Qualifying (Qualies): preliminary event that offers players whose rankings don’t gain them direct entry in the main draw of a tournament, the opportunity to win a spot in that main draw.

Qualifier: person that wins through to the main draw of a tournament via qualifying.


Racquet (Racket): piece of equipment with a long handle and strung oval head used to hit the ball during a tennis match.

Rally: exchange of a series of tennis strokes during a game that ends when a player makes an error or hits a shot that their opponent can’t return.

Receiver: player returning serve.

Referee: senior official responsible for enforcing tournament rules.

Reflex volley: instinctive volley made with no time to think about the shot or get the racquet in position.

Retirement: withdrawal of a player during a match, usually due to injury and illness.

Round robin: style of tournament play whereby the draw is divided into similar sized groups and each player has to play every other player within their group.

Rubber: an alternative word to “match” used in team tennis play.


Second serve: literally the second of two serves a player is allowed per point (discounting let serves) which, if missed, results in a double fault and the point being conceded.

Seed: highly ranked player whose position in a tournament draw has been arranged so that they do not meet another highly-ranked player until the latter stages of the tournament.

Serve: over-arm stroke played from behind the baseline and to one side of the centre mark, used to start a point.

Serve and volley: style of play whereby a player serves the ball and then rushes the net in order to finish the point early with a volley.

Set point: point that, if won by the player who holds it, brings a set to an end.

Shank: mis-hit stroke resulting in a misdirected shot.

Singles: tennis game played by two opponents.

Singles sticks: poles, positioned on the singles sidelines, used to support the net during singles play.

Sitter: mid-court ball that is easy to put away.

Slice: net-skimming shot hit with under spin and sidespin.

Smash: stroke similar to a service action played when the ball is travelling above a player’s head, for example off a lob.

Spin: direction in which the surface of a ball rotates while travelling through the air (includes topspin, underspin, sidespin).

Split step: checking step made by incoming volleyers to adjust their footwork as they gauge the path of an oncoming ball.

Straight sets: a match won without the loss of a set.

Strings: synthetic or gut material from which the playing surface of a tennis racquet is woven.

String savers: small pieces of plastic inserted where strings cross to prevent wear and string breakages.

Stroke: way in which a tennis ball is struck.

Sudden death: point that, if won, brings a game or tiebreak to an end without the need for a player to be two points clear of their opponent.

Sweet spot: point on the racquet strings at which the ball rebounds optimally.


Tanking: colloquial term for losing a game, set or match on purpose.

Tape: white synthetic material used to mark the lines on clay and En Tout Cas courts. (Alternatively see net chord.)

Tennis ball: pressurised, air-filled rubber ball covered externally by felt, struck by a racquet in the sport of tennis.

Tennis elbow: common tennis injury in which the muscles and tendons of the elbow and forearm become inflamed and painful.

Thirty: second point in a game for either player or team.

Tie: collective term referring to the group of matches or rubbers played between two teams in a team tennis event.

Tiebreak: method used to decide the outcome of a set, usually when players are at six games-all. Players alternate serve with the first to reach seven points with a two point advantage winning the set. (See also Champions tiebreak.)

Topspin: spin imparted on a tennis ball by stroking it from low to high, causing it to rotate forwards as it moves through the air and bounce high upon landing.

Touch: descriptive term that refers to a player’s ability to maneuver a ball delicately.

Tramlines: external court lines that run parallel to the singles lines, defining the area of play for doubles.

Two-handed backhand: backhand stroke where the racquet handle is also supported by the non-dominant hand.


Underspin: spin imparted on a ball that causes it rotate backwards as it travels forwards.

Umpire: court official responsible for monitoring the calls made by linespeople and enforcing the rules of tennis during a match.

Underarm serve: alternative (and rarely-used) service technique that sees the server deliver the ball underarm rather than by the traditional over-arm method.

Unforced error: error committed due to poor technique or judgment on a player’s part rather than as the result of a good shot by their opponent.

US Open: fourth and final Grand Slam tournament of the calendar year, played at Flushing Meadows in New York.

Unseeded: term given to a player whose ranking does not afford them a protected (seeded) position in the draw.


Video line-calling: digital system for making line calls that uses video cameras and action replays to determine whether balls are in or out.

Volley: forehand or backhand stroke executed at the net before the ball bounces, the racquet moving in a punching motion.


Walkover: victory awarded to a player when their opponent concedes a match before it begins, usually due to injury or illness.

Wide: call made when a ball lands outside the singles or doubles playing area.

Wildcard: free pass into a tournament draw awarded when a player’s ranking is not high enough to gain them direct entry or they have not entered the tournament by the closing date for entries.

Wimbledon: third Grand Slam tournament of the tennis calendar, also known as The Championships. Played on grass at the All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club in South West London.

Winner: shot that lands within the playing area and ends a point because the person receiving it is unable to return it effectively.

WTA Tour: Women’s Tennis Association Tour, the governing body of the women’s game.