Tennis for Beginners
Helpful Tips to Learn How to Play Tennis

tennis for beginners

Tennis for beginners should focus on the basic rules and the fundamental skills. Learning how to play tennis, just like any other sport, can be frustrating at first and will most likely require some patience and some modified rules and equipment to ensure success at the start.

Discover creative ideas to help young kids and new players have immediate success and enjoy learning the game.

Before you're ready to hit the court with a friend, there a few things you need to know, including the basic tennis rules, scoring, basic strokes, court layout, and choosing a racket.

Tennis for Beginners
Tennis Court 

Wonder what a regulation-size tennis court looks like? See the official tennis court dimensions on the diagram below.

Singles: For regulation competition, matches are played on the 27'-wide court without using the outer "alleys."

Doubles: The boundary lines include the entire court which is 36' wide.

Juniors: Children play on a 36' long court. They play sideline to sideline on half of a regulation court.

How to Play Tennis
Basic Tennis Strokes


learn how to play tennis - forehand

The forehand is the main stroke in tennis. It's struck from the player's dominant side by swinging the racket in the direction of where the player wants the ball to go.

The body is open, and the ball is struck so that if there were no racket, the ball would hit the player's palm.


The backhand is a more difficult stroke. It's hit from the non-dominant side of the body.

Opposite to the forehand stroke, the racket is swung across the body in such a way that if there were no racket, the ball would strike the back of the hand.

Players can use either one or both hands to hold the racket when doing the backhand.

how to play tennis - backhand


The serve begins play action. It's an overhead stroke that starts by tossing the ball up above the head and hitting it when the arm is fully outstretched. The serve must land in the diagonal service box on the opposite side of the net.

tennis serve
tennis serve toss
tennis serve follow through
beginning tennis - serve


The lob is used to hit the ball high into the air and deep into the opponent's side of the court.

Overhead (Smash)

The overhead smash is just like it sounds. It's kind of like a serve in that the ball is struck hard and downward while over the player's head in an attempt to end the point.


In a volley, the ball is struck before it hits the ground. It's generally used close to the net. From either the forehand or the backhand side, the ball is "punched" without using a full swing.

tennis for kids

Tennis for Beginners
Choosing a Racket

Choosing the right tennis racket is important, and there are lots to choose from. You need one that's not too heavy or too light.

You also a racket that is not too short or not too long. See the chart for size recommendations based on the player's age.

These are not hard and fast rules because manufacturers provide their own unique size charts, but this will provide some general guidelines for determining the proper racket length.

Recommended Racket Length

0-4 yrs:      19" 

4-5 yrs:      21"

6-7 yrs:      23" 

8-10 yrs:    25" 

10-12 yrs:  26" 

12 + yrs:    27" 

Need help determining the size you need? Check out this short video below to learn how to pick a racket that fits your hand.

Tennis for Beginners
Choosing Tennis Balls

High-density foam ball perfect for teaching skills. It weighs the same and bounces similar to a standard tennis ball, but it's larger and travels slower. It works great with special needs players, those with slow reaction time, and players afraid of getting hit with the ball.

Balls are larger, softer, and bounce lower than standard tennis balls. Ideal for kids learning how to play tennis on a 36' court or driveway. I use these when teaching tennis skills to my Special Olympic athletes.

Balls are softer and have a medium slow bounce. Perfect for beginners who need a little more reaction time to prepare for their shot. Designed for play on a 60' court.

Balls bounce 25% slower than regular tennis balls. Intended for play on a 78' court.

There's nothing more annoying than trying to play with flat tennis balls. When balls lose their air they don't bounce properly, and they're very difficult to hit. Keep them firm with this handy aid.

Learning how to play tennis requires a lot of hits and hours of practice on your strokes. Chasing around a single can of balls gets old in a hurry and takes the fun out of the game. Load up a bunch of balls and save time fetching.

Tennis for Beginners
Modifications to Tennis Rules

Sometimes tennis for beginners and young players can be frustrating. Hitting the small tennis ball can be difficult, and chasing after it can get old. And you may not even have a tennis court nearby.

Depending on the number of players, skill level, available equipment, or the size of your playing area, you can modify the basic rules of tennis to fit your needs. Here are some modifications you can make that might help the game be more fun for everyone:

  • Use an over-sized racket or paddle.
  • Use a big ball like a beach ball or a lightweight playground ball.
  • Don't use a net – use a line on the concrete instead.
  • Use your hands instead of rackets and use a big bouncy ball.
  • Allow the ball to bounce more than one time.
  • Keep the score simple – first player to 4 points wins.
  • Don't keep score – work together to see how long you can keep the rally going.
  • Hit the ball to yourself off of a wall.
  • See how many times you can hit the ball up in the air off of your racket.
  • Set up targets on each side of the court - try to hit the ball into the targets to earn points.
  • Use a junior-size net.

These are just a few ways you can change the basic tennis rules to fit your needs. You can probably think of others.

over-sized tennis ball
portable tennis set
child tennis racket

The PGA-sponsored First Tee is a wonderful program teaching tennis for beginners. I recommend you look for a class near you. Or learn how to play tennis better at a Nike Tennis Camp.

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