- Tennis is played on a court, 23 metres long and 11 metres wide.
- There is a net in the middle of the court. Players stand at both ends of the court.
- Players use a racket to hit a ball. The ball must go over the net and land inside the court.
- To start, one player hits or ‘serves’ the ball. The other player tries to hit the ball back (or ‘returns the serve’).
- When players hit the ball to each other, this is a ‘rally’. The rally continues until a player misses the ball, hits it into the net, or out of the court.
- The aim of the game is to hit the ball so that the other player misses it.
- A match consists of ‘games’ and ‘sets’.
- The same player serves throughout one game, then the other player serves in the next game.
- A set is a group of games. Usually the first person to win six games wins the set.
- The winner of the match is the first to win either two or three sets.
- Tennis has individual (or ‘singles’) and team (or ‘doubles’) events for men and women, and mixed doubles.
Tennis? That’s not an Olympic sport, surely?
Yes it is. Why shouldn’t it be?
Well, I’m not sure… it just doesn’t seem like an Olympic sport. It’s a ball game.
Yes, it is, but the Olympics isn’t just running and jumping around, you know. In fact,
about one quarter of the summer Olympic sports are ball games.
Oh. And has tennis always been played at the Olympics?
It was played until 1924, and was then removed from the programme until 1988. But it’s been played in every Games since then.
So, there was no tennis at the Olympics between those years?
Well, not quite. It was played as a demonstration sport in the Mexico City Olympic Games of 1968, and in Los Angeles in 1984.
Why does tennis have such a strange system for scoring: 15, 30 and 40 points? Why not just 1, 2 and 3 points?
Nobody knows for sure. One theory is that a clock face was used to show the score. The hand was moved to the 15-minute position for the first point, and the 30-minute position for the second point.
Well then, why do players go from 30 to 40 points? Shouldn’t it be 45?
Perhaps ‘45’ took too long to say, so it was abbreviated to ‘40’.
I’m not convinced. Anyway, why do they say ‘15 - love’, rather than ‘15 - zero’, or ‘15 - nil’?
Well, here’s one theory. It comes from the French ‘l’oeuf’, or ‘the egg’, because the
shape of the 0 looked like an egg.
Oh come on. You’re not serious are you?
Absolutely! And get this - scientific research has shown that top players are actually less likely to win matches once they are married!
Really? Do we know why?
Perhaps because in tennis, ‘love’ means nothing!