We thought we knew most things about tennis but when we sat to research for some of the relatively unknown facts about this sport, we were in for a roller-coaster ride. Some of these tennis facts shocked us while others left us in awe.
Read on to know more about this sport we so love. We will keep updating this for more.
White to Yellow Ball Transition
Tennis now uses the yellow-coloured balls but for years before that, they played with white balls. For a sport that was invented in the late 19th century, it wasn’t until 1972 that tennis switched over to yellow balls. And what more, Wimbledon took a further 14 years to make that switch in 1986.
Sir David Attenborough, an English presenter with the BBC was in charge of switching from black-and-white TV to colour in the late 1960s and it took only little time for him and the rest to realise, the white ball didn’t look very good on colour TVs. Hence the switch was made to its current, florescent yellow form.
Interestingly, at one point, tennis balls were also black in colour.
Oldest, and Second Oldest Tournaments in the World
We all know Wimbledon began in 1877 and is the oldest tennis tournament in the world but do you know which is the second-oldest? Well, that honour belongs to the Irish Open competition which was first played in 1879. Unfortunately for the Irish Open, its last edition at the ATP level came in 1979 and on the WTA circuit in 1983.
Among tournaments which still exist at the highest level, the US Open came to being in 1881, thereby becoming the second-oldest tournament which still is played today. French Open (1891) and Australian Open (1905) were born after that but there were a few non-Grand Slam competitions which were all first played in the 19th century.
Oldest Tennis Organisation?
While Wimbledon was the oldest tournament, the oldest national tennis body is the United States National Lawn Tennis Association, which is now called the United States Tennis Association. Interestingly, they played the US Open or what was called the U.S. National Men’s Singles Championship at the Newport Casino, Newport in Rhode Island while the women’s tournament was hosted in 1887 in Philadelphia.
The switch to New York City happened in 1915 when it was hosted by the West Side Tennis Club in Forest Hills in Queens and it was only in 1978 it was shifted to its current location in Flushing Meadows.
No More Carpet
Other than grass, clay, hard court and indoor courts, tennis was also played on carpet at one stage. Slowly and steadily and for a variety of reasons, the tennis authorities opted to phase out carpet (reasons mentioned here) and the last tournament at the highest level played on carpet was WTA’s Québec Open in Canada in 2018.
What’s the Open Era?
Before 1968, only amateurs were allowed to play in Grand Slams and it was only a change in rule to allow professionals after that meant the post-1968 era in tennis is called the Open Era. What this meant was players were then officially paid to participate in the tournaments unlike in the pre-68 times where amateurs weren’t paid to play in those big tournaments.
Tennis fans have often wondered why is the term ‘love’ used in tennis to denote zero. The exact reason for this is still debated but one of the more interesting ones is love comes from the French word, ‘l’oeuf’, which means an egg. A zero resembles an egg while scoring, which is why the term love.
A Hawk Mans the Tennis
Wimbledon have hired the services of Rufus, a Harris’s Hawk, to scare away pigeons during the entire tournament. He is the second such hawk to have been employed by Wimbledon after Hamish. Such has been his fame, he has his own Twitter and Facebook page with a combined following of nearly 13k.
Blue Clay, No Way!
Tennis has been played on red clay for decades but in 2012, the Madrid Open organisers opted to experiment with blue-coloured clay for all their courts. While assurances were made the only change to the clay was the colour and it would be expected to play in exactly the same manner as red clay, the top players threatened a boycott if things weren’t changed back from the next season and the organisers had no option but to get back to red clay.
Incidentally, Federer won the title that season, beating Tomas Berdych in the final while Rafael Nadal was sent packing in the third round.
Foot on the Ground Please
Can you imagine serving in tennis with one foot on the ground at all times till the ball had left the racquet? Yep, that was the rule between 1908 and 1961 before it allowed players to serve even with both feet in the air.
Canadian & Australian Doubles Variations
Unlike normal doubles matches, these variations have three players playing in all; two on one side of the net against one on the other. The single player is allowed to make use of the doubles court while the doubles team can only hit the singles lines. This format isn’t used at any tennis level, i.e. there are no tennis tournaments but allows players to practice their accuracy.
Wimbledon is Not Just a Tournament
Um yep, it’s a range of emotions for tennis fans but that’s not what we are talking about. It is also the name of a Paul Bettany and Kirsten Dunst-starrer movie which released in 2004. Bettany plays Peter Colt, a former world number 11 who is now ranked outside the top 100 and goes on to win the Wimbledon title as a wild-card entrant.
Speaking of which, the only player in the history of tennis to have won a Grand Slam title as a wildcard entrant is Goran Ivanisevic. Having made it to three Wimbledon finals in 1992, 1994 and 1998 and lost all three, he defeated Pat Rafter the fourth time he got there in 2001 in five pulsating sets to lift his first.
Renee Richards Creates History
Born as Richard Raskind, he played in five different editions of the US Open in the men’s singles draw. Raskind then underwent a gender-change operation and competed in the women’s singles draw of the same competition between 1977 and 1981, becoming the first player to participate in both, the men’s and women’s Grand Slam competitions.
Pineapple, Strawberries, Cream & Wimbledon?
We all know how strawberries and cream are associated with Wimbledon but there’s one other fruit which isn’t spoken about as much as it should – pineapple. The Wimbledon men’s singles trophy has a pineapple on top of it. According to a few theories, it could be to do with pineapple being used to define ‘honour, welcoming and celebration’.
Test Wimbledon Match
Those who follow the sport of cricket are used to watching Test matches that get done in three days but Wimbledon fans were in for a rid when a 2010 match between Nicholas Mahut and John Isner lasted three days. Time-wise it went on for more than 11 hours and saw the two play 138 games in their first round encounter. To give a context, the second-longest match lasted 91 games, 47 short of what the Mahut-Isner match needed in the final set alone.
And a Rally That Went On…and On…and…
You could be excused for thinking one is joking if they told you a game lasted for 29 minutes. But a point lasting that long? Well, yep, that’s exactly what happened in a match between Vicki Nelson-Dunbar and Jean Hepner. It is the longest recorded rally which went on for 643 shots, and little less than half hour on the clock. Which is why despite being a straight-set win for Nelson-Dubar, the match lasted six hours and 31 minutes, more than 90 minutes longer than the next longest women’s singles match ever.
Kournikova & Poker
Texa Hold ‘Em Poker players have a hand named Anna Kournikova. The Ace-King pair of cards, also Anna’s name initials, is called so because they look good but invariably never win. Kournikova never won a single WTA singles title.
Completing a Grand Slam
Six players, men and women have completed a Grand Slam, i.e. won all four Grand Slams in the same calendar year. The last person to achieve this feat, as on March 2020, is Steffi Graf who won it in 1988. Graf, incidentally, also won the Olympics gold that year, to complete a Golden Slam, the only player in history to have done that. The only player to have done it twice at the highest level is Rod Laver, and the one one at the junior level is Stefan Edberg who won all four in 1983.
Battle of Sexes? That’s Passe, Bring on the Battle of Surfaces
Many fans would have heard of the battle of sexes where women have take on men in tennis matches. The most recent, famous one saw the Williams sister play a lowly-ranked Karsten Braasch and lose. However, what’s even more interesting is Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal were involved in another unique concept called the Battle of Surfaces in 2007 in which half the court was grass and the other half was clay.
For the record, Nadal won the best-of-three-sets match in the final set tie-breaker.
Nalbandian Beats Big Three
There has been only one instance of a player winning against all the members of the Big Three in the same tournament. It was Argentina’s David Nalbandian beating Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer in the quarterfinal, semifinal and final of the 2007 Madrid Masters to clinch the title. Nobody has managed that after him, not up to March 2020 for sure.
Want Royal Box Tickets? Bad Luck…
If you want to watch the Wimbledon from the Royal Box, there’s only one way you can do that – get an invite from the competition organisers. No other way you can buy the tickets to the Royal Box. Also ensure you adhere to their very strict dress code or run the risk of being sent home as Lewis Hamilton, the famous F1 driver found himself doing.