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Tuesday, December 5, 2023
Tennis Match

Tennis – Know the History, Rules and How to Play


History of tennis

Tennis - a black and white image represents history
Image Source: www.hhhistory.com

The popular belief is that the history of tennis dates back to thousands of years. And the place of origin would be Greece, Rome or Egyptian civilization.

Some historical hints pointed to an Egyptian town ‘Tinnis’ and the Arabic word ‘Rahat’. By the way, the word rhymes with the word ‘racquet’ which means ‘palm’.

Some ancient carvings in Egypt which belong to 1500 BC, also depicted a similar game.

In the 11th or 12th century, French monks created a courtyard ball game ‘Jeu de Paume.’ The name indicates “game of hand.”

It is also believed that the word tennis came from the French word ‘tenez.’ Moreover, tenez means ‘hold,’ ‘receive,’ ‘take heed’ or ‘to take.’ It could be a ritual that the players serve the opponent by shouting ‘tenez.’

They played the game against walls or over a rope and played it mostly during religious ceremonies. In addition, the rules and regulations of Jeu de Paume’s resembled modern-day tennis. But the rules were a little more complicated.

Indoor courts came into use in the place of courtyard playing areas. They still used the wall to hit the ball, and the game became widespread and popular in Europe.

People began to use leather gloves to cover their bare hands. Then began to use a wooden paddle to hit the ball with convenience.

By the 13th century, the game was a popular sport in France, and there were about 1800 courts in use. People participated vigorously, which tempted the Pope and Louis IV to ban the game citing moral grounds.

The game reached all levels, and even the nobility like Henry VII and Henry VIII of England played it interestingly.

By the year 1500, the racket became standard equipment that resembled a squash racket. The strings made of sheep gut and a wooden frame were in use in making the racket.

The use of net across which people began to hit the ball came into use, and they no longer used the wall. The word ‘tennis’ referred to the game, and people later used the word ‘real tennis.’

In 1599, the rules of real tennis became official, and the game gained much popularity in Europe. In the 17th century, nobility from many European countries played the game.

However, the time of puritanism in the English empire and the besieging of royal families during the Napolean era were setbacks to the game.

Real tennis found its revival during Victorian England. But the game of lawn tennis became more popular due to its lesser difficulty. Moreover, female players also began to participate in the game.

In 1850, the process of vulcanization came into use, and people started to experiment with rubber balls on grass floors. It paved the way for the beginning of lawn tennis.

In 1873, Walter Clopton Wingfield, a British Army Officer, patented a game called Sphairistikè. Sphairistikè means ‘skill in playing at the ball.’ He included many elements from real tennis and it had close resemblance with modern-day tennis.

Sphairistikè included rackets, rubber balls, and the court was in the shape of an hourglass. It was smaller in size than the modern-day court. The net was taller than the one used today.

People began to call Sphairistikè as lawn tennis as they played the game on the grass courts.

Mary Ewing Outerbridge who played lawn tennis in Bermuda introduced the game in the United States by setting up a court in Newyork. The court in the State Island Cricket and Baseball Club was in the shape of an hourglass.

At the All England Club Croquet, the first Wimbledon tennis tournament began in 1877. Then the modern rectangular court came into the place of the original hourglass court.

The tournament was a success and tennis began to gain its prominence. It continues with the same rules and regulations. But the only change to mention is the introduction of the tie-break in 1971.

To know more about the history of Tennis and evolution

Rules of Tennis

Tennis player and an umpire argues
Image Source: www.independent.co.uk

The tossing of a coin decides the player who starts the service and the side from which he/she serves.

The baseline is the mark from which the server serve each point from alternate sides. While serving, the player must stay behind the baseline.

The player gets the second serve if he fails to make it in the first one. It is a double fault, and he doesn’t get the point if he fails in the second service too.

If the ball touches the net but reaches the service area, then the umpire will call it as ‘let’ and the player can serve again without penalty. If the ball hits the net and fails to make it into the service area that will result in ‘out’ and the player will lose the service.

The receiver may stand where he/she wishes while receiving the service. The ball should reach the receiver with a bounce. The direct hitting of the ball fetches the point to the receiver.

There is no limitation in the number of shots between the players after the service of the ball. To earn a point the player has to hit the ball so that the opponent could not return the ball in scoring areas.

For each winning shot, the player gets the points, and the points are in scores of 15, 30 and 40.
Here 15 represents 1 point, 30 equals 2 points and 40 equals 3 points.

The player needs 4 points to win a game. ‘Deuce’ is the point where the game is at 40-40. To win the game from deuce, the player has to score two consecutive points.

‘Advantage; is the point where the player scores one point from ‘Deuce.’ When the player scores one more point, he wins the game and losing it will get back to ‘Deuce.’

To win a set, the player has to win six games by two or more. There will be a tie break if the opening sets end up in 6-6. In the tie break, the players have to play one to seven points. However, there will be no tiebreaker for the final set. And the players have to win by two games with no limits.

Touching the net, distracting the opponent and impeding the play in any way will result in losing the point for the offender.

If the ball hits any part of the line, the ball is in, and when the ball hits outside the line, it is ‘out.’

The tennis ball is changed for every six games.

The player loses a point if he fails to return the ball to the correct areas of the court, hits the net and doesn’t go into the opponent’s area and fails to return the ball before it bounces twice.

Tennis Court

A tennis court is a rectangular firm venue with a low net across its center. International competitions follow the same dimensions.

The court is the same one for playing singles or doubles matches, but the surface of the court varies by the materials used for its preparation.

International Tennis Federation – ITF defines and regulates the rules and regulations of the game. The rules are in the written format in the annual ‘Rules of Tennis’ document.

The court is 78 feet in length and 27 feet in width for singles matches and the width varies to 36 feet for doubles matches.

The service line lies at 21 feet from the net. The additional clear space around the court, which is to handle the overrun balls, measures 120 feet in length and 60 feet in width.

The measurement of the net is 3 feet 6 inches high at the posts, and 3 feet high at the center. It runs parallel to the baseline and divides the court into two halves. The net posts stand at 3 feet outside the court on each side.

The ITF also prescribes smaller courts for children with slower red, orange, and green balls. The “Orange court” which measures 18 m by 6.4 m is for the children who are ten years and under ten years in age.

For children under eight years, “Red” courts that measure 11 m long and 5.5 m wide are in use. In both courts, the net is always at 0.8 m high in the center.


The playing surface has its impact on the game and the outcome of the results. There are a variety of surfaces in use in Tennis according to the materials used, and the four main types are clay courts, hard courts, grass courts, and carpet courts.

The ITF lists different surfaces and classified them into five categories based on the pace-setting as slow, medium-slow, medium, medium-fast, and fast.

Clay Courts

Tennis clay court

The materials used in the preparation of clay courts are crushed shale, stone, or brick. Among the major tournaments, the French Open is the only Grand Slam tournament to use clay courts.

Clay courts produce high bounces when compared with the grass or hard courts and the clay courts actually slow down the ball. The players who dominate the game with high serves find it difficult in the clay courts as it takes away the advantages of high serves.

When compared with the grass and hard courts, it is cheaper to construct but maintaining demands more money. The people in charge of the maintenance roll over it to maintain the flatness and the court should have slopes to aid the water run-off.

Grass courts

Tennis grass court

In grass courts, the grass is grown on tightly packed soil. The grass and the texture of the court vary the conditions of play, and the conditions differ much from clay courts and hard courts.

The bouncing of the ball depends on the thickness of the grass, the mowing of the grass and the wear and tear on the court. In grass courts points scoring is quick as the low bounces help in producing short rallies.

The courts favor the players who are best at serve and volley. The maintenance costs are higher as the courts require frequent watering and mowing. Draining of water or drying it after rain is also difficult.

Hard Court

Tennis hard court

Hard courts consist of rigid material which spreads uniformly. The rigid surface has an acrylic layer which gives the player greater bounce than any other courts.

The amount of sand added to the paint on the surface decides the slowing rate of the ball and the hard courts are faster than clay and not as fast as grass courts.

The US Open and the Australian Open are played on the acrylic hard court surfaces.

Carpet Court

These courts are with removable court covering, and so the name carpet is in use. In some indoor courts, people use rolls of rubber court surfaces.

The surfaces will be rolled out to use it for temporary tennis events, and the surface is not in use in professional games.

Players also use artificial turf which uses sand for filling in some places. Carpet Court is a fast surface and offers low bounce. It’s faster than hard court.

Equipment in Tennis

Only racket and balls are required to play tennis, and this simple requirement of equipment makes the game more popular.


The tennis racket has a handle which is known as grip. The handle is connected to a neck that joins an elliptical frame. The frame holds tightly tied strings, which is the area used to hit the ball.

For many years, modern games used the rackets made of wood of standard size and strings were of animal gut.

In most of the 20th century, laminated wood construction was in use, which provided more strength to the rackets. Then rackets made of metals and composite materials such as carbon graphite, ceramics and lighter metals like titanium were used.

The use of lighter materials enables the production of oversized rackets and the use of synthetic fibers in place of animal guts to give the same feeling with more durability. The modern rackets yield more power than the old wooden rackets.

The rules of modern tennis provide the following guidelines to rackets

The elliptical frame has the tightly held strings and is the hitting area. The hitting area must be flat and uniform.

The frame of the hitting area measures 29 inches in length and12.5 inches in width.

The racket should be of standard shape, size, weight, and weight distribution. It should not include any additional material to give more strength.

With the progress in engineering, the rules regarding the rackets also change over time. Until 1997, the maximum length of the frame was 32 inches. And then it was changed to 29 inches.


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In olden days, cloth strips stitched together with feathers stuffed inside was used as a ball. Nowadays balls are made of hollow vulcanized rubber with a felt coating.

Initially, the ball was white in color, then changed into optic yellow color to aid visibility.

As per the ITF regulation, the diameter of the ball should be 65.41- 68.58 mm and it should weigh between 56.0 g and 59.4 g.

The tennis ball should conform to ITF standards for size, weight, deformation, and bounce. For playing in international tournaments and authorized competitions, the balls should conform to these regulations.

How to play Tennis

A tennis racket, standard balls, dresses, and shoes are basic things every person who wants to play the game should have.

Then getting familiar with the tennis court and knowing the rules and regulations of the game is an essential part of a beginner to start with.

Practice by playing the actual game

In tennis, the game consists of sets and each set has at least six games. The play doesn’t end with six games. The player has to score at least two games more than the opponent to win a set.

If a player won six games while the opponent won five games, the play would continue until the player gets the two games lead. If both players win six-games each, then the tie-breaker will be in force to decide the winner.

Get used to your racket

Any player has to start with practice hitting the ball by throwing it higher. There is no need for accuracy of the shots at the beginning. Hitting hard and getting the feel of the racket and the ball is the essential factor in the initial phase.

Practice Forehand Stroke

The dominant hand of the player is in use for forehand stroke. To get the maximum force, the player should hold the racket and hold it by the end of the handle like handshaking with it.

While swinging the player should move the racket from the back and hits the ball outward and upward. This shot is best suitable for softer and higher serves.

Practice Backhand Stroke

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In playing a backhand stroke, both hands are in use. During playing the stroke, the player holds the racket with both hands and holds it outside the body like a baseball hold his bat.

The player hits the ball with a slight upward angle, and this shot ensures the landing of the ball in the service area. In a one-handed backhand stroke, which is a little difficult to manage, the player uses his dominant hand to hit the ball.

Practice Volley

When the player faces the low serve, he/she uses ‘volley’ to return it. There are backhand and forehand volleys.

In the forehand volley, the player holds the racket with his dominant hand, and the back of his hand faces the baseline. In the backhand volley, the backside of the hand faces the net, and the swinging action resembles like elbowing someone out.

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Play the Game

Choose the Server by Toss

The player who starts the service gets the chance by tossing a coin. In most cases, the other player decides the side of the court from which he/she starts the play.

Start From the Baseline Corner

The player who starts the service stands at the baseline and a corner of the court. He stands behind the baseline and won’t touch it while the opponent stands at the opposite corner of the court in his/her side.

How to Hold the Racket

There is no recommended and standard position to hold the racket. But holding the racket out and holding it with the handle is the norm in usual practice.

Players grip the racket firmly with the dominant hand and extend the racket till the head of the racket is parallel to the head of the player.

Players hold the racket with both hands while they are not serving and the dominant hand will be at the upper side and the other hand at the lower side of the handle.

How to Serve the Ball

While serving, players toss the ball up so that it comes back to the racket in return. Tossing the ball some more times without touching the racket and bouncing the ball a few times before start serving, are in practice, which helps in getting the feel of the ball.

Furthermore, the player has to strike the ball hard when it approaches the head of the racquet and hit it diagonally opposite towards the opponent’s service area.

If the ball hits the net and reaches the opponent, it is known as ‘let,’ and the server gets another chance to serve. Otherwise, if the ball stays on the same side, goes out of bounds or missing the service altogether, it is a ‘fault.’ If a double fault happens in one service, the opponent gets the point.

Move Fast to The Opposite Corner

Immediately after serving the ball, the player has to rush to the other end of the baseline to tackle the return from the opponent. While facing the service, the player has to hit the ball firmly with the face of the racket pointed slightly upward.

Continue the Play and Win

After starting the service, the game will continue with getting points. Winning points add games, and games add more sets. It goes on until the match is won by anyone of the players.

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