Do you feel lost in Tennis lingo? Do people often use terms on the court you aren’t privy to? We have you covered with the ultimate, completely comprehensive glossary of tennis terms.
This Tennis Dictionary will be updated periodically.
The Complete Index of Tennis Terms
Scroll down to browse the tennis dictionary, or click one of the terms in the list below to jump directly to the word you are interested in. The most convenient way to use this resources is to hit cntrl + f on your keyboard (cmnd + f on mac) and type in the term you’re looking for.
Ace: When a serve can’t be reached by the receiver. If the receiver doesn’t touch the ball after it is served, it’s an ace.
Ad: Short for advantage, referring to the point played after a deuce point.
Ad In: When the person serving has the advantage in a game that has reached Deuce.
Ad Out: When the player receiving has the advantage in a game that has reached Deuce.
All: An even score, when both players in a tennis match have the same number points in a game. “15 all” would mean that both sides have 15 points in the respective game.
Alley: A narrow section of court between the singles and doubles sidelines on a tennis court, extending the width of the court for doubles play. The term is often used when partners communicate on court, telling each other to attack or defend the alley
Approach: Either the act of approaching the net after hitting a shot to be in a more aggressive position, or a type of shot player’s hit as they are moving towards the net.
Babolat: French tennis racket and equipment manufacturer renowned for the Pure Strike and Pure Drive racket families. Famously endorsed by Rafael Nadal and many other top players.
Backhand: The stroke on a player’s non-dominant side. Right-handed players hit the backhands on the left while left-handed players hit it on the right. Backhand strokes can be one-handed or two-handed depending on the player’s preference.
Ball: The felt and rubber sphere players hit back and forth with their rackets.
Baseline: The tennis court’s back line. The baseline runs parallel to the net. Players serve from behind the baseline.
Break: Winning a game while receiving. When the player receiving the ball wins a game while the opponent is serving, it’s said that the player “broke” his opponent’s serve.
Break Point: The last point in a game when the server will lose the game if they lose the point. When a player who is receiving wins the break point, it is said that they “broke” their opponent’s serve.
Court: The surface where tennis is played. Tennis courts commonly come in three materials: hardcourt, grass, and clay.
Call: When a player indicates that a ball was in or out. A bad call would be when one player questions the other’s judgement of where the ball landed.
Crosscourt: Hitting the ball diagonally across the court to decrease the margin for error. Because hitting across court increases the length of the space where the ball can land in bounds and passes over the lowest part of the net, hitting crosscourt is considered a high-percentage tennis strategy.
Clutch: Slang term used to describe when a player comes through with a successful shot in a high-stakes situation.
Deuce: When a game is tied at 40-40, it’s referred to as a deuce. When in deuce, one player must win two points in a row to win the game. When a player wins the point on deuce, they gain the advantage, often referred to as an “ad.” If the receiver has the advantage, it’s called Ad Out. If the server has the advantage, it’s called Ad In.
Deuce Court: Right half of the court, thus named because deuce points are served from that side of the court.
Dink: A light or otherwise unpredictably short ball that’s often the result of a mishit. Dinks are often accidental.
Default: Conceding a tennis match due to injury, misconduct, or any other reason that results in the player not beginning or completing a match. Defaults can be voluntary, as in the case of injury, or mandated, as in the case of misconduct or similar issues.
Double Fault: Failing to hit a serve successfully twice in a row. Double faults result in the serving player losing the point.
Doubles: Playing tennis with two teams of two players.
Double Bounce: The second bounce after a ball crosses the net. Players must hit the ball before the second bounce in order to stay in the point.
Drop Shot: Hitting the ball so it lands just in front of the net, often used strategically to disrupt the flow of a rally or catch the opponent off guard. Often used when the receiver is far away from the net and will have a hard time reaching the ball before it bounces a second time.
Dry Volley: Hitting the ball with a groundstroke without letting it bounce. Typically a difficult shot to make, dry volleys involve hitting an incoming ball with more force and top spin than is possible with a traditional volley.
Djoker: Nickname for former World #1 Novak Djokovic.
EZONE: Popular tennis racket produced by Yonex.
Fault: A serve which hits the net or lands outside of the service box.
Foot Fault: A service fault received by a player if they contact the baseline before or during contact with the ball.
Forehand: Hitting the ball with your dominant arm; on the right-hand side for right handed players, and the opposite for left.
Game: Part of a set that’s concluded when one player or team wins four points or wins the deuce of the score is tied 40-40.
Get: Informal term describing a player “getting” to a ball, especially if the ball was likely to win a point for the opponent or was in an especially hard-to-reach position on the court.
Ground Stroke: A forehand or backhand stroke that is hit after the ball has bounced on the court.
Half Volley: Hitting the ball immediately after it bounces up from the ground, usually when the receiving player doesn’t have time to get into a better position. Half-volleys are difficult to execute and generally avoided.
Head: Popular sports equipment manufacturer specializing in tennis rackets and gear.
Heads: Exclamation indicating that a ball is incoming, often called to someone who is unaware that the ball is coming.
Hold: Winning a service game. Not allowing an opponent to “break” one’s serve.
High-Percentage Tennis: Playing a tennis game based around shots with a high likelihood of landing in, as opposed to a style that is highly aggressive and goes for risky shots. An example of high-percentage play would be hitting across the court instead of down the line.
Inside Out Forehand: When a player runs around a ball coming to their backhand, instead hitting it with a forehand groundstroke.
I-Formation: In doubles, when the player who isn’t serving crouches by the center line at the net to intercept cross-court service returns.
Junk Ball: A ball with little pace or spin which throws off the pace of play.
Junk Baller: Player who plays junk balls, either unintentionally or in an effort to throw off the opponent.
Kick Serve: A type of serve which uses top spin and/or side spin to make it more difficult to return.
Lob: A high shot, often with a parabolic arc. Lobs are typically used either to hit the ball over a player who is close to or approaching the net, or as a defensive shot used to buy time when a player is at a disadvantage in the rally.
Love: Tennis term for “zero” in the context of a game’s score.
Let: Replaying a point after interference during the rally or serve. Players will call a let on serve if the ball touches the net but still lands in the service box. Players will call a let during a rally if there’s an interference which distracts one or both players or makes it unsafe to play the point to completion.
Match: The term for a tennis event where two or more players are “matched” together and keep score.
Match Point: Potentially the final point of a match. If the player who has the higher score wins the point, that player wins the match.
Net: The mesh fabric held between two poles running across the center of a tennis court.
No Man’s Land: Informal term for the space between the service line and baseline which conveys how players who stand in that area are disadvantaged due to their chosen position on the court. No Man’s Land can also refer to the area just in front of the service line because it’s too far from the baseline and not close enough to the net, leaving the player with few options for shot selection other than a half volley.
Out: Audible call indicating that the ball went out of bounds.
Overhead: Hitting the ball above one’s head with a motion similar to an overhead serve.
Pusher: Player who doesn’t go for winners or play aggressively, focusing instead on keeping the ball in play using non-aggressive shots.
Point: Unit used to measure the outcomes of rallies. In tennis, the first point is 15, the second is 30, and the third is 40.
Player: A person participating in the sport of tennis.
Quarter Final: The match or round of tennis matches which precedes the semi-final.
Rally: The back-and-forth gameplay between two players players on a tennis court. In a match setting, the rally refers to the exchange that occurs between players after the ball is successfully served and returned, starting a rally. Rallying can also refer to hitting the ball back and forth without keeping score, just for fun or to practice hitting the ball.
Rematch: To replay a match.
Replay: Playing a point over again, usually due to interference or a let being called.
Receiver: Player on the receiving end of a serve from their opponent.
Serve: Opening shot in a tennis point.
Server: Player serving the ball into play.
Service Break: When the receiver wins a game served by the opponent, it’s said that they “broke” their opponent’s serve.
Set: A unit of scoring tennis matches comprised of 6 games. Sets in which both players have reached 5 games must be won by 2 games or through a tiebreak.
Slice: A type of shot where the player cuts under the ball, often with side spin. Slices are often used when the ball is not high enough off the court for the receiver to perform a typical groundstroke.
Smash: An overhead shot which propels the ball down into the court, often at an extreme angle, intended to finish the point.
Spin: Rotational motion on the tennis ball, intended to keep the ball in bounds or make it harder for the opponent to reach.
Stoke: A general term for players striking the ball.
Top Spin: Rotation of the ball after it is struck by the racket, typically after a groundstroke. Top spin is used to keep the ball in bounds while hitting with power, using the rotation of the ball to make it drop within the boundaries of the court. Top spin is achieved by hitting the ball with a low-to-high swing path.
Tweener: When a player is facing away from the net and hits the ball between their legs, back into the opponent’s side of the court.
Umpire: An official designated to ensure rules are followed during a tennis match.
Unforced Error: A mistake made not because the opponent played a particularly good shot, but because the receiver made a mistake.
Volley: Hitting the ball out of the air without letting it bounce.
Win: Victory in a tennis match by overcoming an opponent.
Yours: A call from one doubles partner to another, indicating that the other person should hit the ball.
Yonex: Japanese tennis racket and equipment manufacturer prized for its EZONE and VCORE racket families. Famously endorsed by professional tennis players include Nick Kygrios and Naomi Osaka.
Zero: Although often replaced by “Love,” zero indicates that one of two parties in a game has no points.