Tennis History, Facts, and Trivia

Susan Hunt

Experienced tennis players may know many historical facts about this wonderful game, but for many who have not played that long, I found some of these facts interesting, and I hope others do as well.

• It is believed tennis originated in France in the 12th century. The ball was struck with the palm of the hand, hence the name jeu de paume or game of the palm. Racquets were incorporated into the game in the 16th century, and the game began to be called tennis.

• In the beginning, the only way to score a game was by utilizing the four quarters of the clock on the wall. So, scoring became 15, 30, and 45, but 45 became 40 as it was shorter and easier to say.

• When the game began, tennis balls were either white or black. With tennis beginning to be televised in 1986, the ball color was changed to yellow, as it was easier to see.

• A serve is called either a net or let when the ball hits the net cord and ultimately lands in the serve court. Some claim that let comes from the French word filet, which translates to net. When the English incorporated the game, they used let since it translates to allow.

• The longest professional tennis match in history was in 2010, lasting 11 hours and five minutes. John Isner defeated Nicolas Mahut, and this match was played over three days.

• The arm signals indicating whether a ball is in or out are similar to the safe and out arm signals used in baseball and prove extremely helpful during play.

• Tennis was first played at the Olympics in 1896 but was removed from competition after the 1924 games. It was reintroduced as an actual event for the 1988 Olympic Games.

• The open era began in 1968, and The French Open was the first tournament played.

• Every year, about 54,250 tennis balls are used during Wimbledon.

• Maria Sharapova holds the record for the loudest grunt during the game of tennis at 105 decibels. According to the internet, a jet taking off equates to about 150 decibels.

The last fact might be the best one for all of us:

• People who play tennis have the longest life expectancy compared to people who jog, swim, or bike. Also, tennis players live an average of 9.7 years longer than people who do not exercise, according to the Copenhagen City heart study. Now that is motivation to continue playing this great game!