Unforced Errors in Tennis – Forced or not?

You’re probably familiar with the term unforced errors in tennis game. Unforced errors are those types of mistakes that are supposedly not forced by good shots of an opponent.

You’ll often see the stats in official matches that include first-serve percentage, aces, winners, unforced errors, and so on.

The person recording the statistics tries to determine if, when a tennis player makes a mistake, that mistake was forced or not forced by a good play by his or her opponent.

To make the right call, the statistician looks primarily at whether the player who made the error is under time pressure or is moving during the shot execution. If one of those factors is true, then that player was forced into a difficult situation by a good shot and thus made a forced error.

woman holding tennis ball and racket

There is no doubt that tennis requires a great deal of effort and time. Our hard work and practice for months doesn’t mean that we won’t hit unforced errors in tennis, which can sometimes be very frustrating.  We have all been there on a court, had an easy shot to play and we hit it in the bottom of the net. As a result, avoiding all those errors is very important for improving our tennis skills, as famous South African golfer, Gary Player, once said ‘The harder I work, the luckier I get’. 

One of the best ways to increase our chances of winning on the tennis court is to minimize unforced errors as much as possible.

Throughout this article, we will learn and explore what is an unforced error in tennis. Stay tuned!

The majority of players, particularly juniors, are unaware of these errors at the start of their careers. As players develop they will understand what errors are and why they hit them. They’ll learn that unforced errors can be overcome with the help of a good coach who will teach you different tactics for dealing with them. It is important to practice tennis alone in order to minimize unforced errors.

In addition, there are many reasons why a player loses a game due to unforced errors. In some cases, we might not even be able to tell the difference between unforced and forced errors.

What are unforced errors in tennis?

what is an unforced error in tennis
A unforced error occurs when a player makes a mistake that isn’t due to a good or bad shot. Simply put, it’s an error. There are several types of unforced errors, including balls that bounce off the ground, balls that hit the wrong part of the court, and balls that are lost.

A player makes an unforced error when they make an error not caused by poor play or an opponent’s tactics. An example is making the wrong move with the ball.

Additionally, if a player fails to use proper tactics or serves a double fault, this counts as an unforced error. Unforced errors are usually caused by pressure.  How often do you see players on TV get a chance to serve for a set or a match and start to hit double faults or hit the ball into the net.  That pressure causes unforced errors.

Forced vs. Unforced Errors – What’s the difference?

what is an unforced error in tennis

A beginner or even an intermediate-level player may have difficulty distinguishing between forced and unforced errors in tennis. They are quite difficult to differentiate because they are quite similar.

For these doubts to be cleared up, a clear distinction is made between forced and unforced errors.

  • Forced errors: Forced errors are caused by the effort of the opponent. These involve shots that are being returned very sharply and aggressively, making it tough for the receiver to hit a good shot. For example, when you hit a hard return shot at your opponent, they may have difficulty returning it in a manner that is advantageous to them, resulting in an error. 
  • Unforced errors: Unforced errors occur when a player makes a mistake by not playing an appropriate shot despite having ample time to set up and prepare for it. These errors are usually caused due to lack of experience or pressure. For example, when you have plenty of time on the court but still play a sloppy shot losing the point.  This is considered an unforced error. 

Forced or Unforced Error – How to Decide?

what is an unforced error in tennis

In tennis, there are three categories of errors: forced, unforced, and winner. It is relatively easy to record forced errors so that you can see the difference clearly. Only your expectation can determine whether a shot is a forced error or an unforced error.

An unforced error occurs if you believe the shot was missed. The second player is undoubtedly forced to make a mistake if he misses his last shot because the first player misses his last shot because the second player’s shot is great.

The following reasons can also be cited as reasons why a shot was forced;

  • In case the first player makes a strong shot and causes the second player to miss. The 1st player also suffers from offensive bad luck when incredible shots come from the opponent.

Unforced errors, on the other hand, are more difficult to determine than forced errors in tennis. It is easy to claim an unforced error, however, only if the player had enough time to set up for the shot but missed it. As a result, the shot is undoubtedly considered an unforced error.

Additionally, poor contact, shot selection, or mental incapacity are some of the main reasons for unforced errors. Moreover, playing with full control and energy can lead to a player losing a point. It is quite difficult to determine whether an unforced error is an error or not.

Unforced Errors in Tennis: Causes and Effects

what is an unforced error in tennis

In order to overcome unforced errors in tennis, players of all levels need to understand their causes. Every tennis coach will tell you that continuous play is more important than perfect play. The fact that beginners or players make no mistakes is unbelievable.

Because imperfect humans cannot achieve perfection easily, coaches prefer continuity over perfection. Unforced errors are generally caused by the following factors:

1. Mental Causes

Unforced errors can be caused by a variety of mental factors. You may do the following as a player:

  1. Distractions (internal or external) make it difficult to focus
  2. Being afraid of opponent
  3. Having doubts about your abilities (not being confident)
  4. Hit the shot with poor technique 
  5. Your mind is not thinking about the shot or the ball 
  6. Under- or overactive (frustrated, angry, upset, anxious)


As a result of these mental lapses, part of your brain’s computation power can be used for something else rather than focusing fully on the ball and the current situation.

As a result, the brain makes errors in calculations and coordination, resulting in you hitting the ball late or with the wrong racquet head angle and missing the shot as a result.

Is it possible to eliminate these mental lapses?

The probability of a mental lapse can be decreased by working with a mental training coach to learn to manage their emotions and thoughts.

In order to succeed as a player, you need to stay in the moment and keep your focus on each shot and each point separately, and refrain from thinking about their outcome.

The above measures will decrease the likelihood of a mental lapse leading to an unforced error, but no player can remain mentally sharp for a long period of time.

Because the mind is imperfect and cannot be perfected, players make unforced errors. Even when players are “in the zone,” they can still make unforced errors even in those perfect, still moments.


2. Tennis Demands and Complexity

Tennis is one of the most physically demanding sports. With such information (such as strategy and tactics), the brain must calculate the trajectory of the ball, the amount of time left to make the shot, the positions of the players, and the previous information extremely quickly.

It requires perfect coordination of hundreds of body muscles to hit a small, moving ball with a small, moving racquet while moving and controlling the racquet head to hit the desired area of the court with the right decision at the right time.

The brain and body will make a small mistake sooner or later given all the difficulties of tennis.

It is therefore inevitable that players make mistakes because tennis is too difficult for humans (brains) to master.

This is the way all sports are designed: to be incredibly difficult to master. Because of this uncertainty, sports events are so popular because they provide entertainment and unpredictability.

No matter how much practice a player puts in, he/she will never achieve a 100% free throw percentage in basketball.

There are only 25-30% of the time when a batter can hit the ball with the bat in baseball.

And so on. We miss shots that appear easy at first glance for a number of reasons…

3. Taking Risks to Play Quality Tennis

Additionally, quality shots come with a risk, which forces unforced errors.

A player who taps the ball back safely and avoids unforced errors will end up with a weak ball and lose the game to his opponent.

The opponent will still win 2 points and lose 1 if they make two points and miss one. It is theoretically impossible to win at 30 even if you make no unforced errors.

It is often necessary to take risks in tennis by hitting deep, fast, and accurate shots in order to gain the upper hand in the ball exchanges and ultimately win points and a match.

A player seeks out the optimal level of risk, where he or she attacks the opponent and makes more points than the opponent loses. Thirdly, a certain level of risk forces you into unforced errors.

Your opponent can easily win if you hit an easy sitter aggressively or near the lines. There will also be some missed shots if you play with risk.

A player shouldn’t try to avoid errors (which is unrealistic, but unfortunately, so many players suffer from these mistakes and blame themselves for them). Instead, they should try to win more games than they lose.

The lapses described above, on the other hand, never allow you to focus on the ball. Furthermore, it is difficult to eliminate these lapses. Nonetheless, the training coaches always stressed the importance of players managing their emotions and thinking during games. Players can reduce their mental lapses this way.

How to reduce unforced errors in tennis?

Unforced Errors in Tennis

The number of unforced errors in tennis is estimated to be almost 60 percent. In order to ensure future safety, it is imperative to reduce these unforced errors for the sake of decreasing winning chances. Further, practicing more and more makes it easier to reduce the frequency of unforced errors.

In order to further reduce the chances of tennis unforced errors, I have more than 50 tennis drills that you can practice.

Several ways are listed below that can help you reduce your unforced errors, regardless of the situation:

1. Topspin

As a result of topspin, tennis errors are more likely to occur. Because topspin causes the ball to fall downward, it causes a downward force. As a result of the air’s interaction with the ball, the ball drops. If a player’s tennis tactics are good enough, topspin can also help a player hit hard on strokes.

In order to decrease any player’s percentage error and reduce all the unforced errors, spinning more and more is a great strategy.

2. Cross-court ball hitting

Do many tennis players wonder how hitting cross courts minimizes errors in the game? A good way to hit cross-court in the game is not to do it all the time. It is important for a player to keep his strokes crossing the court in order to accomplish this.

In addition, the player must take advantage of the opportunity to strike only when the opportunity presents itself. As a result, the players or juniors will be able to remove the maximum number of unforced errors.

3. Hitting the ball over the net’s center

To reduce unforced errors in tennis, hit over the middle of the net. Although there is a slight difference in the middle of the tennis net. Therefore, it is best to reduce the percentage of errors by stopping the strokes going into the net center. Moreover, you can read the guide on the height of the tennis net here.

Players can also stop their opponents from moving angled shots toward them by hitting over the cross center. Making errors for the opponent allows a player to reduce his errors.

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4. Take control of your power

The player must reduce his power of play if he feels that his shots are going long and far. Furthermore, you shouldn’t make your balls fly far when you are not hitting topspin. It is therefore necessary to reduce the strength with which you strike the ball. The power generated by advanced players is generally greater.

Taking control of your power will allow you to make better shots. Tennis players can reduce unforced errors by reducing their power.

5. Having more space:

Shooting inside the sideline and baseline will increase a player’s consistency. It is possible, however, for players to shoot too much for these lines. As a result, players are forced to lose as quickly as possible.

It is important for a player to pick a safe target before hitting a stroke in order to avoid making unforced mistakes. Taking this approach will allow your opponent to miss shots and make him run faster.

Forced tennis errors: how to use them against your opponent?

what is an unforced error in tennis

Here’s an interesting point: how can you defeat your opponent by taking advantage of unforced errors?

I mentioned in my article about tennis doubles strategies that the idea is to make your opponent uncomfortable. The secret is that it is a tested and effortless method of winning games. A forced error earns you a point only if you work hard for it.

Don’t forget to take your opponent by surprise, after all, they have trained just like you have for months or years. Therefore, you need to practice grabbing your opponent’s weaknesses.

In order to overcome your opponent, here are some tips.

1. Consistency

Consistency is the best choice to use forced errors if your opponent is incapable of handling physical or mental points.

You should also be extra consistent and don’t give your opponent any chance of hitting a good shot. If you are consistent, your opponent will have a hard time beating you.

2. High Power

You can also use high power to force your opponent to commit forced errors. You can drive your opponent crazy by hitting alternative fastballs to slow balls. You demand that your opponent stay focused on the game for the entire game with your high power.

Forced errors can be used against your opponent most effectively by using a high-power stroke.

3. Control over depth shots

You must use depth variety at all the same points if you think you can easily control depth shots. Controlling in-depth shots can easily lead to a defeat for your opponent.

Further, you can easily break your opponent’s game with this tactic because it reduces his confidence level.

4. Management of time

To make your opponent uncomfortable on the tennis court, take time away from him/her. This does not only ruin the game of your rival, but it also affects his decisions as well.

As well as being able to put pressure on the opponent, you can take the balls early.

What causes us to miss a shot?

what is an unforced error in tennis

Imagine a tennis player who is just beginning: every ball that crosses the net is challenging, and that puts the player in difficult circumstances. For the player to rally comfortably, many tennis skills must be improved before they can hit the ball into the opposite court.

Therefore, players who haven’t played enough tennis cannot talk about unforced errors. Eventually, the tennis player’s technique and skills improve and he can rally consistently with a partner in a cooperative environment.

Consistency is more important than perfection, according to almost every tennis coach. Beginner players cannot be expected to make zero mistakes by their coaches. Aiming for perfection is unattainable for imperfect humans, but getting better and better is the aim for more advanced players.

Imagining that you consistently hit balls (or made shots) in practice, without being forced into a difficult situation, can help you understand unforced errors.

In these situations, we would have neutral and offensive situations. Attempts to make a mistake while on defense will count as forced errors. Consistently, in this context, means that you make more than 80% on offensive shots and more than 90% on typical neutralizing rallies.

Making a mistake is the player’s fault?

Unforced Errors in Tennis

It may be true that unforced errors occur when your opponent fails to force you into a difficult situation. In any case, making a mistake doesn’t mean you’re to blame or that you’re to blame yourself.

The following factors force players to make mistakes:

  • Unavoidable mental lapses
  • Tennis is a difficult and complex sport with high demands
  • Playing quality shots comes with a risk

As a result, unforced errors should not be caused by “stupidity.” Quite the contrary.

A tennis player must control his or her mind, overcome difficulties, and find the right level of risk.

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What is an unforced error?

When a player makes an unforced error, it means that he or she misses the point due to a mistake or blunder on their behalf rather than because of a superior skill level on the part of the opponent.

What is a forced error in tennis?

An opponent plays well and forces a forced error, which results in the player losing a point.  Your opponent’s skill level determines this type of error.

How to reduce unforced errors?

By practicing your strokes until they become habits, you can minimize unforced errors.

To master forced errors, however, you must practice a lot to use them effectively.

What’s Next?

So, “What is an unforced error in tennis?” Unforced errors are any errors that can be avoided with a little more effort.

In order to improve your chances of winning in the us open tennis or Monte Carlo Tennis, you need to deal with your unforced errors. Nevertheless, all the methods of reducing unforced errors are outlined above.

Therefore, reducing your unforced errors is crucial to improving your playing skills, since these errors can take you from a low success level to a high one. However, you can also use an eastern forehand grip to improve your skills.

Players are taught to work consistently by all coaches. As a result of making consistent efforts, your skills can be polished and unforced errors minimized. A forced error, on the other hand, is easier to determine and polish than an unforced error.

You can also use these unforced errors against your rival if you learn how to deal with them. By doing so, you’ll have a better chance of succeeding.

Please share this article with your tennis teammates and friends if you found it helpful. Let us know in the comments if you have questions/suggestions about this article.

David Harris

David is the founder and chief writer at Tennis Pursuits. A tennis fanatic, David has extensive experience of the game and has reviewed 100s of products to date. He is passionate about helping others on their tennis journey.

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