a group of adults displaying tennis etiquette by shaking hands

Tennis Etiquette

Tennis, a sport with a rich tradition and history, upholds core principles of respect, sportsmanship, and courtesy that are essential for players, spectators, and parents alike. These principles, crucial for maintaining the integrity and decorum of the game, apply not only to those on the court but also to those who watch and support the players.

Adherence to these unwritten rules of tennis etiquette, guided by the standards set by the International Tennis Federation (ITF) and Tennis Australia, is imperative in professional settings.

This framework of etiquette is not merely a collection of rules but a reflection of the values that elevate tennis beyond a competitive sport to a discipline characterised by exemplary conduct. It emphasises the importance of integrity, respect, and sportsmanship, values that are integral to the sport and resonate beyond the confines of the tennis court.

For those involved in tennis tournaments, understanding and implementing these guidelines is crucial for maintaining the sport’s esteemed tradition and ensuring a respectful, fair, and honourable environment for all participants.

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Tennis Etiquette for Players

In the realm of tennis, good sportsmanship stands as the cornerstone of etiquette. This encompasses fair and generous behavior and treatment of others, a principle that every player should embody. Here, I will discuss some key aspects of tennis etiquette that players should adhere to, ensuring a respectful and enjoyable game for all involved.

Silence Your Phone

In the modern age, the intrusion of technology is inevitable, but on the tennis court, it’s crucial to minimise distractions. A ringing cell phone not only disrupts the flow of the game but can also lead to the forfeiture of a point due to intentional hindrance. Therefore, it’s imperative to either turn off your phone or switch it to silent mode before the match begins.


According to the official rules set by the International Tennis Federation (ITF) and Tennis Australia, warmups should not exceed five minutes unless specified otherwise by the organisers. This time should be used judiciously, avoiding excessive practice shots. The warmup is a preparatory period, not a practice session. Players should focus on getting comfortable with the court and conditions, and courteously allow their opponent to practice a range of shots including groundstrokes, volleys, overheads, and serves.

Warmup Serves

When it comes to warming up serves, it’s considered polite to catch the balls rather than hitting aggressive returns. This not only maintains the decorum of the warmup but also prevents any potential accidents or misunderstandings that could arise from unexpected returns.

Line Calls

In the absence of officials, players are often responsible for making line calls on their side of the court. Integrity is key here. If there’s any doubt about a call, it’s better to err on the side of giving the benefit of the doubt to your opponent. This approach fosters a trusting environment and encourages fair play. Remember, quick and clear calls are appreciated by all players, and if you realise a mistake in your call, it’s perfectly acceptable to correct it and apologize.

Calling Out the Score

In professional matches, the umpire announces the score to maintain clarity. In amateur settings, this responsibility falls on the players. The server should announce the set score before each game and the game score before each point. This practice not only helps in avoiding disputes but is also a mark of good etiquette.

Verbal Distractions

During a match, especially in singles, it’s important to maintain silence to allow concentration. Unnecessary noises or shouting can be considered a hindrance and might result in the loss of a point. In doubles, while communication with your partner is allowed, it should be done respectfully and without distracting the opponents.

Adhering to these etiquette guidelines not only shows respect for the game and its traditions but also for your opponent, the spectators, and the sport itself. As players, we hold the responsibility to uphold these standards, ensuring that the spirit of tennis is maintained at all levels of play.

Visual Distractions

In tennis, maintaining focus is paramount, and as such, players must avoid creating visual distractions. Intentional movements like waving arms before an opponent’s shot are considered hindrances and can lead to the loss of a point. A common grey area arises when players returning serve make unnecessary movements in an attempt to distract their opponent. While natural movements like bouncing on the balls of your feet or split stepping are acceptable, any action beyond what is necessary for preparation can be seen as poor etiquette, even if it’s not explicitly called as a hindrance.

Remember, unintentional distractions, such as a stray ball entering the court, are not considered hindrances. In these instances, players should call a let and replay the point.

Returning Missed Serves

If an opponent’s serve misses significantly, it’s courteous not to return the ball with a practice swing. Instead, gently block the ball to the side or back of the court. This prevents disrupting the server’s rhythm and is a sign of respect.

Clearing Balls

Ensuring the court is free of balls before each point is crucial to avoid visual distractions. After the first serve, the server should clear any balls that land on their side, with the exception of those caught at the bottom of the net, which are generally not distracting. However, if requested by the opponent, these should also be removed.

Retrieving Balls from Nearby Courts

If a ball from your court lands on an adjacent one, retrieve it only after the players there have finished their point. This shows respect for their game. If it does create a situation where the players call a let for interference, apologise quickly before retrieving the ball and returning to your court.

Net Chords & Mishits

When luck plays a role, such as with net chords or mishits, acknowledging it with a wave to your opponent is a gesture of good sportsmanship. It’s an acknowledgment of fortune rather than skill, a subtle yet important distinction in the etiquette of tennis.

Targeting Your Opponent

In situations where you could directly hit your opponent, such as at the net, aim for the open court or their feet if reasonable. If an accidental hit occurs, a wave and an apology are appropriate, signaling that the action was unintentional.

Drop Shots and Lobs

In formal competition, repeated use of drop shots and lobs is part of the game. However, in casual play, overusing these techniques can detract from the enjoyment and may be seen as exploiting an opponent’s weakness, which is frowned upon. Adapt your play to the spirit of the match.

Underarm Serve

While legal, the underarm serve is often viewed as unsporting or a trick play. It’s less effective when overused and can be seen as not taking the match seriously. If faced with an underarm serve, stay prepared for anything and don’t let it disrupt your focus.

Celebrating Wins

Celebrate your victories with respect for your opponent. There’s a fine line between celebrating and gloating, and crossing it can be seen as disrespectful.

Shaking Hands After a Match

Post-match, it’s customary to shake hands at the net, regardless of the match outcome. A firm handshake and eye contact show respect and sportsmanship.

Non-Marking Shoes

Always wear non-marking tennis shoes to avoid damaging the court. This is not only a rule at most clubs but also a matter of respect for the facilities and other players.

By adhering to these etiquette guidelines, players not only demonstrate respect for their opponents but also for the game of tennis itself. These practices ensure a fair, enjoyable, and respectful environment for everyone involved.

Doubles and Mixed Doubles Etiquette

In the world of tennis, the etiquette that governs singles play largely extends to doubles and mixed doubles, with a notable exception in communication. In doubles, it’s acceptable for team members to converse when the ball is in play on their side and quietly amongst themselves between points. However, in recreational or non-competitive mixed doubles, particularly when there’s a disparity in skill levels, certain etiquette considerations come into play.

In an ideal scenario, all players would be evenly matched, but often, this isn’t the case. It’s considered poor etiquette for stronger players to target weaker ones, regardless of gender consistently. The focus should be on what makes the game enjoyable rather than exploiting a player’s weaknesses. If you find yourself on the receiving end of such tactics, it may be more enjoyable to seek out new opponents.

In doubles, both partners are entitled to make line calls, both for serves and during points. This is an important aspect of the game to remember, as it ensures fairness and respect for all players involved.

Tennis Etiquette for Spectators

As a spectator, whether at an amateur or professional tennis match, you also have a role to play in maintaining the decorum of the sport.

Stay Quiet During Points

Spectators should refrain from talking or making noise during play. This rule is crucial in maintaining an environment where players can concentrate. Even at professional matches, where the crowd is larger, the collective noise of chatter can be distracting. If you’re talking or making noise, don’t be surprised if you’re asked to quiet down by other spectators or even the umpire.

Cheering & Clapping

While silence is golden during play, cheering and clapping after a point is encouraged. However, ensure the point is truly over before beginning to cheer. Premature celebration can disrupt the flow of the game. Be mindful when a player makes an unforced error; typically, the response is more subdued out of respect for the player’s evident frustration.

Getting Up from Your Seat

The appropriate times to leave your seat are during the changeovers, which occur at the end of the first, third, and every subsequent odd game in a set, and during tiebreakers. These breaks are brief, so be quick if you need to step out. Be aware of the match’s flow to avoid missing crucial moments.

Phones, Photography, & Video

Ensure your phone is on silent and avoid taking calls during the match. When taking photos or videos, use silent mode and avoid flash photography. Be considerate of other spectators and avoid blocking views or being a constant distraction with frequent photo-taking.


Unlike some sports where taunting is part of the experience, it’s frowned upon in tennis. Engaging in such behavior can lead to being removed from the match and is considered poor etiquette.

Tennis Etiquette for Parents

As a parent, watching your child compete in tennis can be a thrilling experience. However, it’s crucial to remember that the way you conduct yourself on the sidelines can significantly impact not only your child’s performance but also the overall atmosphere of the match. Here are some key points to consider:

Emotional Control

It’s natural to feel emotionally invested in your child’s game, but maintaining composure is essential. Overly expressive reactions, whether positive or negative, can distract players, including your child, and potentially add pressure. Celebrate your child’s successes with moderation and avoid showing frustration or disappointment overtly.

Respectful Cheering

Cheering for your child is encouraged, but it should be respectful and sportsmanlike. Applauding your child’s good plays is fine, but avoid celebrating their opponent’s mistakes or misfortunes. This not only sets a poor example but can also create an uncomfortable environment for everyone involved.

Avoid Coaching

It’s important to resist the urge to coach from the sidelines. This includes giving tactical advice, commenting on play, or intervening in decisions. Let the coach do their job, and trust your child to make their own decisions on the court. Your role is to support, not to coach.

Handling Disputes

If there’s a dispute or a bad call, it’s not your place to intervene. Teach your child to understand the rules thoroughly and to handle such situations with maturity. They should know when and how to call for an official if necessary. Your interference can escalate the situation and put undue stress on your child.

Educate Your Child on Etiquette

Ensure that your child understands and adheres to tennis etiquette. This includes respecting opponents, officials, and the rules of the game. Children often emulate their parents’ behavior, so demonstrating good sportsmanship and respect for the game will likely influence them to do the same.

Supporting Your Child

Remember, the primary goal is for your child to enjoy the game and learn from the experience. Win or lose, your support should be unwavering. Encourage them, focus on the positives, and help them learn from their mistakes. Your support can be a significant factor in their continued enjoyment and development in the sport.

By following these guidelines, you can help create a positive and respectful environment for your child, their opponents, and everyone involved in the game. Your behavior as a parent should reflect the values of sportsmanship, respect, and love for the game of tennis.

Final Thoughts

As we draw this discussion to a close, it’s important to reflect on the overarching theme that has guided our exploration: the importance of etiquette in tennis. This sport, much like any other, is not just about the physical prowess or technical skills of the players, but also about the respect, sportsmanship, and decorum that they bring to the court. Tennis etiquette is the invisible framework that upholds the integrity and spirit of the game.

The guidelines and insights shared in this article are deeply rooted in the standards set by governing bodies such as the International Tennis Federation (ITF) and Tennis Australia. These organisations have not only shaped the rules of the game but have also been instrumental in cultivating the culture of respect and fairness that is synonymous with tennis. By adhering to these standards, players, spectators, and parents contribute to a positive and respectful tennis environment.

Etiquette in tennis goes beyond mere rules; it’s about the unwritten contract of mutual respect between everyone involved in the sport. From the way players conduct themselves on the court, the attire they choose, to the manner in which spectators and parents support and engage with the game, every aspect contributes to the rich tapestry of tennis culture.

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