From King Henry to Novak Đoković

Thu 23 Mar 2023

For some, tennis is a white sport whereas for others it is a sport of kings. Some call tennis an aristocratic sport and others simply call it tennis. The game that garners the attention of millions of people across the globe every year is not limited to age groups because it is never too early to start playing tennis and it is never too late to stop playing tennis.

You learn about tennis and play tennis as long as you live. It is a sport for all generations. A sport that makes Serbia proud and, owing to World. No. 1 Novak Đoković, it is a sport that puts Serbia on a global map.

Although widely popular, many still wonder why the white sport is called white and whether it was invented by sailors or doctors, or the game was actually invented by the French monks for fun.

According to some sources, tennis was played in the ancient Egypt and Persia whereas other claim that tennis has been invented by the Romans and the Greeks whereas the Chinese have their own theory too. Having in mind that there is only a handful of evidence that tennis was played before Christ was born, the majority agrees that the French monks might have invented tennis in the 11th century. The French monks used to hit the ball with a palm of their hand. In order to protect their hands, later on, players start wearing gloves and the gloves were, in time, replaced with wooden tennis rackets that had strings made of the elastic outer skin of sheep intestine.

But why the white sport is called white?

Back at the beginning of the 19th century, tennis was played in white clothes, played by the aristocrats for fun (which is why they call it a white sport) and Wimbledon is the only tournament that remains loyal to this tradition in the 21st century. By the way, tennis is also called the sport of kings and not by accident. Henry VIII, king of England, was a real fan of this game and even built a tennis court at Hampton Court Palace in 1529. The royalty was also “infected” by this sport and not even papal bans could have prevented them from playing. The game was so popular that even Shakespeare mentioned tennis in his work.

Why is tennis played in silence and who minded the noise?

We often see that modern tennis players ask the umpire to silence the crowd during the game or their serve. It is not by accident, and it is not a player’s caprice. The rule has been established a couple of centuries ago. Tennis is a sport that does not accept any obscene language or hysterics, which is why it is played in silence. However, it is believed that the real reason why tennis is played in silence is respect. At the very moment when a player used to prepare for a serve ages ago, when tennis was still being played only in the presence of the French kings, he would yell the word tenez to their opponent to signal to them to “hold!”, “receive!” or “take!”. This word was the very signal for everyone to take their place and stop talking. Not even the king was allowed to talk during the point out of respect for the player.

Have tennis balls always been yellow and why exactly they are yellow?

First tennis balls were made of leather skin and filled with human or animal hair. A rubber ball was first used in tennis in 1870. Before 1972, balls were either black of white, and then they were replaced with the yellow ones.

Analyses have shown that the most visible tennis balls are orange. That is why it was expected the initial balls to be orange. However, the decision was made to have yellow balls because TV spectators find yellow much more visible. Tennis balls approved by the ITF – the International Tennis Federation weigh between 56.5 and 58.5 grams and have 6.5 cm in diameter. They are made of rubber whilst their covering is made of specific fibre, the so-called felt cloth. In time, felt cloth wears out which is why it can become fuzzy and reduce the resistance to wind, speed and bouncing.

When did the switch from glove to racquets occur?

Tennis equipment experienced the most significant change when gloves were replaced by racquets. Wooden sticks were first used, and then they were replaced with wooden racquets that actually look a lot like today’s racquets but have a smaller “head”, namely smaller hitting service than today. We have different information in relation to the origins of the first tennis racquet. The majority of historians agree that something resembling today’s tennis racquet first appeared in France. What is certain is that the first real tennis racquet was made in England in the 19th century, officially in 1874.  It was patented by Mayor Walter Clopton Wingfield, made of solid wood, very heavy and very big. Wooden racquets were used for almost 100 years. They were constantly improved in order to make them lighter, more flexible and to give better control. A major change  occurred in 1947 when the racquet was made of laminated wood and some players switched to such racquets because they were lighter. Eight-time singles Grand Slam champion Jimmy Connors was the first tennis player with a metal racquet; it was a racquet made of steel. Later on, aluminium racquets appeared, followed by graffiti racquets that are still being upgraded. The tennis racquet’s weight ranged mainly between 300 and 330 grams, without strings.

Have tennis courts always been the same and what does sand clock have to do with it?

First tennis courts had the shape of a sand clock and in 1875 were transformed into the shape we know today. There are two service courts, left and right, and, depending on the side you serve from, you need to throw the ball to the other side. There is a difference in the surface too:

*Grass courts are the fastest because the surface is softer, tennis balls do not bounce so high and that’s why players must move more quickly than on hard surfaces.

*Clay courts are made of crushed shale stone or brick (which is why they have that particular red colour) and they are considered slower because the ball bounces relatively high and loses much of its initial speed in comparison with grass.

*Hard courts are made of concrete or plastic and they are suitable for almost all tennis players.

How many games do we need to end a set?

Tennis game consists of points, games and sets. Serves alternate and set is won by a player who wins at least six games and has at least two or more games than the opponent. The winner is the player who wins two, during Grand Slams, even three sets, with two sets for women tennis players.

Where do you eat strawberries and why they are important for tennis?

Wimbledon, the symbol of tradition, tennis in white clothing and indispensable strawberries and cream! Wimbledon is one of the most important tennis tournaments in the world played on grass courts. The British people are very traditional, which is why tennis is always played in white clothes. However, that’s not the only reason. Back in the day (19th century) sweat stains were considered improper and unsightly, especially when it comes to women so, having in mind that perspiration is not quite so obvious in white clothing, the tennis whites mandate has become the trademark of Wimbledon. Wimbledon’s strawberries and cream is another great British tradition. They are sold at the very entrance to the stands. Approximately 24 tonnes of strawberries are purchased ahead of the tournament.

Why is a French pilot important for Paris and the second Grand Slam in the tennis season?

Roland-Garros is the second Grand Slam (GS) event in a tennis season. Roland-Garros is also known as the French Open. Who was Roland Garros? Roland Garros was a French pilot and a WWI hero, hit by ground fire and captured during the war. He loved tennis and asked a friend to bring him a racquet during his time in prison. He escaped after sending coded messages to France arranging for a map of Germany to be delivered in the hollow handle of a tennis racket. When he had received a map, Roland escaped prison and France welcomed him as a hero. He liked to visit the place where the second GS in the season takes place and that is why the tournament is named after him. Roland-Garros was the first Grand Slam tournament to join the Open Era.

Why audience at Wimbledon experienced “saddle sores”?

The longest tennis match in history lasted 11 hours and 5 minutes between US tennis player John Isner and French Nicolas Mahut at Wimbledon in 2010.

Is there a money refund for a tennis match under 30 minutes?

No. The shortest tennis match in recorded history lasted 28 minutes and 20 seconds. It was played by Bernard Tomic and Jarkko Nieminen in Miami.

Who has faster and stronger serve: Venus or Serena Williams?

Venus Williams hit the fastest recorded serve, reaching a speed of 209 km/h. Her sister, Serena, hit the second fastest serve, 208 km/h. The serve speed of 263 km/h recorded by Australian Sam Groth at an ATP Challenger event in South Korean Busan in 2012 is the fastest serve among men.

Was the first computer game related to tennis?

Back in 1958, US physicist William Higinbotham created the game Tennis for Two  curious visitors in a nuclear physics lab in New York played for fun.

When was the International Tennis Federation founded?

The International Tennis Federation was founded in 1924 and its main goal was to establish general rules and, naturally, promote tennis as a sport. Davis Cup competition began in 1900. The Fed Cup, the women’s equivalent of the Davis Cup was first organised sixty-three years ago.

What is the Open Era and when did it start?

We refer to tennis starting in 1968 as the Open Era because the Grand Slam tournaments agreed to allow professional players to compete alongside amateurs. This decision made a huge impact on tennis because the decision enabled professionals, especially better players, to making a living doing it. Four years later,  the ATP Tour, in charge of players’ rankings and administering tournaments, was founded. The WTA is the equivalent of the ATP Tour for women.

Why are London, Paris, Melbourne and New York important for tennis?

The most prestigious and the most attended tennis tournaments are Grand Slams. Wimbledon is the oldest tennis tournament in world, founded in 1877, followed by US Open (1881), Roland-Garros (1891) and, finally, Australian Open (1905). These four tournaments are very prestigious because they give the most points and prize money to winners and they also gather the best world male and female tennis players in the world.

Who is the record holder of most weeks spent as World No. 1?

The ATP Rankings began on August 23, 1973. Since then, 28 players were ranked No. 1. Novak Đoković is the record holder of most weeks spent as World No. 1. Đoković spent unprecedented 380 consecutive weeks as World No. 1.

How short was the shortest Grand Slam final?

The shortest Grand Slam final in history took place in 1982. Steffi Graf won 6–0, 6–0, against Natasha Zvereva in the French Open in 32 minutes.

The world’s largest tennis venue is named after?

Arthur Ashe was the first African-American male tennis player to win the US Open. Ashe won in 1968. The main stadium of the US Open tennis tournament is named after him.

Why is pineapple important for Wimbledon?

There is a pineapple adorning the top of the Wimbledon gentlemen’s singles trophy. According to one story, British sailors used to announce their return by decorating their houses with a pineapple and this is a way to honour them.