Some would say the aim of the game is to win a match. But others would say the real aim of this game is to have fun in the sun! My aim here is to show you the fundamentals if you are new to it.
Once on the court you want to hit the ball into your opponent’s court until they cannot return it (as you’ve probably guessed). But to win a game you must score two points more. This makes for no such thing as a really close game. Thankfully, picking up a racquet, a can of balls and a pair of tennis shoes (those that don’t leave marks on the concrete from the soles) are all you need to try it out.
In this sport serious injury is almost nonexistent, locations to play are often at your local park or school and, with only two players needed to get a game going, you’re all set. Speaking of sets….those are what you need to win the match. The match is the “ultimate goal”. It is determined by who wins the most sets. Pay attention to the numbers here. The player winning the first 2 sets takes the match. Or the player winning 2 of 3 sets takes the match. Did I mention the player winning 6 games in a set takes that set? Nobody said winning comes quickly! After all, a Wimbledon final isn’t afternoon tea and crumpets.
When you first learn to hit the ball–called a stroke or swing–there are two main aspects.
- Rally using a groundstroke. It’s common practice to improve your skill at this using drills, no matter what your level. The challenge for you when using your groundstroke is to place the ball toward the back of the court– that is where the baseline is–without overhitting the shot. Equally as challenging is to place your shot in the forecourt–closer to the net. The forehand and backhand are the two different groundstrokes. As you perform these swings you develop the habit of rotating back the shoulder holding the racquet; so your racquet starts out well behind you before you contact the ball. Just as important is to keep pushing your racquet forward after hitting the ball.
- Landing a serve in the crosscourt service box is the goal of serving. The serve is important because it is used to start every point, and not landing serves can cause you to lose games. Receiving serves has strategy too. You’ll learn to hit using a full swing from starting with your racquet in front of you and going around 360 degrees, the proper grip, the best stance, and even the toss.
No matter where the ball lands on your side you must cover the court. Footwork and the ability to stay alert and move in quickly come into play here. As a beginner you won’t concern yourself with spin or playing the net. You’re doing well if you learn directional control, placing the ball in a certain part of the court–you know, that sweet place where your opponent is not!
When you play a point the ball can bounce only once at most. That’s why you see players rushing to get the ball. Calling the lines is your responsibility if the ball is on your side. Touching a boundary line makes the ball good. Scoring proceeds like this: At the start it is “love-love”; next point is 15; next is 30; next is 40; next is game won or “add” for the player ahead by a point.
When you take lessons you will learn by demonstration and practice. You will also learn insider lingo such as: “Put away a lob.”, “slice serve” and “racquet high in the sky”. A knowledgeable teacher can teach you many sound techniques. Remember to win with class and lose with dignity….I just had to toss that in there too!
Speaking the Language
Here is a rundown of common terms:
Game: Player must score at least 4 points. If the other player scores as well then whoever scores 2 points more (the 4 point minimum still holds) wins that game.
Serve: Two attempts to land the ball in the service box are given. There is, however, no penalty in using both attempts to serve it successfully. The point is lost if unsuccessful.
Let: This happens only during a serve when the ball touches the net, but still lands in the service box. The serve is repeated.
Alley: The court is has two lines forming the left and right boundaries. The inside lines form the boundary for singles play. The outside lines form the boundary for doubles play. The space between each is the alley.
Out: A ball landing outside the court boundaries; or, on the serve, outside the service box.
Deuce: A tied score at 40-40. A tense moment for both players!