Tennis Terms

Tennis Terms
Like most sports, tennis has its own dialect to describe different instances in a match. Maybe you've played for a while but you're still not completely familiar with the vernacular that gets used on the court. There's a lot of them, so for any of you that have ever been afraid to ask, we've got you covered.
Here's a list of some of the most common words that might leave the casual player a little puzzled.


Ace - A serve that lands in the service box and is untouched by the receiver. Also known as a bomb or cannon, and probably the closest thing to feeling like a superhero.

Ad Court - The left side of the court for each player, also known as the Advantage court, and the side of the court a point will begin on when the score is 15-0, 30-15, 40-0, 40-30 or Ad-in/out.

Ad-in - Game point for the server following a deuce point that was also won by the server.

Ad-out - Game point for the receiver following a deuce point that was also won by the receiver.

Approach - hitting a ball with forward movement in order to attack the net.

Bagel - Losing a set 6-0. Do whatever you can to not get bageled.

Break Point - Game point for the receiver. Winning a game off of the opponents serve is called a break.

Breaker - Another term for tie break.

Challenge - When a player requests a review of a line call that they have disagreed with. The review is done electronically and is something that you and I will never have the luxury of using. Otherwise, my serve in 2011 would’ve been called in, Kevin.

Continental grip
- way of holding the racket in which the bottom knuckle of the index finger is in contact with the top of the handle and the heel of the hand with the bevel directly clockwise from it. An easier way to think of it is holding the racket like a hammer.

Counterpuncher - A defensive baseline player who is effective at deflecting power.

Dampener - A small rubber device affixed to the bottom row of strings that will absorb vibration from the ball. They are often seen flying off of racquets and have an impressive rolling distance.

Deuce court - The right side of the court for each player, and the side a point will begin on when the score is 15-15, 30-0, 30-30, 40-15, or Deuce (40-40)

Dropper - A drop shot often done by players trying to be sneaky or by recreational players who do it accidentally. 

Eastern Grip - Gripping the racket in which both the index knuckle and the heel pad rest against bevel #3. 

GOAT - Greatest Of All Time. Almost certainly Serena, and most of us would say Roger or Rafa, but it’s probably Djokovic. 

Golden set - Winning a set without losing a single point. Depending on who you are, it may be the best or the worst set of your life.

Golden Slam - Winning the Grand Slam as well as the Olympic gold medal in the same calendar year. Steffi Graff is the only one to achieve this, winning all 5 in 1988.

Grand slam - Winning all four of the major tournaments in a calendar year - the Australian Open, the French Open (Roland Garros), Wimbledon and the U.S. Open. A Grand Slam is also commonly used to refer to any one of these tournaments.

Grinder - A player who will chase down every ball and make you earn every point. Grinders may not always have the best looking strokes, but they use them very effectively.

Grip - A way of holding your racquet in different positions in order to hit various shots in a match. The most commonly used grips are Continental, Western and Eastern. Grip also refers to the handle of the racquet.

Hacker - a player with clumsy looking strokes who usually hits the frame more than the strings. They’ll say they meant to do it.


Pictured above: a hacker


- Camera technology that determines if a ball was in or out.

Hold - To win the game when you are the server. Also known as “holding serve”.

Hooked - when your opponent intentionally makes a bad call to cheat you. 

Inside in - Running around the backhand side to hit a forehand down the line.

Inside out - Running around the backhand side and hitting a crosscourt forehand.

Junk ball - An unpredictable ball that tends to be slow and often upsets the rhythm of the point. 

Let - A call that is made when a serve hits the net but still lands in the service box, requiring the point to be replayed.
Also called when a distraction occurs, such as a ball rolling onto your court, resulting in the point being replayed as well. Often used by players who claim they lost the point because of this, as well as death stares towards the court that hit the ball onto theirs. Some players take things too seriously.


Mini break - A point that is won from the opponents serve, and most often used when in a tiebreak.

Moonball - A ball that is hit with heavy topspin in a very high-arcing fashion. Usually done by players who have lost hope in their game and are trying to frustrate the opponent off of the court. It works most of the time, too.

No mans land - The area between the service line and the baseline where a player is vulnerable. Stay out of no man’s land.

On serve - when both players have the same number of breaks in the set, and the set will need to be decided by a tiebreak.

Open stance - a stance that lines your feet up almost parallel with the net.

Overgrip - a thin grip that wraps around the original racquet grip, rather than replacing the entire grip.

Poaching - an aggressive doubles move where the net player attacks with a volley at a ball that was intended for their partner.

Pusher - a player that does everything in their power to get the ball back in the court, over and over until you wrap your racquet around the net post. (Check out our blog on how to deal with these players)

A visual representation of what it's like to lose to a pusher


Quallies - cool guy slang for Qualification rounds.

Retriever - A defensive baseliner who rarely hits winners.

Sitter - a ball that is hit with very little spin or pace and has players salivating for a put-away.

 Split step - a small hop on both feet when your opponent makes contact with the ball, allowing you to move quickly in either direction. Always remember to split step.

Stroke - striking the ball, and another term for your technique. “They have nice strokes.”

Super tiebreak - A tiebreak variation played to ten points instead of seven; usually used in double to decide a match instead of playing a third set

Swinging volley - a volley hit out of the air, but this time with a full topspin swing. 

Tape - the white strip across the top of the net.

Tiebreak - a game held when the score is tied 6-6 to decide the winner of the set. The winner is the first to 7 points by a difference of at least two points.

Tweener - A shot hit between your legs with your back facing your opponent, usually after chasing down a lob. An amazing shot when successful, but often resulting in club players hurting themselves.

Western grip - gripping the racquet with the index knuckle on bevel 5. Used for generating lots of topspin on groundstrokes.

So, are there any that we missed? Let us know if there are any other terms that leave you scratching your head and we'll add them to the ever-growing list.

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