Created By: somerandomdude on March 1, 2011 Last Edited By: somerandomdude on February 22, 2012
Troped

Useful Notes: Tennis

Name Space:
Main
Page Type:
Trope
"Game, set, match."

Tennis is a popular worldwide racket sport, originating as a racket-less game in France during the Middle Ages. In addition to the Bond One-Liner provided above, it is also the source for numerous sex jokes (Even when we're not scoring, we're in love!). It's regulated by the International Tennis Federation and the most important championship is Wimbledon. There are also the Australian, French, and US Opens. Those four together make the Grand Slam.

Tennis is largely an individual and pair sport, but team events are not unheard of. The Davis Cup is a men's event (ladies get the Fed Cup) that involves teams from different countries playing each other in a knockout tournament. Serbia is the most recent champion of the tournament.

The basic game is easy to grasp: one player serves the ball, and they proceed to whack it back and forth over a net until one player a) hits it into the net, b) hits it out of the court, or c) lets the ball bounce in-bounds past him. Any of those will grant the person who didn't do it a point. The game is notable for its ludicrous scoring system:

  • The first scoring level is the game. For some reason, unlike other sports who are content to just use "zero," a score of zero is called "love" in tennis. This originated from referring to 0 by the French word l'oeuf meaning "egg." From "love," you go to 15, 30, 40, and then the game is over...unless both players are at 40, in which case one player must win by 2, necessitating 40 > Advantage > Game.
  • Sets, the second scoring layer, are groups of games, usually played until one player reaches 6 games; but as with games, they must win by a margin of 2. As this used to lead to very long sets, a tie-breaker game is now played when the score reaches 6-6. However, there is no tie-breaker in the final set of some events, such as the Grand Slam championships apart from the US Open, so occasionally very long sets still occur (e.g. at Wimbledon in 2010, John Isner and Nicolas Mahut had a 5th set that lasted for over 8 freaking hours, finishing at 70-68).
  • Finally, matches are largely to sets as sets are to games, but are typically best-of-3 sets, or best-of-5 sets in some men's events.

Believe it or not, the scoring rules are actually even more complicated than this; there are special rules made for tiebreaker games, for instance. However, this basically captures how you keep score in tennis. Hell of a job.

Tennis matches are played either singles or doubles matches. In singles matches, the side margins of the court are considered out-of-bounds; in doubles, they're fair game. In doubles matches, one half of a team takes the front, the other takes the back; the back player of the serving team is the server. Typically, the better receiver takes the front for the receiving team.

A noted part of the game are the court surfaces the game is contested on. In times past, these could range from indoor carpet to rubberized acrylic, but in the modern age there are three surfaces that are utilized; grass courts, hard courts, and clay courts.

  • Grass courts were the courts that game started on (a reason why tennis began as 'lawn tennis') and in terms of pop culture is easily the most recognizable due to the prestige of Wimbledon. In terms of playing conditions, grass courts are 'fast', meaning the ball penetrates the courts more upon impact which takes time away from the opposing player. What complicates this, however, is the low bounce that grass provides, meaning that low skidding balls are often the norm with extreme topspin being more difficult to impart. Historically, grass rewards big servers and skilled volleyers, exemplified by Pete Sampras holding seven Wimbledon titles. That said, baseliners have won their fair share of grass tourneys, with Andre Agassi and Rafael Nadal being Wimbledon winners and Jim Courier and Andy Roddick being Wimbledon finalists. Outside of Wimbledon, grass is used sparingly, for smaller tournaments like Queens Club or Halle (unsurprisingly, both warm-ups for the All England Championships) though Newport boasts a grass tournament as well.

  • Clay courts are the polar opposite of grass in every possible way - while grass accentuates speed and lowers bounce, clay courts are notoriously slow and provide more extreme bounce. Thus, the surface rewards a more defensive mindset - instead of the all-out offense of a grass-courter, a typical clay-court player will utilize heavy topspin to move the opponent around the court, trying to force an error or generate a ball short enough to put away. This is easier said than done, of course, which is why clay matches can be very physically draining, though the resulting brand of tennis does reward point construction more than grass or hard courts do. Clay tournaments are played primarily in Europe, where the surface is more commonplace than hard courts - as a result, most of the notable clay-courters in tennis history are European, such as Rafael Nadal, Bjorn Borg (both possessing six French Open titles), Gustavo Kuerten and Sergi Bruguera. North Americans are not totally foreign to the surface, however, utilizing a slightly faster form of clay.

  • Hard courts are by far the most common kind of tennis courts in North America, and unlike the other two they can vary wildly in terms of speed and bounce. For instance, the hard courts used for the Australian Open (Rebound Ace, Plexicushion) have always had a lower speed and higher bounce then the courts used for the U.S Open (Deco Turf), despite both being hard courts. The surface itself is a reinforced cement base, with rubber or acrylic going on top depending on the desired playing characteristics. As a result, different types of hard courts suit different players; defenders like Andy Murray or Lleyton Hewitt may prefer slower playing hard courts, whereas more aggressive players like Novak Djokovic or Roger Federer would find their style more suited for faster courts. Ultimately a versatile surface, as it can reward all styles of play at one tournament or another.

Notable names in tennis:
  • Roger Federer: Currently World No. 3; he holds a record 16 Grand Slam titles. Was also World No. 1 for a very long time.
  • Andy Roddick: Formerly World No. 1; formerly held the record for the fastest serve, at 155 mph (250 km/h) before it was broken by Ivo Karlovic, who fired a 157 mph (251 km/h) serve in Davis Cup.
  • Rafael Nadal: Former World No. 1. One of only three people to achieve a singles Career Golden Slam, which entails winning all four Grand Slam championships and the Olympic gold medal. Extremely dominant on clay courts, holding six French Open singles championships.
  • Jimmy Connors: The first of the notable players to emerge at the advent of the Open Era, Jimmy Connors was a ferocious power baseliner whose heart and will were only matched by his pugnacious attitude towards others. Widely regarded as a tremendous asshole on court, Connors nevertheless is one of the game's greats, owning eight major titles and having played in three decades, with one of his most memorable moments coming in his run to the US Open semifinal at the age of 39 in 1992 before losing to Jim Courier.
  • John McEnroe: Retired ages ago, but still famous, notably for his hair-trigger temper as well as his devastating serve and volley prowess.
  • Bjorn Borg: Archrival of John Mc Enroe, nicknamed the Iceman because of his steely and cool demeanour on court. Famed for his prowess at the French Open, Borg won six championships at Roland Garros, tied for the lead with Rafael Nadal. His tireless baseline game was the model for claycourters in the years to come. Retired suddenly in 1983 and attempted a failed comeback in 1991.
  • Ivan Lendl: A name that's probably better regarded now then it was during the man's prime, Lendl took the Connors game plan and refined it, turning baseline tennis into a brutal slugfest and ushering in the era of the power-baseliner. Was not popular due to the politics of the time; at the heart of the Cold War, the robotic, seemingly emotionless Lendl was easy to root against, as Connors and Mc Enroe can attest to. Known for his power off the ground and his tendency to drill the ball straight at volleyers instead of attempting a passing shot.
  • Andre Agassi: One of the biggest legends in tennis; one of three people to achieve the singles Career Golden Slam. Retired due to spine issues. Known earlier in his career for his wild power off the ground, which gradually changed to a more measured, steady baseline attack in his later years.
  • Michael Chang: Known for being the first Asian male to win a major title (the 1987 French Open) at the age of seventeen. Chang was renowned for his frightening foot speed and retrieval ability, and was the first American to win a major in his generation, before being followed by Jim Courier, Pete Sampras, and Andre Agassi.
  • Steffi Graf: Mr. Agassi's lovely wife, who achieved a Career Year Golden Slam; i.e., doing the Career Golden Slam in the same year. Nicknamed "Fraulein Forehand" by fans due to the power and accuracy of her signature shot. Holder of 22 major titles.
  • Billie Jean King: Won 12 Grand Slam singles titles, 16 Grand Slam women's doubles titles, and 11 Grand Slam mixed doubles titles. In 1973, she won the second (and possibly most famous) "Battle of the Sexes", a three-set promotional match against former Wimbledon men's singles champion Bobby Riggs. Long an advocate for women's equality in sport and society, she is the founder of the Women's Tennis Association, the Women's Sports Foundation, and owner of World Team Tennis, which was founded by her former husband, Larry King and three others.
  • Chris Evert: Won 18 Grand Slam singles championships, including a record seven championships at the French Open and a record six championships at the U.S. Open. She was the year-ending World No. 1 singles player in 1975, 1976, 1977, 1980, and 1981. Her career win-loss record in singles matches of 1,309-146 (.900) is the best of any professional player in tennis history. Known for her calm, steely demeanor on court, she was nicknamed the "Ice Maiden" of tennis.
  • Martina Navratilova: Won 18 Grand Slam singles titles, 31 Grand Slam women's doubles titles (an all-time record), and 10 Grand Slam mixed doubles titles; she is the only man or woman to have won 8 different tournaments at least 7 times. Originally from Czechoslovakia, she asked for political asylum in the US in 1975, was stripped of her Czech citizenship (later restored by the Czech Republic), and became a US citizen in 1981. She also came out as a lesbian in 1981, and she has been an activist for gay rights, filing a lawsuit in 1992 against Amendment 2 (a Colorado ballot proposition designed to deny legal protections to gays and lesbians overturned in Romer v. Evans).
  • Maureen Connolly Brinker: Also known as Little Mo, she was the first woman, and only the second person, to win the world's four major "Grand Slam" tennis titles in the same year (1953). She lost only one set in those four tournaments. Her retirement was sadly short-lived; she died after a three-year battle with stomach cancer at 34.
  • Serena and Venus Williams: Powerhouse sisters; achieved a doubles Career Golden Slam together. Playing in singles, they have been pitted against each other eight times in Grand Slam finals. In addition to their remarkable achievements, they are also distinctive for being the most successful African American players ever, for either gender.
  • Pete Sampras: Held the world record for Grand Slam singles titles until Roger Federer stole his thunder. However, he still has the record for being ranked World No. 1 for the most years in a row, with six years under his belt. Widely regarded as one of the greatest grass-courters of all time, holding a record seven Wimbledon titles.
  • Anna Kournikova: Russian women's tennis is exceptional in general (they dominated so much in Beijing '08 that all women's medal matches were between Russians), but Miss Kournikova stands out from the crowd. Typically more successful in doubles than singles (she has partnered with both Julie Halard and Martina Hingis). She retired in 2003 due to injuries, but not before getting six doubles titles under her belt and a World No. 1 doubles standing in 1999. Unfortunately, her singles career did not live up to the lofty expectations placed on her, as she never won a WTA title during her career.

Need more notable names and more examples of the sport in media, pl0x.

Representations of tennis in media

  • The Prince of Tennis (durr)
  • In Never Back Down, the reason for the move that kicks off the plot is the tennis stardom of the main character's little brother.
  • Woody Allen's Match Point
  • Agatha Christie's mystery novel Towards Zero has a tennis champion as a main suspect of the murder. This become a plot point: The victim had been stricken in the front-right side of the head, which was taken as an indication that the murderer was left-handed. In the end the tennis champion turns out to be the murderer, even though he was right-handed; he had used his signature backhand stroke.
Community Feedback Replies: 19
  • March 1, 2011
    JohnDiFool
    <ahem> Pete Sampras and Andre Agassi <ahem> Not to mention all the premier women's players over the years.
  • March 2, 2011
    AlexRandom
    For the tennis in media list: Woody Allen's Match Point.
  • March 2, 2011
    Aminatep
    Russian women's tennis (female tennis? how do you call this?) is maybe above average. And by above average I mean in Beijing, 2008, matches for all medals were between members of Russian team, because they destroyed everybody else first. They won Fed Cup four times during the last decade.

    Russian players are always in WTA top, often winning it as well.

    Anna Kournikova is maybe one of the most famous tennis players (at least female tennis players) in the world. Her name was amongst the top search requests in Google for some time. Maria Sharapova was the top player too recently, and quite renown as well. Yevgeny Kafelnikov has, amongst other things, a gold medal, two single GS, four double GS, and he is the last man yet to get a single and a double Grand Slam in the same tourney.
  • March 2, 2011
    randomsurfer
    In 1993 Monica Seles was stabbed in the neck during a match by a crazed fan of Steffi Graf.
  • March 2, 2011
    alezarate
    Maybe a section on the Davis Cup? It's weird to read no mention of it.
  • March 5, 2011
    somerandomdude
    Shameless bump.
  • March 5, 2011
    callsignecho
    Don't forget to mention that a tie at 40-all is called "deuce" for no particular reason, and you can say five instead of fifteen when calling the score.

    Also, perhaps a clever pothole might point out that--while admittedly Anna Kournikova could beat the bloomers off any of my tennis partners--for some reason she had a vastly disproportionate amount of fame for someone who never ranked higher than eighth in the world.
  • March 5, 2011
    robotsy
    @callsignecho: About Anna Kournikova's disproportionate fame (and other women's sports), sometimes Rule Of Sexy is more important than genuine ability.
  • March 6, 2011
    JCCyC
    A few amendments to the scoring section: Sets, the second scoring layer, are groups of games, usually played until one player reaches 6 games; but as with games, they must win by a margin of 2. As this used to lead to very long sets, a tie-breaker game is now played when the score reaches 6-6. However, there is no tie-breaker in the final set of some events, such as the Grand Slam championships apart from the US Open, so occasionally very long sets still occur (e.g. at Wimbledon in 2010, John Isner and Nicolas Mahut had a 5th set that lasted for over 8 freaking hours, finishing at 70-68). Finally, matches are largely to sets as sets are to games, but are typically best-of-3 sets, or best-of-5 sets in some men's events.

    Some other players probably worth a mention: Martina Navratilova, Billie-Jean King, Rod Laver. Going further back: Maureen Connolly, Don Budge, Bill Tilden, Suzanne Lenglen and the "Four Musketeers" (Cochet, Borotra, Lacoste & Brugnon).
  • March 6, 2011
    callsignecho
    @robotsy: Yes, that's what I was getting at.
  • March 7, 2011
    Frank75
    The name is Steffi Graf, with one f at the end.

    In Germany, tennis became very popular after Steffi Graf, Boris Becker and Michael Stich had great success in The Eighties. Before, football (soccer) was almost the only sport covered by TV and having vocal fans.
  • August 14, 2011
    AlexRandom
    For the Media section: Agatha Christie's mystery novel Towards Zero has a tennis champion as a main suspect of the murder. This become a plot point: The victim had been stricken in the front-right side of the head, which was taken as an indication that the murderer was left-handed. In the end the tennis champion turns out to be the murderer, even though he was right-handed; he had used his signature backhand stroke.
  • August 15, 2011
    69BookWorM69
    You should add a few more women:

    • Martina Navratilova won 18 Grand Slam singles titles, 31 Grand Slam women's doubles titles (an all-time record), and 10 Grand Slam mixed doubles titles; she is the only man or woman to have won 8 different tournaments at least 7 times. Originally from Czechoslovakia, she asked for political asylum in the US in 1975, was stripped of her Czech citizenship (later restored by the Czech Republic), and became a US citizen in 1981. She also came out as a lesbian in 1981, and she has been an activist for gay rights, filing a lawsuit in 1992 against Amendment 2 (a Colorado ballot proposition designed to deny legal protections to gays and lesbians overturned in Romer v. Evans).

    • Billie Jean King won 12 Grand Slam singles titles, 16 Grand Slam women's doubles titles, and 11 Grand Slam mixed doubles titles. In 1973, she won the second (and possibly most famous) "Battle of the Sexes", a three-set promotional match against former Wimbledon men's singles champion Bobby Riggs. Long an advocate for women's equality in sport and society, she is the founder of the Women's Tennis Association, the Women's Sports Foundation, and owner of World Team Tennis, which was founded by her former husband, Larry King and three others.

    • Chris Evert won 18 Grand Slam singles championships, including a record seven championships at the French Open and a record six championships at the U.S. Open. She was the year-ending World No. 1 singles player in 1975, 1976, 1977, 1980, and 1981. Her career win-loss record in singles matches of 1,309-146 (.900) is the best of any professional player in tennis history. Known for her calm, steely demeanor on court, she was nicknamed the "Ice Maiden" of tennis.

    • Maureen "Little Mo" Connolly Brinker was the first woman, and only the second person, to win the world's four major "Grand Slam" tennis titles in the same year (1953). She lost only one set in those four tournaments. Her retirement was sadly short-lived; she died after a three-year battle with stomach cancer at 34.

    BTW I think you mention that the Williams sisters are African-American; surely that's as notable as Michael Chang's race, given the predominance of Caucasians in the professional tennis ranks.

    As a technical point, you might have a bit about the different surfaces (grass, clay, hard acrylic, wood/parquet) on which the game is played. I understand it makes a difference to playing style, and the Grand Slam tournaments are played on different surfaces (Wimbeldon on grass, the French Open on clay, the Australian and US Opens on hard acrylic).
  • August 16, 2011
    jaytee
    No mention of Federer's extremely long stint as the world no. 1? Why does he only get "current no. 3"?
  • August 17, 2011
    69BookWorM69
    Another technical point or two:

    • an explanation of the term "open era" would be useful.
    • Tennis was part of the Summer Olympic Games program from the inaugural 1896 Summer Olympics, but was dropped after the 1924 Summer Olympics. Though it was a demonstration sport twice, it didn't return as a full medal sport until the 1988 Summer Olympics and has been played at every edition of the Games since then. Thus many legendary players couldn't win Golden Grand Slams in their careers.

    and one more bio:
    • Arthur Ashe is the only black man to ever win the singles title at Wimbledon, the US Open, or Australian Open; is the first man of black African ancestry to win a Grand Slam singles title (the second being France's Yannick Noah, who won the French Open in 1983); and was the first black player ever selected to the United States Davis Cup team. He was a civil rights activist, getting arrested twice during protests against apartheid and anti-Haitian discrimination, and he founded NGOs to combat AIDS and address inadequate health care delivery in cities. His tennis career was cut short by heart disease (requiring surgery in 1979); he contracted HIV from the blood transfusions he had received during his second heart surgery (1983), which ultimately led to his death in 1993.
  • August 31, 2011
    elwoz
    The ball has to bounce twice in-bounds to be dead, isn't it? Also, the scoring system makes more sense if you know that in lawn tennis' parent game, court tennis, the scoring goes 0-15-30-45-game, six games win a set, and there's no "must be up by two" rule at either level. Thus, the first player to 360 points -- a complete circle -- wins the set. Lawn tennis changed 45 to 40 because it was easier to distinguish from 15 when shouted over crowd noise, according to some book in the Imponderables series that I read many years ago and can't remember the full title of.
  • September 1, 2011
    SKJAM
    Arthur Ashe is also for some reason a favorite of cruciverbalists.
  • February 18, 2012
    Catbert
    Is anyone still working on this?
  • February 22, 2012
    Catbert
    I don't know beans about tennis, but is there any reason this can't be launched right now in its current format? Not like we need to do a bio of every tennis player ever or reproduce the entire rulebook for tennis. I'm thinking what we have right now is adequete.
http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/discussion.php?id=5t3bgnq9frggii9x8m02lubs