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Tennis Glossary

A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z

A

    Ace - An inbound serve hit that the returner fails to make contact with.

    Ad Court - The left hand side of the court.

    Advantage - The player who wins the deuce point and is one point from winning the game has the Advantage. If a player loses Advantage, the game score returns to Deuce.

    All - A term umpires or players use when the competitors have the same number of points, games or sets. For example: 15-all (15-15), 4 games all (4-4), and 1 set all (1-1). The preferred term for 40-40 is deuce.

    All-Court Player - A player who is comfortable from all positions of the court: baseline, transition, and at net, and is also capable of playing offense and defense.

    Alley - The area between the singles and doubles court.

    All-Rounder - A player who is comfortable playing offensively and defensively.

    Alternate - A player who replaces another player in a tournament due to withdrawal.

    Approach Shot - A setup shot used when transitioning from the baseline to the net.

    ATP - Stands for the Association of Tennis Professionals.; the ATP is the governing body of the men's professional tennis circuit.

    ATP Champions Race - The ranking system used by the ATP to determine seeding for tournaments and to keep track of rankings as they change throughout a calendar year.

    Australian Formation - A formation used in doubles where the net player positions himself at center of the net while his or her partner serves.

B

    Back-Court - The area of the court between the service line and the base line.

    Backhand - A stroke that is hit on the opposite side of the player’s strong hand; the left side of the body for right-handed players and the right side of the body for left-handers.

    Backspin - A type of spin used to put a backwards rotation on the ball.

    Backswing - The initial part of a stroke when a player moves the racquet into position in order to begin swing forward.

    Bagel - When a player wins a set without losing a game; the score is 6-0 in a Bagel set.

    Ball Boy/Girl -  The children that, during tournament play, are positioned at the net and back fencing and retrieve balls that are no longer in play. These boys and girls also provide balls to the server so he/she can choose a fresh ball with which to begin a point.

    Ball Toss - The act of tossing the ball in the air in order to hit a serve; one of the most important aspects to achieving a great serve.

    Baseline - The two-inch line at both ends of the court. The Baseline indicates the boundary of play and designates where each player must serve.

    Baseliner - A player who prefers to stand at the baseline and relies on his or her groundstrokes to win.

    Big Serve - Refers to a serve hit with a lot of speed.

    Block Volley - The shot produced by holding the racquet firmly to make contact with the ball and using little to no backswing.

    Break - When the returner wins the game while the opponent has the serve; it is usually considered a more difficult to win a game.

    Break Back - When the server loses a game, but is able to win the next game while the opponent has the serve.

    Break Point - Refers to a point in a game where the server risks losing serve.

    Bye - Allows a player to advance to the next round of a tournament without having to face an opponent; usually awarded to the top seeds in the tournament.

C

    Call - A shout used by a line judge to indicate that a ball landed outside of the area of play.

    Can Opener - A type of serve hit with slice that lands on or near the intersection of the singles line and service line in the Deuce court.

    Carve - Refers to a groundstroke hit using both sidespin and underspin.

    Challenge - When a player requests that an official review where the ball landed to determine whether the ball landed in or out.

    Challenger - A tournament or circuit comprised of players one step below the ATP Tour. Players who do well on the Challenger circuit gain ranking points in order to earn entry to the ATP Tour.

    Change-Over - The rest period in between games when players switch sides of the court.

    Chip - Refers to a ball hit with backspin.

    Chip and Charge - A tactic whereby a player hits a chip shot then rushes to the net to hit a volley.

    Chop - Refers to a ball hit with extreme underspin.

    Clip the Line - A shot where some part of the ball lands on the line.

    Closed Stance - A position where a player faces sideways with hips and bellybutton perpendicular to the net and facing one of the two sidelines.

    Code Violation - Refers to a player committing a violation of the rules/regulations; examples would be voicing verbal obscenities or hitting a ball into the stands.

    Counterpuncher - A defensive minded baseliner who waits for his or her opponent to make mistakes; often does not dictate much of the pace.

    Court - The area used for playing tennis.

D

    Davis Cup - An international competition where male players from their respective nations compete against other nations in a single elimination format.

    Dead Ball -  A term that describes a ball that lacks pressure, will not bounce high, and is ineffective for a match. After much use, tennis balls depressurize as the air from inside the ball leaks out.

    Dead Net - When a player wins a point by inadvertently hitting a ball which touches the upper net chord and rolls over to the other side out of the reach of the opponent.

    Deep - Refers to a hit that lands close to the baseline as opposed to a short shot which lands close to the service line.

    Deuce - When the score is 40-40, the score is referred to as Deuce.

    Deuce Court - The right hand side of the court.

    Dink - A ball hit with relatively little pace and spin.

    Dirtballer - Refers to a player who excels when playing on a clay court; a clay court specialist.

    Double Bagel - When a player wins a match without losing a game; the score of a double bagel is 6-0, 6-0.

    Double Fault - When a player misses both the first and second serve and the point is awarded to the returner.

    Down the Line - When the ball is hit straight ahead to the opponent’s court (as opposed to hitting cross-court).

    Drag Volley - A volley hit with an open racquet face in order to produce some spin and control over the pace of the game.

    Drive - A powerful shot used for a majority of groundstrokes.

    Drop Shot - A hit using a delicate swing so that the ball barely clears the net and lands short in the opponent's court.

    Drop Volley - A drop shot hit during a volley.

E

    Eastern Grip - A type of grip used to hold the racquet that originated in the Eastern United States; used mostly by advanced players and for those looking to hit a flatter ball.

    Entry System - A method used to select players to compete in a tournament, usually based on number of points earned in other tournaments.

    Exhibition Match - A match played that does not impact ranking and is strictly for the fans.

F

    Fault - A missed serve.

    Federation Cup - Also called the Fed Cup and similar to Davis Cup; it is an international competition where female players are selected to represent their nations and compete against other countries.

    First Service - The first of two serves a player is allowed at the beginning of a point.

    Flat - A hit with little to no spin.

    Flatliner - A player that prefers to hit flat balls.

    Follow Through - The ending of your groundstroke; a majority of strokes involve a follow through where the racquet should end above your opposite shoulder.

    Foot Fault - When the server puts his or her foot onto or over the baseline before hitting the serve. If performed on the second serve, the point is awarded to the returner.

    Forced Error - When an opponent hits a difficult shot that causes the other player to miss a hit.

    Forehand - The stroke hit from the dominate side of the player’s body; the right side of the body of a right-handed player, and the left side of a left-handed player.

    Futures - A series of tournaments one level below the Challenger circuit and two levels below the Pro Tour.

G

    Game - One part of a match; defined by the first player or doubles team to win at least four points in total, and by having at least two points more than the opponent. The first player to win six games wins a set (unless there is a tie at 6-6).

    Game Point - When a player needs only one more point to win a game.

    Golden Set - When a player wins a set without losing a single point.

    Golden Slam - The most coveted achievement in tennis; the Golden Slam is awarded to a player who wins all four Grand Slams (the Australian Open, the French Open, Wimbledon, and the US Open) and the Olympic Gold Medal in a single calendar year.

    Grand Slam - The four most prestigious tennis tournaments of the year: the Australian Open, the French Open, Wimbledon, and the US Open.

    Groundstroke - A forehand or backhand shot executed after a ball bounces on the court.

    Gut - A type of string made from cow intestines; the preferred string of the pros.

H

    Hacker - A nickname given to a beginner and/or intermediate level player.

    Half Volley - A volley that is hit after a short bounce.

    Hawk Eye - A computer system used to track the path of a ball and determine if a ball landed in or not; currently used on the ATP and WTA tours when players challenge a call.

    Head - The part of a racquet that contains the strings.

    Hold - When the server wins the game, that player was able to hold serve.

    Hopman Cup - An international coed event with teams from different countries competing in a single elimination format.

I

    I-Formation - A doubles formation where the server and net player stand on the same side of the court before the server begins the point.

    Inside In - When a player runs around a side and hits the ball down the line.

    Inside Out - When a player runs around a side (usually the backhand side), and hits a forehand cross-court.

    Insurance Break - When a player breaks serve twice, while also holding serve in between breaks of service.

    ITF - Stands for International Tennis Federation; the governing body of tennis.

J

    Jamming - When a player serves or returns the ball straight into the opponent’s body, making it difficult to the hit the ball effectively.

    Junk Ball - A ball hit by a player used to deliberately disrupt the opposing player’s rhythm.

K

    Kick Serve - A serve hit with a lot of topspin which produces unexpected directional movement and bounce once it hits the court. The kick serve is the preferred second serve for most players.

    Knockout Competition - Refers to a single elimination environment; most tournaments use this format.

L

    Let - When the ball from a serve hits the top of the net cord and rolls over; if the serve landed in the court, that player is still allowed two serves, but if the ball landed outside the service box, the player is only allowed one. If a let occurs on a second serve and lands outside the service box, a fault is called, and the point is awarded to the returner.

    Line Judge - A person who decides whether a ball landed in the area of play and makes the calls during a point.

    Lob - A ball hit with tremendous net clearance; the stroke is most often used when an opponent is at net so as to hit the ball over the net players head.

    Love - A score of zero in tennis; examples are 6-0 (pronounced 6-Love), or 0-40 (Love-Forty).

    Love Game - When a player wins a game without losing a point.

    Lucky Loser - When a player loses in a qualifying event, is granted entry into a tournament because of withdrawals or a lack of players.

M

    Masters Cup - The ATP Tour’s year end tennis tournament. Only the top 8 players are invited to play in a Round-Robin style tournament.

    Match Point - When a player needs only one point to win the match, that point is considered match point.

    Mini Break - When a returner wins a point off the server during the tie-break.

    Mis-Hit - Failing to make contact with the ball in the sweet spot of the racquet; hitting the ball off of the frame; just barely connecting the ball with the strings.

    Mixed Doubles - Doubles with coed (one male/one female) teams.

    Moonball - A ball hit with high net clearance and topspin that generally lands deep in the court.

N

    Net - The thin-roped object stretched across the middle of the court and held up by posts.

    Net Cord - The cable that supports the net.

    Net Point - A point won or lost by a player who is approaching or at the net.

    New Balls - A new set of balls used as replacements for the ones already in play. At the professional level, new balls are introduced after the first seven games played, then subsequently after every nine games played.

    No Man’s Land - The area of the court between the base line and the service line. No Man’s Land is the most vulnerable position for a player to be on the court because of the inability to play either defensive or offensive tennis.

    NTRP Rating - National Tennis Rating Program; based on a ranking scale (from 1.0 to 7.0) and used to rate players according to their abilities. If a player is rated 7.0, he or she is considered a touring pro. If rated a 1.0, he or she is an absolute beginner.

O

    Offensive Lob - A type of lob hit when in an intermediate or offensive position. An offensive lob is generally hit with topspin and has a lower trajectory than the defensive lob.

    Official - A person assigned to oversee a match and is in charge making calls, and regulating the rules and regulations of the game.

    Open Stance - The position used to hit a ball when the body is parallel to the baseline, facing the opponent. This is a modern technique and has seemingly replaced the closed stance technique.

    Out - When a ball lands beyond the designated area of play.

    Overhead - A shot hit when the ball is in a position over the player’s head. The stroke is usually used when his or her opponent has hit a lob.

    Overrule - When an umpire overturns a call made by another official.

    Overwrap - Material wrapped over the handle of the racquet to absorb moisture and maintain a solid grip on the racquet.

P

    Passing Shot - A shot hit by a player that passes by his or her opponent positioned at the net.

    Poaching - A term used in doubles that describes the aggressive action of a net play by a player.

    Point - The period of play between when a serve lands in the service box to when the ball goes out of play; also the way of keeping score.

    Pressureless Ball - A special type of tennis ball that has a core made of solid rubber, instead of air. These types of balls are generally used in areas of high altitude.

    Pusher - A defensive type of player who rarely makes mistakes; also known as the human backboard.

    Putaway - A shot hit from an offensive position in an attempt to end the point.

Q

    Qualifier - A term used to describe a player who must compete and win a smaller event to qualify for a larger event.

    Qualifying Competition - A tournament where qualifiers compete to earn entry into a higher level tournament.

R

    Racket - See Racquet.

    Racquet - The instrument used by players to hit the ball back and forth.

    Rally - A series of hits back and forth between players. A rally ends when one player fails to return the ball into the area of play.

    Receiver - The person returning serve.

    Referee - A person in charge of enforcing the rules in a tournament.

    Reflex Volley - A volley hit simply as a reaction to an opponent’s shot. The volleyer has little time to plan or prepare for the volley and must rely on reflexes to get the ball back in play.

    Retirement - When a player is forced to quit during a match, usually due to injury or fatigue.

    Retriever - A type of player who can return any shot; usually a defensive minded player who relies on speed and consistency to win points.

    Return Ace -  A shot where the opponent serves, the receiver returns the ball in play, and the server does not touch or hit the ball.

    Round Robin - A multiple elimination competition.

S

    Second Serve - The serve after the first attempt fails to land in the opponent’s service box. If the second serve is missed, a double fault is called, and the point is awarded to the returner.

    Serve - The shot that starts each point, usually achieved by tossing the ball into the air into the service box diagonally opposite to the server. Players usually serve overhand, but can also hit the stroke underhand.

    Serve and Volley - A tactic used by a player that involves hitting a serve, then immediately rushing to net in an attempt to hit a volley and end the point relatively quickly. This is a very effective style of play on grass courts, but has recently disappeared from the singles game due to the increased power of racquets.

    Service Game - The game where the player is serving.

    Set Point - When the player is one point away from winning a set.

    Shank - When a player mis-hits the ball; usually occurs when the ball hits the frame instead of the strings of the racquet.

    Singles - A tennis game played with one player on each side of the court; one on one competition.

    Sitter - A ball hit by a player that is relatively easy to putaway and end the point.

    Slice - When hitting a groundstroke, slice refers to a ball hit with underspin. When serving, slice refers to hitting a serve with sidespin.

    Smash - A powerful overhead hit with tremendous pace, often difficult for a player to return.

    Spank - To hit a flat ball with a lot of speed or pace.

    Spin - A ball hit with that affects the rotation, trajectory, and bounce of the ball.

    Split Step -  A split step is the initial reaction and footwork technique that a player utilizes when getting ready to hit a shot. It is performed by jumping an inch or two off the ground and landing shoulder-width apart with the knees slightly bent.

    Stick - A slang term for a tennis racquet.

    Straight Sets - To win a match in the fewest number of possible sets; (example: when playing a best of two out of three sets, a player who wins the match 2-0.)

    Stringing - Replacing strings on a racquet, either because they have been broken or the tension of the strings is not at the preferred level for the player.

    Stroke - When a player strikes the ball.

    Sweet Spot -  The preferred location on the racquet for making contact with the ball, located in the central area of the strings.

T

    T - Where the center line and service line intersect to form a “T” shape.

    Tanking - Purposefully losing a match; often seen as unsportsmanlike.

    Tennis Ball - An air-filled rubber ball coated in a synthetic fur and used in the game of tennis.

    Tennis Bubble - An indoor tennis facility.

    Tennis Elbow - The most frequent injury for beginner and intermediate players; occurs due to improper technique and /or making contact with the ball in a way that creates excessive vibration.

    Tennis Hall of Fame - Where great players are honored; the Tennis Hall of Fame is located in Newport, Rhode Island.

    Tie - A tie in tennis means is another way of saying match. The term tie is only used when describing Davis Cup matches.

    Tiebreak - When the score is tied 6-6, players enter a tie-break to determine the winner of the set. (see rules for the tie-breaker in our Rules and Regulations section).

    Topspin - The forward rotation of a ball in motion. Most players prefer to hit with topspin because of the ball’s movement and consistency.

    Touch -  A violation that occurs when a player touches any part of the net with his/her body or racquet when the ball is still in play. The player that makes contact with the net automatically loses the point.

    Tweener - A trick shot which involves hitting the ball between your legs, with your back facing the net while trying to retrieve a ball that has gone over your head.

    Twist Serve - A serve hit with both spin and slice.

U

    Umpire - The official in control of a match. The umpire keeps score, enforces the rules of the game, and makes calls. They also have the power to overrule any call made during the match.

    Underarm Service - A serve hit with the racquet in a position below shoulder level.

    Underspin - The spin of a ball in which the top of the ball rotates away from the direction of travel.

    Unforced Error - An error made of a player’s own accord because of poor judgment or execution (as opposed to an opponent’s difficult shot).

V

    Vibrazorb - A device placed between the strings to lessen the amount of vibration felt when hitting a tennis ball.

    Volley - A ball hit before it bounces.

    Volley Lob - A lob hit before the ball bounces.

W

    Walkover - A win awarded to a player when their opponent is forced to withdraw from a match before it starts.

    Wildcard - Tournament entry given to player who has not officially qualified; tournaments reserve several wildcard slots in the tournament draw and generally award them to players from the same country where the tournament is being played.

    Winner - A shot hit that the opposing player cannot / does not return.

    Women’s Doubles - A doubles game played with four women, two on each side.

    WTA - The Women’s Tennis Association; the women’s professional tour.

Check out this tennis glossary to find all the sport-specific definitions you've been looking. From A to Z, we've got all the words covered.
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