Serve, Rally, Score: A Beginner’s Guide To Rules and Scoring

You’re signed up for RecTennis summer programs and are ready to rally, but you haven’t been on a court and don’t know where to begin. Jump-start your summer experience with a rundown on game basics, tennis rules, and how to score games, sets, and matches. You’ll find everything you need to know to serve up some pre-RecTennis fun below.

The Game

  • The game of tennis can be played as a singles match (one player against another) or doubles match (two players against two players).
  • During a match, players hit the ball to their opponent’s side of the net, trying to get it past them, while keeping the ball inside the lines of the court.
  • A tennis match is played best of three or five sets. A player wins a set when they win at least six games with a two game advantage.
  • If a tie occurs, a tiebreak is played and the game goes to the player who reaches seven points first with a two point margin.


In order to win a game of tennis a player must score four points. At first, scoring in tennis may be confusing, just remember the following system:

  • 0 points is called 0 game points or “Love”
  • 1 point is referred to as 15 game points
  • 2 points is referred to as 30 game points
  • 3 points is referred to as 40 game points
  • 4th point ends the game (2 point advantage required)
Scoring a Set

The serve starts each new game. Players must announce the score prior to serving. To complete a set one player must win six games. The first person to win six games wins the set.

Scoring the Match

A tennis match includes all of the games and sets. The player who wins two out of three sets or three out of five sets wins the match.



Tennis Rules

  1. A coin or racquet toss determines which player serves first. The player who wins the coin toss chooses to serve or receive first
  2. The player serving first serves until the first game is complete, then the other player serves the next game. They continue switching each game.
  3. Serves are made from behind the baseline, which players may not step in front of prior to making their serve. The server serves the first point of each game from the right-hand side of the baseline, then switches after each point.
  4. The score is announced prior to serving with the server’s score mentioned first.
  5. Each player gets two tries for each serve.
  6. The serve must go over the net without touching, land in the service box on the opposite side, and bounce once before it is returned.
  7. If the ball touches the net or doesn’t land in the service box, a second serve must be taken.
  8. If the ball doesn’t land in the service box or grazes the net on the second serve, a point is lost.
  9. If the serve lands in the service box and is returned by the opponent, players continue hitting the ball back and forth until someone hits it into the net, out of bounds, or misses a shot and loses the point.
  10. Once a player wins four points, the serve goes to the next player, unless the score is tied 40-40 (aka: deuce). Then a player must win two points in a row to break the tie.
  11. After an odd number of games, players switch sides.

Tennis is a great activity for the whole family, especially when first starting your practice. It may take a little time to remember all the rules, which may seem overwhelming at first. Don’t stress. You’ll pick them up faster than you think, and watching the pros play at Wimbledon or the US Open can help them stick.

Keep in mind, tennis is about getting out, being active, and most importantly of all: having a whole lot of fun!

Use your new knowledge and start rallying with friends. 

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