Welcome to the fast-paced, exhilarating world of tennis! If you’re new to the sport or if you’re a seasoned fan wanting to further deepen your understanding, we’ve got you covered. This guide aims to simplify and explain some key tennis terms and slang, helping you to follow matches better, converse with other enthusiasts more confidently, or even improve your own game.
Don’t worry if you’re not familiar with any tennis jargon yet – we’ve designed this to be as accessible and easy-to-understand as possible. Let’s get started!
Popular Tennis Terms
Ace: A serve that is so well placed that the opponent cannot touch it with their racket, resulting in a point.
Advantage: This term is used during a deuce when a player needs one more point to win the game.
Backhand: A stroke where the back of the dominant hand faces towards the opponent when hitting the ball. It can be performed with one or two hands on the racket.
Break: Winning a game as the receiving player or team is referred to as ‘breaking’ the opponent’s serve.
Deuce: A situation where the score is tied at 40-40 in a game. Play continues until one player gains a two-point advantage.
Double Fault: Two consecutive serving errors, resulting in the opponent winning the point.
Forehand: A stroke done on the dominant side of the body, with the palm of the hand initiating the contact with the ball.
Let: A serve that touches the net before landing in the service box and must be re-served.
Lob: A shot that sends the ball high overhead, intended to go over the opponent and land within the court.
Match Point: A point that, if won by the leading player, would result in winning the match.
Rally: A sequence of back-and-forth shots between players.
Serve (or Service): The act of putting the ball into play at the start of a point.
Slice: A type of stroke that imparts backspin on the ball, causing it to travel slowly and with a lower trajectory.
Smash: A powerful overhead shot, typically hit in response to a lob.
Volley: A shot where the ball is struck before it bounces on the ground.
Topspin Lob: A lob shot with topspin, causing the ball to dip quickly into the opponent’s court.
Drop Shot: A softly hit ball that barely goes over the net, designed to land as close to the net on the opponent’s side as possible.
Half Volley: A shot where the ball is hit immediately after it bounces in a quick, reflex-like action.
Topspin: A shot that spins the ball forward, causing it to dip and bounce high.
Flat Shot: A shot hit with minimal spin, which typically travels fast and low over the net.
Slice Serve: A serve that curves to the side because of sidespin.
Running Forehand/Backhand: A forehand or backhand shot hit while the player is running to the ball.
Cross-Court Shot: A shot hit diagonally from one side of the court to the other.
Down the Line: A shot that travels parallel to the sideline, from one end of the court to the other.
Angle Shot: A shot that travels across the court at a sharp angle, going off the side of the court.
Drive Volley: A forceful volley that is typically hit with little or no arc.
Half-Volley: A difficult shot where the player hits the ball immediately after it bounces.
Block Return: A return shot where the player simply blocks the ball back into play, usually used against powerful serves.
Swinging Volley: A volley that is hit with a full swing, as if the player were hitting a groundstroke.
Popular Tennis Slang Terms
Bagel: Winning a set 6-0. The “0” shape resembles a bagel.
Breadstick: Winning a set 6-1, with the “1” shape being long and skinny like a breadstick.
Moonball: A very high lob, named for its high trajectory.
Love: The term for zero points in tennis, said to possibly come from the French word for egg, “l’oeuf,” because of an egg’s shape resembling a zero.
Sitter: An easy ball to hit, usually because it’s high and slow-moving.
Stick: Refers to a player’s tennis racket.
Alley: The extra area of the court in doubles play that is not used in singles.
Grinder: A player who wears down their opponent through consistent play and running down balls.
Kick Serve: A serve with heavy topspin that causes the ball to bounce high.
Paint the Lines: When shots land on the very edges of the court lines.
Golden Set: Winning a set without dropping a single point.
Jamming: Serving the ball directly at the body of the receiver.
Double Bagel: Winning a match 6-0, 6-0.
Frame Job: When the ball is accidentally hit with the frame of the racket, often resulting in an unpredictable and awkward shot.
Hotdog: A showy between-the-legs shot that’s both risky and flashy.
Inside-Out Forehand: A forehand hit from the backhand side of the court, with the ball traveling across the court.
Junk Baller: A player who uses a variety of spins and speeds to disrupt the rhythm of the opponent.
Kitchen Sink: Employing every possible type of shot and strategy in a match.
Moonballer: A player who frequently hits moonballs, especially as a defensive tactic.
Passing Shot: A shot that passes by the opponent when they are at the net.
Shank: When the ball is hit off-center on the racket, often flying off in an unintended direction.
Unforced Error: A mistake made on an easy shot not due to the opponent’s skill.