Tennis Jargon Buster

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There is a lot of commonly used tennis terminology that newcomers may not understand. Read our handy tennis jargon buster to ensure you’re up-to-speed with these frequently used terms.

Tennis terms and their meanings

Seeds: The players expected to do well at a tennis tournament are called the “seeds” – ranked from number one downwards. The player expected to win is called the “top seed”.

Set: A tennis match is split into main sections and each one is called a set. Men’s matches can be three to five sets and women’s matches are three sets.

Love: The tennis word for zero in terms of points. For example, if the score is 40-love, the losing player has no points in that game and their opponent has 40.

Straight sets: When a player wins a match in straight sets, it means he or she hasn’t lost a set throughout the entire match – so they have won three sets to love (zero).

Deuce: This is the way a score of 40-all is described. It is derived from the French word “deux” or two – meaning that two people have the same score.

Forehand: This is when the player hits the ball with the palm of their hand facing to the front.

Backhand: The ball is struck with the back of the player’s hand facing to the front and their arm across their body.

Cyclops: The electronic machine that “beeps” to alert players and match officials when the ball has hit the net during the serve is called Cyclops.

Let: The point must be played again – e.g. when the ball hits the net when serving, a “let” is played.

Tie-break: When the set is drawn at six games all, a tie-break is played. The tie-break will continue until one player has won seven points by a margin of two or more points. If the score should reach six-points-all, the winner is the first player to win two consecutive points.

Ace: When a player wins a point for serving a shot that their opponent can’t return, this is an ace.

Smash: A player hits a very fast shot from above their head with a serve-like motion. It is hit with a massive amount of force at speed and is usually the shot that wins the point, as long as it’s accurate and doesn’t go out of play.

Volley: A shot when the ball is hit back before it bounces – it is volleyed in mid-air.

Double fault: When the server makes two consecutive errors and serves twice out of the service area, it’s called a double fault and he or she will lose the point.

Spin: When a player hits the ball so that it spins and bounces in a way that’s hard to anticipate for the other player, it can be hit with “top spin” or back spin”.

• Finally, the umpire: The person without whom the match couldn’t go ahead, the umpire oversees the score keeping, manages discipline during the match and makes a final decision when necessary on matters such as whether a ball went out of play or if a let should be played.

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