It’s the tournament that’s the talk of the town – Wimbledon is here! For two weeks the world’s elite are coming together, and there won’t be any shortage of excitement. But in the face of tons of tennis lingo, it’s sometimes hard to know what to say.
Need to impress a tennis-crazy colleague? Can’t stand the silence in the stands? Whether you’re in the crowd or on the couch, here are ten unstoppable tennis facts sure to get you chatting.
Tennis balls aren’t just for Grand Slam champions and golden retrievers – they also make great homes for harvest mice. While this mouse would usually make its own nest from a bundle of shredded grass attached high up on a reed, a discarded tennis ball is far safer. The hole is just big enough to let the mouse in, but small enough to keep out dangerous weasels and birds of prey.
Let’s just make sure all the mice have found other lodgings before it’s Serena’s turn to serve.
Tennis was so associated with the monarchy that when lawn tennis began in the 19th century, the original indoor game became known as “real” or “royal” tennis to distinguish between the two. It was played using leather balls stuffed with human hair. Poor women would sell their hair for the balls as a source of income. No need to condition, then.
Table tennis – tennis’ tinier cousin – began in Victorian England, when dinner guests turned their tables into mini tennis courts and used their champagne corks as balls. (It’s unknown whether the umpires had little chairs to match).
Here’s a sport you may not have tried. In 2008, the first blind tennis tournament was held in the UK. A bell inside the tennis ball helps the players keep track of it during rallies, while tactile lines around the court assist them in finding their way.
French monks first played tennis in about the 11th century. The name “tennis” means “take this” in French, which the monks would shout as they served the ball. We’re guessing it wasn’t half as ferocious as this:
This is one fact you’d maybe not like to know, but it’s tennis-related nonetheless. Spread out, the lining of the inside of the small intestine would cover a tennis court.
Tennis is so popular, it’s even got an ailment named after it: tennis elbow. Contrary to popular belief, however, you don’t necessarily need to play the game to suffer from the injury. Known medically as lateral epicondylitis, tennis elbow often occurs when strenuous repetitive movements, such as those used in heavy manual work, cause tiny tears in the tendon. The condition may also be caused by a direct blow to the arm, or may be a complication of arthritis.
The longest ever top-rank match ran an exhausting 665 minutes. John Isner of the USA beat Nicolas Mahut of France over three days at Wimbledon in 2010. Not a single spectator packed a big enough picnic.
In tennis, Hawk-Eye technology is used to determined whether a ball has landed in the correct part of the court. This is especially useful when the ball bounces on a line. So how does Hawk-Eye work?
Multiple video cameras point at the tennis court, and each camera has a different viewpoint. By electronically plotting a line from each camera to the ball, the exact location of the ball on the court can be calculated by the Hawk-Eye computer – it’s the point where the lines from all the camera cross (just imagine the selfies possible with that kind of tech!)
Have to keep those athletes looking sharp! Turns out there are strict rules about the size of the clothing sponsors’ logos on players’ uniforms. On the front of the shirt, there can be two manufacturer’s logos, each not exceeding 12.9sq cm (2sq in), or one logo not exceeding 25.8sq cm (4sq in).
We're assuming this would not be accepted as suitable gear nowadays: