Updated: Sep 3
If you’ve ever wanted to know how to play Tennis, then you’re reading the right article. That’s because you’re about to discover my easy Three-step method for playing your first game of Tennis. You don't have to be a professional tennis player to enjoy a game or even be a member of a tennis club. Tennis is a great way to stay fit with its many health benefits, meet new people and if you don't know your double fault from a drop shot, I have you covered on your tennis journey.
And the good news is, this three-step method works even if you haven't access to a tennis court near you.
Read on and maybe you might be the next Roger Federer or Rafael Nadal and playing at Roland Garros in no time.
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How To Play Tennis Step 1: Find the Right Equipment
Many people new to Tennis don’t even realise that they need to do this step before they can go and play. And that’s why a lot of people who try to end up failing – they’re simply missing this crucial step.
So, the first thing you need to do is get the right equipment to play with, this is probably the most important thing. You need some basic pieces of equipment such as a tennis racquet, tennis balls, water bottles, clothing and shoes.
You’ll find that this part of the process goes much more smoothly if you apply these tips and tricks:
Don't go out and buy the most expensive racket you see! You don't need the latest racket by Nadal or Radacanu to play! These rackets are designed, weighted and produced for experienced players. But also, don't go and buy a cheap and nasty racket from your local General Sports Store. It would help if you had a mid-range racket of £60 -£100, reasonably light (250-290g) and a mid-range grip 2/3. After a few months, you can try out a lighter or heavier racket and see what 'feels' comfortable.
• Buy new tennis balls - Don't use old tennis balls. They don't bounce! Tennis balls lose their pressure very quickly, which results in a lower bounce, and the ball stays on your racket longer. There is a reason why they change balls every nine games at Wimbledon. You may also want to consider using a low compression ball, as these balls bounce lower and slower. This will result in you having more time to play the shot and hopefully lead to longer rallies.
• Wear the correct footwear - Tennis is a dynamic game with lots of twists, turns, pushing off and stopping suddenly. It puts a significant demand on your feet and ankles. You need to ensure you wear some tennis shoes, again don't go for expensive or 'classic' tennis shoes from your local sports shop. Tennis shoes will have the correct grip for Tennis courts and ankle support. Running trainers do not!
You may wish to check out my equipment guides on:
The Best Tennis Shoes For Flat Feet (2022)
How to Choose A Junior Tennis Racket (Tennis Racket Sizes Guide)
9 Best Tennis Racquets For Players Who Want a Powerfully Balanced Swing
5 Best Cheap Tennis Shoes
Once you’ve got your equipment, you are one step closer to your first point.
How To Play Tennis Step 2: Find a Space!
The next thing you need to do is find somewhere to play!
When I first started playing Tennis, I learned how to play on a road outside my house. I used some masking tape for the outside lines and a line in the middle for a net! The common misconception is you need a Tennis Court to play Tennis. You can play a tennis match and imagine yourself playing grand slams anywhere! Gone are the early days of lawn tennis where you need an estate home to play the game.
Tennis is a game that you play over a barrier (The Net) and inside of lines (The Court). You can use absolutely anything to act as a barrier, and you can use chalk, tape, and throw-down lines for the court. The great thing about Tennis is you can play it anywhere!
The Garden, the beach, the living room even! As I sit here and write this blog, there are many new pieces of equipment to make the game accessible. Portable nets and sponge balls for that living room! The list goes on!
Here are some recommendations if you want to try Tennis out at home
You just need to mark out the key areas such as baselines on both sides of the court, service boxes and outside lines.
Suppose you have access to a Tennis court, even better! Nothing beats the feeling of walking onto a Tennis court, and I still get that excited feeling every day I work at local clubs.
But remember, you don't have to play the full-size court like the pros. Tennis is not an easy game to pick up and play. But you can play your way, use a smaller court, or slower ball and change the rules! Unless you're playing an official match, tennis can be modified and played any way you see fit. Tailor your court size for your skill level.
You may also want to think about the court surface, a hard court will be a high quick bounce, a grass court will be low and clay will be high and slow.
If you are in the UK, you can use the following link to find a number of public Courts or local parks near you, make it a doubles match and double the fun.
How to Play Tennis Step 3: Practice!
At this step, you’re likely to notice that it's a bit more complicated than on TV. So, what you need to do is play your way, don't worry about playing the right way! At this point you don't need to worry about fancy grips such as the semi-western grip on the forehand side, just get out and play.
You may want to familiarise yourself with the rules of tennis before you play your next point, try and partner up with some advanced players who can help you learn the rules.
A few pointers your need to remember on the rules of tennis is:
You are allowed to touch the ball once and have one bounce on your side of the court
Each player takes turns to start the point with what we call the first serve, the service can be under or overarm but can't bounce before your hit it.
The service must go into the service box, which is located diagonally from the server.
The scoring system is a bit complicated with points allocated as 15,30,40 and game. if the score gets to 40-40, you need to win two points to win a game. The additional point is known as the advantage.
You need six games to win a set and depends in on the level you play you may need to win one, three or five sets.
Like a game, you must win the set by two clear games so 6-4 or 7-5
if a set gets to 6-6 a tiebreak is played where the two players play single points to 7
Like the court, just play tennis your way! You don't have to follow the international tennis federation tennis rules to play a tennis game. Just play whatever you feel comfortable with!
I remember the first time I did this step and tried to play like my heroes, Aggasi and Sampras. I would try and serve as hard as I could, hitting blistering forehands and heavy topspin. In reality, I smashed the serve into the net and tapped over my second serve. I pushed my forehand over and got very frustrated!
Begin with a small court space while you learn to control the ball. Keep the ball in front of you by making contact early with little pushes. Keep the racket in your dominant hand, the right hand of your right-handed player. This is known as a forehand, which will be your strength! or vice versa if you're playing left-handed players.
Every rally or point starts with an overhead serve by the serving player; get used to starting every rally with a server. Just get the rally started and focus on getting it in and not breaking the world record for speed. Try and learn the continental grip to help get into good habits. You can read my top 7 serve tips here.
As your confidence grows, move back and make your pushes bigger until you can control the ball from the back of your court. Tennis is a great workout, a top tip would be to try hitting every shot with balance.
If you struggle, move a bit closer and build up your skills before trying to move back. The ball can land anywhere on the court, so practice hitting the ball using both sides of your body.
On your weakest side, try using two hands to control the shot, known as a double-handed backhand. Learn about every tennis stroke in this full guide.
Tennis is a sending and receiving sport; throwing and catching both under and overarm are vital tennis players' skills, and hand-eye coordination can be practised. Practice as much throwing and seeing as you can and learn how to do these skills with the ball, not bouncing and lots of movement to take your Tennis to the next level.
You may want to learn from a tennis coach and take up tennis lessons and learn more advanced tennis strokes.
And there you have it – a simple three-step method of playing tennis. Now that you know how to start to play, there’s just one thing left for you to do go to www.mytenniscoaching.com for lots of free coaching advice on technique, tactics, psychology and more. If you subscribe to my blog above, I may not have you playing in the next Australian open but I can help you achieve your tennis goals.
What to read next:
You may also wish to read the following blogs:
The Different Types of Tennis Shots Explained (Full Overview with Video)
The Best Tennis Drills For Beginners (With Video)
The Truth About Private Tennis Coaching - Do You Need It?
My Tennis Coach
Written by Steve Whelan
Steve has developed thousands of tennis players and tennis coaches over the past twenty years as a coach and educator.
Steve has over 20 million social media views in 2022 alone.
Read About Steve's amazing career here
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