This article will tell you where tennis originated from and its inventor. How the game has evolved and the rules and equipment that are used today.
Tennis is a sport otherwise known as lawn tennis and was invented by an Englishman, Major Walter C Wingfield in 1873 when it was first played at a garden party in Wales. Wingfield first called his game “Sphairistikle” (Greek for ‘ball playing’) and was played on an hour glass shaped court with elements borrowed from other games such as Real Tennis, Squash and Badminton.
Tennis popularity grew fast in the UK and the first championships were held at the All England Croquet Club in Wimbledon in 1877. An all male tournament until 1884, when the women’s championships was also held at Wimbledon. Tennis popularity then spread across the British Empire as far as Australia and to the United States of America.
A friend of Wingfield introduced Tennis to Mary Ewing Outerbridge in 1874 who took rackets balls and a net back to New York where she installed a tennis court on Staten Island New York. The first American Tennis Tournament was held in Newport in 1881 with the women’s tournament following in 1887. The tournament then moved to Forest Hills in 1915 until 1978 when it moved again to Flushing Meadows New York.
The French Championships were first held in 1891, not becoming an international event until 1925. The event was moved to Roland Garros in 1928.
The Australian Open was first held on grass courts in Kooyong in 1905. Then in 1988 was moved to Melbourne Park
In 1900 an international tennis event known as the Davis Cup began for the men and the Wightman Cup, now known as the Federation Cup, began in 1923 for the women.
In 1968 the International Lawn Tennis Foundation (ILTF founded in 1913) was forced to allow professional and amateur players to compete at the same tennis tournaments around the world and so begun the open era.
Today Tennis is played by an estimated 65 million people around the world and is growing in popularity each year. Approximately 26 million people play tennis in the USA, 4.5 million in the UK and 35 million across Europe and Asia.
The Tennis Game
Tennis is a sport played by two (singles) or four players (doubles) at a time. Tennis is played on a tennis court measuring 23.77 meters (78 feet) by 8.23 meters (27 feet) for singles and 23.77 meters (78 feet) by 10.97 (36 feet) for doubles.
Each player uses a tennis racquet (racket) which has strings threaded through a circular frame at the end of a long straight handle. The tennis racquets are used to hit tennis balls (made of pressurised rubber balls with a felt coating) from one end of the court to the other, over a tennis net which divides the tennis court in half and is 91.4cm (3 feet) high at the centre.
The Game of Tennis originates from the United Kingdom back to the 19th Century and was first known as lawn tennis. With links to another sport known as Real Tennis, which has been played since the 15th Century, also known as Royal Tennis. Real Tennis is played inside with holes and slopes within the walls. Henry VIII is known for playing on his own Real Tennis court at Hampton Court Palace.
Tennis today is played on indoor and outdoor courts on many different surfaces, each offering a different challenge to the tennis player. Typical surfaces include; Grass, Clay, Hard Court (rubber and concrete), Astro Grass, Rubber and Carpet.
The main Tennis Tournaments around the World are the four Grand Slam events. The Australian Open, The French Open, Wimbledon Championships and the US Open. The next most prized tennis tournaments are the end of year World Tour Finals held in London and 9 x ATP Masters series tournaments held at major cities around the world for the Men and 19 Premier x WTA tournaments for the women. Further lower tier tournaments are held all over the world for both Men and Women players.
Tennis Racquets / Rackets
Tennis racquets today are manufactured using the latest technology and materials to provide the best in power, control and feel. The tops brands are Wilson, Prince, Babolat, Head, Dunlop, Yonex, Donnay and Tecnifibre.
Visit here at tennis online to see a selection of available tennis racquets / rackets.
Tennis balls are manufactured in two main forms, pressurised and un-pressurised. The pressurised tennis balls are used by professional tennis players and most club and recreational players, but have a limited life span as the pressure slowly releases over time especially if they get wet during play outside. The un-pressurised tennis balls are used mostly by tennis coaches because they offer longevity in use as they retain their bounce ability for longer.
Visit here at tennis online to see a selection of available tennis balls.
Tennis Clothing / Tennis Wear
Tennis clothing generally consists of tennis socks, shorts, tennis shirts and caps for Men and tennis socks, skirts, dresses, shirts and caps for Women.
Along with cotton, many modern materials are used in the tennis clothes today. Special polyester mixtures providing wicking qualities to remove sweat from player’s skin and keep them dry during play have proven very popular.
Popular brands are; Nike, Adidas, Lacoste, Wilson, Prince, ATP World Tour, Fila, Puma, Sergio Tacchini, Fred Perry, Yonex, Babolat and Reebok.
Visit here at tennis online to see a selection of available tennis clothing / tennis wear.
Tennis shoes are a very important part of a tennis players kit in the modern game. Good footwork is key to being a good tennis player. To be confident about your foot placement, acceleration and change of direction you must be comfortable with your tennis shoes and they should provide sufficient support and protection.
Popular brands are: K-Swiss, Nike, Adidas, Fila, Babolat, Lacoste, Prince, Wilson, Head.
Visit here at tennis online to see a selection of available tennis shoes.
Tennis Bags, Backpacks, racquet bags and tennis ball dryer bags (Tennis Ball Dryer’s are clever and useful bags for making tennis balls last longer and also for carrying), overgrips, Tennis Sunglasses, Wrist Bands, string dampeners, energy drinks and support equipment (knee, arm, wrist braces).
Popular brands are: Aspect Sports (Tennis Ball Dryer), Wilson, Prince, Babolat, Head and Dunlop.
Visit here to see a selection of tennis accessories: www.tennisballdryer.com or tennis online
Tennis is predominantly played in 3 or 5 set matches. Each set is won when a player reaches 6 games and is at least 2 games ahead of his/her opponent (e.g. 6-4, 6-3,6-2, 6-1 or 6-0) or a set can also be won by 7 games to 5, but if both players reach a score of 6 games each, a tie break will be played of first to 7 points or until one player is 2 points clear thereafter. In some Grand Slam events, the final fifth set is not played as a tie break set and players must continue to play games until one opponent is two games clear of their opponent.
Each game in a set is scored by the first player to score 4 points and be at least 2 points ahead of their opponent. The score is counted in the following sequence; 15,30,40, Game. If the score reaches 40 for both players, this is known as Deuce and now one player must score 2 points clear to win the game. The next point won by either player after Deuce is called Advantage, then if he or she wins the next point, they win the game. If however the opponent wins the next point while the score is to hisopponents advantage, the score reverts back to Deuce and they begin again until one player is 2 points clear.
Each player serves a full game while the opponent receives, then the opponent serves the following game. This is repeated with each player serving alternate games until the match is complete.
If a tie break is to be played the opponent of the player to win the last game before the tie break begins by serving the first point. Then each player serves the next 2 points in turn until either reaches 7 points with 2 points clear or 2 points clear thereafter reaching 7 points. The first game of the following set is served by the player who won the last game before the tie break was played.
A point is scored when a player fails to hit the ball into the opponent’s court area or when their opponent hits a ball into their court area that they are unable to return, also known as a winner if a player is unable to hit the ball with his/her racquet. A ball is considered in if it bounces once inside the singles or doubles court of their opponent’s area. If the ball bounces on the boundary lines it is considered in. If the tennis ball bounces outside the singles/doubles lines the ball is considered out and the point is lost to the opponent of the player that hit that ball/shot out.
Serving begins on the right side of the court, also known as the deuce side. The ball must be hit into the diagonal opposite service box, over the net into the opponents court area (approximately 1/4 of the opponents court area) and the opponent / receiver must try and return the ball back to the server’s side of the court and begin a rally until either player makes a mistake or hits a winning shot (i.e. when an opponent cannot hit the shot back).
Once a point has been completed the server must serve the next point from the left side of the court, also known as the advantage side and hit the ball into their opponents service box diagonally to the right on the other side of the net. When this point is completed, the server alternates serving from the deuce and advantage sides until the game is won. Then the opponent begins serving the next game.
The server is allowed two attempts to serve the ball into their opponent’s service box. If the first serve is hit out, a second service attempt is permitted. If the second service is also hit out, this is known as a double fault and the point is awarded to the opponent. If the ball strikes the net when the ball is served and still manages to land in the correct service box, this is called a let and the serve is taken again, if however the ball strikes the top of the net and bounces outside the correct service box, this is not a let and the second service must be taken or if this happens on second serve the point will be lost to the opponent.
There are several grip positions on the tennis racquet where the racquet is held in different degrees of rotation within the hand so the racquet face points in different directions. These grip positions are knows as eastern, continental, semi-western and western. The continental also known as the chopper grip, is held in the same way as an axe would be held, with the frame of the racquet face pointing straight up so the strings are not visible. The other grips are then increasing degrees of racquet grip rotation until the racquet strings are facing upwards. When the racquet face is held parallel to the ground this is known as the Full Western grip. This grip is the most extreme and Nadal is well known for using this extreme grip style to generate incredible spin on his shots.
The array of tennis strokes are as follows: serve, forehand, backhand, volley, half-volley, overhead smash, drop shot and lob.
The Tennis Serve
The service is achieved by throwing the tennis ball into the air above the head and then striking the ball while in the air with the tennis racquet to make the ball land in the opponent’s service box.
The server can hit many different types of serves by using spin and power to make it as hard as possible for their opponent to return the ball. Typical serves are; flat serve, topspin serve, slice serve, kick serve and occasionally underarm serve.
A forehand is when a player hits the ball on the same side of their body as the hand they are holding the racquet in. For example a right handed player hits a forehand on the right side of his/her body.
The conventional forehand in the modern game of tennis is usually hit from the baseline area of the court with top spin to increase the probability of the ball remaining in when it lands in the opponent’s side of the court.
The idea behind tops spin is to brush up the back of the ball during the tennis stroke to impart spin on the ball during flight. This is done with a motion of low to high striking of the tennis ball, hit in an upward direction to make it travel with good clear height over the tennis net to reduce errors and then the spin will bring the ball back down into the opponent’s court quickly reducing the risk of hitting the ball long or wide. Tops spin shots are used to keep a high percentage of balls hit in play. The flatter a tennis ball is hit the less chance it has of clearing the net and the higher the chance of it bouncing out long or wide.
The forehand is usually hit with one hand on the racquet, but some male and female players use two hands for additional control and power. The two handed forehand style can feel restrictive for most players.
The backhand is when a player hits on the opposite side of their body to their natural hand grip side. For example a right handed player will hit his/her backhand on the left side of their body.
Backhands are usually hit as top spin or slice shots using either a continental or eastern grip. The Eastern grip used for topspin backhands is when the racquet is rotated clockwise in the hand for a right handed player by approximately 30-45 degrees. This enables the player to apply top spin on the ball when striking from a low to high motion without hitting the ball too high.
The top spin backhand is the same principle as the forehand (above) with a motion of low to high and preferably with shoulders turned so the players back is almost facing the net at the beginning of the stroke. The stoke finishing with hip and shoulder rotation as the arm strikes the racquet up and through the ball in the direction the player wishes to hit the ball.
The backhand slice is different in that the racquet head travels from high to low and cuts through and under the ball. This is often a defensive stroke and the ball travels low over the net to land deep into the opponent’s court, where it usually bounces low and skids, making it hard to attack.
The volley is when a player strikes the ball before it bounces into their side of the court. Normally a player will be in a position approaching or close to the net and will hit a forehand or backhand volley with an open face grip mostly continental and a stoke of a short stabbing motion to play thorough the ball in the direction the player wishes the ball to land.
A half volley is normally when a player has no time to get into a good striking position and is forced to play the ball a split second after it has hit the ground so there is no time to swing the racquet to make a full stroke. The racquet face is normally open and generally produces a defensive shot as the player is often forced to lift the ball without pace.
The overhead smash is mostly used when the opponent has hit a defensive shot high into the air from a lob or mis-hit. The overhead smash is an aggressive shot very similar to the service motion where the ball is either hit as it falls before bouncing or after the ball has bounced and rises high above the players head. The player positions his/her-self behind the ball trajectory and strikes the ball with a high to low motion smashing the ball hard into the opponent’s court.
This is a delicate shot where the player hits the ball to land just over the net. This can be used to break the rhythm of a rally and also to wrong foot or deceive the opponent as he or she will be forced to run quickly towards the net to reach the ball before the ball bounces a second time. To strike a drop shot, the racquet motion is from high to low, but cutting down on the ball in a more vertical direction compared to a backhand slice which is hit more underneath the ball.
The lob can be used for defence or offense depending on the opponent’s court position. If you are out of position in a rally or have to return an aggressive shot, you may be forced to give yourself some time to recover by lobbing the ball high into the air with an aim to make the ball bounce as deeply into the opponents court as possible, possibly forcing the opponent into a defensive return, but at least giving the player an opportunity to recover their court position for the next shot.
To use the lob aggressively, a player will wait until their opponent has been brought close to the net and the lob is then used to pass the opponent by hitting (usually with topspin) a high lob over the opponents head out of their reach, but bouncing before the baseline.
A lob stroke motion is from low to high with either an open face or with top spin but from below the ball to lift it high.
Tennis Tips Guide. Keep an eye out for my tennis tips guide for playing better tennis. This is based on years of experience playing and coaching tennis as well playing with some of the greatest players of the open era such as John McEnroe, Jim Courier, Mark Woodforde, Cedric Pioline to name a few. This valuable guide is in development and requires a lot of work, but the wait will be worthwhile as I will be sharing some key tips not usually taught by tennis coaches. www.tennisballdryer.com/tennis_tips.html
ATP (ATP Tennis) the Men’s ‘Association of Tennis Professionals’
The ATP was Formed in 1972 by the leading tennis professionals around the world to serve as a players association. Jack Kramer and Cliff Drysdale headed the ATP to change the game of tennis for the better.
A computer ranking system was introduced by the ATP to enable accurate analysis of player’s performance throughout the year’s tournaments.
A group called the Men’s Tennis Council (MTC) was made up of representatives of the International Tennis Foundation, the ATP and Tournament Directors. The MTC controlled the Open Tennis circuit from 1974 until 1989.
In 1989 Hamilton Jordon (CEO of the ATP) held a meeting with the world’s top players during the US Open to discuss taking more control of the World tennis circuit for the interests of the players. The ATP Tour was formed and a new tennis circuit of tournaments began with the top players signing contracts to play the ATP Tour around the World.
Further information about the ATP and the top male tennis players can be found here: www.atpworldtour.com
WTA (WTF Tennis) the ‘Women’s Tennis Association’
In 1970 Virginia Slims established the Virginia Slims Series and signed the top 9 women Tennis players from around the World to play at her tournament for contracts to the value of $1. In 1971 the Series began, 19 tournaments with a total purse of $309,100 in prize money. Billie Jean King became the first female athlete to earn over six-figures in a season earnings.
In 1973, Billie Jean King formed the Women’s Tennis Association (WTA) and professional women’s tennis was played all over the world. In 1995 the Women’s Tennis Council joined with the WTA and formed the WTA Tour.
In 2010, the WTA celebrated 40 years of women’s professional tennis with an increase in prize money from $309,100 in 1970 to $85 million in 2010.
Further information about the WTA and the top female tennis players can be found here: www.wtatour.com