How to play:
The server is the pitcher. Serving into the deuce court, they can can serve up to three strikes and/or four balls. A strike is a serve that the receiver misses. A service fault is a ball. Like baseball, three strikes is an out, and four balls is a walk.
That’s all the scoring elements for serves that are not returned successfully, or not in the service box.
If a serve goes in and is returned successfully, then there is a ball in play and it’s like a hit ball in baseball – the bases are being run. Of course no one is actually running bases, it’s just part of the scoring.
The scoring outcome of a “ball in play” point is determined by who wins it. If the server wins the point she gets an out. If the receiver wins the point she advances an imaginary runner around the bases. The runner advances one base per hits made by the batter during the point.
So, if I’m serving and you returned my serve but I won a point, I’ve scored an out against you. But if you won the point after a serve return, two groundstrokes and a volley, you have a home run!
As the batter you can have any number of imaginary batters running the fantasy bases.
That’s it basically, though there are a few refinements, an ace results in two strikes, and a passing shot by the receiver gets an extra base, and one by the server tallies up two outs.
While this may seem like just silly twist on tennis scoring, it’s actually designed to be an effective warmup for serves and returns.
Usually we play a single inning as a warmup before playing a set or two of singles.
Also: there’s a mercy rule after four runs and you switch pitching/batting roles.
And sometimes we’ll play tennis baseball in a McEnroe doubles format. But that’s another article.
PS – The extra out on a passing shot by the server doesn’t apply on the first one. Otherwise the inning is over too soon and the sub-agenda (which is the real agenda) of warming up serves and returns hardly get started