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Guide to Tennis

Guide

The modern game of tennis originated in England in the 1890s, but the history of the game dates all the way back to 12th century France when players used the palm of their hand instead of a racket! Oh tennis, you’ve come so far.

March 18, 2020
Giphy.com
Giphy.com

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Today, tennis is a racquet sport that is played individually or in doubles. Tennis is played on a court — grass, clay or hard surface. The point of the game is to hit the tennis ball over the net so that the opponent can’t return the ball back. Points are awarded when one player isn’t able to get the ball back over the net.

Scoring tennis is a bit weird and wacky. Each match is made up of sets made up of games. That’s where the phrase ‘Game, Set, Match’ comes from! The score of each game goes from zero (called love), to 15, 30 and finally 40. If the game is tied 40-40, that’s called deuce, and players have to win two straight points (the first is called advantage) in order to win the game. Get full details on scoring here.

How is it organized?

Men play under the ATP (Association of Tennis Professional) and women play under the WTA (Women’s Tennis Association). Each league hosts tournaments throughout the world and throughout the year, but the most important are the 'grand slam’ events, also called majors, which are the Australian Open, French Open, Wimbledon and US Open. These events get the most media attention, have the highest payouts, attract the best players and offer the most ranking points (i.e. are the most important to becoming No. 1 in the world).

The most prominent of the majors is Wimbledon which is played in London, England every July. Wimbledon started more than 125 years ago and is played on a grass surface, which makes the game move a lot faster. Wimbledon also has a strict dress code where players must wear only white, a tradition dating back to the 1800s when players were concerned with inappropriate sweat stains showing on clothing. Yup, you read that right.

The best of the best

Although tennis might be old school at heart, it is the only mainstream sport that pays out women and men equal prize money in tournaments and, for the most part, gives males and females the same airtime on TV. The U.S. Open (atta be, USA!) was the first of the majors to award equal prize money in 1973, while the oldest tennis tournament in the sport’s history, Wimbledon, didn’t reach that milestone until 2007.

Some of the best in the world on the women’s circuit include Romania’s Simona Halep, Japan’s Naomi Osaka and Australia’s Ashleigh Barty. However, the number one in our hearts is superstar American Serena Williams, who blew us away by climbing back into the Top 10 of the WTA rankings after being OOO while she was pregnant with her first baby, Alexis Olympia Ohanian Jr.

Prior to giving birth, Serena dominated the courts as the world record holder for the most Grand Slam wins across female singles and doubles play! You may also recall Serena absolutely slaying in Beyonce’s “Sorry” music video. And did we mention that she was pregnant when she won the Australian Open in 2017? Like WHAT!? 

On the men’s side, being the best in the world continues to be a three-way battle between Switzerland’s Roger Federer, Spain’s Rafael Nadal and Serbia’s Novak Djokovic (pronounced JOKE-OH-VITCH). But Federer is often touted as the best male tennis player of all time with 20 Grand Slam titles. Off the court, he’s a total gentleman and remarkably has two sets of twins!

What about Americans?

We already talked up tennis GOAT Serena Williams, but we also have to give major props to young up-and-comer Coco Gauff! At just 15 years old, she became the youngest player ranked in the top 100 by the WTA and has a career-high ranking of No. 68 in the world. Is that a future tennis queen in the making we see?

On the men’s side, John Isner is the highest ranked American player and has been ranked as high as No. 8 in his career. He’s never won a Major tournament, but made it to the semis of Wimbledon in 2018, and twice to the quarter-finals of the U.S. Open. Not too shabby.

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