Tennis Rules & History

Here we explain the rules of the game and equipment as well as a look at the history of Tennis.

The Tennis Court

The length of an entire tennis court is 78 ft. Luckily it is separated by a net through the middle, so you only have to cover your half! The width of a singles court is 27 ft and a doubles court is 36 ft. 21ft either side of the net are the service boxes.

The net should be 3 ft high at the centre.

What is in and out?

The rules of tennis are pretty simple. Basically, in doubles, a shot must bounce anywhere inside of the outer court boundaries to be considered as ‘good’. The only difference in singles play is that the tramlines down the side of the court are deemed ‘out’.

The only exception to this is on the serve – which must be cross-court and into the opponent’s service box. For more information about serving, please click here.

Tennis Balls Explained

Questions are often asked about tennis balls – “what is the difference between one type of tennis ball and another?” “Why are they kept in pressurised cans?” Here we will try and answer these questions with our brief basic guide to tennis balls!


Tennis balls of the past were made of a variety of different materials. Many types of animal furs and innards, tied up with string have been used in years gone by. King Louis XI of France also insisted tennis balls in France should be made of leather, stuffed with wool. As a result of all these variations over the years, tennis evolved at different rates around the world. Vulcanised rubber was first used for tennis balls in 1870 with the introduction of lawn tennis. Tennis balls were first sold in cylindrical tubes in 1925 when the Wilson-Western Sports Company came up with the idea.

Nowadays, upwards of 300 million balls are produced each year!

Standard Modern Balls

These days balls must meet certain standard requirements. Obviously, for fair international competitions, everyone must use similar balls around the world. The standardisation of balls is controlled by the ITF.

Standard modern balls should have a diameter of between 2.575 inches and 2.7 inches. They should also weigh no less than 56 grams, and no more than 59.4 grams. The only colours approved for competitive play are yellow and white. Since 1972 the standard ball has been ‘fluorescent yellow’ after a study showed that this was better for television coverage.

Tennis balls are filled with air, which is then surfaced by a uniform felt-covered rubber compound. They are generally then kept in a pressurised container until they are required for play. As soon as a tin of balls is open and they are removed from these pressurised conditions a ball will begin to lose its bounce. At the top-level balls are generally kept in these conditions until the last possible point. The loss in bounce is also why the balls are changed so regularly at elite level.

Other Types Of Balls

In some situations you may be better to use different sorts of balls. The obvious example of this is with beginners or very young players. Other balls are made which may be slower and easier for inexperienced performers to learn with. This is one of the key features of the ITF‘s Play & Stay campaign. This follows a red, orange and green progression – with red balls being the slowest and easiest for beginners. As players learn skills they can progress along the pathway towards using the standard balls.

Tennis Rackets Explained

A tennis racket is a pivotal piece of kit for all players. Whether you own one or borrow one, it is impossible to play a game without it! Trying to find the right racket can be a very confusing and daunting experience for even the most experienced of players. Here, we will try and give you a bit of information to make this experience as hassle-free as possible!

Choosing a Tennis Racket

The age-old question of ‘which racket is best for me?’ has been asked by many a tennis player around the globe. Choosing one can be an important decision for any aspiring player looking to perfect their game. Rackets come in all different shapes and colours, and at vastly differing prices, and it is impossible to give a generic answer as to which is the best. A racket which suits one person may not suit another, and vice-versa, as we are all unique with particular playing styles and preferences.

There are a number of differences between tennis rackets. Slight variance in weight, balance, flexibility, grip size and string tension can all make a difference to the way a racket affects your game.

A plethora of manufacturers exist, all proclaiming that they make the best racket. The truth is that the most important thing is the racket itself, rather than any brand name. That said, here is some information on a few of the most popular brands, to help you make a more informed choice:

Wilson Rackets

Based in Chicago, USA, Wilson is one of the biggest sports manufacturers in the world. They also have a very strong presence in other sports such as American football golf and baseball. Players such as Roger Federer and Serena Williams use Wilson tennis rackets.

Head Rackets

Originally founded as a ski company, Head have grown to become one of the world leaders in tennis equipment. Roughly 30% of the Top 100 players on the men’s ATP tour use Head rackets, including Andy Murray and Novak Djokovic.

Babolat Rackets

Founded in 1875 Babolat was renowned for making high-quality tennis string. They focussed on strings until 1994 when they became an ‘all-tennis’ company and entered the racket market. They are now one of the biggest and most popular manufacturers on the circuit. Players such as Rafael Nadal, Andy Roddick, and Kim Clijsters use Babolat rackets.

Yonex Rackets

Founded in 1946 Yonex are also one of the biggest companies in badminton and golf. They have made tennis rackets since 1971 and also have a strong presence on the professional tour. Players such as Lleyton Hewitt and Ana Ivanovic use Yonex rackets.

And so…

The question – ‘which racket is best for me?’ – really is very subjective. Most lower-end rackets are fairly all-covering and will offer more forgiveness to the tennis beginner. With the more high-end products it really is a case of trial and error- but with vast rewards, if you find the optimum racket which suits your game. There is a racket out there for everybody – it’s just a case of finding it!

History Of Tennis

Tennis is one of the most popular sports in the world, although the game as we know it today has only been around since the late 19th century. The roots of the game can be traced back much further, however. Popular opinion is that the inception of tennis can be traced back to 12th century France. However, the game played back then involved using the palm of a players hand to strike the ball. It was not until the 16th century that rackets came into use and the name ‘tennis’ was first used.

Real Tennis

The game played in the 16th century differed from tennis today in that it was played indoors, and the ball was allowed to be played off the walls. Henry VIII was a big fan of this game – which we now know as ‘Real Tennis’.

Creation of Lawn Tennis

The first step towards the game we play today came when Harry Gem and Augurio Perera developed a game combining rackets and balls, and then played outside on a croquet lawn. With their new game, they founded the first tennis club in Leamington Spa, England, in 1872.

However, it is actually Major Walter Clopton Wingfield who is traditionally given all the credit of the creation of tennis as we play it today. A year later, in December 1973, he designed and patented a new variation of the game – called Sphairistrike – for which he sold equipment and published rules.

First Tournaments

The game quickly became very popular, and many clubs were formed. The first tournament, ‘the Championships, Wimbledon‘ were held in 1877. Other competitions soon followed, including the first Davis Cup in 1900.

As the game grew, it became clear that governance was required. Different variations of the game were played around the world, with different rules and equipment. The formation of the ITF countered this, with the creation of standardised rules and regulations.

Open Era

The big milestone for tennis in the last century came in 1968. This saw the end of the amateur era. Commercial pressures and rumours of some players being played to play saw the switch to the Open era of professional tennis, that we have today.

Tennis Governing Bodies


The ITF is the governing body of world tennis and is made up of 205 national associations. It was established in 1913 and is based in London.

They are responsible for operating the 3 major national team competitions: the Davis Cup, the Fed Cup & the Hopman Cup.

The ITF also sanctions the 4 tennis ‘Grand Slams’.


The Association of Tennis Professionals (ATP) was formed in 1972, with the purpose of protecting the interests of male tennis players.

Since 1990, the ATP has also been responsible for organising the worldwide tennis tour for men. They organise a range of tournaments, at different levels, throughout each season, culminating in the ATP World Tour Finals at the end of each year for the top-8 ranked players.

They are also responsible for publishing the weekly world rankings.


The Women’s Tennis Association (WTA) is the sister organisation of the ATP and is responsible for protecting the interests of female tennis players. It was formed in 1973.

The WTA performs a similar role to the women’s tour as the ATP does for men. They are responsible for organising a plethora of tournaments at different levels throughout the season, and also for collating and publishing the world rankings.


The Lawn Tennis Association is the governing body for tennis in Great Britain. It was formed in 1888 and is based in Roehampton.

The LTA is responsible for managing the newly-built National Tennis Centre, as well as the development of coaching and players in Great Britain.

Other responsibilities include management of the Davis Cup team and the organisation and administration of play at all levels in Great Britain.


The United States Tennis Association is the governing body for tennis in the USA. They are responsible for the organising and administration of leagues at various levels across the country. It was formed in 1881 and is based in New York.

They are also responsible for the management of the ‘USTA Bille Jean King National Tennis Center’ at Flushing Meadow, New York, which plays host to the annual showpiece tournament – the US Open.

Tennis Australia

Tennis Australia is the governing body for the sport in Australia. The inception of the organisation can be traced back to 1904, and it is now based in Melbourne, Victoria, at Melbourne Park.

They are responsible for promoting the sport within Australia, and also the organisation of tournaments such as the ‘Australian Open’ grand slam, and the Australian Davis Cup team.

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