ORIGINS OF TENNIS
Tennis is a head-to-head sport involving individuals or pairs in singles and doubles. Players stand at opposite ends of a court and the objective is to hit a ball over a net so the opponent has difficulty returning the ball.
Tennis is a popular recreational and professional sport. However, an amateur who knows how to play tennis has virtually no chance of beating a trained athlete whose full time job is to play tennis on various circuits around the world. Players earn points by making it difficult to return their shots resulting in a shot being played out of the court, into the net or not returned at all.
In December 1873 the modern version of tennis was invented by a British army officer who instructed people how to play tennis. The inventor patented a set consisting of the basic equipment and marketed his concept around the world.
He gave thousands of sets away to well connected people who spread the word about the attractions of the game as a form of recreation. Tennis grew particularly well in England, France, Australia and the United States and these countries now stage the four major championships in the men’s and women’s game.
In 1924 the International Tennis Federation formulated rules the basis of which still exist in the second decade of the 21st century. In the same year the sport of tennis was withdrawn from the Olympic Games and only returned in 1988.
COURT AND EQUIPMENT
People who know how to play tennis will be well aware of the court and equipment. Tennis is played on a court with standardised dimensions. The court is 78 feet (23.77 metres) long and 27 feet (8.23 metres) wide for singles matches and 36 feet (10.97 metres) for doubles.
There is also space beyond the court and players are not restricted to the boundaries of the basic playing surface.
A net divides both halves of the court and competing players stand on either side of the net. The net is 3 feet 6 inches (1.067 metres) high at the extremes and 3 feet (0.914 metres) in the centre. The posts holding up the net and outside the singles court but within the doubles court.
Facts about tennisTennis was invented in
1873The dimensions of a single match tennis court
78 feet long and a width of 27 feetThe longest match ever played lasted
11 hoursWho holds the fastest serve recorded in professional tennis (156 mph)?
Lines, of which there are several, appear on all tennis court surfaces. The sport can be played indoors and outdoors on hard courts, indoors on carpet and outdoors on clay and grass.
Every court has a baseline and a service line in the middle of the court. Boundaries mark the singles and doubles courts. Serves must land within the service sector or the shot is deemed to not count and a player then has a second serve. Serves must land in the service boxes on the first bounce or the shot is a fault and another attempt is made.
Tennis equipment consists of the net and poles for each court, a racket that each player uses and the balls that are hit by the players. Tennis rackets are constantly being marketed and there is always some new design and technology to maintain customer interest in the market.
Some years ago, wooden frames were replaced by graphite but the basic make-up of the strings has not changed. As a sport that involves running, tennis is played in training shoes or specially modified tennis shoes and light exercise clothing which traditionally is white. Some tennis clubs in England do not allow coloured clothing and are a white attire only clubs.
Tennis rules involve an established scoring system. The game is divided into a series of points. A number of points make up to a game, sets consist of a number of games and a match is played over a number of sets.
There are variations for the men’s and women’s games in terms of sets. The sport is played over the same number of games in a set and points in the game at women’s and men’s professional tournaments and in the amateur game. Learning this scoring system is part of the process of learning how to play tennis.
In tennis rules, a game consists of points. The objective is to win four points but also two points clear of the opponent. Zero points in a tennis match is called ‘love’ and at the start of a game the score is love-all.
The first point won by any one player is referred to as 15, the second point is 30, the third point 40 and the final point is known as game as the game is won once four points have been won but also with an advantage.
When each player has won three points the score is 40-all and known as deuce. When the score reaches deuce a player must win two points without reply to win the game. The first point after deuce or 40-all is called advantage as the player who wins the point has an advantage over the opponent. If the other player wins the next point the score returns to deuce or 40-all and the process continues.
As part of tennis rules, a game is made up of points and a set is made up of games. A player wins a set by winning six games as long as there is an advantage of at least two games. If the score reaches five games all the set is extended to first to seven games and so on.
The tie break is a concept introduced to the professional sport to bring a set to a conclusion rather than extending the set until one of the players has a two game advantage. In some instances a tie break is not played and the length of any set is open and only concluded when one payer leads by two games.
A love set means a player does win a game and in professional tennis a bagel is when a player does not win any games over the course of a match which is an ignominy for a full-time player. If a players wins a set without conceding a point, this is known as a Golden Set.
Tennis rules define a match as consisting of a number of sets which is usually best of three sets or best of five sets. Women’s professional matches are played over three sets while men compete over five in majors. A player doesn’t require an advantage of two sets to win a match. In the women’s game the set score can be 2-0 and 2-1 and in the men’s game the potential outcomes are 3-0, 3-1 and 3-2.
In tennis matches played as a hobby, a match can consist of a single set, the conventional number of sets and/or a bigger number of sets determined by the time free and the availability of the court.
In a five set match when a player wins the first three sets the match is decided. A match can extend to four sets when one player wins one set and the opponent wins three. In three set matches the outcome can be decided if the same player wins the first two sets. If each player wins a set the match is determined by a deciding set which sometimes does not involve a tie-break and the winner has to lead by two games.
When a player has won three points and has a score of 40 while the opponent has a score of less than 40 game point has been reached in tennis rules. If the player leading in points wins the next point the game has been decided. If the opponent wins the point the game is extended until each player has an advantage of two points.
There is no limit to the number of points in a game and no tie-break which means games can go on over a long period of time. Most are settled without a score of deuce being reached and sometimes game point can arrive relatively quickly. A player is more likely to reach game point when serving rather than receiving.
Breaking serve is an important part of how to play tennis. The server is the player that tosses the ball in the air to launch the ball. The ball must land in the service box on the other side of the net. If the server hits the ball out from the initial delivery a second serve is allowed. If a server fails to find the service box with the first two deliveries of a point that point is lost.
The serve is hit from alternate sides of the court and played diagonally to the service box on the opposite side. Break point arrives when the receiving player has won three points and the score is love-40, 15-40 or 30-40. The receiver then requires one point to break serve or more likely the server will win the next point to extend the game.
Breaks of serve are reasonably rare and when a player breaks a serve they are in a good position to win a set. A strong serve that is difficult to return is a powerful tool in tennis.
TOURNAMENT TENNIS RULES
Professional tennis is often played in tournament format mainly on a knockout basis. This means there is a pre-determined draw so players know their opponents in subsequent rounds. The better players in a draw are seeded so they don’t meet early in a tournament.
Usually, a quarter of the players in a draw are seeded so in a 32-player format there are eight seeds. The draw is structured so that if they both win all their matches the number one seed will play the number two seed in the final of a tournament.
Draws are split into quarters and within each quarter the top seeds are kept apart at the start of a tournament. Professionals understand these rules when they learn how to play tennis for a living.
There are four Grand Slam tournaments in the men’s and women’s game and for both there is a 128 player draw with 32 seeds. The four majors are the Australian Open in January and February; French Open in May and June; Wimbledon in June and July and US Open in August and September.
The second level tournaments have a draw of 64 or 96 players. When there are 96 players in an event the better players get a bye to the second round. Some spots in a draw are reserved for qualifiers and some for wildcards which are given at the discretion of the tournament organisers.
The minor tournaments have 32 players or sometimes 28 which means four players get a bye into the second round and don’t have to win a match to reach this stage.
Men play over the best of five sets in the Grand Slam tournaments and over the best of three sets in regular tournaments. All women’s matches are played over three sets. Men’s doubles are best of five sets, women’s doubles are best of three sets and mixed doubles are contested over three sets.
The game and set scoring is the same regardless of the gender of the players and the length of the match. Tie breaks are played in all sets at 6-6 except in the deciding set in major tournaments. During a set a player may challenge the umpire three times and have a decision verified by video. Technology is used to determine whether a ball is in or out and to resolve close calls and challenges.
The Davis Cup and Federation Cup are team events for men and women respectively. The scoring system is the same as for tournaments. In the Davis Cup, nations compete over five rubbers consisting of four singles matches and one doubles match played over three days. There are no tie-breaks in the Davis Cup and the competition is played on a knockout basis in regional groups and a world group.
Court dimensions and the scoring system are consistent across tennis played as recreation and as a profession. The rules have varied very little over 90 years but there have been some minor adjustments to playing conditions. Much of the tradition of the game is still part of modern tennis despite advancements in equipment.