Salem State University Course Outline

Sport and Movement Science 118: Tennis

Summer 2015

Instructor: Paul Kelly, Professor of Biology, Adjunct Professor of Sport and Movement Science

Office: 535 Meier Hall

Office Hours: Tuesday 9:30 – 11:30

Telephone: 978–542–6709

E-mail: Do NOT send e-mail with attachments; only plain text messages will be read.


Course Description: This course will cover the basic skills and facts of beginner tennis. Specific skills covered will include the forehand, backhand and serve. Facts will include basic rules and procedures, simple strategies and scoring methods. Partially fulfills physical education activities requirement. May be repeated once for credit.


Textbook: None.


Course Goals: Upon completion of this course, students will be able to:

1 – Apply the rules and scoring of tennis

2 – Execute the basic strokes: forehand, backhand, volley, and serve

3 – Move into proper position on the court

4 – Play singles and doubles games


Course Objectives:

1 – To develop coordination

2 – To develop balance, rhythm, agility, speed and reaction time

3 – To develop game strategy

4 – To develop practice habits for improving one’s game skills

5 – To develop an appreciation of the game of tennis (i.e., have fun!)


Conduct of course:


Attendance: This is a skills course so regular attendance is necessary for the student to achieve the objectives of the course. More than one absence will result in a grade deduction; more than two absences will result in a failing grade. Since classes begin with instruction for that day’s lesson, you must arrive on time. There are no excused absences.


You will be marked absent if you:

1. arrive late or leave early.

2. arrive unprepared, e.g., without a racket or suitable footwear. We do not provide rackets; showing up without one does no good.

3. have not provided me with tennis balls by class 2 (see below).

4. play in a manner which is dangerous or discourteous to your classmates.


Cancellation of class: I will post a class cancellation on Canvas if such is necessary. The most likely reason for a class cancellation is rain or a dangerously wet court. We have no indoor facility available. If a class is cancelled an optional make-up class will be scheduled.

Participation: Each student will be expected to participate to his or her maximum ability.


Preparation: Students should arrive prepared for class with:

1 – a tennis racket.

2 – four new, unopened cans of tennis balls - first class only (preferably bring them to the first class; by class 2 at the latest). These will be used throughout the course. Buy Penn or Wilson hard-court (or all-surface) balls. Balls cost less than $3 per can at a department store or sporting goods store (WalMart is cheap). Please do not bring used balls to class. We need these for practice!

3 – comfortable athletic wear, with pockets for holding balls. Playing without pockets is really impractical.

4 – appropriate footwear (Recommended: athletic shoes designed for sports such as tennis sneakers. Running sneakers are not suitable and are hazardous for sports.).

5 – personal gear, such as drinks, snacks, sunglasses, sunscreen, insect repellent. Plan on it being hot, sunny, and buggy.




All athletic activities have the risk of injury. Tennis is among the safer sports in which you can participate. A few precautions will reduce the chance of injury:

- Warm up slowly.

- Do not attempt to strike the ball hard or run hard for a ball until you are warmed up.

- Start hitting with forehands only (backhand, when not warmed up can lead to tendinitis).

- Do not swing your racket unless you are sure that you can swing without hitting your partner(s).

- Do not play with balls lying on the court. Stepping on a ball can cause severe, painful injury.

- Do not play on a wet court, ever (very slippery!).

- Lightning? Seek shelter immediately.


Game Courtesies


Never lose your temper. Be a good sport at all times. When receiving serve you should be (to the best of your ability) ready to receive before your opponent is ready to serve. If the first serve is a fault, you should not delay your opponent’s second serve by moving out of position. When serving, you should always start with two balls in your possession, so as not to delay play if the first serve is a fault. Make sure the server has two balls in hand as soon as possible after a point. Any ball struck by your opponent into your court is to be called “in” unless you are absolutely sure it is out. Do not deliberately hit your opponent with the ball (pros do this, but they’re getting paid, and a lot of them are idiots). Make sure your opponent is ready before serving (or, before hitting, during practice). Try not to return a serve which is a fault.


Do not strike the ball when it is not in play (e.g., after a fault, or after your opponent has hit the ball out). Never question an opponent's decision. Win or lose graciously. Be courteous to others playing on adjoining courts. Never interrupt play on another court by returning balls to their court (or retrieving your balls) during their point; wait for their point to end. Do not walk behind a court while a point is being played. The only exception to this is for safety. If one of your stray balls is near the feet of another player, warn them immediately. Try for every point. Always shake hands after the match (jumping over the net, no!). A good player does not violate any of the rules of the game even though there is no official present.




Skills Tests: Skills tests will be part of the final grade. Skills will be assessed and credit given for improvements seen during the course.

Knowledge Tests: Knowledge tests will be given involving rules and strategy.


Wrap up Sessions: Time will be allotted after each class for questions.


Tentative Schedule of Activities


Week 1:  Introduction; rules/etiquette of tennis; ground strokes: forehand drills

Week 2:  Scoring; more forehand drills; backhand

Week 3:  Forehand and backhand drills; court movement; the serve; service return

Week 4:  More drills; net play; volley and overhead

Week 5:  Doubles play

Week 6:  Skills Tests; Knowledge test; Class tournament



A point is scored on every rally in tennis. In calling the scores, the server's score is always stated first. The units of scoring in tennis are point, game, set and match. When a player has no points, his score is called love. The first point is called 15; the second, 30; the third, 40; and fourth, game, unless the score is tied up at 40-40.

Scoring examples:

server 2 points, receiver 1 point: 30 – 15

server 2 points, receiver 3 points: 30 – 40

server 1 point, receiver 3 points: 15 – 40

server 2 points, receiver 0 points: 30 – love


When the score is 40-40, the score is called deuce. The player winning the next point is said to have the advantage; if she then wins the following point, he wins the game. Should the player who did not have the advantage win the next point, the game again becomes deuce.


In other words, two consecutive points must be won following a deuce score in order to win a game. If the server wins the advantage, it is referred to as advantage in; if the receiver, advantage out. These terms are shortened to “ad in” and “ad out” by most players.


A set is completed when a player wins six games and is two games ahead of her opponent. If the score goes to 6-6 a tiebreaker is played. Tiebreakers are complicated; I’ll try to explain in class if there is sufficient interest.


Players change ends after the 1st game and after every other game thereafter (3,5, etc.) in order to have equal advantage in regard to sun, wind and other court conditions. After the end of a set, change ends if it is time to do so, and, always change ends after the 1st game of a set.


A match consists of two out of three sets except in major tournament competition for men when it is three out of five sets. Scoring is the same in both singles and doubles. There is no difference in the rules for men's and women's tennis with the single exception of the number of sets in tournament play.





Play is started by the server standing behind his base line to the right of the center mark. He throws a ball into the air and hits it across the net into the right service court of his opponent. Both feet must be at rest just before the service and the server may not change his position by walking or running during the delivery. He must maintain contact with the ground and keep both feet behind the base line.


Two attempts are permitted to get the ball within the service court area, and a line ball is good. If both serves are bad, it is called a double fault and a point is scored for the receiver.


After service to the right court the ball is put in play in the same manner from the left of the center mark to the left service court of the opponent, and the serve is alternated in this manner until the game is won.


The serve then passes to the receiver and players change ends in accordance with the rule (and odd number of games having been completed).


The server may not serve if the receiver is not ready. If a return is attempted, it is assumed that he was ready. If a player serves out of turn, the mistake is corrected as discovered but all points scored count. If a single fault has occurred, it is not counted. If a game is finished before the error is discovered, the serve remains as altered.


Let. A service is called a let if the served ball touched the net, strap or band, provided that it is otherwise good, or if a serve is delivered when the receiver is not ready. A let means that the serve does not count and is played over. It does not cancel a previous fault.


Fault. Any violation of the above listed conditions for the serve constitutes a fault and counts as one of the two attempts to make a good serve even though the ball is struck and lands fairly in the intended court. If there is no linesman or umpire, the receiver determines whether the service is good or not.


A fault is also ruled if the server misses the ball in attempting to strike it, or if the ball touches a permanent fixture before hitting the ground. However, if the server throws the ball up on the serve and does not swing at it but catches it instead, there is no fault.


How do I know which side to serve (or receive) from? Pretty easy. Serve alternates between right and left starting on the right. By the score, you know which side. Whenever the score is tied, service is on the right.


Serve from right when score is tied: 0-0, 15-15, 30-30, deuce, also when it is 40-15 or 15-40.

Serve from left when score is 15-0, 0-15, 30-15, 15-30, 40-30, 30-40, ad-in, ad out.




A player loses the point if:

1. The player fails to return the ball directly over the net before it hits the ground twice on his side of the net.

2. The ball hits the ground, a permanent fixture or other object outside the lines of his opponent's court when he returns it. (Exceptions to this are when a ball touches the net or its supports, passes over any of them and hits the ground within the court or is returned outside the post, either above or below the level of the net, even though it touches the post, provided that it hits the ground within the proper court.)

3. The player volleys the ball and fails to make a legal return even if he is standing outside the court.

4. The player hits or touches the ball more than once in making a stroke.

5. The player or his racquet touches any part of the net or its supports or the ground within his opponent's court during play.

6. He throws his racquet and hits the ball.





There are several different types of grip in tennis, among them, the Eastern, the Western, and the Continental; however, the latter two have certain definite shortcomings and are, therefore, not recommended for beginners and will not be discussed here.


Eastern Forehand Grip

This might be described as a handshake. The beginner will most easily learn this grip by holding the racquet by the throat (in his left hand if he is right-handed) with the racquet head perpendicular to the ground and the handle toward his body. The right hand should then shake hands with the racquet, with the heel of the hand resting on the leather butt of the handle and the fingers slightly spread. The angle of the thumb and forefinger should make a V over the middle of the handle.


The grip should be firm, particularly so at the moment of contact with the ball, so that the racquet will not twist. Tenseness should be avoided.


Backhand Grip

The backhand varies slightly from the forehand. Starting from the forehand grip, the hand is moved about a quarter of a turn around the racquet handle to the thumb side. The hand not is not on the flat top surface of the handle, and the V between thumb and forefinger is to the side of it. After one becomes accustomed to the feel of the racquet, this switch will be made automatically.


Forehand Stroke or Drive

The forehand stroke or drive is probably the most frequently used stroke in tennis. It is intended for returning balls hitting in the court in front or to the right of a right-handed player. The left foot and shoulder are forward, and the side of the body is toward the net in stroking the ball.


The racquet head is swung back as the ball approaches: the elbow remains close to the body. A slight hesitation occurs at the end of the backswing, the weight is carried well on the rear foot. As the swing starts forward, a step is taken toward the ball and the weight is shifted toward the front foot.



The ball should be stroked at about the position shown and the weight should not be well forward and transferred into the swing. The racquet head turns slightly forward just prior to contact with the ball and continues to turn in the follow through. This turning is important in imparting top spin to the ball.


Backhand Stroke or Drive

The backhand stroke or drive is used to return balls which hit the court on the side of the player away from the arm holding the racquet. Fundamentally, this stroke is quite similar to the forehand drive.

The side of the body is again toward the net (opposite side this time): the opposite foot is forward (right for the right-handed player). The racquet follows the same general plane in the backswing, and the weight shifts to the rear foot. As the position for the backswing is assumed, the racquet is turned in the hand to the correct backhand stroke position.


On the forward swing the racquet comes around in a wide arc at about hip level and meets the ball just about opposite the forward foot. The follow through is in the direction of the ball's flight.



The grip in the serve is like the forehand grip except that the racquet is turned a little toward the backhand grip position. A right-handed server assumes a position as near the center mark as possible when serving to the right service court and about 2 or 3 feet from it when serving to the left service court. For a left-handed server, the reverse is correct.


The forward foot should be a few inches behind the base line in serving. The body is sideways to the net, the feet comfortably spread, and the forward shoulder pointing in the direction the ball is to be served.


The ball is thrown high enough into the air at arm's length in front of the body so that the arm will be fully extended at the moment of impact of the racquet and the ball.


The weight shifts to the rear leg as the ball is thrown into the air: the racquet swings back and the arm is bent to bring the racquet behind the head. As the ball starts to drop, the weight shifts smoothly to the forward leg and the racquet is brought down and across the outside of the ball. The follow-through is made with a complete swing. The serve can be compared to an overhand pitch in baseball. Variations of this basic serve (top slice) can be developed for deception by rotating the wrist or by hitting the ball flat.

It is important to stretch high on the serve so as to hit down at the best possible angle into the opponent's court. The toss of the ball must become mechanical and uniform in order to insure accuracy.


Form must never be sacrificed for speed and power. A common mistake is dropping the left arm after the toss. The left arm should remain above the head until the ball is struck (for a right-handed player).

Many people make the mistake of changing their form for the second service after fault on the first ball. The second serve should differ from the first only in terms of speed or power; the basic form should be the same. Experience will soon indicate how much to ease up on the second serve. Normally, the ball should be hit just as hard and as fast as is possible without sacrificing accuracy. A good player rarely double faults on the serve.




A volley is hitting a ball on the fly before it bounces. It is used primarily from the net or forecourt position. It should be played from the center of the court well in front of the service line. Like the drive, it can be played as a forehand or backhand shot. The grip for this shot can be determined best by individual experimentation. Some people change the grip as for the forehand or backhand drive: others prefer a grip half-way between these two for both forehand and backhand volleys.


The body and feet are positioned for the two volleys just as for the two drives. The swing is short and the ball should be hit in front of the body with the wrist locked. The movement might be described as a short angling motion with the ball hitting against the racquet face. The ball rebounds from the racquet instead of being stroked as in the drives.


Overhead Smash

The overhead smash is a kill shot played from between the service line and net. It is essentially the same stroke as the serve. It is used on a high bouncing ball or a short lob. The object is to hit the ball hard and at a sharp angle-down into the opponent's court so that it will bounce completely above his reach.


Most smashes which hit the net rather than falling fair do so because the shot is hurried too much. The players should watch the ball carefully and take plenty of time in playing the stroke.



The lob is a stroke in which the ball is lifted over the opponent's head to land near his base line. It is usually a defensive shot used to force an opponent back from the net or to gain time or position for the person using the stroke.


In executing it the backswing is shortened and slowed down, and the ball is lifted in an upward and forward swing instead of with the usual follow-through. If the opponent is close to the net, the lob may be played as a low lob: if he is somewhat nearer the service line, it must be a high lob. In either case, it must be completely above the opponent's reach to be successful.



In tennis, by far the majority of points are made on errors and only a small minority are earned points. Furthermore, most errors are not outs, but are made at the net. These two points should be kept in mind constantly while playing.


Singles Strategy

As soon as a ball has been stroked, the player proceeds immediately to one of the two safe midcourt positions either about an arm and racquet's length from the net or about two feet behind the base line. The net position is taken on all forcing shots when the opponent will have difficulty returning them if the player is fast and can volley and smash well. The back court on-guard position is the safer of the two positions, but the decision as to which is the better at a particular time should be made after careful study of the player's own game, the opponent's game and the particular situation.

The player should play an opponent's weaknesses and protect his own. If he has a good hard serve, it is good strategy to play to the opponent's backhand and rush the net. It is well to mix up the serves and strokes so as to keep the opposition guessing and off balance. It is easier and results are better if one can out think rather than outrun an opponent.

In returning the ball, it is played deep to the opponent's backhand: if he rushes the net, low lobs will force him back; if he is a base line player, drop or chop shots will bring him up.


Doubles Strategy

Doubles strategy is based on teamwork. The secret of success in doubles is to seize and hold the vital net position. If both members of a team are at the net, it is almost impossible to pass them.


The doubles game requires less speed than singles, lower returning of the ball to force opponents to hit up and far more lobbing to force the opposition from the vital net position.


Players should always come to the net in doubles on each serve to gain the attack.


The return of service in doubles should be low to the opponent's weakness or a high lob to the middle deep court. In rallying, the volley is employed whenever possible; all lobs are hit as they drop rather than on the bounce in order to keep the offensive. Partners should always play parallel positions during rallying.