Tennis is a fantastic sport for people of all ages and abilities. Whether you want to get in shape, make new friends, or challenge yourself with a new activity, tennis can check all those boxes.
As a beginner, learning tennis basics like the court, equipment, scoring, and strokes may seem daunting at first. But with some guidance and consistent practice, you’ll be rallying and playing matches in no time.
This comprehensive guide covers all the fundamental tennis skills and knowledge you need to start playing this classic racket sport.
The History of Tennis
Tennis has a long and storied history dating back centuries. The modern game is believed to originate from a 12th-century French handball game called jeu de paume (“game of the palm”). Racquets were eventually introduced and the game evolved into real tennis played inside rooms.
Lawn tennis was popularized in the 1870s by Major Walter C. Wingfield, spreading quickly through Britain and then internationally.
The first Wimbledon Championship was held in 1877. Tennis was integrated into country clubs and spread globally in the early 20th century. Iconic players like Billie Jean King and Arthur Ashe broke barriers.
Today tennis is watched and played by millions worldwide, from French Open clay to Wimbledon grass. The classic sport continues to grow and attract new fans.
Choosing the Right Gear for Beginners
Having the proper tennis gear makes learning skills and playing matches much easier. As a beginner, you don’t need top-of-the-line equipment. Focus on getting quality basics that suit your body type and skill level.
Your tennis racquet is your most important piece of equipment. As a beginner, look for the following features in a good starter racquet:
- Lightweight, between 9-10.5 ounces. Heavier racquets are tougher to maneuver
- Head size from 95-110 square inches for more power and forgiveness
- Aluminum or composite frame for durability
- Open or mid-plus string pattern for spin and power
- Pre-strung for convenience
Some popular racquet brands for beginners include Wilson, HEAD, Babolat, and Yonex. Consult with a tennis pro at your local shop to find the right size, weight, grip size, and racquet for you. Investing in a couple of cheap lessons to dial in your gear makes sense early on.
Running shoes or sneakers don’t provide the same stability and support as tennis shoes while moving side-to-side. Look for tennis shoes with these features:
- Herringbone tread pattern for traction
- Reinforced toe bumper to absorb impact
- Padded ankle collar for comfort
- Lightweight and breathable upper material
- Mid-sole that resists torsion and twisting
brands like Adidas, Nike, ASICS, New Balance, and K-Swiss make quality tennis shoes for beginners. Make sure to get properly fitted at a specialty shop for the best comfort and support.
On the court, wear loose, breathable clothing you can move freely in. Shorts, skirts, dresses, and tennis tops work well. Look for moisture-wicking technical fabrics, especially in hot weather. Skip jeans or pants, which restrict movement. Proper tennis attire for beginners includes:
- Shorts or skirts with built-in compression shorts
- Athletic shirt or loose tank
- Dress made for tennis
- Moisture-wicking socks to keep feet dry
- Hat, visor, or headband to block the sun
- Jacket or sweater layers when cold
- Tennis shoes you’ve broken in
Comfort and functionality are most important when selecting tennis apparel.
Other Tennis Equipment
A few other basic tennis items complete your starter gear set:
- Extra tennis balls – pressureless balls are durable and affordable
- Overgrip or grip tape to absorb sweat and customize your racquet handle
- Vibration dampener which clips onto racquet strings to absorb shock
- Tennis bag to carry your gear to lessons and matches
- Water bottle and towel to stay hydrated and cool
- Sunscreen and sunglasses for bright days
With these tennis basics, you’re ready to hit the courts and start learning proper form. Investing in quality used gear can help save money as a beginner too.
Getting Proper Tennis Instruction as Beginners
One of the best ways to successfully learn tennis fundamentals is by taking lessons from a certified teaching pro. Tennis instructors help you efficiently master proper stroke mechanics.
Group Tennis Lessons
Group lessons are a fun, affordable option for beginners to start learning the game. Typical beginner clinics focus on fundamentals like:
- Grips, ready position, footwork
- Forehand, backhand, volley, and serve
- Keeping score and playing points
- Proper technique and practice drills
- Court positioning and singles strategy
Classes sequentially progress through the basics and offer an opportunity to practice with other beginners under the guidance of an instructor. Many tennis clubs, gyms, community centers, and parks offer group lessons.
Private Tennis Lessons
For more customized instruction, private tennis lessons allow you to work one-on-one with a teaching pro. Private lessons are ideal for:
- Personalized feedback to correct stroke issues
- Creating a custom learning plan based on your goals
- Focused training to improve specific techniques
- Lessons tailored to your learning style and pace
While typically more expensive than group classes, private instruction accelerates learning for motivated students. Even periodic private lessons combined with group clinics can boost skills quickly.
Getting Help Selecting a Tennis Coach
With so many tennis coaches to choose from, it can be daunting to find the right fit as a beginner. Seek recommendations from tennis-playing friends and check reviews. The teaching pro at your facility can also suggest an appropriate instructor based on your ability. Let the coach know your goals so they structure lessons accordingly. Don’t be afraid to try a few different coaches until you find the right rapport and teaching style.
Tennis Basics: Rules, Scoring and Etiquette
As beginners, understanding essential tennis rules, scoring format, and proper court etiquette sets you up for success as you start playing. Learning these key basics ahead of time prevents confusion on the court.
The Parts of a Tennis Court
Tennis is played on a rectangular court with the following lines and sections:
- Baseline – backline at each end
- Service line – divides the service boxes
- Service boxes – between the baseline and service line
- Center service line – middle dividing line
- Doubles sidelines – lines along the width
- T – the intersection of the service line and center line
- Singles sidelines – narrower lines inside the doubles sidelines
- Net – bisects the length of the court
Courts come in different colored surfaces like concrete, clay, grass, or artificial turf. The most common surfaces for recreational play are hard and clay courts. Courts have numbers assigned based on their function and priority of play.
The Basics of Tennis Scoring
Tennis matches are played best of 3 or 5 sets. Each set consists of:
- Games – A game is 4 points. The scoring goes Love (0), 15 (1), 30 (2), 40 (3). Need to win by 2 points.
- Set – First to win 6 games by a margin of 2. Tiebreakers are played at 6-6.
- Match – Best of 3 or 5 sets wins the match.
Singles matches have one player on each side of the net. Doubles has a team of two players on each side. The same scoring system applies. Make sure to go over Court positioning and communication with your doubles partner.
Tennis Etiquette and Rules
Knowing tennis etiquette makes matches run smoothly. Always:
- Wait for a point to finish before walking behind a court
- Hold your racket when crossing behind an active court
- Don’t distract players when standing near a court
- Call out scores clearly before each point
- Give your opponent the benefit of the doubt on line calls
- Keep a polite, respectful attitude
- Introduce yourself and shake hands before / after a match
- Thank ball persons, officials, and volunteers
In addition to manners, learn basic rules like:
- Double bounces
- Volleying the serve
- Service lets
Observing proper etiquette shows you respect the game and other players.
How to Improve Your Tennis Strokes as Beginners?
As beginners, mastering the key tennis strokes is essential to developing solid skills. With regular practice, you’ll gain confidence in your shot-making abilities. Here are some tips for the primary strokes and shots.
The way you hold the racket, your grip, sets the foundation for good form. Use the following grips to start:
- Forehand: Eastern grip – index knuckle on bevel 2
- Backhand: Eastern backhand grip – index knuckle on bevel 3
- Serve: Continental grip – V between index finger and thumb
Hold the grip gently, not too tight. Grip the racket with your fingers, not your palm. Keep your wrist flexible and loose.
The serve starts at every point and good technique increases the first serve percentage.
- Toss the ball high from the non-dominant hand, about 6 inches in front of the dominant shoulder
- Load body weight on the back foot and tilt shoulders back
- Extend your dominant arm and snap upward, throwing the ball high with a quick wrist flick
- Pronate and whip the racket upward, contacting the ball at full reach point
- Swing through the ball, finishing down towards the opposite side
- Land in a balanced ready position
Timing the toss, full shoulder rotation, and leg drive generate power. Aim to clear the net by 2-3 feet initially.
The forehand is the primary aggressive shot for most beginners. Use proper form:
- Sideways stance with feet shoulder-width apart
- Unit turn pivot to take the racket back
- Keep non-dominant hand up on throat of racket
- Low-to-high loop swing path
- Make contact out in front with a bent elbow
- Follow through over the opposite shoulder
- Rotate the body for added power
- Split step to be ready for the next shot
Focus on balance and control. Move into the ball to hit aggressive forehands.
A versatile shot, the backhand takes time to develop. The good form includes:
- Neutral or slightly open stance
- Take the racket back low and loop up on the swing path
- A two-handed grip provides stability
- Step left foot forward on a righty backhand
- Rotate shoulders and unit turn help generate power
- Make contact in front with a firm wrist
- Follow through across the body
- Split step to prepare for the next shot
Use legs and core to drive backhands. Two-handed is often easiest for beginners to learn.
Hitting shots before the ball bounces, and volleying takes quick reaction time.
- Move forward near the service line for approach shots
- Keep knees bent and weight slightly forward
- The Racquet grip is firm and the elbows tucked
- Punch volleys if time is limited
- Swing volleys if there’s time to make a full-stroke
- Contact point out in front of the body
- Head steady with eyes on the ball
- Split step for anticipation
Volleys require quick reflexes and practice. Be ready to cut off approach shots.
Drills to Practice Tennis Strokes
Repetition during drills grooves proper stroke techniques and footwork. Here are some common instructional drills:
Two-line hitting – set up two parallel lines on the court to hit forehands and backhands
Ball machine – stand at baseline and hit from a hopper of balls
Target practice – place targets around the court to aim for and hit
Serve and volley – come to the net after each serve to volley the return
Live ball – trading shots with a partner at different speeds and locations
Drill for 15-20 minutes for each stroke during practice. High repetition with a focused purpose instills muscle memory.
Grow Your Tennis Skills and Knowledge as Beginners
Learning proper strokes and tactics takes consistent, targeted practice. But you develop faster by combining drilling with play that challenges you. Here are tips for improving court skills:
- Take more lessons – Classes introduce new techniques. Private lessons can fix issues.
- Practice smart – Work on specific skills and use purposeful drills.
- Play points frequently – Apply skills in match situations.
- Compete in leagues – Teams and ladders motivate skill growth.
- Enter beginner tournaments – Gain experience in a structured setting.
- Play against better players – Challenge yourself to improve.
- Watch matches – Observe how top players compete.
- Read books and online content – Increase knowledge of strategy.
- Get in shape – Physical fitness supports better play.
- Analyze and self-correct – Be your coach.
Learning tennis takes patience but brings huge rewards. Customize your plan based on available time and resources. Maintain realistic expectations while striving to get a little better each day. Stay positive, have fun, and enjoy the lifelong benefits of tennis!
Learning to play tennis for beginners opens up a world of fun, fitness, and friendship. With the proper equipment, instruction, and consistent practice, you can develop solid strokes, court coverage, and match skills.
Make sure to start slow and build a strong technical foundation. Be patient with yourself and celebrate small achievements along the way. Whether you take up tennis to get in shape or compete, the sport provides a workout for your body and brain.
The guidelines in this article give you a head start on learning proper techniques, rules of the game, and ways to improve. Soon you’ll be hitting consistent groundstrokes, serving aces, and playing quick volleys at the net.
So grab a racquet and some balls and head to the courts. With the right attitude and effort, you’ll be rallying and making new friends in no time. Get ready to fall in love with the sport of tennis!
FAQs about Tennis for Beginners
Can you learn tennis at an old age?
Yes, you can learn to play tennis even at an advanced age. Tennis is a low-impact sport that provides great exercise. As long as you start slowly and focus on proper technique, older beginners can rally and play matches while improving their fitness. Take lessons, use adaptive equipment if necessary, and find opponents with a similar skill level.
Is it ever too late to learn tennis?
It’s never too late to learn tennis. With the right attitude and coaching, beginners can pick up the game in their 40s, 50s, 60s and beyond. Tennis is a sport for life that exercises your body and mind. Start with basics like grip, footwork, and simple strokes. Seniors can progress at their own pace.
How can I learn tennis by myself?
While lessons accelerate learning, you can teach yourself tennis fundamentals using online resources, video instruction, and books. Learn grip, positioning, swing technique, and practice hitting against a backboard. Film yourself to check the form. Join a clinic later to get feedback on your strokes.
Can you get into tennis as an adult?
It’s common to take up tennis as an adult. Many people first try tennis later in life as a social or recreational outlet. Get proper gear and instruction. Taking group lessons at local clubs and parks is a great way for beginners to start playing. Use adaptable equipment if necessary.
Is tennis easy for beginners?
Tennis can be challenging at first because it works your body in new ways requiring balance, coordination, and racquet skills. However, the basics can be picked up through step-by-step instruction and regular practice. Going slow, getting coaching, and being patient will make learning tennis easier.
How to learn tennis at 40?
To start playing tennis in your 40s, take beginner group lessons, practice key techniques like groundstrokes and serves, play friendly matches with others at your level, and work on movement skills. Get properly fit equipment and stay injury-free with stretches. Tennis can provide great exercise for an older new player.