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French Dictionary

The glossary of a tennis academy is an essential resource for any student. Knowing the terminology related to the sport is essential to understanding the rules and strategies of the game. Having a comprehensive glossary of tennis terms will make it easier to learn the game and understand the finer points of the sport. Knowing the terms of the game is also important for communicating effectively with coaches, teammates, and opponents. With the right information at your fingertips, it will be easier to understand and appreciate the game of tennis.

Ace: a service point won by the server because the receiver doesn’t return, or even touch, the ball.
Advantage (or ad) court: left-hand side of the court.

Advantage (or Ad): the point played after deuce, which if won, ends the game.

Advantage set: a set that can only be won when one opponent has won six games and is two games clear of their opponent. The final sets of singles matches at the Australian Open, French Open, Wimbledon, Davis Cup and the Olympics are all advantage sets.

All: term used when both players have the same number of points from 15-15 (15-all) to 30-30 (30-all). When the score is 40-40 the term is deuce.

All-court player: someone who is equally comfortable playing from the baseline, mid-court and net.

Alley: (see tramlines.)

Approach shot: a shot used by a player to pin their opponent behind the baseline so that they can run to the net for a volley.

ATP: Association of Tennis Professionals, the governing body of men’s tennis.

ATP World Tour: circuit of men’s professional tennis tournaments.

Australian Open: First Grand Slam tournament of the tennis calendar played in January at Melbourne Park on blue Plexicushion courts.

Back court: area behind the court between the baseline and the back fence.

Backhand: shot struck by holding the racquet in the dominant hand but swinging the racquet from the non-dominant side of the body with the back of the dominant hand pointing in the direction the ball is being hit. (See also two-handed backhand.)

Backspin: spin imparted on the underside of the ball causing it to revolve backwards while travelling forwards. Used in slice and drop shots.

Backswing: component of the swing where the racquet is taken back behind the body in preparation for the forward motion that leads to contact with the ball.

Bagel: colloquial term for winning or losing a set to love, the 0 in the score line evoking the shape of a bagel.

Ballkid: boy or girl (or man or woman) responsible for retrieving tennis balls that are out of play and supplying them to the server before each point.

Baseline: the line at each end of the court behind which the server stands to serve.

Baseliner: a player who prefers to play at the baseline, relying on their groundstrokes.

Break: a service game that is won by the player receiving serve.

Break back: game won by a receiver who has previously conceded their own service game during the same set.

Break point: point held by a receiver that, if won, earns them their opponent’s service game. The scores 0-40, 15-40, 30-40 and 40-Ad are all break points.

Bye: situation in which a player advances automatically to the next round of a tournament without having to play a match. Generally a privilege extended to seeded players in the opening round of a tournament.

Call: a player or court official’s decision as to whether a ball was in or out.

Chalk: the material used to mark court lines on grass courts.

Challenge: disputing what a player believes to be an incorrect line call via video line-calling.

Challenger tournaments: week-long ITF events positioned one tier below ATP and WTA Tour tournaments that are staged all over the world and are part of the Pro Tour in Australia.

Champions’ tiebreak: method used to decide the outcome of a doubles match, usually when players are at one set-all. Players alternate serve with the first to reach 10 points with a two-point advantage winning the match.

Change of ends: ninety-second rest period taken courtside, between odd games, before players move to the other end of the court and continue play.

Chip: Method of using underpin to block a shot back into court. Sometimes used as a tactic to counteract a powerful serve.

Chip-and-charge: tactic whereby a player chips the ball into their opponent’s court and immediately approaches the net for a volley.

Clay court: playing surface made of finely powdered red or green clay.

Code violation: penalty for breaking tennis’ code of conduct rules. The first infraction incurs a warning, the second a point penalty, the third a game penalty and the fourth results in default from the match.

Counterpuncher: player who employs a defensive playing style.

Court: the area within which a match is played.

Cross-court shot: shot hit from one corner of the court to the diagonally opposite corner.

Cyclops: device used prior to video line-calling to determine whether a serve was in or out.


Davis Cup: annual international men’s team competition staged by the ITF.

Dead rubber: match played after the result of a team competition has already been decided. In men’s tennis the number of sets played is usually reduced from best of five to three, or teams may agree not to play dead rubbers.

Deep: a shot that lands near the baseline rather than mid-court, generally putting the player who receives it under pressure.

Default: disqualification of a player due to code violations.

Deuce: terminology for the score when it stands at 40-40. A player must win two-consecutive points from deuce in order to win the game.

Deuce court: the right-hand side of the court.

Dink: shot hit with little power or pace that just clears the net.

Dirt-baller: colloquial term for a claycourt specialist.

Double fault: consecutive faults on serve, resulting in the returner winning the point.

Doubles: a match between teams of two players.

Down the line: shot hit straight down the court, close to one of the sidelines.

Drop shot: a delicate shot employing backspin that drops just over the net.

Drop volley: a delicate volley employing touch that drops just over the net.

En Tout Cas: playing surface made from coarse crushed red brick material.

Error: a shot that lands out, or doesn’t clear the net, resulting in the loss of a point.

Exhibition: match or tournament played for entertainment and prize money but not for ranking points.


Fault: a serve that hits the net or doesn’t land within the service box and consequently does not start the point. Consecutive faults are termed a double fault and result in the loss of a point.

Fed Cup: annual international women’s team competition staged by the ITF.

Fifteen: opening point of a game for either player or team.

First serve: the first of two serves a player is allowed in order to start a point.

Follow through: component of the swing after the racquet has connected with the ball.

Foot fault: penalty when a serving player steps on or over the baseline, or over the baseline’s centre mark, before connecting with the ball, resulting in a service fault.

Forced error: an error made off a difficult shot hit by an opponent.

Forehand: stroke made with the front of the dominant hand facing the direction in which the ball is being struck.

Forty: the third point won in a game by either player or team. If both parties reach 40 it is called deuce.

French Open: second Grand Slam of the tournament calendar. Played on clay courts in May at Roland Garros in Paris.

Futures: week-long ITF men’s events positioned one tier below ATP Tour tournaments that are staged all over the world and are part of the Pro Tour in Australia.


GOAT: acronym for Greatest Of All Time.

Game: the building blocks of a set. Each set must comprise at least six games.

Game point: a point that, if won, will result in a player winning the game they are playing.

Game, set, match: the words a match umpire uses to indicate that a match has concluded.

Golden Grand Slam: the feat whereby a player wins all four Grand Slam tournaments and an Olympic gold medal in the same year.

Grand Slam: the feat whereby a player wins all four Grand Slam tournaments in the same year. Also know as majors, the four Grand Slam tournaments are the most prestigious tennis tournaments on the annual calendar, offering the most ranking points and the highest amount of prize money. The Grand Slams are the Australian Open, the French Open, Wimbledon and the US Open.

Groundstroke: shots hit from on, or behind, the baseline after the ball has bounced.

Grunting: noise emitted by players through exertion or as a breathing technique as they are hitting the ball.


Hacker: player with an unconventional or un-coached playing style.

Half volley: volley made off a low-bouncing ball by placing the racquet close to the court surface.

Hawk-Eye: system of video line-calling employed by the Grand Slams.

Hold serve: situation in which a serving player wins their service game.

Hot Dog: trick shot whereby a player chases down a lob, then hits the ball between his legs from behind the baseline with his back to the net.


I-formation: doubles formation where the net player on the serving team straddles the centre service line at a crouch with the aim of cutting off a cross-court return.

In: call made when a ball falls within the playing area.

ITF: International Tennis Federation, the world governing body of tennis.


Kick serve: a serve where the ball is imparted with topspin making it “kick” up upon connecting with the court surface.


Let: a stroke or point that doesn’t count and has to be replayed. Occurs when a serve clips the net before bouncing into the service box, when a point is interrupted by outside interference or if an umpire overrules a call made by a linesperson.

Linesperson (line judge): court official responsible for making calls on a particular line.

Lob: high-arcing shot intended to pass over an opponent’s head and land within the playing area.

Long: alternative call to “out” when a ball lands beyond the baseline.

Love: tennis word for zero, meaning no points in a game or a set.

Love game: a game won by a player without their opponent scoring any points.

Lucky loser: player who loses in qualifying but gets into the main draw of a tournament due to another player withdrawing. A lucky loser berth is generally awarded to the highest ranked non-qualifying player.


Match: competitive format for tennis usually decided by the best of three or the best of five sets.

Match point: point in a match that, if won, brings the match to an end.

Mini-break: a tiebreak point won on an opponent’s serve.

Mis-hit: shot struck with the ball not connecting fully with the strings.

Mixed doubles: doubles match played with one male and one female opponent on team.

Moonball: stroke played with heavy topspin to slow down a point or help a player to recover their position on court.


Net: netting stretched horizontally across the mid-point of the court, supported by net posts, that measures 91.5 cm at the centre strap and 106.5 cm at the net posts.

Net chord: white band from which the length of the net is suspended.

Net point: point decided at the net, usually by a volley (as opposed to a point won or lost at the baseline).

New balls: in a match, a new set of balls replaces those in play initially after the first seven games, and then every nine games thereafter.

No-man’s land: the area between the baseline and service line where it is difficult for players to make effective shots.

Official: member of the on-court officiating team. Includes the umpire, linespeople, court supervisor and referee.

Out: call made when a ball lands outside the playing area.

Overhead: see smash.

Overrule: decision made by an umpire to reverse a call made by a linesperson.


Passing shot: shot that passes to the left or right of a net player (not over them) and lands within the playing area.

Plexicushion: hardcourt surface used at Australian Open Series events.

Poach: doubles maneuver whereby a net player intercepts a shot directed at their partner.

Protected ranking: special ranking given to a player returning from an injury break of more than six months, based on their average ranking during the first three months of injury, used to help them gain direct entry into tournament main draws or qualifying to assist their comeback.

Pusher: term used to refer to a player whose game is based on keeping the ball in play rather than aggressively trying to hit winners.


Qualifying (Qualies): preliminary event that offers players whose rankings don’t gain them direct entry in the main draw of a tournament, the opportunity to win a spot in that main draw.

Qualifier: person that wins through to the main draw of a tournament via qualifying.


Racquet (Racket): piece of equipment with a long handle and strung oval head used to hit the ball during a tennis match.

Rally: exchange of a series of tennis strokes during a game that ends when a player makes an error or hits a shot that their opponent can’t return.

Receiver: player returning serve.

Referee: senior official responsible for enforcing tournament rules.

Reflex volley: instinctive volley made with no time to think about the shot or get the racquet in position.

Retirement: withdrawal of a player during a match, usually due to injury and illness.

Round robin: style of tournament play whereby the draw is divided into similar sized groups and each player has to play every other player within their group.

Rubber: an alternative word to “match” used in team tennis play.


Second serve: literally the second of two serves a player is allowed per point (discounting let serves) which, if missed, results in a double fault and the point being conceded.

Seed: highly ranked player whose position in a tournament draw has been arranged so that they do not meet another highly-ranked player until the latter stages of the tournament.

Serve: over-arm stroke played from behind the baseline and to one side of the centre mark, used to start a point.

Serve and volley: style of play whereby a player serves the ball and then rushes the net in order to finish the point early with a volley.

Set point: point that, if won by the player who holds it, brings a set to an end.

Shank: mis-hit stroke resulting in a misdirected shot.

Singles: tennis game played by two opponents.

Singles sticks: poles, positioned on the singles sidelines, used to support the net during singles play.

Sitter: mid-court ball that is easy to put away.

Slice: net-skimming shot hit with under spin and sidespin.

Smash: stroke similar to a service action played when the ball is travelling above a player’s head, for example off a lob.

Spin: direction in which the surface of a ball rotates while travelling through the air (includes topspin, underspin, sidespin).

Split step: checking step made by incoming volleyers to adjust their footwork as they gauge the path of an oncoming ball.

Straight sets: a match won without the loss of a set.

Strings: synthetic or gut material from which the playing surface of a tennis racquet is woven.

String savers: small pieces of plastic inserted where strings cross to prevent wear and string breakages.

Stroke: way in which a tennis ball is struck.

Sudden death: point that, if won, brings a game or tiebreak to an end without the need for a player to be two points clear of their opponent.

Sweet spot: point on the racquet strings at which the ball rebounds optimally.


Tanking: colloquial term for losing a game, set or match on purpose.

Tape: white synthetic material used to mark the lines on clay and En Tout Cas courts. (Alternatively see net chord.)

Tennis ball: pressurised, air-filled rubber ball covered externally by felt, struck by a racquet in the sport of tennis.

Tennis elbow: common tennis injury in which the muscles and tendons of the elbow and forearm become inflamed and painful.

Thirty: second point in a game for either player or team.

Tie: collective term referring to the group of matches or rubbers played between two teams in a team tennis event.

Tiebreak: method used to decide the outcome of a set, usually when players are at six games-all. Players alternate serve with the first to reach seven points with a two point advantage winning the set. (See also Champions tiebreak.)

Topspin: spin imparted on a tennis ball by stroking it from low to high, causing it to rotate forwards as it moves through the air and bounce high upon landing.

Touch: descriptive term that refers to a player’s ability to maneuver a ball delicately.

Tramlines: external court lines that run parallel to the singles lines, defining the area of play for doubles.

Two-handed backhand: backhand stroke where the racquet handle is also supported by the non-dominant hand.


Underspin: spin imparted on a ball that causes it rotate backwards as it travels forwards.

Umpire: court official responsible for monitoring the calls made by linespeople and enforcing the rules of tennis during a match.

Underarm serve: alternative (and rarely-used) service technique that sees the server deliver the ball underarm rather than by the traditional over-arm method.

Unforced error: error committed due to poor technique or judgment on a player’s part rather than as the result of a good shot by their opponent.

US Open: fourth and final Grand Slam tournament of the calendar year, played at Flushing Meadows in New York.

Unseeded: term given to a player whose ranking does not afford them a protected (seeded) position in the draw.


Video line-calling: digital system for making line calls that uses video cameras and action replays to determine whether balls are in or out.

Volley: forehand or backhand stroke executed at the net before the ball bounces, the racquet moving in a punching motion.


Walkover: victory awarded to a player when their opponent concedes a match before it begins, usually due to injury or illness.

Wide: call made when a ball lands outside the singles or doubles playing area.

Wildcard: free pass into a tournament draw awarded when a player’s ranking is not high enough to gain them direct entry or they have not entered the tournament by the closing date for entries.

Wimbledon: third Grand Slam tournament of the tennis calendar, also known as The Championships. Played on grass at the All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club in South West London.

Winner: shot that lands within the playing area and ends a point because the person receiving it is unable to return it effectively.

WTA Tour: Women’s Tennis Association Tour, the governing body of the women’s game.

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