Tennis Etiquette: Dos and Don’ts on the Court

Tennis Etiquette: Dos and Don’ts on the Court

Discover essential tennis etiquette with our guide. Learn the dos and don’ts on the court to ensure a respectful and enjoyable game for all players.


Tennis Etiquette: Dos and Don’ts on the Court

As an experienced tennis coach, I’ve come to realise that a solid serve or a killer backhand isn’t the only thing that matters when it comes to playing tennis. One overlooked aspect of the game that can dramatically affect both your enjoyment and your reputation as a player is knowing your tennis etiquette. This can be a game-changer, especially if you’re planning to hit the court as a novice, a competitive player, or even a social player in a local tennis club. Let’s dive right into discussing the dos and don’ts of tennis etiquette.


Tennis, like any other sport, involves not only physical dexterity and clever strategies but also the emphasis on good sportsmanship and certain unspoken norms, popularly known as ‘tennis etiquette’.

Understanding Tennis Etiquette

Tennis etiquette is a fluid set of rules that shape acceptable behaviour on court. It has been designed to ensure that each player:

  • Receives fair play on the court,
  • Experiences the joy of the game in a respectful environment, and
  • Contributes to maintaining a friendly atmosphere.

The Importance of Tennis Etiquette

You might be wondering why tennis etiquette is so important. Imagine that you’re ready to serve, and suddenly, someone yells from the sideline, throwing off your concentration. This incident causes you to miss your serve – no doubt a frustrating situation. Such unpleasant behaviours diminish the essence of the game and interrupt the flow for all players involved. This highlights why understanding and observing tennis etiquette is so crucial.

Respect within Tennis Etiquette

Moreover, tennis etiquette underscores the respect:

  • For your opponent,
  • For the spectators,
  • For the court and its equipment, and
  • For the game itself.

More than just ‘unwritten rules’, tennis etiquette translates to lessons of life encouraging patience, fairness, self-control, and integrity while promoting a sense of camaraderie and fostering a spirit of positive competition.


In conclusion, ‘good manners on the court’ can make the difference between an enjoyable, fair tennis match and an unpleasant encounter. The right tennis etiquette does not only affect the outcome of your games but also has a lasting impact on your relationships within the tennis community.

Tennis Etiquette 101: The Unwritten Rules

Navigating the world of tennis involves more than just mastering the express rules of the game. Just as essential are the unwritten rules, or tennis etiquette, which fundamentally contribute to maintaining the integrity and courtesy that tennis is known for.

Foremost amongst the key facets of tennis etiquette is the courtesy of allowing a player to serve without interruption. Always give the server ample time and don’t rush their service. This shows respect for your opponent and also helps to maintain the flow of the game.

Next, maintain sportsmanship, even under pressure. Tennis is notorious for moments of high intensity that can tempt even the most composed players into losing their cool. But remember, tennis isn’t just about winning; it’s also about competing with grace. Sore losers and boisterous winners are rarely lauded in the world of tennis.

Another crucial aspect of tennis etiquette pertains to the ‘let’ play. If there’s a distraction during a pivotal point or a ball from another court rolls in, call a ‘let’ and replay the point. This pre-empts any disputes about whether the distraction affected the point’s outcome.

Furthermore, respect for the court is non-negotiable. This isn’t just about not damaging the court but also includes not leaving any litter around, from empty water bottles to old tennis ball cans. And of course, any game isn’t complete without the timeless etiquette of shaking hands with your opponent and the chair umpire (if there is one) at the end of the match – win or lose.

Understanding these unwritten rules is crucial in maintaining the sport’s integrity and courtesy. It’s these subtleties of human interaction that help to uphold the prestige of tennis, making it much more than a simple game of racquets and balls. It’s a gentleman’s and gentlewoman’s game, and encompassing that in every play will help preserve the charm and dignity of tennis for future generations. After all, without etiquette and decorum, tennis would lose some of its magic, wouldn’t it?

The Dos: Respectful Plays on the Court

Being mindful of your conduct on the tennis court is crucial. Here are some of the widely accepted dos in tennis etiquette.

Firstly, be punctual. This is quite straightforward; if your game is at 2 pm, be there and ready to start the match at 2 pm. This shows respect for your opponent’s time and keeps the day moving smoothly for everyone. If you’re late, you’re not only wasting your opponent’s time but also the time of those waiting to use the court after you.

Secondly, maintain silence during points. Tennis requires significant concentration, and unnecessary noise can be extremely distracting. Even a seemingly pleasant remark about a good shot, if uttered during an ongoing point, can break a player’s concentration. Respect the concentration of your opponent and hold onto your words until the point is finished.

Finally, be fair and honest when calling your shots. It can be tempting to call a close shot out when it’s in your favour, but honesty should always be your policy when playing tennis. Unfair calls can cause disputes, hinder the flow of the game and, ultimately, damage your reputation within the tennis community.

The Tennis Companion cites an excellent way to approach these do’s. They suggest imagining yourself as an embodiment of sportsmanship – someone who takes responsibility for their mistakes, focuses on their improvement, encourages their team, appreciates their opponent’s good shots, and is gracious in victory or defeat. This conduct doesn’t just add to the court’s friendly atmosphere; it elevates the entire tennis experience making the sport an enjoyable pursuit for both players and spectators alike.

Remember, tennis is as much a mental game as it is physical, and your attitude on the court can have an impact just as significant as your gameplay. Adhere to these dos in tennis etiquette, and you’ll be contributing to the decorum that makes this sport so compelling.

The Don’ts: Avoiding On-Court Missteps

Serious or casual, every game of tennis deserves the respect of its traditional etiquette. Avoiding certain taboos can be as important as perfecting your top spin in maintaining a good standing among your peers and competitors. Here are some of the key no-nos to remember as you step onto the court.

Firstly, it’s critical to avoid the cardinal sin of interrupting a point – whether in your game, or another taking place on a nearby court. Even if your ball bounce unexpectedly hits the net and starts flirting with the no-man’s-land, let your opponent play until the ball stops. Respect others’ games as much as you’d like them to respect yours, by motioning apologetically and waiting for their point to finish before retrieving your errant balls. And never walk behind a court while a point is being played.

Secondly, treat the court property with gentle care. Avoid dragging your feet causing detrimental scuff marks on the court surface, or resting on the net, which can strain and potentially break it. Damaging the court or its fixtures isn’t just bad manners, it’s unsporting.

Thirdly, refrain from abusing your equipment. It’s okay to feel frustrated by a misjudged shot. However, it’s vital to handle those frustrations appropriately. Racket smashing, ball bashing, or any equipment abuse is a big don’t. Besides showing poor sportsmanship, it can also be dangerous. Remember, your racket isn’t responsible for your unforced errors, instead channel your frustration to better your technique.

In addition to general etiquette, managing accidental breaches also requires tact. An accidental foot fault, a calling error, a miss-hit that sends the ball to another court– these are all moments when sincere apologies and an immediate course correction can help mend the situation. The Professional Tennis Registry offers some great advice on managing unexpected scenarios.

Avoiding these missteps not only ensures a high degree of sportsmanship and respect for the game but also makes the tennis court a place of shared enjoyment and companionship. Bad manners in tennis are as out of place as a set of golf clubs on a tennis court. Embrace the etiquette with as much enthusiasm as you do your game, and you’ll find yourself part of a sport that’s as much about people as it is about performance.

Tips to Improve On-Court Behaviour

Tennis is not just about the game – it’s about the behaviour, impact, and reputation you build on and off the court. Here are some tips to keep your on-court etiquette on point:

Educate Yourself

Start by familiarising yourself with the tennis etiquette. Extensive resources like the Official ITF Tennis Handbook can provide you with a solid understanding of the sport’s dos and don’ts.

Practice Makes Perfect

Knowing the rules is one thing, but putting them into action consistently is a whole different ball game. This is where practice comes in. Apply etiquette rules during training sessions, then in friendly matches, until it becomes second nature.

Manage Your Emotions

Tennis can get intense. Whether you’re enjoying an unexpected point or wincing at a badly missed shot, learning to control your emotions is crucial in maintaining good on-court behaviour.

Embrace Humility and Graciousness

The tennis court isn’t an arena for braggarts or sore losers. It’s about showing up, playing your best and respecting your opponents. Remember to win with humility, lose with grace, and always appreciate your opponent’s efforts.

Learn from Your Mistakes

Mistakes happen and that’s a part of any game. Instead of letting them bring you down, use them as lessons to improve your future behaviour and performance.

During a match, if an opponent is ignoring tennis etiquette, it’s essential to stay calm and composed. Two wrongs don’t make a right, so instead, remind them politely about behaviour expectations on the court.

Understanding that on-court behaviour goes beyond just technical skills like holding the racket correctly or acing your serves, is vital. It imparts a sense of respect, cooperation, and fairness. While the tennis court is a battlefield of sorts, it’s important to remember to play the game with elegance and sportsmanship. After all, the game you play is just as important as the impression you leave behind.


In wrapping up the discussion on tennis etiquette, one can’t stress enough the overarching importance it has on the game’s dynamics. Despite tennis being a sport that stokes competitive fire, it is imperative to balance the pursuit of victory without compromising on the courtesy and respect due to fellow players and the game itself. We’ve delved deep into the ‘Do’s and ‘Don’ts’ of tennis etiquette, shedding light on practices that augment the sportsmanship spirit and some that could hamper the harmony of a game if overlooked.

Adhering to these considerations has the potential to revolutionise your tennis experience, allowing for a more congenial game that all parties can relish. From calling your shots fairly to respecting the court property, every little gesture counts towards building the conviviality of the tennis community. Doubtless, being a formidable player is commendable, but what earns you real respect in the world of tennis is the ability to demonstrate decorum and sportsmanship on and off the court.

Whether you’re a novice, a social player, or a competitive professional, let’s endeavour to make our tennis experiences smoother, friendlier, and more enjoyable for everyone involved. The heart of tennis lies not just in our powerful backhands or unerring serves, but also in cultivating a respectful and courteous attitude towards the game we all love. Let these etiquette points serve as a guidepost, setting the benchmark for both your play and conduct on the tennis court.

In closing, remember, possessing impressive tennis skills can get you to the match, but good tennis manners are what will get you invited back. Here’s to always making the courts a respectful and enjoyable environment for all players involved, and aiming for your behaviour to be as great as your game!

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