Category: Tennis Serving Rules

Rules on Let Serves

The serve is a let if:

  1. The served ball touches the net, strap or band, and lands in the correct court.
  2. The served ball touches the net, strap or band and then touches the receiver, the receiver’s partner or anything they wear or carry before hitting the ground.
  3. The ball is served when the receiver is not ready.

When it is a let serve, that particular serve does not count and the server shall serve again. However a let serve does not cancel the previous fault.

Serving Fault in Tennis

The serve is a fault if:

  1. The server foot faults; see foot fault rules here.
  2. The server misses the ball when trying to hit it.
  3. The ball touches a permanent fixture, singles stick or net post before hitting the ground.
  4. After serving the ball touches the server’s partner, or touches anything the server is wearing or carrying.

It is not a fault if the server tosses the ball in the air and then decides to catch it.

Foot Fault

During the service motion, a server may not:

  1. Change position by walking or running. Although slight movements of the feet are allowed.
  2. Touch the baseline, or the court, with either foot.
  3. Touch the area on the other side of an imaginary extension of the sideline.
  4. Touch the imaginary extension of the center mark with either foot.

If the server commits any of these actions, a foot fault may be ruled.

foot fault

no foot fault

The Serve

Before the service motion, the server must stand at rest, with both feet behind the baseline (in between the center mark and the sideline). The server then releases the ball by hand and must hit it before the ball reaches the ground. The service motion is complete once the racket either hits or misses the ball. A player who only has the use of one arm may use the racket to toss the ball.


The server alternates serving from the two halves of the court. In both a standard game, and tie-break game, the server begins by serving from the right half of the court. The serve must pass over the net and hit the service court that is diagonally opposite the server, before the receiver may return it.

The Receiver in Doubles

Whichever team is due to receive in the first game must decide which partner will receive the first point of the game. For the second point, the other partner will receive and this rotation will happen for the rest of the game and the set. When the other team receives serve in the second game this same pattern will happen; the team decides who receives first and who receives second and this rotation will happen for the rest of the game and the set. Bear in mind that after the receiver has returned the ball, either player can hit the ball.

In competitive play, one player of a doubles team is not allowed to play alone against opponents.

Order of Serve in Tennis

Singles: After each game the receiver then becomes the server.

Doubles: The team that is due to serve in the 1st game of each set decides which player will serve for that game. In the second game of each set the opponents get to decide which player will serve first. The partner of the player who served in the 1st game then serves in the 3rd game. The partner of the player who served in the 2nd game then serves in the 4th game and this rotation continues until the end of the set.