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Etiquette Rules For Tennis

Tennis 101: On-Court Etiquette

Welcome back to Tennis 101. In honor of the 2009 US Open this week, I'm serving up a series about the sport, from what to expect at your first lesson to trivia about US Open champs.

Today, we'll tackle the topic of tennis etiquette. Tennis has a reputation for being a very polite sport, and while it's less stuffy than it used to be, there are still many niceties you need to know — especially since, as an amateur, you won't have officiates to make the calls. Here are some manners to keep in mind.

  • If you arrive at a court while other people are playing, wait until the point is over before passing behind to get to your own.
  • If your ball rolls into the adjacent court, don't run after it. Simply say "thank you" and wait for your neighbor to return the ball when it's convenient. If a ball rolls onto your court, toss it back to the player it belongs to.

For more tips on stray balls and making calls,


  • Since stray balls are distracting and potentially dangerous, you should call a "let" if a ball rolls onto the court while the point is in play. A "let" is basically a do-over, and the point should be replayed.
  • When making calls, always speak clearly, loudly, and matter-of-factly to inform your opponents if a ball is out or fair.
  • If you have any doubt about whether a ball is out, you should make the call in favor of your opponent.
  • When playing doubles, communicate with your partner when it's unclear who should go after a shot. Simply say "yours," "mine," or "got it!"
  • Make sure you have two balls when it's your serve, and call out the score before your first serve.
  • At the end of the game, shake hands with your opponents.

Got any tennis etiquette tips to add? Please share 'em in the comments!

Image Source: Getty
1apple 1apple 8 years
Yes! Please call the score out if you're serving! I have a hard enough time keeping track of the score while I'm serving, let alone doing it while someone else is. Good post.
hausfrau hausfrau 8 years
I know this doesn't really belong on this post but since we're talking tennis this week, I have to pass this on. One of the best tips I've ever gotten is that if you're starting out in tennis buy like 5 or more cans of balls to bring with you to the court. They're cheap and you'll have more fun and enjoy yourself more and the sport more if you're not spending 90% of your time chasing balls. Bringing only 1 can of balls with you is a recipe for boredom!
hausfrau hausfrau 8 years
My biggest pet peeve is the people who use tennis courts not for tennis! No rollerblades or skateboards or black bottomed shoes PLEASE!!! And pick up your trash when you leave! I don't know how often I've found empty cans and lids... grrr!
syako syako 8 years
I don't know if anon was referencing my comment, but I specifically said if there are tons of empty courts you should choose one away from the other people playing.
Nan-Einhart Nan-Einhart 8 years
As an old school player with 35 years of experience, I welcome any tips on etiquette for younger and less experienced players. It is possible to be competitive and enthusiastic on the court and still use good manners.
syako syako 8 years
The first tip is CRUCIAL. In fact it's less etiquette than it is safety! Do not walk behind people playing a point. I get so frustrated about this. Stray balls are another one. I'd like to add that if you show up to play and there are 10 empty courts, and 1 being used, don't pick the court right next to the people playing, especially if you're a newbie and will be hitting balls all over the place. If a ball rolls into your court, don't toss it back to the neighbor (or even gently roll it near their court) until their point is over and you've made eye contact or some form of communication.
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