Tennis rules across the globe both as an exciting spectator sport and as a fun hobby. Tennis players run the gamut from highly paid professional athletes competing in major tournaments to amateurs dabbling with friends during the weekends. The able-bodied and people in wheelchairs can compete on the world’s tennis courts.
The popularity of tennis is likely enhanced by its flexibility as a sport. Tennis can be played at any time of year, indoors or outdoors, and by athletes of any age.
Whether they are pro athletes or amateur hobbyists, children or adults, the intent of tennis players is to hit a bouncing, felt-covered ball across a net into their rival’s court. Tennis matches are generally played as singles, which consists of two opponents; or played as doubles, which consists of two opposing teams with two players each. Tennis is once again an Olympic sport following a 60-year absence from the Games.
A tennis player’s equipment needs are simple, consisting only of a racquet, tennis balls and comfortable shoes and clothes.
A beginning tennis player should study his or her options before buying that first tennis racquet. Racquets come in a wide variety of materials, and with different traits that influence power, control, shock absorption and maneuverability. For example, the power of a tennis racquet is determined mainly by the head size, frame flexibility and string tension.
A decent aluminum racquet will cost as little as $30. But the price of a graphite racquet can soar to $300 or more.
Tennis racquets are generally classified as beginner, advanced or intermediate. A player should choose a racquet with a hitting area of 95 to 105 square inches if his or her athletic skills are better than average. A player should select a racquet with a hitting area up to 115 square inches if his or her athletic skills are less than average.
A novice tennis player will likely feel most comfortable with a racquet weighing between 10 ounces and 11.5 ounces.
Beginning tennis players should do their homework and learn what gauge of tennis strings, what type of strings and what string tension is best suited for their playing style, comfort and safety.
A tennis player’s shoes need to be comfortable and safe. Experts recommend wearing shoes that are specifically designed for playing tennis. Players have the option of choosing from a wide variety of specialized tennis shoes ranging from the inexpensive to costly, designer models.
Tennis experts warn that injuries can occur if running shoes are worn for tennis. This is because running shoes have a sole that is too unstable for the sideways moves that a player often makes on the tennis court.
A beginner should know what he or she wants in a tennis shoe. The varieties of upper materials offer different benefits. Canvas uppers stay cool and breathe well. Vinyl uppers offer firm support and rebuff external wetness, but vinyl uppers don’t breathe well and tend to get hot. Leather uppers give strong support and stay dry.
Tennis clothing should be comfortable. A tremendous variety of clothing is available for sale to the more fashion-conscious players. This gear, consisting of shirts, slacks, skirts, and dresses, can be relatively inexpensive or pricey depending on the brands. Each player must consider comfort, style and usefulness when choosing and buying his or her tennis outfits.
Thick socks are recommended for tennis players. Players sometimes wear hats or sun visors during play. Tennis players often don sweat bands on their heads to keep perspiration from running into their eyes or wear sweat bands on their wrists to keep their hands dry.
Other miscellaneous gear sometimes used by tennis players includes sunscreen, sunglasses, racquet covers, vibration dampers amid the racquet strings, sports bags to hold their equipment, and absorbent materials for the racquet handles.
Not all tennis balls are the same. Tennis balls are manufactured in different speeds and types of felt. Pressureless balls are considered the most durable.
All tennis players regardless of skill level should purchase extra duty felt balls if they intend to play on hard courts, or regular duty balls if they intend to play on clay courts. Extra duty felt balls are designed specifically for playing on hard court surfaces, which quickly erode the felt covering on the balls. Regular duty balls are designed for playing on clay courts. Clay courts erode the felt less than hard courts, but clay courts tend to “fluff” the balls, according to tennis experts. Extra duty felt balls will become overly fluffed if used on clay courts, while regular duty balls will erode too fast on hard courts.
There is tennis balls specifically designed for beginners. These have a larger diameter which makes them slower. However most tennis players, both beginners and more advanced athletes, often prefer standard-sized balls.
For many years, tennis players volleyed with traditional white balls, but the most common color today is a brilliant greenish-yellow called “Optic Yellow.” This change was made to make the balls easier to see.
Stringing machines and ball machines are gadgets that, while often expensive, can be purchased by tennis players of all skill levels.
Tennis lessons with a qualified professional are recommended for beginners. Private lessons are considered the best way to get feedback. However, novices might find that it’s cheaper to learn tennis from studying photo-based lessons that are offered online. Beginners can also videotape themselves playing and then compare that to the photo-based lessons available online.
Other options for tennis beginners are taking classes offered by local clubs or park districts.
Novices can find a wealth of information about learning to play and other tips on various websites. They can find written articles and videos to hone their skills. There are also websites where tennis players can find a local playing partner or a facility with tennis courts. Books are another source of instruction for the fledgling tennis player.
Tennis backboards can provide very useful practice sessions, particularly for beginners. Many tennis facilities and clubs have good backboards for practice sessions. Beginners can also use a high brick or concrete wall if they cannot find a decent backboard locally. Look for a wall higher than one story with no windows and which is adjacent to a parking lot. The higher the wall, the less likely it will be that the beginner will whack the balls over the wall.
Ball machines are another good practice option. They are found at most tennis facilities and clubs. Individual players can also choose to buy a ball machine, which can range from a small, battery-operated model to a sophisticated machine costing thousands of dollars.
Ball machines are considered a wise choice for novice tennis players. The repetition offered by ball machines is particularly helpful when the player is seeking to improve a specific shot. But experts warn that the repetition of ball machines can also be a disadvantage and lead to uninspired footwork because the practicing player knows exactly where the balls will land.
Tennis is played on four different court surfaces. These include clay, grass, and hard court surfaces composed of acrylic, asphalt or concrete. The fourth type of surface is carpeting, artificial turf or any other removable court covering.
The prestigious Wimbledon tournament in London is played on grass. The U.S. Open in New York City is played on Deco Turf, a hard court. The Australian Open in Melbourne is played on Plexicushion, a hard court. The French Open in Paris is played on clay.
Grass is considered the fastest surface for tennis courts, and clay is deemed the slowest. Balls usually bounce higher on slow tennis court surfaces, and typically bounce lower on fast tennis court surfaces.
The lines that delineate the width of the court are called the baseline (farthest back) and the service line (middle of the court). The short mark in the center of each baseline is referred to as either the hash mark or the center mark. The outermost lines that make up the length are called the doubles sidelines. These are the boundaries used when doubles is being played. The line that runs across the center of a player`s side of the court is called the service line because the serve must be delivered into the area between the service line and the net on the receiving side.
There are eight main shots in tennis. These are considered the eight basic shots that must be mastered. They are the serve, backhand, drop shot, forehand, and half-volley, lob, overhead smash and volley.
• The serve is the all-important shot which starts each point. While behind the baseline, the player throws the tennis ball into the air and smacks it into the rival’s service box without touching the net. An ambitious player may seek to get a winning shot with a serve rather than just starting a point. A winning serve which the rival player cannot return is dubbed an ace.
• The backhand occurs when a player hits the ball with the back of the racquet hand facing the ball.
• The drop shot occurs when a player gently taps the ball to give it just enough momentum to clear the net. This is a tactical move designed to outmaneuver and score on a rival who is away from the net.
• A player makes a forehand shot by hitting the tennis ball with a move that starts from behind the body and is hit with the front of the racquet hand facing the ball.
• A half-volley shot occurs when a volley is made after a short bounce.
• A lob occurs when the tennis ball is struck in a high arc over the net and typically over the rival player’s head.
• An overhead smash happens when a player hits a ball powerfully above his or her head.
• A volley is a backhand or forehand shot hit before the ball bounces in the court.
Record-Setting Male Players
These five players won the most men’s Grand Slam titles. They are:
• Roger Federer, 16 titles
• Pete Sampras, 14 titles
• Roy Emerson, 12 titles
• Rod Laver, 11 titles
• Bjorn Borg, 11 titles
Record-setting female players
These five tennis players won the most women’s Grand Slam titles. They are:
• Margaret Smith Court, 24 titles
• Steffi Graf, 22 titles
• Helen Wills Moody, 19 titles
• Martina Navratilova, 18 titles
• Chris Evert, 18 titles
Backcourt – The court from the baseline to the service line.
Backspin – Backward rotation put on a tennis ball by pulling the racquet strings down during the stroke.
Bagel – Slang term for losing or winning a set by 6 to 0.
Ball boy/ ball girl – A youngster who fetches out-of-play balls from the court and furnishes balls to the player who is serving.
Block – Returning the ball by holding the racquet still rather than swinging.
Breadstick – A slang term for losing or winning a set by 6 to 1.
Dirtballer – A player specializing in clay courts.
Follow Through – The continuing movement of a player’s arm and racquet after the tennis ball is struck.
Grinder – A tennis player who utilizes a baseline game.
Groundstroke – A shot struck from backcourt or to the rear of the baseline after the ball has bounced.
Hail Mary – A very high lob for defense.
Junior – A tennis player who is 18 years or younger and is legally protected by a guardian or parent.
Let – A stroke which does not count and is replayed.
Mixed Doubles – Doubles competition with teams comprising male and female partners.
No Man’s Land – The area between the service line and the baseline. This is an awkward site for tennis players because it’s hard to hit ground strokes and slams from no man’s land.
Overwrap – Various materials installed on a racquet handle to absorb perspiration.
Poach – Hitting a ball in doubles play that would typically have been played by the partner.
Rally – A lengthy exchange of shots between players.
Receiver – The player who receives service.
Serve And Volley – The server takes the net after successful serves and volleys the rival player’s returns.
Server – The tennis player who is serving.
Slice – A shot struck with sidespin and backspin.
Sweet Spot – Best hitting area, located in the middle of the racquet’s face.
Tennis Bubble – A domed tennis structure filled with air pressure produced by blowers.
Wood Shot – A shot where the racquet frame hits the tennis ball.
With a little research, beginners can learn exactly what tennis gear is needed to enhance their style and level of playing. That is one of the first steps in adopting this exciting hobby, which is also a popular spectator sport around the world. Tennis is played by competitors of all ages, all ethnic backgrounds and all socio-economic classes. The widespread appeal of tennis is likely increased by the fact that the sport has no “season” and thus can be played at any time of the year and upon courts located both indoors and outdoors.