player has the , meaning they won the point immediately after a . See scoring in tennis
  • ad court: Left side of the court of each player, so called because the ad (advantage) point immediately following a deuce is always served to this side of the court.
  • advantage: When one player wins the first point from a and needs one more point to win the game; not applicable when using deciding points.
  • advantage set: Set won by a player or team having won at least six games with a two-game advantage over the opponent (as opposed to a ). Final sets in the singles draws of the Australian Open, the French Open, Wimbledon, and the tennis Olympic event, and Fed Cup, are all advantage sets. The Davis Cup was until 2015, when it switched to tie breaks.
  • all: Used by the chair umpire to announce scores when both players have the same number of points or the same number of games. When both players are at 40, the preferred term is .
  • All-Comers: Tournament in which all players took part except the reigning champion. The winner of the All-Comers event would play the title holder in the .
  • all-court (or all-court game): Style of play that's a composite of all the different playing styles, which includes baseline, transition, and serve and volley styles.
  • alley: Area of the court between the singles and the doubles sidelines, which together are known as .
  • alternate: Player or team that gains acceptance into the main draw of a tournament when a main draw player or team withdraws, when there's no qualifying tournament which could provide a instead.
  • approach shot: A shot used as a setup as the player approaches the net, most often using underspin or topspin.
  • ATP: Acronym for Association of Tennis Professionals, the main organising body of men's professional tennis; governs the ATP World Tour with the largest tournaments for men.
  • ATP Champions' Race (or ATP Rankings Race To London): ATP point ranking system that starts at the beginning of the year and by the end of the year mirrors the ATP entry system ranking. The top eight players at the end of the year qualify for the ATP World Tour Finals.[2]
  • ATP World Tour Finals: Formerly known as the Tennis Masters Cup (see below), it is the annual season-ending tournament featuring eight of the top-ranked men in the world (plus two alternates).[3]
  • Australian formation: In doubles, a formation where the server and partner stand on the same side of the court before starting the point.[4]

B

  • backhand: Stroke in which the ball is hit with the back of the racket hand facing the ball at the moment of contact. A backhand is most often hit by a right-handed player when the ball is on the left side of the court, and vice versa.
  • backhand smash: A type of played over the backhand side.
  • backcourt: The area of the tennis court between the and the .
  • backspin: Shot that rotates the ball backwards after it is hit; additionally known as or underspin. The trajectory of the shot is affected by an upward force that lifts the ball. See Magnus effect.
  • backswing: Portion of a swing where the racket is swung backwards in preparation for the forward motion to hit the ball.
  • bagel: Colloquial term for winning or losing a set 6–0 (the shape of the zero being reminiscent of the round shape of a bagel). See additionally .[5][6]
  • Bagnall–Wild: A method of draw which places all byes in the first round. Introduced in the 1880s.[8]
  • ball boy (ball girl or ballkid): a person, commonly a child tasked with retrieving tennis balls from the court that have gone out of play and supplying the balls to the players before their service. Ball boys in net positions normally kneel near the net and run across the court to gather the ball, while ball boys in the back positions stand in the back along the perimeter of the arena. Ball boys in the back are responsible for giving the balls to the player serving.
  • ball toss: The action of throwing up the ball prior to the .
  • baseline: Line at the farthest ends of the court indicating the boundary of the area of play. If the ball goes over the base it will be the additional player's point.
  • baseliner: Player who plays around the baseline throughout play and relies on the quality of their ground strokes.
  • big serve: Forceful serve, most of the time giving an advantage in the point for the server.
  • bisque: One stroke (point), which might be claimed by the receiver at any part of the set. Part of the handicapping odds and used throughout the early era of the sport. Abolished by the LTA in 1890.[9]
  • block (or blocked return): Defensive shot with relatively little backswing and shortened action instead of a full swing, most of the time while returning a serve.
  • bounce: The upward movement of the ball after it has hit the ground. The trajectory of the bounce can be affected by the surface and weather, the amount and type of spin and the power of the shot.
  • breadstick: Colloquial term for winning or losing a set 6–1, with the straight shape of the one supposedly being reminiscent of the straight shape of a breadstick. See additionally .[10]
  • break: To win a game as the receiving player or team, thereby breaking serve. At high level of play the server is more likely to win a game, so breaks are most often key moments of a match. Noun: break (service break) (e.g. "to be a break down" means "to have, in a set, one break fewer 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: Point which, if won by the receiver, would result in a break of service; arises when the score is 30–40 or 40–ad. A double break point or two break points arises at 15–40; a triple break point or three break points arises at 0–40.
  • breaker: Colloquial term for .
  • brutaliser: Smashing the ball directly at the opponent.
  • buggy whip: Forehand hit with a follow-through that doesn't go across the body and finish on the opposite side, but rather goes from low to high, crosses the opposite shoulder (optionally) and finishes on the same side (similar to the driver of a horse-drawn carriage whipping a horse). Used, for example, by Rafael Nadal (racket head crosses the opposite shoulder) and Maria Sharapova (racket head stays on the same shoulder).[11]
  • bumper guard: A piece of plastic that protects the outside of the upper-half of the racket head.
  • bye: Automatic advancement of a player to the next round of a tournament without facing an opponent. Byes are most often awarded in the first round to the top-seeded players in a tournament.

C

  • call: Verbal utterance by a line judge or chair umpire declaring that a ball landed outside the valid area of play.
  • cannonball: Somewhat archaic term for a quite fast, flat serve.
  • can opener: 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).
  • career Golden Slam: In addition to having won all four major titles in their career, a player that has additionally won an Olympic gold medal (in singles play) is said to have achieved a career Golden Slam. Only four players have ever achieved this: Steffi Graf (1988), Andre Agassi (1996), Rafael Nadal (2010) and Serena Williams (2012). Tennis at the Olympics wasn't played 1928–1984.
  • career Grand Slam: Players who have won all 4 Major tournaments at any time in their career are said to have won a career Grand Slam.
  • carve: To hit a groundstroke shot with a combination of sidespin and underspin.
  • centre mark: Small mark located at the centre of the baseline. When serving the player must stand on the correct side of the mark corresponding with the score.
  • challenge: When a player requests an official review of the spot where the ball landed, using electronic ball tracking technology. See Hawk-Eye. Challenges are only available in a few large tournaments.
  • 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.
  • Challenger: A tour of tournaments one level below the top-tier ATP World Tour. Currently, Challenger tournaments comprise 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.
  • change-over (or change of ends): 90 second rest time after every odd-numbered game when the players change ends.
  • chip: Blocking a shot with underspin, creating a low trajectory.
  • 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: Shot hit with extreme underspin, opposite of topspin.
  • closed stance: Classic technique in which the ball is hit while the hitter's body is facing at an angle between parallel to the baseline and with his back turned to the opponent.
  • code violation: On the ATP tour and WTA tours, a rule violation like voicing an obscenity or hitting a ball into the stands (not throughout 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.
  • consolidate (a break): To hold serve in the game immediately following a break of serve.
  • counterpuncher: Defensive . See tennis strategy.
  • court: Area designated for playing a game of tennis.[12]
  • crosscourt shot: Hitting the ball diagonally into the opponent's court.
  • cross-over: Player crossing the net into the opponent's court. It can be done either in a friendly fashion, or maliciously, thereby invoking a code violation. The latter at times happens when it is uncertain whether the ball on a decisive point landed inside or outside the court when playing on clay, thus leaving a mark.
  • cyclops: Device formerly used at Wimbledon and additional tournaments to detect a serve that landed long, past the service line. The device emitted an audible noise when the serve was long. Succeeded by .

D

  • dampener A small rubber device affixed to the strings of the racket to absorb a few of the vibration caused by hitting the ball.
  • Davis Cup: International, annual men's tennis competition in which teams from participating countries compete in a single-elimination format, with matches occurring at several stages throughout the year.
  • dead net (dead net cord): Situation in which 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 additional side; the player is said to have "gotten (caught) a dead net (dead net cord)" and considered to be lucky.
  • dead rubber: Davis/Fed Cup match which is played after the victor of the tie has already been decided. Dead rubbers might or might not be played, depending on the coaches' agreement to do so, and are most of the time best of three, instead of five, sets. Typically, players who play the dead rubber are lower-ranked members of the team looking to gain Davis/Fed Cup match experience.[13]
  • deciding point: In doubles, the point played when the game score reaches deuce and there's no ad play; the game is decided in favour of whichever team wins the deuce point.
  • dedans: An open gallery that's one of the winning openings placed at the service end of the court in court tennis; the spectators at a court-tennis match
  • deep shot: Shot that lands near the baseline, as opposed to near the net or mid-court.
  • default: Disqualification of a player in a match by the chair umpire after the player has received four code violation warnings, generally for their conduct on court. A double default occurs when both players are disqualified.
  • deuce: Score of 40–40 in a game. A player must win two consecutive points from a deuce to win the game, unless the tournament employs deciding points, as in the 2010 ATP World Tour Finals. A player who has won one point after deuce is said to have the advantage.
  • deuce court: Right side of the court of each player, so called because into which the ball is served when the score is deuce.
  • dink: Onomatopoetic term for a shot with little pace, most of the time hit close to the net.
  • dirtballer: Colloquial term for a clay court specialist.
  • disadvantage: Player or team which is 40-advantage down.
  • double bagel: Two sets won to love; see .
  • double fault: Two serving faults in a row in one point, causing the player serving to lose the point.
  • doubles: Match played by four players, two per side of the court. A doubles court is 9 ft (2.97m) wider than a singles court.
  • down the line: Ball hit straight along the sideline to the opponent's side of the court.
  • draw: The schedule of matches in a tennis tournament. The starting fixtures are determined by a combined process of player seeding and random selection, and might or might not involve a public draw ceremony. A qualifying draw is set up to arrange the starting lineup of the qualifying competition (qualies), from where unseeded players qualify for a place in the starting lineup or the main draw of the tournament.
  • drive volley (swing volley): Attacking type of backhand or forehand volley most of the time executed from a position in mid-court and played with pace at shoulder height.
  • drop shot: Play in which the player hits the ball lightly enough to just go over the net, most of the time with backspin; designed to catch a player who's away from the net off guard.
  • drop volley: Drop shot executed from a volley position.

E

  • elbow: Corner of the baseline and the doubles alley.
  • entry system: Ranking system used by the ATP and WTA tours, 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 tournament. A player's Entry System ranking is different from their 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.
  • error: A shot that doesn't land (correctly) in the opponent's court, resulting in the loss of a 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.

F

  • fault: Serve that fails to land the ball in the opponent's service box, therefore not starting the point. See additionally double fault and foot fault.
  • 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 throughout the year.
  • first serve: The first of the two attempts to serve that a player is allowed at the beginning of a point. A let serve that lands inbounds doesn't count as a serve.
  • 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 at times spoken as "forty–five").
  • flat (or flat shot): Shot with relatively little spin and most of the time hard-hit.
  • flatliner: Player who hits the ball flat with a quite low trajectory with exceptional depth and accuracy so that the ball most often strikes the line. Examples include Andre Agassi and Lindsay Davenport.
  • follow through: Portion of a swing after the ball is hit.
  • foot fault: Type of service fault in which a player, throughout the serve, steps on or over the baseline into the court before striking the ball. A foot fault might additionally occur if the player steps on or across the centre hash mark and its imaginary perpendicular extension from the baseline to the net. The definition of a foot fault has changed several times after the introduction of (lawn) tennis.
  • forced error: Error caused by an opponent's good play; contrasted with an . Counting forced errors as well as unforced errors is partly subjective.
  • forehand: Stroke in which the player hits the ball with the front of the racket hand facing the ball; contrasted with backhand.
  • frame shot: A mishit on the frame of the racket rather than the strings.
  • fry: See .
  • Futures: Series of men's tour tennis tournaments which comprise the ITF Men's Circuit, a tour two levels below the ATP World Tour and one level below the ATP Challenger Tour. Players compete in Futures events (generally when ranked below world no. 300 or so) to garner enough ranking points to gain entry into Challenger events.

G

  • game: A game consists of a sequence of played with the same player serving and is a segment of a set. Each set consists of at least six games.
  • game point: Situation in which the server is leading and needs one more point to win the game. See additionally .
  • ghost in to the net: To approach 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.
  • GOAT: Colloquial acronym for Greatest Of All Time.
  • Golden Bagel Award: Award for male players winning the most bagels (sets won 6–0), from January 1 until the year-end tournament. Davis Cup matches and incomplete sets aren't counted.
  • Golden set: Set which is won without dropping a single point.
  • Golden Slam: Winning the Grand Slam and the tennis Olympic gold medal in a calendar year. This has only been achieved by Steffi Graf in 1988. See additionally career Golden Slam
  • Grand Slam: The Grand Slam means winning all four of the prestigious major tournaments in a calendar year. "Grand Slam" is additionally commonly used to refer to any one of the four tournaments: the Australian Open, the French Open (Roland Garros), Wimbledon, and the U.S. Open. See additionally career Grand Slam.
  • Gran Willy: a name for the tweener, a between-the-legs trick shot. Named for Guillermo Vilas, who pioneered the shot in the 1970s. See additionally and .
  • grinding: Playing out points with a series of shots from the baseline. See additionally attrition.
  • grip: a grip is a way of holding the racket in order to hit shots throughout a match. The three most commonly used conventional grips are the Continental, the Eastern and the Western. Most players change grips throughout a match depending on what shot they're hitting. For further information on grips, including all the types, see grip (tennis).
  • 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.
  • groundie: Colloquial word for a .
  • groundstroke: Forehand or backhand shot that's executed after the ball bounces once on the court.
  • grunting: noises made by players while either serving or hitting the ball.
  • gut: Type of racket string. Can be made from catgut or synthetic gut.

H

  • hacker: Player whose clumsy strokes seem more accidental than intentional.
  • Hail Mary: Extremely high lob, for defensive purposes.
  • half court: The area of the court in the vicinity of the service line.
  • half volley: A groundstroke shot made immediately after a bounce or simultaneous to the bounce and played with the racket close to the ground.
  • handicapping A system in which competitors are given advantages or compensations to equalise the chances of winning.
  • 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 colour 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 (or racket head): Portion of the racket that contains the strings.
  • heavy (ball): Ball hit with so much topspin that it feels "heavy" when the opposing player strikes it.
  • hold (or hold serve): To win the game when serving. Compare break.
  • hot shot: Colloquial term, see tweener.

I

  • 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.[14]
  • inside-out: Running around the backhand side and hitting a crosscourt forehand. Vice versa for inside out backhand.
  • inside-in: Running around the backhand side to hit a forehand down the line. Vice versa for inside in backhand.
  • insurance break: Break that achieves an overall advantage of two breaks of serve.
  • ITF: Acronym for International Tennis Federation, the governing body of world tennis. Founded in 1913 as the International Lawn Tennis Federation (ILTF).
  • IPIN: Acronym for International Player Identification Number, a registration number required for all professional tennis players and administered by the governing body ITF.

J

  • jamming: Serving or returning straight into the opponent's body.
  • junk ball: A shot or return stroke in which the ball tends to be slow and possibly additionally without spin; most often introduced unpredictably to upset the flow of the game and the rhythm of the opposition.
  • junior exempt ("JE"): High-ranking junior players can be awarded a spot in the draw of a tournament through the ITF's junior exempt project.[15]

K

  • kick serve: Type of spin serve that bounces high. Introduced in the United States in the late 1880s and called the American twist.[16]
  • knock-up: Practice or warm-up session without scoring which most of the time precedes the start of competitive play.[17]

L

  • lawn tennis: "Regular" tennis, as opposed to real tennis, the game from which tennis is derived. Reflects the fact that the game was first played on grass.
  • let (or do-over): A call that requires the point to be replayed. The umpire indicates this type of let by announcing "Let. First serve," or "Let. Second serve." Lets typically occur when an otherwise-valid serve makes contact with the net before hitting the ground. Theoretically, a player could serve an infinite number of otherwise-valid let serves, but a serve that touches the net and then lands out of bounds counts as one of the two allowed serves. A let can additionally be called throughout play when there's a few distraction to either player not caused by the players themselves, like a ball boy moving behind a receiver, debris flying across the court in windy conditions, or a ball accidentally falling out of a player's pocket or entering from a neighbouring court. The call is made by the chair umpire when one is assigned to the match, as in professional matches, or one of the players when there's no chair umpire. When a receiver is legitimately unprepared for a serve, a let is technically the result, even if the word goes unspoken.[18]
  • let-check: Electronic sensor on the net that assists chair umpires in calling lets by detecting vibration. Typically, it is used only on show courts in professional matches, like electronic review. Players and commentators occasionally complain that such devices are too sensitive, that is, indicate too a large number of false positives.
  • line call (or call): Call made by the . A call of 'out' will be made in combination with an outstretched arm pointing sideways if a ball lands outside the court and if the ball is 'in', i.e. lands on or within the outer lines, this is indicated by holding both hands flattened and the arms stretched downwards.
  • line judge (or line umpire): 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 inside or outside the play area and can't be overruled by the players. Line judges must defer to an umpire's decision, even when it contradicts their own observations.
  • lob: Stroke in which the ball is hit high above the net. If the opposing player or players are up at the net, the intention might 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. See additionally .
  • lingering death tiebreak: Version of the tiebreak played as the best of twelve points, with a two-point advantage needed to clinch the set.
  • lob volley: Type of shot aimed at lobbing the ball over the opponent and normally played when the opponent is in the vicinity of the net.
  • love: term indicating zero (e.g. "15-0" is spoken "fifteen-love"; "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 either the French term, l'oeuf, literally the egg, meaning nothing or the Dutch word lof, meaning honour.[19][20]
  • love game: Shutout game, won without the opponent scoring a single point.
  • lucky loser ("LL"): Highest-ranked player to lose in the final round of qualifying into a tournament, but still ends up getting qualified due to 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.

M

  • Mac-Cam: High-speed video camera used for televised instant replays of close shots landing on/near the baseline. Name derived from John McEnroe.
  • main draw: See .
  • Masters Cup: Former name of the year-end ATP championship, in which the eight highest-ranked players compete in a round-robin format.
  • match: A contest between two players (singles match) or two teams of players (doubles match), normally played as the best of three or five sets.
  • match point: Situation in which the player who's leading needs one more point to win 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: Former name for the nine ATP Masters Series Tournaments
  • mini-break: Point won from the opponent's serve. The term is most of the time used in a tiebreak, but it can be used throughout normal service games as well. To be "up a mini-break" means that the player has one more mini-break than their opponent.
  • mini-hold: Point won by the server, most of the time in a tiebreak.
  • MIPTC: Acronym for Men's International Professional Tennis Council, administrative body of the tournaments that comprised the Grand Prix tennis circuit. Existed from 1974 until the creation of the ATP Tour in 1989.
  • mis-hit: Stroke in which the racket fails to make contact with the ball in the "sweetspot" area of the strings.
  • mixed doubles: Match played by four players, two male, two female, one of each sex per side of the court.
  • moonball: A type of groundstroke that's hit with a lot of topspin, most of the time with the forehand, to create a high, slow, floating shot that lands close to the opponent's baseline. See additionally .[21][22]
  • MOP: Point at 0–30; stands for major opportunity point.

N

  • net: Interlaced fabric, cord, and tape stretched across the entire width of the court; it is held up by the posts.
  • net cord: see dead net cord
  • net point: Point won or lost on approaching the net, as opposed to a point won or lost by a stroke from the baseline.
  • 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.[12]
  • net sticks (or ): Pair of poles placed on the singles line to support the net throughout a singles match.
  • new balls: New set of balls replacing the old ones throughout 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 shows it to the opponent.
  • no-man's land: Area between the service line and the baseline, where a player is most vulnerable.
  • non-endemic products: Products for tennis sponsorship that aren't intrinsic to the sport like watches, cars, jewelry.
  • not up: Call given by the umpire when an opponent plays a ball that has already bounced twice i.e. the ball was out of play when the player played it
  • NTRP rating: National Tennis Rating Program rating; system used in the United States to rank players on a scale from 1 to 7, with 1 being an absolute beginner and 7 a touring pro.[23]

O

  • official: Member of the officiating team: tournament referee, chair umpire, or linesman.
  • On serve: Situation where 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. An advantage set requires at least one break to win.
  • OP: Stands for opportunity point; 15–30, an opportunity to potentially break serve.
  • Open Era: Period in tennis which began in 1968 when tournaments became open to both amateurs and professional players.
  • open stance: Modern technique in which the hitter's body facing is at an angle between parallel to the baseline and facing the opponent. See additionally .
  • out: A ball that has landed outside the playing area.
  • overgrip (or overwrap): Material wrapped over the handle of the racket to absorb moisture or add gripping assistance.
  • overhead: Stroke in which the player hits the ball over their head; if the shot is hit relatively strongly, it is referred to as a smash; smashes are most often referred to as simply overheads, although not every overhead shot is a smash.
  • overrule: To reverse a call made by a , done by the .

P

  • paint the lines: To hit shots that land as close to the lines of the court as possible.
  • pass (or passing shot): Type of shot, most of the time played in the vicinity of the baseline, that passes by (not over) the opponent at the net. See additionally .
  • percentage tennis: Style of play consisting of safe shots with large margins of error. Aimed at keeping the ball in play in anticipation of an opponent's error.
  • poaching (noun: poach): In doubles, an aggressive move where the player at the net moves to volley a shot intended for their partner.
  • point: Period of play between the first successful service of a ball and the point at which that ball goes out of play. It is the smallest unit of in tennis.
  • pre-qualifying: Tournament in which the winner earns a wildcard into a tournament's qualifying draw.
  • pressureless ball: Special type of tennis ball that doesn't have a core of pressurised 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.
  • protected ranking ("PR"): Players injured for a minimum of six months can ask for a protected ranking, which is based on their average ranking throughout the first three months of their injury. The player can use their protected ranking to enter tournaments' main draws or qualifying competitions when coming back from injury.[2]
  • pulp: 30–30, not quite deuce.
  • pusher: Player who doesn't try to hit winners, but only to return the ball safely; most often used in a derogative manner.
  • putaway: Offensive shot to try to end the point with no hope of a return.

Q

  • qualies: Short for qualification rounds or similar.
  • qualification round: Final round of play in a pre-tournament qualification competition, additionally known as qualies.
  • qualifier ("Q"): Player who reaches the tournament's main draw by competing in a pre-tournament qualifying competition, rather than automatically by virtue of their world ranking, by being awarded a wildcard, or additional exemption.
  • qualifying draw: See .

R

  • racket (or racquet): 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 a few additional synthetic material, used by a tennis player to hit the tennis ball throughout a game of tennis.
  • racket abuse (racquet abuse): When a player slams their racket into the ground or net in frustration. Can result in a warning from the umpire or docking of points.
  • rally: Following the service of a tennis ball, a series of return hits of the ball that ends when one or additional player fails to return the ball within the court boundary or fails to return a ball that falls within the play area.
  • rankings: A hierarchical listing of players based on their recent achievements. Used to determine qualification for entry and seeding in tournaments.
  • rating: A system used by national tennis organisations to group players of comparable skills. The rating of players is dependent on their match record.
  • real tennis (or royal tennis or court tennis): An indoor racket sport which was the predecessor of the modern game of (lawn) tennis. The term 'real' is used as a retronym to distinguish the ancient game from the modern game of lawn tennis. Known additionally as court tennis in the United States or royal tennis in Australia.
  • receiver: Player who's receiving the of the opponent.[24]
  • referee: Person in charge of enforcing the rules in a tournament, as opposed to a tennis match. See additionally .
  • reflex volley: 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.
  • registered player: A designation used throughout the beginning of the Open Era to identify a category of amateur tennis players who were allowed to compete for prize money but stayed under the control of their national associations.
  • retirement ("ret."): Player's withdrawal throughout a match, causing the player to forfeit the tournament. Usually this happens due to injury. For a pre-match withdrawal, see .
  • retriever: Defensive baseliner who relies on returning the ball rather than scoring direct winners. See tennis strategy.
  • return: Stroke made by the receiver of a service.
  • return ace: Shot in which the opponent serves, the receiver returns the serve, and the opponent doesn't hit the ball.
  • rising shot: Shot in which the ball is hit before it reaches its apex; additionally hitting on the rise.
  • round of 16: Round of a tournament prior to the quarterfinals in which there are 16 players remaining, corresponds to the fourth round of 128-draw tournament, the third round of a 64-draw, and second round of a 32-draw tournament.
  • round robin ("RR"): Tournament format in which players are organised into groups of three or four players and compete against all additional members of the group. Players are then ranked according to number of matches, sets, and games won and head-to-head records. The top one, two, or four players then qualify for the next stage of the tournament.
  • rubber: Individual match, singles or doubles, within a Davis Cup or Fed Cup .[13]

S

  • Sabatweenie: a name for the tweener, a between-the-legs trick shot. Named for Gabriela Sabatini, who used the shot in the 1980s. See additionally and .
  • SABR (Sneak Attack By Roger): a ploy where a returner rushes forward throughout a serve to catch an opponent off guard with a quick return and net foray.[25][26][27]
  • satellite: Intermediate junior level of play, equivalent of Level 6
  • scoring: Method of tracking progress of a match. A match consists of points, game and sets.
  • scratch: Withdrawal from a match due to an injury.
  • second serve: Second and final of the two serve attempts a player is allowed at the beginning of a point, not counting net cord let serves that would otherwise be good.
  • second snap: a tennis ball struck for top spin against lubricated or co-poly strings will get additional rotation on the ball from the mains popping back in position before the ball leaves contact with the racket.
  • seed (or seeding): Player whose position in a tournament has been arranged based on their ranking so as not to meet additional ranking players in the early rounds of play. Named for the similarity to scattering seeds widely over the ground to plant them. For a given tournament there's a 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 eight seeds. The seeds are chosen and ranked by the tournament organisers and are selected because they're the players with the highest ranking who also, in the estimation of the organizers, have the best chance of winning the tournament. Seed ranking is at times controversial, because it doesn't always match the players' current ATP ranking.
  • serve (noun: service): The starting stroke of each point. The ball must be hit into the opponent's half within the service box.
  • service box: Rectangular area of the court, marked by the sidelines and the service lines, that a serve is supposed to land in.
  • service game: With regard to a player, the game in which the player is serving (e.g. "Player A won a love service game" means that Player A has won a game where (s)he was serving without the opponent scoring).
  • service line: A line that runs parallel to the net at a distance of 21 ft (6.4m) and forms part of the demarcation of the service box.
  • serve and volley: Method of play to serve and immediately move forward to the net to make a volley with the intent to hit a winner and end the point.
  • set: A unit of scoring. A set consists of games and the first player to win six games with a two-game advantage wins the set. In most tournaments a is used at six games all to decide the outcome of a set.
  • set point: Situation in which the player who's 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".
  • shamateurism: Amalgamation of 'sham' and 'amateurism', derogatory term used to describe a custom that widely existed before the open era where an amateur player would receive financial remuneration to participate in a tournament in violation of amateur laws.
  • shank: Significantly misdirected shot, the result of hitting the ball in an unintentional manner, typically with the frame of the racket. Such shots typically land outside the court, however, it is possible to hit a shank that lands validly in the court.
  • singles: Match played by two players, one on each side of the court. A singles court is narrower than a doubles court and is bounded by the inner sidelines and the baseline.
  • singles sticks (or ): Pair of poles which are placed underneath the net near the singles sideline for the purpose of raising it for singles play.
  • sitter: Shot which is hit with quite little pace and no spin, which bounces high after landing, thus being an easy shot to put away.
  • sledgehammer: Two-handed backhand winner down the line.
  • slice: Shot with underspin (backspin), or a serve with sidespin. Groundstrokes hit with slice tend to have a flat trajectory and a low bounce.
  • smash: Strongly hit , typically executed when the player who hits the shot is quite close to the net and can therefore hit the ball nearly vertically, most often so that it bounces into the stands, making it unreturnable.
  • spank: To hit a groundstroke flat with a lot of pace.
  • special exempt ("SE"): Players who're unable to seem in a tournament's qualifying draw because they're 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 , , and .
  • split step: a footwork technique in which a player does a small bounce on both feet, just as the opponent hits the ball. This lets the player go more in either direction.
  • spot serving/spot server: Serving with precision, resulting in the ball landing either on or near the intersection of the centre service line and service line or singles tramline and service line.
  • squash shot: Forehand or backhand shot typically hit on the run from a defensive position, either with slice, or from behind the player's stance.
  • stance: The way a player stands when hitting the ball
  • stick volley: Volley hit crisply, resulting in shot with a sharp downward trajectory.
  • stiffness (or racket stiffness): The resistance of the racket to bending upon impact with the ball.
  • stop volley: A softly-hit volley which absorbs almost all the power of the shot resulting in the ball dropping just over the net.
  • stopper: Player who'll not win or go deep in a tournament but is good enough to stop a top seed from advancing.
  • straight sets: Situation in which the winner of a match doesn't lose a set. A straight set might additionally mean a set which is won by a score of 6-something; i.e. is won at the first opportunity and doesn't reach five games all.
  • strings: Material woven through the face of the racket. The strings are where contact with the ball is supposed to be made.
  • string saver: Tiny piece of plastic that's at times inserted where the strings cross, to prevent the strings from abrading each additional and prematurely breaking.
  • stroke: Striking of the ball.
  • sudden death tiebreak: Version of the tiebreak played as the best of nine points, with the last being a deciding point to clinch the set. Introduced in 1965 by Jimmy Van Alen as a component of the .[28]
  • super tiebreak: A tiebreak variation played to ten points instead of seven; used in a few tournaments to decide a match instead of playing a third set.
  • sweetspot: Central area of the racket head which is the best location, in terms of control and power, for making contact with the ball.
  • swing volley: See .

T

  • T (the T): The spot on a tennis court where the centre line and the service line intersect perpendicularly to form a "T" shape.
  • tanking (noun: tank): Colloquial term for losing a match on purpose; or to purposely lose a non-vital set, so as to focus energy and attention on a match-deciding set.
  • tape it: To play an unforced error that hits the tape at the top of the net.
  • tennis ball: Soft, hollow, air-filled rubber ball coated in a synthetic fur, used in the game of tennis. The ITF specifies that a tennis ball must have a diameter of 6.54–6.86 cm (2.57–2.70 in) and a weight of 56.0–59.4g. Yellow and white are the only approved colours at tournament level.
  • tennis bubble: Indoor tennis facility consisting of a domed structure which is supported by air pressure generated by blowers inside the structure.
  • tennis dad: Father of a tennis player, most often used in reference to a parent actively participating in the player's tennis development and/or career.
  • tennis elbow: 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: International Tennis Hall of Fame located in Newport, Rhode Island, United States and established in 1954; it hosts an annual tournament around the inductee ceremony.
  • the vineyard of tennis: Southern California as characterised by Bud Collins.
  • tie: Synonymous with , but used for team competitions like the Davis Cup and Fed Cup.
  • tiebreak: Special game played when the score is 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 points over the opponent.[28]
  • 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.
  • toss: At the beginning of a match, the winner of a coin toss chooses who serves first. In amateur tennis the toss is most often performed by spinning the racket.
  • touch: Occurs when a player touches any part of the net when the ball is still in play, losing the point.
  • tramline: Line defining the limit of play on the side of a singles or doubles court.
  • trampolining: Effect which occurs when striking a ball flat with a racket that's strung at a quite loose tension. Trampolining results in a shot that has a quite high velocity.
  • triple bagel: Colloquial term for three sets won to . See .
  • triple crown: Winning the championship in all three tennis disciplines (singles, doubles and mixed doubles) at one event, especially a Grand Slam tournament.
  • tube: (Colloquial term) to deliberately and successfully hit the ball, at the opponent's the body; e.g. "he tubed his opponent."
  • tweener (or between-the-legs shot or hot shot): A difficult trick shot in which a player hits the ball between their legs. It is most of the time performed when chasing down a lob with the player's back to the net. Forward-facing tweeners are additionally at times employed, and have been dubbed "front tweeners". See additionally and .
  • tweener racket: a tennis racket of mid-weight, mid-head size and mid-stiffness, most often used as an transitional racket for young professionals.
  • twist serve (or American twist serve): Serve hit with a combination of slice and topspin which results in a curving trajectory and high bounce in the opposite direction of the ball's flight trajectory. See additionally kick serve.
  • two ball pass: Passing an opponent that has come to the net with a first shot that causes them trouble on the volley followed up by hitting the second ball by them.

U

  • underspin (or backspin or undercut): 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 (or chair umpire): Person designated to enforce the rules of the game throughout play, most of the time sitting on a high chair beside the net.
  • underhand serve (or underarm serve): Service in which the player serving delivers the ball with their racket below shoulder level. In intermediate level tennis this is considered unusual but an acceptable ploy. In upper-intermediate and professional events, the practise would generally be considered insulting.
  • unforced error: Error in a service or return shot that can't be attributed to any factor additional than poor judgement and execution by the player; contrasted with a .
  • unseeded player: Player who isn't a seed in a tournament.

V

  • vantage: Archaic term for .
  • VASSS: Acronym for Van Alen Streamlined Scoring System, an alternative scoring method developed by James Van Alen aimed at avoiding quite long matches that can arise under the traditional advantage scoring system. The only element of the VASSS to be adopted by tennis authorities was the .
  • volley: A shot hit, most of the time in the vicinity of the net, by a player before the ball bounces on their own side of the court.

W

  • walkover ("WO" or "w/o"): Unopposed victory. A walkover is awarded when the opponent fails to start the match for any reason, like injury. For a mid-match withdrawal, see .
  • 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.
  • wide: A call to indicate that the ball has landed out of court, beyond the sideline.
  • wild card ("WC"): Player allowed to play in a tournament, even if their rank isn't adequate or he or she doesn't register in time. Typically a few places in the draw are reserved for wild cards, which might be for local players who don't gain direct acceptance or for players who're just outside the ranking required to gain direct acceptance. Wild cards might additionally be given to players whose ranking has dropped due to a long-term injury.
  • winner: A shot that isn't reached by the opponent and wins the point; at times additionally a serve that's reached but not returned into the court.
  • WCT: Acronym for World Championship Tennis, a tour for professional male tennis players established in 1968 which lasted until the emergence of the ATP Tour in 1990.
  • WTA: Acronym for Women's Tennis Association, the main organising body of women's professional tennis; governs the WTA Tour with the largest tournaments for women.
  • WTA Finals: The annual season-ending tournament featuring eight of the top-ranked women in the world (plus two alternates).

Z

  • zero pointer: Ranking points received by skipping selected professional tennis tour events which a top ranked player is committed to participate in (mandatory tournaments). Therefore, the player risks getting no points added to their ranking even when participating in an alternative tournament in place of the mandatory event.