History Of Tennis
Tennis is a game that can be played with either two opposing players (singles) or pairs of players (doubles). The players use rackets to hit a ball over a net on a rectangular court. Players earn points when their opponent fails to correctly return the ball within the dimensions of the court. It was previously called lawn tennis – and it formally still is in Britain – because it was played on grass courts by Victorian ladies and gentlemen. However, it’s now played on various surfaces, including grass, clay, and hard courts.
The origins of the sport can be traced to a 12th-century French handball game called jeu de paume, which translates to “game of the palm.” From jeu de paume, a complex indoor racket-and-ball game called “real tennis” was derived. This game is still played to a limited degree today, primarily in Britain, the US, and Australia. But it’s not nearly as popular as the modern version of the sport.
Today, tennis is played by millions of people around the world in clubs and on public courts. Its rapid growth in popularity for both participants and spectators began in the late 1960s when the major championships were opened to professionals and amateurs. This trend continued in the 1970s, as television broadcasts of the professional tournament circuits and the rise of notable players and rivalries further fueled public interest in the sport.
In the world of modern tennis, the most important annual championships are the Australian Open, the French Open, Wimbledon, and the US Open. Collectively, they are often called the Grand Slam tournaments. The term “Grand Slam” refers to the accomplishment of winning all four of these championships in the same calendar season.
Each of the tournaments has a storied history, as they were all founded over 100 years ago. Wimbledon is the oldest of the group, founded in 1877. It was followed by US Open in 1881, the French Open in 1891, and the Australian Open in 1905. But it wasn’t until 1925 that all four were held as officially sanctioned majors. Winning all four tournaments in the same calendar year is an exceptional achievement, and it’s only been done in singles six times by five different players.
The first player to complete the Grand Slam was Don Budge of the United States in 1938. Maureen Connolly, also of the United States, came next in 1953. Australia’s Rod Laver became the only singles player to date to complete multiple Grand Slams in both 1962 and 1969. In 1970, Margaret Smith Court of Australia joined the list. The most recent singles Grand Slam was completed by Germany’s Steffi Graf in 1988. The term “Career Grand Slam” has also been used to recognize athletes who have won each of the four major championships over their career. A total of eight men and nine women have completed a Career Grand Slam in singles.
One element of the game that may confuse newcomers is the scoring system. In tennis, each point continues until one player fails to make a correct return. To win a game, a player must win four points, leading by a margin of two. But rather than counting numerically, the points of 0-4 are called love, 15, 30, 40, and game. This scoring system is derived from the medieval game of real tennis.
The term “love” is likely a reference to the shape of the 0, as it’s thought to come from l’oeuf, the French word for “egg.” More mysterious is the reasoning behind the third point, as it has never been satisfactorily explained why three points equal 40 instead of 45. If both players reach 40, the score is “deuce,” and play continues until someone achieves first “advantage” and then the two-point margin for “game.”
It takes six games to win a “set” in tennis. Players must then go on to win a determined number of sets to win the match. The length of the match can vary depending on the rules of the specific tournament. But matches are most commonly played as either best-of-three or best-of-five. So, in summary, four points win a game, six games win a set, and two or three sets win a match.
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