How to play tennis | Tennis in Britain

How to Play

Looking for some advice on the basics of playing tennis? We’ve outlined the common shot types you might use when learning to play tennis, as well as some basic strategy tips.

Shot types

Serve

The shot that starts a game, this involves you tossing the ball overhead and hitting it when the ball is about to drop down. The ball should cross the net and land in the diagonal service box, without hitting the net.

Forehand

The forehand is perhaps the most common of all tennis shots, and the shot you’ll spend plenty of time using as you learn to play tennis. Using your dominant hand, the one you hold your racket in, this shot involves you swinging the racket from low to high in the direction of where you wish to send the ball.

Backhand

A backhand shot is when you bring your racket across your body and hit the ball from your non-dominant side – i.e. a right-handed player would bring their racket over their body and hit the ball with the ‘back’ of their racket.

Drop shot

A drop shot is a gently hit shot that drops just over the net, hence the phrase ‘drop’ shot. It is used to lure your opponent into the net, or catch them out if they are stood towards the back of the court. This shot can be hit with either your forehand or backhand. 

Lob

The lob shot is a high shot played over your opponent’s head, with the intention of the ball landing in the court behind them. You might play this when your opponent is close to the net and there is space behind them.

Smash

Similar to the motion involved with hitting a serve, the smash involves you hitting the ball over head height, down into the other side of the court.

Strategies

Singles

  • Your positioning on the court is key. Try to avoid being caught between the service box line and the baseline – it makes returning balls a lot trickier.
  • Keep moving – watch some of the top players to see how they move around the court; their feet never stop moving.
  • Stay aware – as soon as your opponent makes contact with the ball, start to position yourself for your return. Being prepared gives you more time to get into a good hitting position.

Doubles

  • Communicate with your partner all the time. As you play together more often you will develop a better understanding, but communication remains key.
  • Court coverage – if your partner is pulled wide on the court, try to cover the exposed space.
  • When returning in doubles, try to keep your return fairly wide so your return isn’t easily picked off at the net by your opponent’s partner.