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Tennis:  Wimbledon- Eating Strawberries and Wearing White       Share

02 July 2010

Wimbledon is the oldest (since 1877), and most prestigious professional tennis tournament in the world.  It is one of the four “grand slam” tournaments, with the others being the US Open, Australian Open, and the French Open.  Tennis originated in England as “lawn tennis” and as such, the tournament at Wimbledon is played on grass.  To go along with hitting a tennis ball on grass, Wimbledon has some strange traditions.  First, competitors must wear white.  Its part of the dress code of the club that hosts Wimbledon, the “All England Club;” ironically they don’t have a problem with Maria Sharapova wearing a skirt 18 inches above the knee (Maria is a 23 year old tennis star who was named Maxim Magazine’s hottest athlete four years in a row).  In addition, the traditional food is strawberries with cream and the drink is Pimm’s Spitzer, an English liqueur (there’s a reason you’ve never heard of it).  This year’s Wimbledon has had some exciting moments.

The first was a match between American John Isner and Nicolas Manhut from France.  It lasted 11 hours and 5 minutes and spanned three days.  Wimbledon does not employ a tie-breaker at the beginning rounds, so this game just kept going and going. 

The second element of interest thus far has been the early defeat of Roger Federer, the men’s tennis player who is widely considered the best of all time, winning 16 grand slam tournaments thus far in his career.  He was beat by the 12th seeded player who has never won a grand slam.  These things do happen, but this is his second loss in as many grand slams and is disconcerting considering his success to date.Finally, the women’s single finals will be played this Saturday between Serena Williams and Vera Zvonareva.  Serena is heavily favored, having won four Wimbledons and is probably one of the best female tennis players of all time.  Her sister, Venus, is close in that category as well, with 10 of the last 11 Wimbledons featuring one of the two sisters in the finals.  The men’s singles final will be Sunday, the 4th of July.  The match up for the men’s side hasn’t been decided yet.

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The Basics

Tennis is a game with its roots in England where you hit a ball over a net to your opponent, hoping he will either hit it to you, out of bounds, or miss the ball, allowing it to bounce more than once on his side of the net.  The scoring is simple, but like many things English, it’s unnecessarily complex. 

Most tournaments require a player to win a best of 3 or 5 sets.  Each set requires a player to win six “games,” with at least two more games then his opponent.  A game is decided by a player earning at least four points with a two point advantage.  This is where the absurdity starts.  Zero points is called “love”, one point is scored as “15,” two points is “30,” and three points is “40.”  Four points is called “game.”  If two players both have at least 40, it’s called “deuce.”  After this, if a player scores a point, he’s said to have “advantage,” and must score another consecutive point to win.  If the other player ties, it’s called deuce again.  See what I mean?  In actuality, the scoring has French origins, which probably makes most of us say, Ok, now I get it.  The bizarre explanation of the origin of the scoring system is too lengthy for me to get into it here, but if you must know, shoot me an email and I’ll try to break it down for you.


Deuce: A tie when each player has at least 30 points.
Love: Zero points.
Advantage: When one player has a one point advantage over his opponent, but both have at least 30 points.
Doubles: A tennis match with two players on each side.  “Mixed Doubles” feature one man and one woman player on each side.
Forehand: a stroke on the ball where the stroke begins on the same side as the hand holding the racquet.
Backhand: a stroke on the ball where the stroke begins on the opposite side as the hand holding the racquet.