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Tennis, as well as being an exciting sport, is a practice that transcends the courts, becoming a cultural and social phenomenon.

With a rich history full of legends such as Roger Federer and Serena Williams, this game of skill and strategy is a true phenomenon.

Whether on clay, grass or hard courts, the sport captivates everyone from sports lovers to those who appreciate the elegance and precision of the players’ movements.

In this complete and up-to-date guide, you’ll learn about the history of tennis, as well as the main rules, championships and players.

Check it out 👇

Tennis basics

Tennis is a sport that combines physical, mental and strategic skills. In its most traditional form, the game is played between two opponents or two doubles, each positioned on opposite sides of a rectangular court.

Right in the middle of the arena is a net. The main mechanic of the game, therefore, is to hit a small yellow ball into the opponent’s side. To do this, the athletes use a racket with strings on its surface.

Using the strength of their arms and the positioning of their legs, players perform a series of techniques with the aim of scoring points.

Matches are divided into sets. A player or team must win a predetermined number of sets to win the match.

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When and where did tennis originate?

Doris Hart
Doris Hart

The roots of the sport emerged in 12th century France. Initially, the early version of tennis was known as “jeu de paume” (palm game) and was played indoors, using the hands to hit a ball.

Over time, the sport evolved and the use of rackets began to gain popularity in various cities across the country.

The real birth of tennis, as we know it today, took place in England during the 19th century when, in 1873, a major called Walter Wingfield developed an outdoor game called “sphairistike”.

Wingfield wrote down the rules of the game (many of which are still used today) and began selling a kit with rackets and balls.

This new sport quickly spread through British high society and then to other parts of the world.

The year 1877 marks a turning point in the history of the sport, with the first tournament, known as Wimbledon, being held in London.

This championship became the oldest and most prestigious tennis event in the world, laying the foundations for the sport’s continued popularisation and development both inside and outside the UK.

Since then, the sport has gained a prominent place on the global sporting scene, expanding to different surfaces such as clay, grass and hardcourt, and gaining a legion of passionate fans.

The history of tennis has been marked by great champions, historic moments and constant evolution, consolidating its position as a sport that is very popular in the world.

Tennis categories

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  • Singles: played between two players;
  • Doubles: played between two teams of two players each;
  • Mixed: played between two teams of one man and one woman each.

What’s the tennis court like?

The dimensions are standardised by the International Tennis Federation (ITF) and vary depending on whether the court is used for singles or doubles matches.

Singles courts are 8.23 metres wide by 23.7 metres long. Doubles courts are 10.9 metres wide by 23.7 metres long.

The court lines also have specific dimensions. The side lines are 5 centimetres wide, while the back lines are 10 centimetres wide.

The space between the singles line and the doubles line on each side of the court is known as the “alley” or “corridor” area. In singles matches, these areas are not used, but in doubles matches, they are part of the court.

These dimensions are applied internationally in official competitions, including Grand Slam events (such as Wimbledon and the US Open).

Keeping these dimensions standardised is key to ensuring consistency and fairness in tennis matches around the world.

Types of tennis court

  • Gravel: clay surface composed mainly of red clay. It is a slower court, absorbing the impact of the ball well;
  • Grass: natural surface made up of grass, providing fast speed and a low bounce of the ball;
  • Hard (or fast) surface: surface made of materials such as concrete, asphalt, acrylic, rubber or synthetic mixtures. It offers average playing speed and predictable bounce.

How does the tennis match work?

Tennis matches are played in a best-of-three sets or best-of-five sets format (depending on the championship).

In the first case, whoever wins two sets first wins the match. In the second case, whoever wins three sets first wins the match.

A set is divided into games. Each game consists of points. The first player to win four points wins the game.

To win a set, a player must win six games with a lead of at least two games.

When the set is level at six games for each player, a tiebreak is played. In this tie-break, the player who reaches seven points first wins (as long as the score is two points apart).

Tennis scoring system

  • Love: represents zero points;
  • 15: the first point scored by a player;
  • 30: the second point scored by a player;
  • 40: the third point scored by a player;
  • Deuce: when both players have a score of 40. From then on, one player must win two consecutive points to win the game;
  • Advantage: when a player wins the next point after the deuce, they have the advantage.

NOTE: When an athlete who was trailing wins the next point, the game returns to deuce. This dynamic goes on endlessly until someone wins two consecutive points and closes out the game.

Tennis fundamentals

Melhores sacadores de tênis de todos os tempos
Rafael Nadal
  • Forehand: Stroke executed with the front of the dominant hand, generally more powerful and used for balls arriving from the opposite side;
  • Backhand: hit with the back of the dominant hand. It can be played with one or two hands, depending on the player’s preference and technique;
  • First serve: the initial blow that starts each point. Players try to vary the direction, speed and effect of the serve in order to surprise their opponent;
  • Second serve: in the event of an error on the first serve, players have the chance to make a second serve. This is usually a little more conservative and aims to ensure that the ball goes into play;
  • Reception: the act of receiving the ball from a serve;
  • Volley: a hit executed close to the net, before the ball touches the ground. Volleys can be performed with the racket above or below the height of the net;
  • Lob: a shot that makes the ball make a high, deep arc, aiming to send it over the opponent’s head and land in the opponent’s court, usually near the baseline;
  • Smash: a powerful shot executed close to the net when the ball is high, usually after an opponent’s lob;
  • Movement: the ability to move quickly and efficiently around the court is crucial. This includes lateral movement, advancing to the net and retreating to the baseline.

Tennis rules

  • Bounce: the ball cannot bounce more than one time on the ground. The player can therefore hit it first time or after the ball has bounced once;
  • Service: must be played behind the back line of the court, between the side lines and below waist level. The player must keep at least one foot on the ground during the serve and may not take a step forwards until the ball has been hit;
  • Let: if the ball touches the net during a serve and lands correctly in the opponent’s court, a let is called and the serve is repeated;
  • Positioning: players must stand on opposite sides of the net and court to their opponent and switch sides every odd game;
  • Ball out: a ball is considered out if it bounces entirely beyond the side or end lines;
  • Point: a point can be scored in three ways – when the ball is hit into the opponent’s boundaries and they fail to send it back out to the other side; when the opponent hits the ball out of the court; or when the opponent hits the ball into the net and it fails to pass through to the other side;
  • Changing sides: players change sides of the court after the first, third and every odd game;
  • Electronic challenges: some tournaments allow players to challenge refereeing decisions using electronic review. They have a limited number of challenges, which varies from championship to championship;
  • Inappropriate conduct: unsportsmanlike behaviour, such as offensive language or physical abuse of the courts, can result in penalties, including loss of points or disqualification.

Tennis ball

Tennis balls are usually made of rubber coated with a layer of yellow-coloured felt. Felt is traditionally made of wool, but modern balls can use synthetic materials.

The standard diameter of a tennis ball is approximately 6.54 centimetres. They usually weigh 58 grams.

Tennis gear

  • Racquet: fundamental to the game, tennis racquets come in different sizes, weights and string patterns. This is how players hit the ball;
  • Tennis shoes: special shoes for playing the sport. There are appropriate models for each type of court;
  • Clothing: shorts, skirts, short-sleeved T-shirts, polo shirts, tank tops and tank tops are permitted. It is up to the players to choose the most comfortable clothing;
  • Accessories: players can use extra equipment, such as caps, visors, wristbands, knee pads and ankle pads, to protect themselves from the sun or to firm up injured parts of the body.

Major tennis tournaments

Grande Slam do tênis
Major tennis tournaments

There are several prestigious professional tournaments held throughout the year, the most important of which are known as Grand Slams.

They are: Australian Open (hard court), US Open (hard court), Roland-Garros (clay court) and Wimbledon (grass court).

In addition to the Grand Slams, there are also other important tournaments on the professional circuit, known as the ATP Tour (for men) and the WTA Tour (for women), which include events such as the ATP Finals, WTA Finals and Masters 1000.

These events contribute to players’ world rankings and offer significant cash prizes.

Greatest tennis players of all time

  • Roger Federer
  • Serena Williams
  • Rafael Nadal
  • Steffi Graf
  • Novak Djokovic
  • Martina Navratilova
  • Pete Sampras
  • Margaret Court
  • Roy Emerson
  • Helen Wills

Now you know all about tennis and are more than ready to watch the various championships that take place this season 👊

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