The aim of this study was to examine the effect of fatigue from maximal tennis hitting on skilled tennis performance. Eighteen senior county tennis players (9 males, 9 females) volunteered to participate in the study. Their mean (+/- s(mean)) age and body mass were as follows: males 20.7 +/- 0.9 years and 60.6 +/- 2.7 kg respectively, females 21.7 +/- 0.6 years and 71.5 +/- 1.8 kg respectively. The players undertook two performance tests, both against a tennis ball serving machine, on an indoor tennis surface: (1) a pre- and post-skill test of groundstrokes and service; (2) the Loughborough Intermittent Tennis Test (4 min work plus 40 s recovery) to volitional fatigue. Body mass decreased by 1.5% (P < 0.0001). Mean heart rates differed between rest, post-warm-up and all intermittent test values (P < 0.01), between the pre- and post-skill tests (P < 0.0001) and between bouts and recoveries (P < 0.01). Peak blood glucose and lactate concentrations were 5.9 mmol l(-1) (50% into the intermittent tennis test) and 9.6 +/- 0.9 mmol x l(-1) (25% into the test) respectively. Mean time to volitional fatigue was 35.4 +/- 4.6 min. Groundstroke hitting accuracy decreased by 69% from start to volitional fatigue in the intermittent test (P < 0.01). Service accuracy to the right court declined by 30% after the intermittent tennis test. The results of this study suggest that fatigue was accompanied by a decline in some but not all tennis skills.