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A geek’s guide to Tennis

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Four points to win a game, six to win a set, with 2 or 3 sets to win a match (depending on what tournament players play or their gender). Tennis can be baffling for the novice watcher. Yet, tennis is a fast-paced game with several elements that make up for an exciting game to watch.

Tennis requires a racquet and ball to play, on a court refereed by an umpire. With three linesmen (also women) situated at each end of the court. The court is separated into two halves by a net, one for each opponent. A tennis match requires either 2 or 3 sets to win the match. Within each set a player must win a series of games, typically two ahead of their opponent and at least 6 games won.

Should both opponents win 6 games each – then a tie-break is required. Players score points by hitting the ball, known as the “serve” to their opponent who attempts to return the ball by hitting it back within the court. If the ball goes out of play, then the point is awarded to the player who “failed” to keep it in play.

Scoring in Tennis

Scoring points in tennis are the same as learning a new language itself, rather than simpler numerical scoring, tennis is extraordinarily different. For example:

No points on the board, known as “Love.”

The first point scored is known as “15.”

The second point becomes “30.”

The third point moves to “40.”

The fourth point scored, the “Game” is awarded to the player who reaches this first.

The player serving score is always called first, for example, 30-15. Should the current game score reach 40-30, the serving player requires one additional point to win that game concerned. However, if the opposing player wins the next point, rather than the score being 40-40 - the score is known as "deuce". Both players now require two more points to win that particular game.

Germany's Rainer Schuettler during his Quarter-Final match at Wimbledon Germany's Rainer Schuettler during his Quarter-Final match at Wimbledon

From deuce, the game becomes a little complex. Should the serving player score the next point, the score is “advantage server.” However, it the opposing player (the one receiving the serve) scores next, the score is then “advantage receiver.” If either player with “advantage” wins the next point, they will win the game.

Note though, if the player who does not have "advantage" wins the next point, then the score reverts to "deuce", and both players must win a point to gain "advantage." This scoring continues until one player wins two points in a row.

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Tennis court surfaces

A tennis court is 78 feet (23.77 m) long, and 27 feet (8.23 m) wide for singles matches and 36 ft (10.97 m) wide for doubles matches. Tennis courts are either indoors or outdoors; and can be made out of clay, grass or be a hard court - typically made from asphalt, acrylic or concrete.

Clay courts

Made of crushed shale, stone or brick and more common in Europe and Latin American, clay courts reduce the balls speed and produce a higher bounce than other courts. Because of this, serve-based players (those with fast, powerful serves) struggle on this type of court. Players who excel at rallies are perfect for clay courts. The leading clay court tournament is the French Open, which plays on orange clay.

Steve Johnson (USA) hits a return during the 2018 US Men's Clay Court Tennis Championship match Steve Johnson (USA) hits a return during the 2018 US Men's Clay Court Tennis Championship match

Grass courts

The fastest court in use is grass courts, which are made of grown grass on thoroughly packed soil. Grass courts are excellent for those with big serves or serve-and-volley players as the ball skids off the court quicker. Bounce on grass courts can vary, depending on the grass - if it is fresh grown or has shown signs of play. The newer grass is bouncier, worn turf removes the bounce. Nevertheless, rallies on grass courts are very short as players find it harder to reach the fast-paced ball. The oldest Grand Slam tournament Wimbledon is played on a grass court.

Maria Sharapova of Russia during her Ladies' Singles fourth round match against Angelique Kerber of Germany on day eight of the Wimbledon Lawn Tennis Championships Maria Sharapova of Russia during her Ladies' Singles fourth round match against Angelique Kerber of Germany on day eight of the Wimbledon Lawn Tennis Championships

Hard courts

Hard courts are made from either concrete, asphalt, acrylic, synthetic clay, artificial grass, or even a combination of all these materials. Hard courts are generally more balanced than clay or grass - not as fast but offer some bounce to aid in rallies. Hard courts favour players who like to play from the baseline, hitting the ball hard to return up the court. The Australian and US Open's play on hard courts, with US Open playing outside, and the Australians indoors.

Kevin Anderson (RSA) during the 2017 U.S. Open Tennis Championships Kevin Anderson (RSA) during the 2017 U.S. Open Tennis Championships

Indoor courts

Because they are not impacted by adverse weather conditions, cheaper to produce and provide medium bounce and pace, indoor hard courts are the most commons courts. As with all hard courts, their variation is dependent on the materials used in the court's creation. The Australian Open is the only Grand Slam to play on an indoor hardcourt.

Switzerland's Roger Federer competes during the men's singles final match against Croatia's Marin Cilic at Australian Open 2018 Switzerland's Roger Federer competes during the men's singles final match against Croatia's Marin Cilic at Australian Open 2018

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List of tennis terms and jargon

If you are a novice to the game of tennis, you’ll need to get to grips with some of the tennis terms so that you enjoy the game.

Ace - When a point is scored immediately during the serve of the serving player. Typically, the ball is served so fast, that the opposing player is unable to return.

Advantage - Once the score reaches 40 apiece, and deuce is called. Either player will need to score the next point to obtain "advantage." Should the other player score next, the "advantage" is lost.

Backhand - When the player strikes the ball with the backhand facing down the court. Can be either a one or two-handed backhand stroke.

Ballboys - Or ballgirls, are situated at the back of the courts and next to the net. Their roles are to collect the balls and return to the serving player.

Baseline - The line at the back of the court.

Crosscourt - A diagonal shot that is played where the ball moves "across" the court.

Double Fault - If the serving player faults twice in a row, they give the opposing player a point, thus obtaining a double fault.

Deuce - When the score is 40 apiece.

Drop Shot - A volleyed shot that drops just over the net, making it unlikely that the opposing player can get and return.

Fault - Occurs when a player fails to land the ball inside the service area during a serve. Should this happen twice, a double-fault occurs, with the player losing a point.

Linesman - Or Lineswoman is an official who sits at the rear of the court looking for whether balls are in or out on the lines.

Lob - When the ball is hit high in the air with the aim of landing it behind the opposing player.

Net - The dividing barrier that players seek to strike the ball across. Placed in the centre of the court, separating into two halves.

Rally - When players make consecutive shots, backwards and forth, the shots are known as a "rally."

Serve - To begin play, players must strike the ball with an overhead motion.

Umpire - The math official who keeps score during the entire tennis match.

Winner - Scoring winners is scoring shots that beat the opposing player.

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Tennis Grand Slam tournaments

There are four premier tournaments played each calendar year that all tennis players aspire to win. Not only do they offer the biggest prize money, but they are also the most historically prestigious tournaments to play in.

Winning one in their career is considered a massive achievement for players. Winning several tournaments exemplifies a player as outstanding, winning at least one of every Grand Slam tournaments is known as a Career Grand Slam, with only 8 men and 10 women achieving the feat.

Each Grand Slam presents its own challenges: court surface type, weather conditions, the type of court surface, and yes, the dress code!

The Australian Open

First played in 1905 and occurring in mid to late January every year at Melbourne Park in Melbourne, Australia, the Australian Open is the first Grand Slam of the calendar year. Played on blue indoor hard courts, they offer a medium paced game played under a closed roof. This can create a raucous atmosphere for the players to compete.

Swiss tennis player Roger Federer cheers after winning the ATP tennis tournament men's singles quarter final match Swiss tennis player Roger Federer cheers after winning the ATP tennis tournament men's singles quarter final match

Australian Roy Emerson, Swiss Roger Federer and Serbian Novak Djokovic hold the most men's singles titles with 6 each, Australian Margaret Court owns the most women's titles with 11. The Australian Open is worth A$55,000,000 in prize money in 2018.

The French Open, Roland Garros

Founded in 1891 and played in Paris, France in late May/early June. The French Open, also known as Roland-Garros is played on orange clay courts, making it the slowest surface to play tennis on, and hence there are a lot of rallies. Because it is the only clay court Grand Slam – the French Open is the pinnacle event of the spring clay court season.

Rafael Nadal (ESP) celebrates match point during his match against Stanislas Wawrinka (SUI) on day fifteen of the 2017 French Open tennis tournament Rafael Nadal (ESP) celebrates match point during his match against Stanislas Wawrinka (SUI) on day fifteen of the 2017 French Open tennis tournament

Spanish player Rafael Nadal is the current record holder with an astonishing 10 singles title, earning him the nickname the “King of Clay.” American Chris Evert holds the most titles with 7 for the women's game. The French Open was worth €36,000,000 in prize money in 2017.

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The Championships, Wimbledon

Established in 1877, the Championships, or known as Wimbledon is the oldest and most prestigious Grand Slam tournament. Played in late June/early July in London, United Kingdom, Wimbledon is unique in that the players are only permitted to pay in all-white kits. Wimbledon is the only Grand Slam tournament to be played on grass, making it the fastest surface and leads to players scoring a lot from “aces” – scoring from the serve as the speed is so quick, players find it hard to return the ball and begin a rally.

Martina Navratilova in action in the Ladies' Doubles at The Lawn Tennis Championships at Wimbledon Martina Navratilova in action in the Ladies' Doubles at The Lawn Tennis Championships at Wimbledon

Swiss player Roger Federer holds the most singles titles with 8. Czech-American Martina Navratilova holds the women's singles record with 9. Wimbledon also pays out the highest prize money with £31,600,000 in 2017.

The US Open

Founded in 1881, the US Open is played in New York City, USA at Flushing Meadows and like the Australian Open is played on hard courts but with the difference that this tournament is outside. Played in late August/early September, the US Open is the final event in the Grand Slam calendar.

Three Americans, Richard Sears, Bill Larned and Bill Tilden share the record of most men's singles titles, winning the tournament 7 times. Another American, Molla Bjurstedt Mallory holds the women’s record with 8 wins. In 2017 the US Open was worth $50,400,000.

Bill Tilden in play during the Lawn Tennis Championships at Wimbledon Bill Tilden in play during the Lawn Tennis Championships at Wimbledon

With this geeks guide to tennis, you should have enough to get started watching and betting on your first tennis match. Of course, there is much more to learn, but master these basics, and you'll find yourself begging to know more about this fast-paced game that is played throughout the sporting calendar year.

Words: David Bailey-Lauring

Images: PA

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