Of all sports, tennis is famous for its etiquette. While sticking to a bunch of rules about how to behave on a tennis court might sound stuffy and old-fashioned, tennis etiquette actually makes the sport more enjoyable.

Good tennis etiquette won’t give you a bigger serve or a more accurate backhand but it will make you more fun to share a court with.


Wait your turn

Don’t barge your way onto court until your allotted booking time. Flexing your biceps courtside won’t enhance your predecessors’ concentration and might earn you a mouthful of tennis ball. When your turn comes, let the people before you to finish the game they are playing before taking over the court.

Decisions, decisions …

To decide who will serve first, toss a coin or spin a racquet. The person who wins the toss may choose to serve, receive, pick which end of the court they would like or even make their opponent choose.

Warm-up like a pro

Keep your pre-match warm-up brief – the pros stick to five minutes, and so should you.

Serve the right way

Before you serve, make sure your opponent is ready to receive. While the rules say you should take no more than 20 seconds between points, you don’t want to win a point by serving at your opponent’s back.

No return necessary

If your opponent serves a first-serve fault, don’t hit a return back unless the call was so close that you had no option but to hit the ball.

Walk with care

Don’t walk behind another court during a point, across someone else’s court while they’re in the middle of a game or interrupt a point on another court to retrieve a ball.

Be careful of karma

Make line calls clearly and promptly and give your opponent the benefit of the doubt if you’re unsure. Tennis karma is a powerful force and no one wants to give an opponent short shrift only to find themselves deep into a third-set tiebreak with the tennis gods frowning down on them!

In or out?

While it’s rude to question your opponent’s line calls, if you really think you are being diddled ask once, firmly: “are you sure?” then move on.

Scoring made easy

If you are serving, call the score out loudly and clearly. It will help to minimise disagreements.

Got two?

Make sure the server always has two balls at their end of the court. When you are feeding balls up the court, hit or roll them gently within reach of the server, don’t delay play by spraying them around.

A time and a place

Be respectful of your opponent. While it’s fine to celebrate your successes it’s not polite to pump your fists, hiss “yes” or high-five spectators when your opponent makes an error.

Do the right thing

Apologise if you win a lucky point or if you accidentally hit your opponent with a ball.

Focus on your match

Keep your attention on the court – don’t chat to spectators, interrupt a game to answer your mobile phone, file your nails at the change of ends or do anything else that might distract your opponent or delay play.

Leave the tantrums to the kids

Don’t have a tantrum if things aren’t going your way. Marat Safin, who once said: “You can destroy one racquet. You can destroy a chair. But you can’t destroy a racquet and a chair in the same match. Otherwise this is the tennis of a sick person,” clearly attended the wrong tennis finishing school.


Shake hands firmly and congratulate your opponent at the end of the match. Nobody wants to grasp a limp, clammy dead fish in celebration of a big victory.