Must-Know Tennis Terms in French

If you're a French Open fan, you'll love understanding the play by play in French.

Whether you love playing tennis or watching the major international tournaments, you need to know tennis terminology to fully appreciate the games. Why in French? Well, if you're witnessing the prestigious French Open, created in 1891 and now held annually over late May and early June at the Stade Roland-Garros in Paris, you won't miss a play or aside if you understand the players and commentators. Or maybe you want to read tennis analysis in a major French publication. If you know the lingo, you win again.

The French Open and the Grand Slam

Where does the French Open fit into the scheme of major international tournaments? Most importantly, it's the second major tennis tournament comprising the global Grand Chelem ("Grand Slam") each year; the other three, in chronological order, are the Australian Open, the U.S. Open, and Wimbledon. The Grand Slam tournaments, called majors, are the world's four most important tennis events, each held over two grueling weeks and each offering the most prize money, attention, ranking points, and more.

Tennis Singles Stars

As of 2017, the winningest men's Grand Slam player of all time is Roger Federer of Switzerland who has won 19 majors: the Australian Open five times, the French Open once, Wimbledon eight times, and the US Open five times. Spain's Rafael Nadal comes in second with 15 title wins, and American Pete Sampras is third with 14.

Australian Margaret Court, now in her 70s, still holds the distinction of the most majors singles titles with 24: 11 wins at Australian Opens, five at the French Open, three at Wimbledon, and five at the US Open. American Serena Williams follows at 23. Steffi Graf of Germany won 22 Grand Slam singles titles, and in 1988, this phenomenal player became the first and only tennis player (male or female) to achieve the Golden Slam by winning all four Grand Slam singles titles and the Olympic gold medal in the same calendar year. She is also the only tennis player to have won each Grand Slam event at least four times.

With records like this, it's easy to see why tennis can be an exciting sport for both players and spectators. To understand the action, here, for your edification and enjoyment, are the top tennis terms in the French language.

The World of Tennis, in French

  • le tennis > tennis
  • (le tournoi de) Roland-Garros, les Internationaux de France > French Open
  • (le tournoi de tennis de) Wimbledon > Wimbledon
  • un Grand Chelem > a Grand Slam
  • simple messieurs > men's singles
  • simple dames > women's singles
  • double messieurs > men's doubles
  • double dames > women's doubles

The People of Tennis 

  • un arbitre > a referee
  • une invitation > a wild card
  • un joueur de tennis > a tennis player
  • un juge de ligne > a line judge
  • le serveur > the server
  • le ramasseur de balles > the  ball boy
  • la tête de série > the seed, seeded player
  • la tête de série numéro un > the top seed, number one seed
  • la tête de série numéro deux > the number two seed

Tennis Courts and Equipment

  • la balle de tennis > the tennis ball
  • le carré de service > the service box
  • le choix de côtés > the choice of sides
  • le choix de service > the choice of service
  • le couloir > the alley, the tramlines
  • le court > the court
  • un court de terre battue > a clay court
  • un court en dur > a hard court
  • un court en gazon > a grass court
  • le filet > the net
  • la ligne de fond > the baseline
  • la ligne de service > the service line
  • la raquette > the tennis racket

Tennis Serves and Shots

  • un ace > an ace
  • un amorti > a drop shot
  • la balle de service > a service ball
  • un coup > a stroke
  • le coup droit > the forehand
  • la deuxième balle > the second serve
  • une double faute > a double fault
  • un effet > a spin
  • une faute > a fault, error, out
  • un let > a let
  • le lift > a topspin
  • un lob > a lob
  • un revers > a backhand
  • un revers à deux mains > a two-handed backhand
  • le service > the serve, service
  • un slice > a slice
  • un smash > a smash
  • une volée > a volley

Tennis Scoring

  • rien, zéro > love
  • quinze > fifteen
  • trente > thirty
  • quarante > forty
  • A / quinze A > all / fifteen all
  • partout / quinze partout > all / fifteen all
  • égalité > deuce
  • avantage service > ad-in, advantage in
  • avantage dehors > ad-out, advantage out
  • la balle de break > break point
  • la balle de jeu > game point
  • la balle de match > match point
  • la balle de set > set point
  • une décision > call
  • le jeu > game
  • un jeu décisif > tie-breaker
  • jeu, set, match > game, set, match
  • le match > the match
  • out > out
  • le set, la manche > set
  • sur la ligne > on the line

The Action

  • donner de l'effet (à une balle) > to put spin (on a ball)
  • être au service > to have the service, to be serving
  • frapper > to hit
  • jouer > to play
  • prendre le service de quelqu'un > to break someone's serve
  • servir > to serve
  • tenir le score > to keep the score
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Team, ThoughtCo. "Must-Know Tennis Terms in French." ThoughtCo, Dec. 6, 2021, Team, ThoughtCo. (2021, December 6). Must-Know Tennis Terms in French. Retrieved from Team, ThoughtCo. "Must-Know Tennis Terms in French." ThoughtCo. (accessed June 1, 2023).