In honour of Britain’s Davis Cup win let’s have a look at some phrases relating to tennis.
The origin of the word tennis itself is thought to be from the French verb “tenner” witch was called when each player struck the ball into each other’s area of the court. The sport was probably imported into England by Henry the 8th or at least owes some of its popularity to his enthusiasm for it.
Royal Tennis from Hampton Court Palace
Tennis is primarily played on 3 surfaces, “grass”, “clay” and “hard court”. It can be played by 2 or 4 people with the team variety known as doubles. “Mixed doubles” is when each side has a man and a woman playing.
Professional Tennis has a number (8-10) of line judges who “call balls in or out” although they effectively only call out these days.
“to call a ball in” – to say something is good/ok.
“to call a ball out” – to say something is bad/not ok.
Each match of tennis is presided over by an umpire, also called a chair umpire as they sit in an elevated chair on one side of the net. The umpire can overrule the line judges. A tournament is presided over by a referee whose job it is to ensure that everything is within the rules. Occasionally players may complain to the referee if they feel the umpire is treating them unfairly.
Tennis is a sport of many games, to claim victory over your opponent you need to win the match. Each match is made up of 3 or 5 sets, and you need to win six (or more) games to win each set. While you need six games to win the set, you also need a 2 game lead over your opponent(s) so 7-5 is a possible (in fact not infrequent) final score.
“game – set and match” is traditionally the umpire’s phrase when someone wins, as they will have one the game the set and the match.
“match point” is the critical moment when one player may win the whole match.
“to break service” when the point is won by the player(s) who did not start the play of that point then the service has been broken. A “break point” is the point where the receiving player(s) win the game.
“to win the toss” just before play starts the umpire will toss a coin and the player(s) who win the toss can chose whether they serve first or receive service first.
“serve for the match” when a player is serving for the match they are in a strong position and likely to win.
“love” there is no zero or nil in tennis; if you have no points you have love. The serving players points are always given first so 40-love the servers are about to win, love-40 they are about to lose. Each game starts love-love, one point is known as 15, a second moves you to 30, a third moves you to 40, a fourth is game. However, 40-40 is also known as deuce. From deuce a player needs two points consecutively to win the game; the first point known as advantage. If the score is advantage X and Y wins the point then the score goes back to deuce.
To be in a deuce, or describe a situation as a deuce means a difficult of tricky situation.
The phrasing Advantage name (or even name’s advantage) is quite common and while it reflects the tennis score it’s used widely outside of tennis circles.
“The ball’s in your court” when you have done what you can about a situation and you require action from someone else then you can say the ball’s in their court.