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Tennis [Ultimate Guide]

Brief History of Tennis

Modern tennis dates back to the 19th century in Great Britain.

Major Harry Gem and Augurio Perera, close friends and racket players decided to mix some of the game’s elements with the Spanish sport pelota basca.

In 1872, Gem and Perera founded the world’s first lawn tennis club.

It also marked the first time in which the term lawn tennis was used for the newly created sport.

The two, however, aren’t credited as the inventors of modern tennis.

That credit goes to Major Walter Clopton Wingfield.

In 1873, Wingfield patented his own version of the game, called sphairistike.

Wingfield is widely regarded as the one responsible for popularizing the game of tennis, as well as establishing its rules.

In 1874, the Leamington Lawn Tennis Club in Birmingham held the oldest annual tennis tournament.

In 1877, the All England Club held the first edition of the Wimbledon championship.

This tournament, along with the US National Championship, the French Championships and the Australian Open rose in prestige.

The four tournaments are now known as the Grand Slams – or major tournaments.

The Davis Cup, which is considered the event of the most prestigious nations, was first held in 1900.

Tennis remained an amateur sport for nearly a century.

Professional players weren’t allowed to enter the Grand Slam tournaments until 1968.

That year marked the start of what is now known as the Open Era, as tennis players were finally allowed to make a living out of the sport.

What is the Difference Between Tennis Court Surfaces?

Tennis is played on three different surfaces – hard, clay and grass.


Hard courts can be made of either concrete or carpet.

It’s the most common surface around the world and corresponds to roughly 55% of the calendar.

Hard surfaces produce a fast-paced game, which benefits players with better technique and more varied shots.

Two of the four major tournaments, the Australian and US Open, are played on the hard surface.


Clay is the second most common surface, and makes up around 35% of the professional calendar.

Contrary to the hard surface, clay courts are extremely slow.

As such, it favors players with a baseline-oriented style, reliant on heavy shots.

It’s rather unpredictable as well, since its uneven surface often makes the ball bounce in unexpected directions.

The portion of the calendar known as the clay season usually starts in April and goes on until June.

The French Open at Roland Garros is the only Slam played on clay, and the most prestigious competition on this surface.


Finally, grass makes up 10% of the calendar, and is the least common surface.

As such, it requires an extreme specialization, since there is very little time to prepare.

Grass courts are the fastest on the professional circuit.

As the tournaments progress, the surface changes due to the natural wear, requiring players to adapt each and every match.

Wimbledon is the highlight of the grass season, which starts in mid-June and goes on until August.

The ATP and WTA – Understanding Professional Tennis

Professional tennis is run by two organizations.

The men’s circuit is run by the Association of Tennis Professionals (ATP).

The women’s circuit, meanwhile, is run by the Women’s Tennis Association (WTA).

While the WTA has been running the women’s professional circuit since 1973, the ATP only took over as the governing body for the men’s circuit in 1990.

The men’s annual circuit is known as the ATP Tour, while the women’s circuit is known as the WTA Tour.

ATP Tour

Now let’s start with the ATP Tour, which is a bit more complex.

The men’s circuit is split into seven different tiers.

The Grand Slams make up the first tier and are run by the International Tennis Federation (ITF), the sport’s oldest governing body.

While the four most prestigious tournaments are under the ITF’s umbrella, they still award points towards the ATP rankings.

The second tier of competition is the year-end tournament, the ATP Finals.

Only the top 8 players of the calendar year are awarded an invitation to this prestigious competition.

Next up comes the Masters 1000 series, which consists of nine tournaments, all overseen by the ATP.

The ATP 500 Series makes up the fourth tier of international competition.

The ATP 250 is considered the fifth tier of competition, consisting of 40 tournaments.

Now, we drop from the ATP Tour to the ATP Challenger Tour, which is a step below the ATP Tour.

This series consists of 178 tournaments and acts as a stepping stone for young players before hitting the ATP Tour.

Finally, the ITF Circuit is the lowest tier of international competition.

Consisting of 534 tournaments, it acts as the first step in the professional ladder for young players.

WTA Tour

The WTA Tour has a similar structure, with the first tier consisting of the four Slams, while the year-end WTA Finals are considered the second tier.

The third tier, known as the Premier tournaments, is split into three different categories.

The four Premier Mandatory events, which are played together with the Masters 1000 events, are the most important.

Next up comes the Premier Five, followed by the 12 Premier tournaments.

The International Tournaments, split into the 250k and 150k series, make up the final tier.

The ITF Circuit is once again the lowest tier of competition and acts as a first step into the professional tennis ladder.

Tennis Rankings

Players accumulate points over the course of the year for the ATP and WTA rankings.

Once the circuit is over, the points leader at the end of the season earns special recognition.

For the men’s circuit, each of the Grand Slams pays 2,000 points to the champion.

The ATP Finals reward the players on a match by match basis, up to a maximum of 1,500 points for the champion.

As the names suggest, the Masters 1000, ATP 500 and ATP 250 pay 1,000, 500 and 250 points respectively.

ATP Challenger Tour tournaments pay from 80 to 125 points, while ITF Future tournaments pay 10 and 20 points.

The best 19 results count towards the ranking.

These results consist of the four Slams, the ATP Finals, eight of the nine Masters 1000, excluding Monte Carlo, plus seven non-mandatory tournaments.

The WTA rankings follow a very similar pattern to the ATP Tour.

Grand Slams pay 2,000 points each, while the WTA Finals also pay on a per-match basis and can award the champion with a maximum of 1,500 points.

The four Premier Mandatory titles pay 1,000 points each, while the Premier Five pay 900 points each.

Premier titles pay 470 points, while WTA International tournaments pay 280 points.

Finally, the 125k series pay 160 points, while ITF tournaments pay from 50 to 150 points.

However, unlike the ATP rankings, only the 16 best results count towards the WTA rankings.

The Grand Slam Tournaments

The Slams also referred to as majors, are the four most important tournaments of the tennis year.

As mentioned earlier, these four tournaments are run by the ITF, which is the oldest international tennis association in the world.

The four majors – Australian Open, French Open, Wimbledon and the US Open – earned that designation in the 1925 season.

With the shift to the Open Era, the four Slams grew in importance, awarding the most points while also having the biggest prize pools.

The four majors also have the biggest fields, with 128 players entering the men’s singles and 96 entering the women’s singles.

The men’s singles are also played in a best of 5 sets format, compared to the usual best of 3.

Each tournament lasts two weeks.

The Australian Open, played in mid-January, is the first major of the year.

Novak Djokovic and Serena Williams are the record holders in the Open Era, having won the Australian Open singles seven times.

Next up the order comes the French Open, which is played from late May until early June.

Rafael Nadal has won 12 times at Roland Garros, which is also an Open Era record for the most titles at a single major.

Chris Evert is the all-time leader in the women’s singles with seven titles.

Once the clay season comes to an end, the calendar shifts to the grass season.

Wimbledon, which is considered the most prestigious tournament in tennis, is played between late June and early July.

Roger Federer has won the most gentlemen’s singles titles in the Open Era, with eight.

Martina Navratilova, meanwhile, holds the ladies’ singles record with nine titles.

Finally, the calendar shifts to the North American hardcourt leg.

The US Open, the fourth and final major of the season, is played from late August until early September.

Roger Federer, Pete Sampras, and Jimmy Connors share the record for the most men’s singles titles with five each.

Chris Evert and Serena Williams hold the record for the most women’s singles titles, with six.

The Australian Open, Wimbledon and the US Open have all implemented the fifth set tie-break rule.

Prior to that, the fifth set required a two-game lead, which often led to very long matches.

John Isner and Nicolas Mahut hold the record for the longest match in tennis history.

Their first-round matchup at the 2010 Wimbledon Championships lasted 11 hours and 5 minutes, as Isner won the fifth set with a jaw-dropping 70-68 score.

Winning the four Slams title in a calendar year is a very rare feat.

It has only been accomplished three times during the Open Era in singles – once in men’s singles and twice in women’s singles.

Rod Laver completed the men’s singles Grand Slam in 1969, the first year of the Open Era.

Fellow Australian Margaret Court achieved the feat the following year in women’s singles.

Steffi Graf also completed the women’s singles Grand Slam in 1988.

Holding the four Slam titles at once over the course of a non-calendar year is also a rare feat.

It has only been achieved five times, four in women’s singles and once in men’s singles.

Serena Williams did it twice, first between the 2002 French Open and the 2003 Australian Open.

She completed her second non-calendar Grand Slam between the 2014 US Open and the 2015 Wimbledon Championships.

Martin Navratilova also completed a non-calendar Grand Slam between the 1983 Wimbledon Championships and the 1984 US Open.

Steffi Graf achieved the feat between the 1993 French Open and the 1994 Australian Open.

Novak Djokovic held the four titles between the 2015 Wimbledon Championships and the 2016 US Open.

Since then, completing a non-calendar Grand Slam has been unofficially referred to as a “Nole Slam”.

Five men have completed a Career Grand Slam in singles – Rod Laver, Andre Agassi, Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal, and Novak Djokovic.

Six players have also achieved this feat in women’s singles – Margaret Court, Chris Evert, Martina Navratilova Steffi Graf, Serena Williams, and Maria Sharapova.

In men’s singles, Roger Federer holds the record for the most major titles in the Open Era with 20.

Serena Williams holds the record for the most singles titles in the Open Era with 23.

Who is the Greatest Tennis Player of All Time?

Tennis has its share of all-time great players in the Open Era.

Some of these names are still active, such as Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal.

Pete Sampras and Rod Laver are also part of this list.

However, as far as career achievements go, it’s hard to make a case against Roger Federer.

The Swiss legend has 20 career majors, the most in the Open Era, and more than 100 titles.

Federer is also a well-rounded player and has won trophies on all three surfaces.

When it comes to women’s singles, it’s also difficult to make a case against Serena Williams.

Williams holds the Open Era record for both men and women with 23 major titles.

She is only one away from Margaret Court’s all-time singles record.

Other great players in women’s singles are former record-holder Steffi Graf and Martina Navratilova.

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