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Tennis is a racquet sport played between either two players (singles) or two teams of two players (doubles). It is officially called lawn tennis to distinguish it from real tennis (also known as royal tennis or court tennis), an older form of the game that is played indoors on a very different kind of a court. Tennis is played on a 23.7m x 8.2m (78ft x 27ft) (widened by 2.7m (9ft) for doubles) court, which is divided in the middle by a net, such as that each side measures 11.9m (39ft) in length.

Players attempt to hit a tennis ball with a tennis racquet such that it bounces in the opposition's side of the court and the opposition is unable to return it. A legal return is made by hitting the ball over the net, after not more than one bounce on one's side of the court. Each point is started by a player who initiates play by "serving" the ball into a designated area on the other side of the court. Tennis is an Olympic sport that is played in many countries around the world.

A tennis match is won by the first side to win 2 out of 3 sets or 3 out of 5 sets. Traditionally, matches played by women last 3 sets while those played by men last five. However, at many lower-level tournaments 3 sets remains the norm for all, while at a few tournaments, women play 5-set matches as well. A set is won by the first side to win 6 games, with at least 2 more games won than the other side. A game is won by the first side to win 4 points, with at least 2 more points won than the other side. Points are described as follows:

(These terms derive from French: see History of Tennis, below.)

The server's score is always announced first. If the server has won 2 points and the receiver has won 1 point, the score would be "Thirty-Fifteen". A player who wins a fourth point is awarded a game, unless each side previously had 3 points. This score, corresponding to "Forty-All" is called "Deuce". The player who wins the subsequent point has a score of "Advantage". If this player also wins the next point, game is awarded. Otherwise the score reverts to "Deuce".

In most tournaments, if the game score in a set reaches 6-6, a series of points called a tiebreak takes place. The first side to win 7 points, with at least 2 more points than the other side, wins the tiebreak. The score of the set is recorded as 7-6. However, in several tournaments, no tiebreak is played during the final and deciding set (third or fifth set, depending on the length of the match); rather, the set is played until one side leads by two games.

A tennis player usually has several types of swinging shots at his or her disposal: the forehand, backhand, volley, overhead smash, slice, drop shot, and lob. When a player serves the ball to the other player at the beginning of each point, he or she will use either a flat, top-spin, or slice serve.

The forehand is generally considered the easiest of the tennis shots to master, perhaps because it is considered to be the most natural stroke. It is made by swinging the racquet across one's body in the direction of the net. There are various grips for holding the racquet for executing the forehand. The popularity of these grips has changed over the years. In the early part of the 20th Century the western grip was nearly as popular as the eastern grip. In the 20s and 30s the continental grip was popularized by Fred Perry and the so-called "Four Musketeers from France. Throughout the 40s and 50s the eastern was used by most American players, while many of the great Australian players used a continental or semi-continental grip. Most forehands are executed with one hand holding the racquet but there have been fine players with two-handed forehands. In the 1940s and 50s the small Ecuadorian/American player Pancho Segura used a two-handed forehand to devastating effect against larger, more powerful players. Jack Kramer called it the single best shot in the history of tennis. In the latter part of the 20th Century, as shot-making techniques and equipment changed radically, the western forehand made a strong comeback and is now used by (and is being taught to) most modern players.

The backhand, which is struck by swinging the racquet away from one's body in the direction of the net, is generally considered more difficult to master than the forehand. It can be executed with either one hand or two. For most of the 20th Century it was excuted with one hand, using either an eastern or a continental grip. The most notable players to use two hands were the 1930s Australians Vivian McGrath and John Bromwich. The two-handed grip gained popularity in the 1970s as Chris Evert and Jimmy Connors used it to great effect and it is now used by a large number of the world's best players such as Andre Agassi and the Williams sisters. Two hands give the player more power, while one hand can utilize a slice shot, applying backspin on the tennis ball to fool the opponent. The player long considered to have had the best backhand of all time, Don Budge, used one hand with a very powerful stroke and imparted topspin onto the ball. Ken Rosewall, another player noted for his one-handed backhand, used a deadly accurate slice backhand with underspin. A small number of players, most notably Monica Seles, use two hands on both the backhand and forehand sides.

Tournaments are often organized by gender and number of players. Common tournament configurations include men's singles, women's singles, doubles (where two players of the same sex play on each side), and mixed doubles (with a member of each sex per side). There are also often tournaments for specific ages, such as for youth and seniors.

Table of contents
1 History of tennis
2 See also
3 External links

History of tennis

Unlike most modern sports, lawn tennis has a very short history, and its invention can be precisely dated. In December 1873, Major Walter Clopton Wingfield devised the game for the amusement of his guests at a garden party on his estate at Nantclywd, Wales. He based the game on the older sport of indoor tennis or Real tennis, which had been invented in France in the 12th century and played by French aristocrats down to the time of the French Revolution.

Wingfield borrowed both the name and much of the French vocabulary of royal tennis and applied them to his new game.

In 1874 Wingfield, seeing the commercial potential of the game, patented it, but he never succeeded in enforcing his patent. It spread rapidly among the leisured classes in Britain and the United States. It was first played in the US at the home of Mary Ewing Outerbridge on Staten Island, New York, in 1874.

In 1881 the desire to play tennis competitively led to the establishment of tennis clubs. The first championships at Wimbledon, in London were played in 1877. In 1881 the United States National Lawn Tennis Association (now the United States Tennis Association) was formed to standardise the rules and organise competitions. The U.S. National Men's Singles Championship, now the U.S. Open, was first held in 1881 at Newport, Rhode Island. the U.S. National Women's Singles Championships were first held in 1887. The Davis Cup, an annual competition between national teams, dates from 1900.

In 1926 a group of American tennis players established a professional tennis circuit, playing exhibition matches to paying audiences. For 40 years professional and amateur tennis remained strictly separate: once a player had "turned pro" he or she could not compete at the major titles. In 1968, however, commercial pressures led to the abandonment of this principle and the Open era began, in which all players could compete in all tournaments and most players made their living from tennis.

Tennis was for many years predominantly a sport of the English-speaking world, dominated by the United States, Britain and Australia, although it was also popular in France: the French Open dates from 1891. Thus Wimbledon, the U.S. Open, the French Open and the Australian Open (dating from 1905) became and have remained the most prestigious events in tennis. Together these four events are called the Grand Slam (a term borrowed from bridge), and winning the Grand Slam is the highest ambition of most tennis players.

In 1954 James Van Alen founded the International Tennis Hall of Fame, a not-for-profit museum in Newport, Rhode Island, with a large collection of tennis memorabilia as well as a Hall of Fame for prominent members and players of the tennis world.

Since the beginning of the Open era and the establishment of an international professional tennis circuit, fed by revenues from the sale of television rights, tennis has spread all over the world and has lost its upper-class English-speaking image. Since the 1970s great champions have emerged from Germany (Boris Becker, Steffi Graf), the former Czechoslovakia (Ivan Lendl and Martina Navratilova), Sweden (Björn Borg), Brazil (Gustavo Kuerten), Russia (Yevgeni Kafelnikov) and many other countries. Recently African American players such as Venus and Serena Williams have become a force in the game.

Among the greatest male players of the Open era are Rod Laver, Jimmy Connors, John Newcombe, Stan Smith, Bjorn Borg, John McEnroe, Ivan Lendl, Stefan Edberg, Jim Courier, Mats Wilander, Andre Agassi, and Pete Sampras. Among the women are Chris Evert, Martina Navratilova, Steffi Graf, Monica Seles, and the Williams sisters.

It must be remembered, however, that many of the greatest players who ever lived played in the days before Open tennis. Most of them, even those who were quite prominent in their time, are now completely forgotten by modern sports fans. Among them, in more or less chronological order, are Bill Tilden, Ellsworth Vines, Fred Perry, Don Budge, Bobby Riggs, Jack Kramer, Pancho Segura, Frank Sedgman, Pancho Gonzales, Ken Rosewall, and Lew Hoad. For many years most observers considered Tilden to be the greatest player who ever lived. In the 1950s and 1960s, there was general agreement that Gonzales had replaced Tilden as the best to ever step on a court. Whatever the case, any one of these 11 would be more than competitive in today's game.

Other great players of the pre-Open era include Maurice McLoughlin, "Little Bill" Johnston, the "Four Musketeers (Jean Borotra, Jacques Brugnon, Henri Cochet, and René Lacoste), Vinnie Richards, Jack Crawford, Vic Seixas, and Tony Trabert.

Who is the greatest male player of all time? It is impossible to give a clear answer, as new techniques and improved equipment have changed the game greatly in the last hundred years. There is no reason to believe, however, that a 1920s Bill Tilden, for instance, who was notable for his intelligence, adaptability, and tennis athleticism, would not be able to change his game and strokes to emulate those of the modern players. And, as we see in the countless upsets of the top seeds in the major tournaments by much lower ranked players, there is probably very little difference in the quality of play among the top several hundred players. Just as there is no reason to believe that the great baseball stars of the pre-1968 Open tennis era such as Ty Cobb, Babe Ruth, Lefty Grove, Ted Williams, and Stan Musial would not excel in today's Major Leagues, there is no reason (save ignorance of the history of tennis and a narrow focus on the present) to believe that the greatest of the old-time players would not be able to hold their own against the Pete Samprases and Andre Agassis of today.

A possible listing of the six greatest players of all time is, in strictly chronological order: Bill Tilden, Don Budge, Pancho Gonzales, Rod Laver, John McEnroe, and Pete Sampras. A careful, objective study of their actual records against other players could support an argument that any one of these six was the best player who ever lived. A similar case could possibly be made for Jack Kramer and Björn Borg. Kramer himself, who became a top player in the early 1940s and is still alive as of 2004, believes that Ellsworth Vines was the greatest of all time.... And so it goes -- a fascinating topic for never-ending speculation.

See also

External links