Looking to get a better understanding of tennis’ terminology? If so, you’re in luck as we’ve gathered an extensive list of terms in our ultimate tennis glossary. This is a work in progress and we’re adding to the list regularly, so check back soon!


An ace in tennis is when a serve falls between the service box lines and the opposing player does not touch the ball. This results in a point for the server and is one of the most common ways of scoring. John Isner is believed to have the most aces in tennis history with 14,481 during his professional career. Here’s an interesting leaderboard for tennis players sorted by most aces achieved.

Advantage (Ad)

Advantage is the term given to the player who scores after duece and it signifies that if/she scores the next point, they win the game. If the player’s opponent scores the next point, the score is returned to deuce. It’s akin to the must win by two rule in pick-up basketball. Theoretically, when you have to win by two, a pick-up game where the first to 21 wins could end up having a score 90-88 and a single tennis game could go on for hours, again theoretically, days or months! If you’re wondering, the longest tennis match in recorded history was 11 hours and five minutes and was in 2010 between John Isner and Nicolas Mahut at Wimbledon.

See also: What does ‘ad’ mean in tennis?


The alley or alleys are the narrow strips alongside the singles court of play sidelines and are used to widen the court’s dimensions for doubles play. Obviously, if you’re playing a singles’ match and you hit the ball into the alley, your shot is out and your opponent gets the point. If the ball hits any part of the line separating the court of play and alley, it’s considered in, like with the baseline and alley’s exterior lines (for doubles).


Anticipation is the tactic of predicting what your opponent’s next shot will be. Anticipating a shot allows for split-second preparation when returning the ball. These calculations give the player more control over the point and, potentially, the match as a whole.

Approach Shot

Playing close to the net in tennis is a common tactic and one that all professional players have mastered. When working one’s way toward the net, it’s often done with intentional ball placement, also known as an approach shot. One’s approach or approach shot is often placed deep into the opponent’s court and at an angle that makes it difficult for a powerful return. A weak return to a well positioned player can be a quick way to lose a point.

Backhand Slice

A slice shot in tennis is one in which the ball is struck at an angle with the intention of adding spin to the ball. When performing a backhand slice, the ball is being struck with the backside of the racket in order to put backspin on the ball. Backspin results in a lower and slower bounce and is a strategic shot used by players to place their opponents out of position.


The two most commonly used strokes in tennis are the forehand and backhand shot. The forehand strikes the ball with the face of the racket, as the closed-hand grip on the racket points towards the opponent. Alternatively, the player can strike with the backside of the racket where the back of the hand now faces the opponent. The latter is commonly known as a backhand shot. Some players, including many professional players, will hit backhands with a two-handed grip on their racket to generate more force and control over their shot. Here’s an interesting article that covers one- and two-handed backhand shots, including the pros and cons of each.


Backspin, as the name suggests, is the intentional act of placing a backwards rotation on a tennis ball when struck. There are numerous reasons for choosing a backspin shot over a, for example, topspin shot. Backspin causes the ball to bounce lower and slower and is accomplished by slicing at the ball, striking the bottom lower half with one’s racket. Backspin can be used for defensive shots, to mix up the pace of the play, as an approach shot, and as a way to reduce a power-hitter’s return speed.

See also: What is backspin in tennis?


Ever heard the term ‘bagel’ thrown around at a tennis tournament? A bagel occurs when a set is won 6-0. Bagel refers to the zero, a reference to them both being round. Not an overly creative nickname for a dominated set, but perhaps it’s better than donut?!


Balance is key to playing just about every active sport. Balance is very important to a tennis player for many reasons, including providing control, stability, strength, and accuracy in one’s shots. Proper balance is achieved through footwork technique and is carried through the energy produced by bodily rotation and post striking through the ball – positioning one’s self to anticipate the return shot.


Baseline is the name given to the lines at either end of the court – the ones that separate the court from out of bounds and are parallel to the net. These two line define the length boundaries players must play within. A ball hit outside of these lines is called out. Additionally, these lines define the serve area, wherein serves (conducted to begin each point) are done outside of the baseline. A final note is that most groundstrokes are hit from near or behind the baseline as this is where power shots tennis balls tend to land.

Break Point

Tennis matches are made up of points, games, and sets (a best of either three or five in match play). Points are recorded as zero (aka love), 15, 30, 40, tied (i.e., 30-30), deuce (40-40), and advantage (the player who scored after ‘deuce’ and is one point away from winning the game). ‘Break point’ happens when the player being served to has ‘advantage’ (also called ‘ad’) and is about to ‘break’ their opponent’s serve. ‘Break point’ also occurs in these scenarios: 0-40, 15-40, and 30-40 (the first number representing the server’s score, the second being one point away from winning the game).


With a victorious ‘break point’ comes a ‘break’. A break in tennis occurs when the player receiving the serve wins the game – hence breaking his opponent’s serve and disrupting the server’s momentum. It’s generally assumed that the server has the advantage in any game, which means achieving break point is somewhat of a feat for players. ‘Break point’ is an exciting aspect of spectating tennis because it means the player with the scoring advantage, but not the serving advantage, could be victorious. While, simultaneously, the server is attempting to seize their final opportunity to keep the game alive (potentially getting to serve again to win or lose the next point).

Chip & Charge

To chip and charge during a tennis match simply means to implement a strategy involving a slice (or chip shot) then immediately rushing to the net (a charge, you might say) to play out the point. Chipping and charging plays out in professional tennis matches all the time. The idea is to use quick movements and net skills to pressure one’s opponent, perhaps even taking them slightly off guard, to take control of the point. Players who practice chip and charge techniques would do well to also practice playing against them.

Closed Stance

In tennis, as in boxing, martial arts, and many other sports, a ‘closed stance‘ refers to an individual standing sideways to where they are hitting the ball (or striking). A tennis player hitting a ball with a closed stance will have their feet pointed towards the court’s sidelines, as opposed to the net. Feet pointing towards the net would indicate an ‘open stance’. Many power shots in tennis, like forehands and backhands, are done from a closed stance as this positioning allows for the body to produce more strength in the windup to hit the ball. The ability to turn one’s hips, shoulder, and arm into a tennis shot – the creation of kinetic energy through torquing the body’s natural movements – generates far more power via closed stance than an open one.