Tennis (officially called "lawn tennis" to distinguish it from royal tennis or court tennis, an older form of the game, played indoors) is a racquet sport played between either two players (singles) or two teams of two players (doubles). Tennis is played on a 78' x 27' (78' x 36' for doubles) court, which is divided in the middle by a net, such as that each side measures 39' in length.

Players attempt to hit a tennis ball with a tennis racquet such that it bounces in the opposition's side of the court and the opposition is unable to return it. A legal return is made by hitting the ball over the net, after not more than one bounce on one's side of the court. Each point is started by a player who initiates play by "serving" the ball into a designated area on the other side of the court. Tennis is an Olympic sport which is played in many countries around the world.

A tennis match is won by the first side to win 2 out of 3 sets or 3 out of 5 sets. Traditionally, matches played by ladies last 3 sets while those played by men last five. However, at many lower-level tournaments 3 sets remains the norm for all, while at a few tournaments, ladies play 5-set matches as well. A set is won by the first side to win 6 games, with at least 2 more games won than the other side. A game is won by the first side to win 4 points, with at least 2 more points won than the other side. Points are awarded as follows:

0 points - "Love"
1 point - "Fifteen"
2 points - "Thirty"
3 points - "Forty"

(These terms derive from French: see History of Tennis, below.)

The server's score is always announced first. If the server has won 2 points and the receiver has won 1 point, the score would be "Thirty-Fifteen". A player who wins a fourth point is awarded a game, unless each side previously had 3 points. This score, corresponding to "Forty-All" is called "Deuce". The player who wins the subsequent point has a score of "Advantage". If this player also wins the next point, game is awarded. Otherwise the score reverts to "Deuce".

In most tournaments, if the game score in a set reaches 6-6, a series of points called a tiebreak takes place. The first side to win 7 points, with at least 2 more points than the other side, wins the tiebreak. The score of the set is recorded as 7-6. However, in several tournaments, no tiebreak is played during the final and deciding set (third or fifth set, depending on the length of the match); rather, the set is played until one side leads by two games.

A tennis player usually has several types of swinging shots at his or her disposal: the forehand, backhand, volley, overhand smash and slice shot. When a player serves the ball to the other player, at the beginning of each point, he or she most commonly employs the overhand smash method, or the cut (slice) serve.

The backhand, useful for chasing shots from the opposite strong hand, can be employed with either one hand or two hands. Two hands offer the player more power, while one hand can utilize a slice shot, applying backspin on the tennis ball to fool the opponent. A small number of players, most notably Monica Seles, use two hands on both the backhand and forehand sides.

Tournaments are often organized by gender and number of players. Common tournament configurations include men's singles, women's singles, doubles (where two players of the same sex play on each side), and mixed doubles (with a member of each sex per side). There are also often tournaments for specific ages, such as for youth and seniors.

History of tennis

Unlike most modern sports, lawn tennis has a very short history, and its invention can be precisely dated. In December 1873, Major Walter Clopton Wingfield devised the game for the amusement of his guests at a garden party on his estate at Nantclywd, Wales. He based the game on the older sport of indoor tennis or Real tennis, which had been invented in France in the 12th century and played by French aristocrats down to the time of the French Revolution.

Wingfield borrowed both the name and much of the French vocabulary of royal tennis and applied them to his new game.

  • tennis comes from the French tenez, the imperative form of the verb tenir, to hold: it thus means "Hold!" This was a cry used by the player serving in royal tennis, meaning "I am about to serve!" (rather like the cry "Fore!" in golf).
  • Racquet comes from the French raquette, although it ultimately derives from the Arabic rakhat, meaning the palm of the hand.
  • Deuce comes from the French expression à deux le jeu, meaning "to both is the game" (that is, the two players have equal scores).
  • love comes from the French l'oeuf, the egg: a humorous reference to the egg-shaped zero symbol
  • The convention of numbering scores "15," "30" and "40" comes from the French quinze, treize and quatorze, which to French ears makes a euphonious sequence.

in 1874 Wingfield, seeing the commercial potential of the game, patented it, but he never succeeded in enforcing his patent. It spread rapidly among the leisured classes in Britain and the United States. It was first played in the US at the home of Mary Ewing Outerbridge on Staten Island, New York, in 1874.

In 1881 the desire to play tennis competitively led to the establishment of tennis clubs. The first championships at Wimbledon, in London were played in 1877. In 1881 the United States National Lawn Tennis Association (now the United States Tennis Association) was formed to standardise the rules and organise competitions. The U.S. National Men's Singles Championship, now the U.S. Open, was first held in 1881 at Newport, Rhode Island. the U.S. National Women's Singles Championships were first held in 1887. The Davis Cup, an annual competition between national teams, dates from 1900.

In 1926 a group of American tennis players established a professional tennis circuit, playing exhibition matches to paying audiences. For 40 years professional and amateur tennis remained strictly separate: once a player had "turned pro" he or she could not compete at the major titles. In 1968, however, commercial pressures led to the abandonment of this principle and the "Open era" began, in which all players could compete in all tournaments and most players made their living from tennis.

Tennis was for many years predominantly a sport of the English-speaking world, dominated by the United States, Britain and Australia, although it was also popular in France: the French Open dates from 1891. Thus Wimbledon, the U.S. Open, the French Open and the Australian Open (dating from 1905) became and have remained the most prestigious events in tennis. Together these four events are called the "Grand Slam" (a term borrowed from bridge), and winning the Grand Slam is the highest ambition of most tennis players.

Since the beginning of the Open era and the establishment of an international professional tennis circuit, fed by revenues from the sale of television rights, tennis has spread all over the world and has lost its upper-class English-speaking image. Since the 1970s great champions have emerged from Germany (Boris Becker, Steffi Graf), Czechoslovakia (Ivan Lendl, Martina Navratilova), Sweden (Björn Borg), Brazil (Gustavo Kuerten), Russia (Yevgeni Kafelnikov) and many other countries. Recently African American players such as Venus and Serena Williams have become a force in the game.

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