Ultimate Guide to Tennis Etiquette
Tennis has historically been a ‘gentleman’s’ sport.
Through the years it has been taken up globally by more and more people, but fundamentally, tennis is supposed to be played in a ‘polite’ way.
Whilst many players will want to be competitive on court, show their passion and commitment to the game along with a fierce fighting spirit, it is important to remember the basic rules and etiquette of the game.
With that being said, we will explore some of the fundamental tennis rules that you may not actually be aware of, whilst highlighting some of the best practices you can use to become the most likeable and friendly player at your club!
Tennis Through History
Tennis was invented as a game played with just the hands back in the 12th century in France.
Henry VIII was one of the first royals to adopt the game of tennis, so it was typically played by the upper classes around his era.
Tennis became more popular in the mainstream in the early 1900s when the first Davis Cup tie was announced.
The foundations of professional tennis were created back in 1913 when the ITF (International Tennis Federation) was launched.
Tennis has always been a sport where manners and unwritten rules of etiquette have characterised the people that play it.
Up until the last few decades, tennis players always had an image of middle to high class English people, where unless you came from a lot of money and spoke ‘the Queen’s english’ you wouldn’t fit in playing the game.
Fortunately however, that image has been greatly dispelled thanks to the wide adoption of the sport across the world.
This has brought different countries, cultures and backgrounds into the sport and it has certainly benefited from this diversity.
We now see tennis as a global sport that can be played by everyone and anyone, which also brings different game styles, personalities and schools of thought to the game.
The Rules of Tennis
Now, in terms of tennis etiquette, we are referring more to the niceties of the sport.
This means being well mannered, playing fair and being a good sport to your opponent and those around you.
But, you first have to understand the basic rules of the game if you want to benefit from our guide.
After all, you could be the most polite, well mannered tennis player out there. But if you keep calling the score wrong or don’t know which side to serve from, you won’t get very far!
Now, we assume that you will know the basic rules of tennis. For example, how to win a point, how to win a game, set and match.
However, there are a few adaptations to the rules of tennis that have been made in recent years that may catch you out if you aren’t fully aware of them.
No-ad scoring occurs when there is a deuce (40-40) in a game, and there is only one additional point played.
The idea behind this is that it will speed up the game, to avoid too much back and forth with deuce, advantage, deuce, advantage etc.
No-ad scoring is used more commonly in doubles matches, but can also be used in some singles tournaments, particularly at recreational club level.
When a game gets to deuce, there is only one additional point played.
The receiver will have the choice of which side of the court they would prefer the server to serve from, and then the point is played out as normal.
The winner of the point will then win the game. This is sometimes referred to as a ‘sudden-death’ deuce.
A pro-set is another way to speed up a tennis match, and is commonly used in club tournaments.
Rather than playing multiple sets to 6 games, a pro set consists of one long set to either 8 or 10 games.
Like a conventional set, pro sets will be won by two clear games, but this individual longer set can be enough to provide a good level of competition, without taking up as much time as a regular match.
A match tie-break is sometimes used in place of a full final set in a best of 3 set match.
It is regularly used on the ATP doubles tour to speed up the matches and keep them more entertaining.
A match, or ‘super’ tie-break works in a similar way to a regular tie-break, however where a normal tie-break is first to 7 points, a match tie-break is first to 10 points.
Both versions of the tie-break will be won by 2 clear points if it gets to 7-7 or 10-10 respectively.
How Tennis Etiquette Has Evolved
Way back when tennis was first conceived, it was played exclusively by the gentry and high class citizens, so the etiquette reflected this.
Players would be competitive, but very polite and well to do so not to upset their fellow lady or gentleman!
However, as tennis has become more widely adopted across the world, the expectations of etiquette have certainly become more relaxed.
Tennis is now a competitive but fun game to play, rather than the stuffy game it used to be.
Despite this, there are still a few fundamental unwritten rules that ensure that you play fair, are respectful and overall have the best etiquette on the court!
Here’s how to Have the Best Etiquette on a Tennis Court!
Keep Quiet Around Other Players!
If you are walking past another court, or playing near another group of players, try to keep your voice down as much as possible!
Tennis is a difficult enough game to play as it is, but the last thing a group of players needs to hear is your loud conversation about what you had for dinner last night!
If you need to ask the players on a court when they will be finishing or whether they will be using more than one court, make sure to wait for their point to end, or for a chance in between games to do this.
One of the most frustrating things as a tennis player is to be distracted in the middle of a point, when you are trying to be competitive and concentrate.
So be respectful of other players and keep the noise down!
Keep Your Balls to Yourself!
One of the most important aspects of playing good tennis is keeping the ball in the court as much as possible.
Being consistent is a key part of becoming a better player, so if you can, try your best to keep the ball on your own court as much as possible.
However, if you are playing near other courts and a ball of yours is hit on to another court, don’t shout and scream at the other players and distract them unless they are in danger of falling over the ball.
If a ball goes on to another court, wait until their point is finished before asking for it back or retrieving it yourself.
Top Tip: With health being a major concern these days, if you are giving a ball back to another court, try and hit it back with your racket rather than touching it with your hands. This will be greatly appreciated by your fellow tennis players!
Respect the Line Calls
Disputes over line calls are very common when playing tennis.
More often than not, a close call can be up for interpretation, and many players won’t intentionally say a ball is in if it is out or vice versa.
However, all too often players get angry over line calls that simply aren’t theirs to make.
The etiquette here is to respect your opponent’s line call, no matter whether you agree with it or not.
If your opponent is consistently making controversial calls that you disagree with, then maybe you could get a bystander or coach to watch the line for you, to see if there is a real problem.
Aside from that, you should respect the line calls of your opponents at all times.
Don’t Celebrate Lucky Shots or Net Cords
If you get the net cord and your ball trickles over, or you frame a shot for a winner, it is good etiquette not to wildly celebrate.
This is a lucky way to win a point that you may not have anticipated, and almost certainly gives your opponent no feasible chance of winning the point through no fault of their own.
Therefore, being respectful and apologizing for a lucky frame or a net cord will ensure good etiquette on court.
Don’t Walk Behind or Across a Court Without Permission
If there are a group of players on a court and you need to walk past to get to your court, then make sure you wait for them to finish their point and ask if you can go, rather than just walking behind their court without permission.
This is incredibly annoying for players and is very distracting. The best bet here is to wait for the point to end and ask, it’s always better to be polite!
If you Hit Someone, Apologize
During a close quarters doubles rally or when hitting a passing shot when your opponent is at the net, if you happen to hit your opponent by mistake then be sure to apologize!
It goes without saying that you shouldn’t try to hit your opponent on purpose, but if you happen to hit your opponent by accident then of course say sorry for this and try to avoid them next time if you can.
It can be painful to get hit with a tennis ball, so the last thing your opponent needs when they get hit is someone celebrating or laughing about it!
Remember the Score!
Another important thing to remember when playing tennis is of course the score!
This may not seem like an element of etiquette, but if your opponent or doubles partner constantly has to remind you of the score this can become tiresome.
This is especially tedious if you are playing a competitive match, as the common practice if both players cannot agree on the score is to go back to a point that they both agree on.
Whilst this can be a good compromise once in a while, if it happens too often you will end up making no progress in your match and keep going back to the same point over and over again.
So, above all else, try your best to remember the score!
Tennis has always been a game played politely.
From its inception stemming from the royals and gentry of England and France, tennis is steeped in history surrounding manners and etiquette.
Whilst the game has of course progressed in to the modern day, with people from many different countries, cultures and backgrounds playing the sport, there is a certain level of etiquette that is still expected when we play tennis.
Therefore, it is important to take note of our guide to tennis etiquette so you aren’t caught out on court.
Follow our simple steps and you’ll be the most polite player with the best tennis etiquette out there!