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Tennis is not just for pros.
Tennis is for everyone.



Doubles Play, by TennisTom 2011

In this discussion one of the doubles teams will be called A, and the other team B. The two partners on team A are A1 and A2. The two partners on team B are B1 and B2.

To win, you need the following:

  • A minimum of four points to win a game

  • A minimum of six games to win a set

  • Two out of three sets to win a match (or three sets out of five professionally)

To start a set you should “spin a racket.” This means to have one team member (for instance A1 or A2) spin their racket in their hand, and a team member (B1 or B2) on the other team “calls it Up or Down.” Up or Down refers to the letter on the butt of the spun racket. If B1, for instance, calls “Up,” and the letter is up (can be read normally compared to upside down) then team B gets to choose one of four options. Naturally if team B does not call the letter correctly, then team A gets to choose one of the following options:

  • Choose to serve

  • Choose to receive service

  • Choose one end or the other of the court

  • Choose to have the other team select one of the above three options

If team B wins the spin and chooses to serve, team A then gets to choose which end of the court they want. Either B1 or B2 may serve from anywhere on the right hand side (called the deuce side) behind their baseline between the right doubles sideline and the center mark. B1 must strike the ball in the air before the ball bounces. The served ball must land in the service box on the other side of the net. diagonally across from B1. B1 gets two tries to get a serve in. If B1 misses both tries then B1 loses the point. A serve that does not land in the correct box is called a “fault.” If the second attempt fails to land in the correct box, it is called a “double fault,” and the point is lost. If a served ball nicks the net cord and falls into the correct service box, it does not count and B2 gets a “do over.”

If B1 gets a serve In the proper service box, then A1 (or A2, whichever player is receiving on the correct side), must return the ball after it bounces once, into any part of team B’s doubles court. Then either B1 or B2 must return the ball, after it bounces only once, into team A’s doubles court. The point continues until one team or the other misses – hits the ball Out (outside the opposing boundary lines), or hits the ball into the net (and the ball falls onto the hitters side of the court). During an ongoing point, if a ball hits the net cord and then falls into the opponent’s court, it is considered Good and the point continues as though the ball did not hit the net. However if a served ball hits the net cord and then falls into the proper service box, the point stops and the serve is taken again without penalty.

After the first point ends, B1 switches sides with his partner to serve from the other side (left side) of the court, and the second point of the game commences. B1 will continue to alternate from right to left to start each point of that game. After the first game ends, both teams change ends of the court and the second game begins with one of the other teams’ players serving. Teams switch ends of the court at the end of every odd number game (game 1,3,5, etc.) This switching of court ends is done in order to eliminate any advantage or disadvantage one end of the court may have, such as lighting conditions.

The player who is serving must call out the score loudly enough to be heard my all before serving. The announced score always puts the serving team’s score first. For example, it the first point is won by serving team A, then the score would be “15 – love.” Love is synonymous with zero, which incites all kinds of ridiculous tennis “love” jokes.

A sample game might go, with team A serving, as follows…

Point 1: Team A wins the first point = “15 – love”

Point 2: Team B wins the next point = "15 all"

Point 3: Team B wins the next point: = "15 - 30"

Point 4: Team A wins the next point = "30 all"

Point 5: Team A wins the next point = "40 - 30"

Point 6: If team A wins the next point, team A wins the game.

Note: For some crazy reason, many players say the number 5 instead of 15.

A pertinent rule is: To win a game, once a score of 40 is reached by both teams, the winning team must score two points in a row, which is called winningby a margin of two. Interestingly, 30-30 is never called deuce; it’s called “30-all.” Also “40 – all” is never used as a score; instead the score is called “deuce.” (Hey, don’t ask me why.

However, if the score is “40 – 30,” and the team with 40 does not win the next point, the score goes back to deuce. From a score of deuce, one team or the other must win two points in a row to win the game.

Once the score is deuce, whichever team wins the next point has the advantage and the score is call either “ad in,” or “ad out.” It is “ad in” if the serving team scores the next point from deuce, or “ad out” if the receiving team scores the next point from deuce. If the team with the advantage loses the next point, the score reverts to deuce. It is typical for many games to go from deuce to ad, back to deuce, and then to ad, a number of times.

Finally when one team or the other has an “ad” and wins the next point, that team wins the game. In our sample game example above, with team B serving, if team B has an ad in and wins the following point, then they win the game.

There are other scoring systems variations which are sometimes used, some of which are covered below.

To determine which team wins the set, when teams reach a tie score of six games to six games (6 – 6), recreational players choose to either “play it out” or to play a “tiebreaker,” also called a “tiebreak.” League players play tiebreakers according to published rules.

Playing it out. If recreational players agree to play it out at “6 games all” (6 – 6), play resumes. One team must win by a margin of two games to win the set. Sample scores might be 8 – 6, or 11 – 9, or even 14-12. Obviously, teams only decide to play it out when everyone has plenty of time to play.

Tiebreaker in doublesserving pattern. As the tiebreaker is considered a separate set, teams may choose whatever partner serving order they prefer. The very first point is always served from the deuce court (right court). After that each server takes turns serving 2 points for the rest of the tiebreaker. After the first point is played, each server starts from the “ad court” (left court) and a point is played. Then the same server serves from the “deuce court” (right court). This rotation continues until one team gets a sufficient number of points to win by a margin of two points. A sufficient number of points depends on which type of tiebreaker is played, as follows…

The 7-Point Tie-Breaker. When a set is 6-6 in games, a 7-point tie-breaker is played to decide who wins the set. The first team to 7 points with a margin of 2 or more, wins. The team that received in the game preceding the tiebreaker serves the first point of the tiebreaker. As in all tie-breakers, points are scored in a ascending number fashion – 1, 2, 3. 4, and so forth.

Sample final scores: With a score of 7-5, the team with 7 wins. With a score of 10-8, the team with 10 wins. With a score of 23-21, the team with 23 wins.

The 10-Point Tie-Breaker. When the score reaches 1 set for each team, which is called “splitting sets,” a 10-point tie-breaker is played to decide which team wins the 3rd set and therefore wins the best two out of three sets for the match. In a 10-point tiebreaker, one team must win 10 points by a margin of 2 or more. The team that received in the game preceding the tiebreaker serves the first point of the tiebreaker.

Sample final scores: With a score of 10-8, the team with 10 wins. With a score of 13-11, the team with 13 wins. With a score of 21-19, the team with 21 wins.

Coman Tie-BreakerUSTA. The Coman Tiebreak is no different than a regular tiebreaker, except that players switch ends after one point, and then every four points thereafter. This assures that a server in doubles will serve on the same side that he/she has been serving on for the whole set. It also eliminates a six-point switch if the conditions favor a specific side (due to strong wind or difficult sun conditions). In other words, teams switch ends of the court when the sum of the score points is 1, 5, 9, 13, etc.

[Tennis Scoring for Beginning Players] [Rev 6-28-11]


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