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A popular sport using a racket and ball.

Tennis is a sport played between either two players ("singles") or two teams of two players ("doubles"). Player(s) use a stringed racquet to strike a hollow rubber ball covered in felt over a net into the opponent's court. In some places tennis is still called lawn tennis to distinguish it from real tennis (also known as "royal tennis" or "court tennis"), an older form of the game that is played indoors on a very different kind of a court. Originating in England in the late 19th Century, the game spread first throughout the English-speaking world, particularly among the upper classes.

Tennis is now an Olympic sport that is played at all levels of society and by all ages in many countries around the world. Its rules have remained remarkably unchanged since the 1920s. Along with its millions of players, millions of people follow tennis as a spectator sport, especially the four Grand Slam tournaments.

The court

The dimensions of a tennis court, in feet.

Tennis is played on a rectangular flat surface, usually of grass, clay, or concrete (hard court). The court is 78 feet (23.77 m) long, and its width is 27 feet (8.23 m) for singles matches and 36 feet (10.97 m) for doubles matches. Additional clear space around the court is required in order for players to reach overrun balls. A net is stretched across the full width of the court, parallel with the baselines, dividing it into two equal ends. The net is 3 feet 6 inches (1.07 m) high at the posts, and 3 feet (914 mm) high in the center.

There are three main types of courts, depending on the materials used for the court surface. Each surface provides a difference in the speed and bounce of the ball.
* Clay court
* Grass court
* Hardcourt

"Hardcourt" encompasses many different surfaces, ranging from old-fashioned concrete courts to coated asphalt to wooden gymnasium surfaces to artificial grass similar to AstroTurf.

Clay courts are considered "slow", meaning that the balls lose speed as they hit the court and bounce relatively high, making it more difficult for a player to hit an unreturnable shot, called a winner. On clay courts, line calls are easily reviewable because the ball leaves a visible mark. Hardcourts and grass are "fast" surfaces, where fast, low bounces keep rallies short, and powerful, hard-serving and hard-hitting players have an advantage. Grass courts add an additional variable, with bounces depending on how healthy the grass is and how recently it has been mowed.

Of the Grand Slam tournaments, the U.S. Open and Australian Open use hardcourts (though they used grass courts and clay courts in the past), the French Open is played on clay, and Wimbledon is played on grass.

Play of a single point

The players (or teams) start on opposite sides of the net. One player is designated the "server", and the opposing player, or in doubles one of the opposing players, is the "receiver". Service alternates between the two halves of the court.

For each point, the server starts behind his baseline, between the center mark and the sideline. The receiver may start anywhere on his side of the net, usually behind the diagonally opposite service box. When the receiver is ready, the server will serve.

In a legal service, the ball travels over the net (without touching it) and into the diagonally opposite service court. If the ball hits the net but lands in the service court, this is a "let service", which is void. If the first service is otherwise faulty in any way, the serving player has a second attempt at service. If the second service is also faulty, this is a "double fault" and the receiver wins the point.

A legal service starts a "rally", in which the players alternate hitting the ball across the net. A legal return consists of the player or team hitting the ball exactly once before it has bounced twice or hit any fixtures. It then travels back over the net and bounces in the court on the opposite side. The first player or team to fail to make a legal return loses the point.


A tennis match usually comprises one to five sets. A set consists of a number of games, and games, in turn, consist of points.

Matches consist of an odd number of multiple sets, the match winner being the player who wins more than half of the sets. The match ends as soon as this winning condition is met. Some matches may consist of five sets (the winner being the first to win three sets), while most matches are three sets (the winner being the first to win two sets).

A set consists of a sequence of games played with service alternating between games, ending when the count of games won meets certain criteria. Typically, a player wins a set when he wins at least six games and at least two games more than his opponent. It has become common, however, to play a one game tiebreak when each player has won six games. A tiebreak game, played under a separate set of rules, allows one player to win one more game and thus the set, to give a final set score of 7-6. (See Tennis score for a description of both tiebreak scoring and its history.)

A game consists of a sequence of points played with the same player serving, and is won by the first player to have won at least four points and at least two points more than his opponent. The running score of each game is described in a manner particular to tennis: scores of zero to three points are described as "love" or "l'oeuf" (which means egg in french)(or "zero"), "fifteen", "thirty", and "forty" respectively.

A game point occurs in tennis whenever the player who is in the lead in the game (the smallest unit of play) needs only one more point to win the game. The terminology is extended to sets (set point), matches (match point), and even championships (championship point). For example, if the player who is serving has a score of 40-love, he has a triple game point (triple set point, etc.).

A break point occurs if the returner, not the server, has a game point. It is of importance in professional tennis, since service breaks happen less frequently with professional players. It may happen that the player who is in the lead in the game has more than one chance to score the winning point, even if his opponent should take the next point(s). For example, if the player who is serving has a score of 15-40, the returner has a double break point. Should the player in the lead take any one of the next two points, he wins the game.

Source: Wikipedia

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