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Guide to IB Physical Education Class
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Tennis Vocabulary











"Tennis: The Game." Encyclopedia. Today’s Science. Facts On File News Services, n.d. Web. 8 June 2011. <>.

Unlike the situation in most sports, evidence for the date and place of origin of lawn tennis is fairly well established. It was, apparently, invented in 1873 by Maj. Walter Clopton Wingfield (1833-1912), a British army officer. Although Wingfield claimed that he modeled the game, which he called sphairistiké (from Gr., "playing at ball") after an ancient Greek game, many authorities believe that, in reality, he adapted to outdoor play the principles of the popular English game of court tennis as well as of the games of squash racquets (see Squash) and badminton. The early participants preferred to call Wingfield's game tennis-on-the-lawn, or lawn tennis. The game was introduced into Bermuda the same year, and from Bermuda was brought to the U.S. by an American, Mary Ewing Outerbridge (1852-86), of Staten Island, N.Y. The first game of lawn tennis played in the U.S. took place on the grounds of the Staten Island Cricket and Baseball Club in the spring of 1874.

The first world amateur championships were held at the All-England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club, Wimbledon, England (men, 1877; women, 1884). Tennis in Australia started in Melbourne in 1880, and by the last decade of the 19th century, lawn tennis had been introduced into British colonies all over the world and into many other nations. Tennis today is one of the most popular games in the world, partly because it can be played from childhood until middle and even old age.

In the U.S., the rules and standards for the game fluctuated widely from locality to locality until 1881, when the United States Lawn Tennis Association (now the United States Tennis Association, USTA) was organized to standardize rules and equipment; the association is still the governing body for amateur tennis in the country. Under its auspices, play for the annual U.S. singles championships for men began in Newport, R.I., in 1881; the national men's singles championships continued to take place annually in that city until 1915, when they transferred to the West Side Tennis Club in Forest Hills, N.Y. The national women's singles matches began in 1887, at the Philadelphia Cricket Club, and continued there until 1921, when they were likewise brought to Forest Hills. Since 1978 the championships have been held at the USTA National Tennis Center in Flushing, in the Queens borough of New York City. The center was renamed in 2006 after American tennis star Billie Jean King. The Louis Armstrong stadium, the center's main court, was renamed in 1997 for the American tennis star Arthur Ashe.

For the 1988 Olympics tennis, which had not been part of the competition since 1924, was restored as a medal sport.



A game begins with a player serving the ball, that is, striking it across the net to the opponent's side according to the rules described below; the player who initiates play for each point in a particular game is called the server, and the one who receives the ball is called the receiver. The player or pair to serve the first game is determined by the toss of a coin or the spin of a racket.

The server delivers the ball from behind the baseline, alternately serving, after each point, into the diagonally opposite service court of his or her opponent. After tossing the ball into the air, the server must strike the ball before it touches the ground. The server may not step on or over the baseline before his or her racket has touched the ball. Two tries are permitted for each service. If a try results in the ball hitting the net, striking any part of the opponent's court except the diagonally opposite service court, or going out of the court altogether, it is called a fault. If both tries result in faults (known as a double fault), the opponent wins the point. If the server steps over the baseline before service is completed, a foot fault is called. If the serve, on either try, touches the top of the net but falls into the diagonally opposite service court, it is called a let, and the server is permitted to make the try over. A valid, usually fast, serve that cannot be returned is called an ace.

After the ball is successfully served, it may be hit into any part of the opponent's court until either player or side has failed to return the ball before it has bounced twice or has driven it into the net or out of the court. In each case, the opponent scores a point. After the first point has been played, the serve goes from the server's left-hand service court into the opponent's diagonally opposite or left-hand court, and service thus alternates until an entire game has been played. The opponent serves the next game, and so the set proceeds. In doubles, each of the two partners serves a game in turn, with one of the opponents serving between turns.

"Tennis: The Game." Encyclopedia. Today’s Science. Facts On File News Services, n.d. Web. 8 June 2011. <>.



The scoring in a tennis game, when not prolonged by a tie, goes by a sequence of four points specified as 15, 30, 40, and game, with no or zero points always being referred to by the term love. A tie at 40-all is called deuce, and in such a case play continues until one of the players scores consecutive points, either two or three, to win the game by a margin of two points. The player who has scored one of these tie-breaking points, that is, who can win the game on the next point, is said to have the advantage. In tennis competition, the score of the server is always given first. Typical scores at stages of a given tennis game might be as follows: "love-15," "30-15," "deuce," "advantage Smith," "game Smith." During a set, the opposite courts are exchanged after the first, third, fifth, seventh, ninth, and succeeding odd-numbered games; this applies to both singles and doubles.

Six games win a set, but just as a game must be won by two points, a set must be won by at least two games and continues indefinitely until this occurs. When one player or side has won six games and the opponent has won five, the set goes on until one side has won two more games than the other. If the set is tied at six games each, however, a tiebreaker may be used; for example, in a 12-point tiebreaker, the first player to reach at least seven points by a margin of two wins the set. In championship matches the victor is the side that wins the most sets out of a possible three or five. Championship matches are judged by 15 officials: one umpire who calls the plays, assisted by one referee, one net judge, two foot-fault judges, and ten line judges.

Innovations in tennis scoring have been attempted to make matches more exciting, particularly in professional or open tournaments where round-robin competition invites faster matches among a wide field of players. One system that has been increasingly used is the Van Alen Streamlined Scoring System (VASSS), devised in 1958 by the American tennis enthusiast James H. Van Alen (1902-91), which replaces traditional scoring terminology with a single-point method; the first player to get 31 points wins the set. The sudden-death tiebreaker system, in which a tie can be broken in one more game, was first used in the U.S. Open tennis championships at Forest Hills, N.Y., in 1970.

Tennis: The Game." Encyclopedia. Today’s Science. Facts On File News Services, n.d. Web. 8 June 2011. <>.


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