What Is Double Fault In Tennis? (Meaning & Rules Explained)

Tennis can seem like a complicated sport, with many rules you need to know. To make sure you understand tennis better, I will examine the term “double fault” up close in this article. But what is a double fault in tennis?

A double fault in tennis is when both the first and second serves are not hit into the opponent’s service box. After hitting a double fault, the serving player loses the point. This player has a new first and a second serve on the next serve.

Are you unsure about your second serve, and do you wish to improve it? In the remainder of this article, I will explain exactly what a double fault is, what causes it, and how you can reduce the chance of hitting a double fault. So continue reading if you want to hit fewer double faults!

What Does Double Fault Mean in Tennis?

In tennis, the serving player always has two serves. These are called the first and second serve.

If the first serve is unsuccessful, the player has another chance with the second serve.

It is called a double fault when both serves fail. As a result, the serving player loses the point.

So, what happens after a double fault in tennis?

In the event of a double fault, the serving player loses the point, meaning the opponent wins the point.

This player has two serving opportunities again during the next point, the first and second serve. So the player can get multiple double faults in a row or in one game.

There is no penalty following a double fault outside of losing a point due to a double fault.

There is also no maximum number of double faults you can commit during a match.

Of course, it is vital to limit the number of double faults in a game because every point counts.

What Causes a Double Fault in Tennis? (7 Causes)

No player likes to commit a double fault, and yet it often happens - even among professional players.

There are different reasons for hitting a double fault. And despite the efforts of the players to train for this, it is still almost impossible to never hit a double fault.

Below are the most common reasons for hitting a double fault:

1. Bad serving technique

It all starts with the serve itself. The serve is one of the hardest shots in tennis and one that many players struggle with.

A lot is happening when hitting a serve. Timing and technique have to work in perfect harmony in order to produce a good serve.

When a player does not master the basic technique of a serve, it obviously affects the execution of the serve.

This player likely hits more double faults than a player with a good serving technique.

2. Too much risk

In most cases, a player takes more risk during the first serve compared to the second serve.

And yet it often happens that a player plays too riskily during their second serve, causing the ball to go outside the court - resulting in a double fault.

3. Confidence

This reason perfectly links together with the first.

When a player knows they are not capable of hitting a good serve, it, of course, affects their confidence.

When a player with low confidence starts their serve, the chance of hitting a double fault is way higher compared to someone confident about their serving skills.

4. Pressure and nerves

Besides being a physically demanding sport, tennis is also extremely tough for the mind. Both amateur and professional players can attest to this.

It is important to keep your head cool during a game and to try to ignore the nerves. You will realize this is especially hard at specific moments in the game.

For example, finishing a match can be very hard as you know you are just one point away from winning.

This will make you feel more nervous, and the increasing pressure will make it difficult for you to win the point.

There is a lot of pressure on you when you are about to make your second serve, causing you to feel more nervous too.

If you cannot cope with this, these two factors can cause you to be affected by the pressure, and you will end up committing a double fault.

Imagine being in the final of a Grand Slam with match point against and having to hit a second serve to stay in the match.

As you can imagine, you are then under enormous pressure.

But even amateur players suffer from this during certain moments in a match.

Everyone wants to win, which comes with a certain amount of pressure that people put on themselves. But this will only further increase the pressure and nervousness during critical moments in the match.

This causes you to succumb to the pressure and hit a double fault more easily.

5. Inexperience

As mentioned, there can be a lot of pressure on you when you have to hit a second serve.

To be able to deal with this, experience is vital. Players with lots of experience can better control themselves during critical match moments.

Therefore, inexperience can negatively impact a player’s ability to hit a second serve.

An inexperienced player is more likely to hit a double fault.

6. Focus

It is important to focus on the serve’s execution during a match.

A lack of focus will cause the player to execute the technique and timing poorly, increasing the chance of hitting a double fault.

7. Fatigue

Fatigue can increase the chance of hitting a double fault. When a player suffers from fatigue, they cannot focus as much, leading to poor execution of technique and timing.

Most double faults are often hit at a later stage of a match.

At this point, the match has been going on for quite some time, leaving the players more exhausted.

How Common Are Double Faults in Tennis?

Double faults happen at all tennis levels. Even professionals will occasionally hit a double fault. Though, one more than the other, of course.

Below you will see the average amount of double faults per match of the top 10 players of 2021.

Player:Avg. Double Faults/Match:
Novak Djokovic2.6
Daniil Medvedev3.3
Alexander Zverev3.8
Rafael Nadal2.7
Stefanos Tsitsipas2.1
Matteo Berrettini1.6
Casper Ruud1.9
Andrey Rublev1.9
Felix Auger-Aliassime4.2
Cameron Norrie2.7

How to Avoid Double Faults in Tennis?

As you have read above, double faults are commonly hit, even by professionals.

Of course, it is possible to limit the number of double faults one hits by paying attention to certain aspects.

Below are some tips to reduce the chance of hitting double fault:

1. Don’t rush

As you probably know by now, focus is a crucial element when it comes to serving.

Often you see players take enough time to prepare for their first serve, which allows them the right amount of concentration and focus.

However, you’ll see that the second serve is rushed in many cases.

The player leaves too little time between the two serves, resulting in suboptimal concentration and focus. In many cases, this leads to hitting a double fault.

Make sure you allow enough time for yourself between the first and second serve.

In professional tennis, a player must adhere to the 25-second rule while serving.

This does not apply to recreational tennis, but do try to be considerate of your opponent.

2. Practice your serve

The serve is one of the hardest shots in tennis. It’s therefore important to make sure your serving technique is good.

Often, little time is spent on serving during group tennis lessons because it can be difficult to do so in a group setting.

This is different when you have private lessons.

If you wish to improve your serving technique, you will need to train for it - a lot.

Only this way will you improve your technique and reduce the chance of committing a double fault.

3. Take a deep breath before you toss the ball

Breathe deeply just before you toss the ball into the air. This will expand your chest and open your body.

This is vital since many players cramp up when hitting their second serve. Because they are afraid to fail, their shoulders will hang forward, and their bodies will become small and tensed up.

You will be able to avoid this by breathing in deeply before tossing the ball. Exhale as you hit the ball.

4. Positive mindset

Hitting a double fault is often caused due to mental instability of the player. They will have to deal with so much pressure that they make mistakes.

Learn not to be afraid of hitting a double fault.

Try to keep your head cool. You have to be confident and tell yourself that you will hit that second serve.

Make sure to have a positive mindset as you serve because that’ll drastically increase the chance of hitting a successful serve.

5. Have a second serve

To have as few double faults as possible, it’s important to develop a good second serve.

Many players will take a risk with their first serve by hitting hard and straight, hoping to hit an ace. As such, it’s important to incorporate more confidence into your second serve.

You can do this by hitting less hard, adding spin to the ball, or hitting easier angles.

All these things will lower the risk of hitting a double fault.

Train yourself in hitting a second serve, and try to apply the tips mentioned above. Make sure you develop a reliable way of hitting a second serve.

Is a Double Fault an Unforced Error in Tennis?

Double faults certainly do count as unforced errors.

The serve is the only shot you have complete and total control over. No one can force you to miss your serve; only you can.

Given that you can toss the ball as many times as necessary to place your toss perfectly, it’s easy to understand why this is the only shot a tennis player has complete control over.

That’s why serve faults and double faults can only ever be unforced errors.


I hope you’ve learned a lot about tennis rules by reading this blog.

You now know exactly what a double fault is, how it’s caused, and how you can limit the number of double faults.

If you’re insecure about your second serve and hit a double fault often, consider training using the tips mentioned in this article. Within no time, you’ll start to see improvement.

Brian Henderson

I am what you might call a true tennis fanatic. When I am not on the tennis court teaching or playing myself, I am probably writing an informative article about tennis. My goal is to get as many people as possible excited and informed about tennis.
April 12, 2022
Published: April 12, 2022