Even if you’ve never picked up a tennis racquet in your life, you can still talk tennis like a pro. By Estelle Low
Photo: Morgan David de Lossy/Corbis
You may have already bought your tickets to catch the WTA Finals 2016, happening from October 23 to 30 at the Singapore Indoor Stadium. Just one problem: You’re a tennis noob. Learn these common tennis terms and you’ll have no problem talking tennis before, during and after watching the matches!
ACE A serve your opponent is unable to return.
BACKHAND A shot made with your racquet drawn across your body; can be hit with one or both hands.
BACKSPIN A shot that rotates the ball backwards after it is hit. Also known as slice or underspin.
BASELINE The out-of-bounds line at the back of the court.
CROSS-OVER When you cross the net and enter your opponent’s court.
DEUCE When the score of the game is tied.
DROP SHOT A soft return in which the player hits the ball lightly enough to just go over the net, usually with backspin; so that your opponent is unable to reach the ball.
FAULT A serve in which the ball fails to land in the correct area of play.
FOREHAND A one-handed shot made with the racquet pulled back on the dominant side of your body.
GAME POINT When the server is leading and needs one more point to win the game.
GROUNDSTROKE A forehand or backhand shot that is executed after the ball bounces once on the court.
KICK SERVE A type of spin serve that bounces high, usually meant to throw your opponent off guard.
JUNK BALL A shot in which the ball is slow, often to disrupt the game’s flow and your opponent’s rhythm.
LOB A stroke in which the ball is hit high above the net, usually done when your opponent is close to the net.
LOVE Zero, or no score (games begin with a score of love-love, or love all).
MATCH A group of sets; women usually play for the best two out of three sets.
MATCH POINT When the player who is leading needs one more point to win the match. A match point in the final match of a championship is called a championship point.
PASSING SHOT A type of shot, usually played near the baseline, that passes by (not over) the opponent at the net.
RALLY A sequence of shots within a point.
ROUND ROBIN A tournament format in which players are organised into groups of three or four players and compete against all other members of the group. Players are then ranked according to number of matches, sets and games won, as well as head-to-head records. The top one, two, or four players then qualify for the next stage of the tournament.
SET A group of games within one match; a player must win six games to win the set.
SET POINT When the player who is leading needs one more point to win a set.
SIDELINES The out-of-bounds lines on the left and right sides of the court (inner lines are used when playing singles; outer lines are used during doubles).
SMASH A powerful overhead shot, usually executed so that the ball bounces into the stands and is unreturnable.
SPIN Rotation of the ball as it moves through the air, affecting its trajectory and bounce.
STROKE Striking of the ball.
TIEBREAK A special game played when the score is 6–6 in a set to decide the winner of the set.
TOPSPIN A spin in which the top of the ball rotates in the direction of travel.
VOLLEY A shot that’s struck before the ball bounces.
WALKOVER Unopposed victory that’s awarded when the opponent fails to start the match for any reason, such as injury.
WTA Women’s Tennis Association, the main organising body of women’s professional tennis.