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The road map

At first glance tennis seems like an easy game to play. You just have to whack a ball over a net, right? Well, yes, but there's a little more to it than that. You soon discover this when you start playing. Serving is difficult and scoring the game can be quite confusing.
 
For those just introducing themselves to the sport of tennis this guide will take you through the basics and set you well on the road to playing a good game of tennis.
 
The game of tennis is played on a court 78 feet long by 27 feet wide on a variety of surfaces including clay, grass, carpet and hard.
 
The court is divided in half by a net over which players must hit the ball. There are white baselines at each end of the court, where serves are taken and beyond which the ball must not bounce - if it does, then the ball is out and the hitter loses the point.
 
Each side is lined with two white marks to indicate the width of the court. The inner line shows the dimensions for singles play and the outer for doubles play.
 
Stretching from the net, to halfway down the court, there is a short white line dividing it into boxes - this is the service court.
 
The play
Tennis can be played as a singles game - with one player on each side of the net - or as doubles play - with two players on each side.
 
Each point is started with a serve, taken from behind the baseline. The ball must bounce into the service court on the diagonally opposite side and the point continues until one player fails to hit the ball back or puts it outside the court dimensions.
 
Serving
Standing with both feet behind the baseline you need to take up a sideways stance. Keep your left foot pointed towards the right-hand net post.
 
Your left hand is holding the ball and will be raised into an upright position to release the ball above your head - a good height to throw the ball is about 18 inches above your normal reach.
 
Make sure you don't release the ball too soon - it will fly at an angle towards the net and force you to lean forward to hit it.
 
Ideally the ball should be thrown about 1 foot in front of your left foot.
 
 While the ball in the air you need to bring your racket back and up towards the throwing action you will use to hit the ball.
 
You should be ready to hit the ball at full stretch, with your racket arm straight, at the highest point you can reach it.
 
At this stage you are switching the weight of your body from your back foot to the front one to give added strength to your shot.
 
Make sure that you hit the ball with an "up and over" action - as if you were throwing the racket at the ball.
 
After you hit the ball, follow through with your swing and this will carry you forward into the court to hit the returned shot.
(Note: These instructions presume you are a right-handed player.)
 
Continuing Play
Once the serve is successfully hit, the play continues with a variety of different shots. The most common shot you will play is the ground stroke (the name given to a shot that is taken after the ball has bounced once).
 
These can be broken down into the forehand (made with the face of the racket, with the palm of your hand facing the ball) or the backhand (made with the reverse side of the racket, with the palm of your hand facing away from the ball).
 
Hitting these shots successfully very much depends on how you grip the racket. There are two distinct grips for the two distinct shots in tennis - the forehand and backhand - so it important to learn each one to play the shot well.
 
 For the forehand
The most common grip in tennis is the eastern forehand and the one you will use for your forehand drive and the majority of your shots. It has often been dubbed the "shake hands" grip because you take the racket in your hand as if you are going to shake hands with it.
 
To ensure that you have the correct grip, it's a good idea to place your hand flat on the racket strings, then slide your hand down to the handle.
 
Now wrap your fingers around the racket and keeping tension out of your fingers. Your first finger should be forward slightly as if your were holding the trigger of a gun.
 
For play on hard courts, players have developed a western grip and it is good for those high bouncing balls.
 
For this grip, move your thumb clockwise on to the top of the handle and your palm will slide under the handle, making it easier to play waist-high shots.
 
For the backhand
First adopt the eastern forehand, then move your hand anti-clockwise around the handle, tucking your thumb underneath and making sure your palm is more on the top.
 
Wrapping your thumb around the handle like this, allows the grip to be more firm. However, you must make sure that your fingers are not too close together.
 
Many players adopt a two-handed backhand for extra strength. Adopt the same grip, bracing your second hand adjacent to the first.
 
As a general rule, adopt the eastern forehand for the serve and overhead smash, as well as the forehand ground stroke.
 
For volleys (made when you hit the ball without letting it bounce first) simply adopt the forehand or backhand grip, depending on the direction of the volley.
 
The score
Probably the most difficult thing for beginners is the scoring of the game. If all the "love", "deuce" and "tie-breaker" is totally confusing to you during a tennis match, then you'll need to brush up on how tennis is scored. It may seem complicated at first but learning the basics will help you understand the game better.
 
The Match
Firstly, the full game is called a match and a player wins a match by winning either 2 out of the possible 3 sets or 3 of the possible 5 sets (as in some men's games).
 
The Set
A player wins a set by winning 6 games (but he must win by two games. For example, he cannot win a set at 6-5. He must win one more to make it 7-5). If the players tie at 6 games each in a set, they must play a tiebreaker. The player who wins this must get to 7 points but again he must win by 2 points.
 
The tiebreaker will continue after one gets to 7 until one player is two points ahead - it is not unusual, therefore, for a tiebreaker to go to 12-10 or some similar score.
 
The exception to this rule is the Wimbledon Championships - here the last set in a match cannot be decided on a tiebreaker and the players will continue to play until one wins by two games.
 
The Game
Each game is divided into 4 scores - "15", "30", "40" and "game". If a player has no score in a game, then he is at "love". So the players start their game.
 
When one scores a point he will be at "15-love". The second player wins the next point and the score goes to "15-15" and so on until one reaches "game".
 
If both players tie at "40-40", this is called "deuce" and now the win-by-two rule comes into play again. At "40-40" the next player to win a point will go to "advantage" and then to "game".
 
Point to remember
The server's score is always given first, so if the core is "30-15" you know that the server has won 2 points in the game and is at "30".

How Smart Is Your Right Foot?
 
This is so funny that it will boggle your mind. And, you will keep trying it at least 50 more times to see if you can outsmart your foot. But you can't!!!
 
1. While sitting at your desk, lift your right foot off the floor and make clockwise circles with it.
 
2. Now, while doing this, draw the number "6" in the air with your right hand...Your foot will change direction!!!
 
I told you so...And there is nothing you can do about it. Make sure you pass this on to your friends...They won't be able to believe it either!!!

Playing a Game - How to score

To put the tennis scoring system as simply as possible, one must win:

• four points to win a game
• six games to win a set
• two (or, more rarely, three) sets to win a match
We'll call the players A and B.
By winning a coin toss or a spin of the racquet, A gets to choose one of the
following:
• serve
• receive serve
• choose an end of the court
• have B choose

Let's say A chooses to serve. B then gets to choose an end of the court. A may serve from anywhere behind her baseline between the right singles sideline and the center mark. The serve must be struck before the ball bounces, and it must land in the service box diagonally opposite her. She gets two chances to get a serve in. If she misses both, she loses the point. If a serve that is otherwise good nicks the net on its way in, it is redone.
If A gets her serve in, B must return the ball, after exactly one bounce, into any part of A's singles court.

A and B must then return the ball, after no more than one bounce, into one another's singles court until one of them misses.
A will serve from the left side of her baseline for the second point of the game, and she will continue to alternate right and left for the start of each point of the game.

Let's say A wins the first point. At the start of the next point, she must announce the score, her point total first: "15 - love." (Love = 0.)
B wins the next point: "15 all."
B wins the next point: "15 - 30."
A wins the next point: "30 all."
A wins the next point: "40 - 30."

If A wins the next point, she wins the game.
If B wins the next point, the score is "40 all," which is called "deuce." At deuce, one player must win the next two points to win the game. If, at deuce, A wins the next point, she has the advantage, and the score is called "ad in," which means server's advantage. If B had won that point, the score would have been "ad out." If the player having the advantage wins the following point, he or she wins that game. If the player with the advantage loses the point, the score returns to deuce.

Playing a Set with a Tie-Break

At the end of the first and every odd-numbered game, the players switch ends of the court, and the player who served the previous game now receives serve. The server always begins a game by serving from the right. At the start of each game, she announces the number of games each has won, starting with her own score, for example, "3 - 2."
Once a player has won six games by a margin of two or more, he or she has won the set. If the score within a set reaches 6 - 6, the players may either continue to try to reach a margin of two (such as 8 - 6 or 9 - 7), or they may play a tie-break to decide the set. In tournament play, this choice will have been determined in advance, but recreational players often choose whichever option appeals to them at the moment.
In a standard "12-point tie break" (best of 12), one player must win seven points by a margin or two or more.

The player who received in the game preceding the tie-break serves the first point of the tie-break, starting from the right. The other player then serves the next two points, the first from the left, then the second from the right. Each player continues serving two points per turn. Points are scored with counting numbers ("1, 2, 3 . . ."). When the point total reaches six and each multiple of six, the players switch ends of the court.

Starting a New Set

If the previous set ended with an odd-numbered total of games, the players switch ends to begin the new set. (A tie-break counts as one game.) They will switch ends after every odd game through each set.

At the start of a new set, the player who received in the last game of the previous set (or received first in the tie-break) now serves.

Completing a Match

In most tournaments, the first player to win two sets (best of three) wins the match. In a few events, such as men's Grand Slam tournaments, one must win three sets (best of five). Where time or fitness impose limits on the length of matches, a tie-break is sometimes used in place of a third set.

Recreational players often keep going until they're exhausted, even if one of them has won four sets in a row.

No Ad Scoring System

With traditional scoring, games can go back and forth from deuce to ad over and over. The "No Ad" variation on the scoring within games allows for a game to be won by a margin of one point. Instead of "15," "30," and "40" used to note points, players may use "1," "2," and "3." At "3 all," the receiver may choose whether to receive in the left or right service box.