Interesting Facts about Tennis

Most tennis fans love the game, but how much do they really know? Or should we say, how many of them know interesting tennis facts? That’s why we’ve created a list of 20 fascinating facts about tennis that will not only surprise you but will also widen your knowledge of the sport of tennis!

1. The Royal Tennis Court, Built Between 1526 and 1529 And Located at Hampton Court Palace, London, Is the World’s Oldest Tennis Court, and It Is Still in Use

The very first tennis court at Hampton Court Palace was built in 1526 and 1529 for Cardinal Wolsey. The current tennis court, which is the center of all activity at Hampton Court, was built by Charles I in 1625. Three walls of this magnificent building date from this period, while the external wall to the right of the viewing gallery was built by Cardinal Wolsey. [1]

2. In 1907, 13-year-old Austrian tennis player Mita Klima played at Wimbledon, making her the youngest competitor ever to have played at Wimbledon

Mita Kribben (aka Mita Klima) was born in Austria back when it was still a coalition under the Hungarian-Austrian Empire. She and her sister Willy Klima participated in the 1907 Wimbledon ladies’ singles championships. 

According to Lance Tingay’s research, when Mita Klima took part in the 1907 Wimbledon championships, she was only 13 years old. Her sister Willy was a year older still. [2]

3. Originally, Lawn Tennis was played on an Hourglass Shaped Court with a Net that was 4ft 8in high

Wingfield’s Court was shaped like an hourglass, a shape that may have come from badminton. Since it was difficult to distinguish between a regular tennis court and a lawn tennis court, the hourglass shape may have been adopted for patent reasons. [3]

4. Maria Sharapova’s On-Court Grunt or Shriek Has Been Officially recorded at a Volume as high as 101 Decibels, Which Is Louder than a Motorcycle, a Lawnmower, and a Small Aircraft Landing

The sound of Maria Sharapova’s on-court grunt or shriek has been officially recorded at more than 100 decibels. That is louder than a motorcycle, lawnmower, and small aircraft landing. It is also about the same volume as an ambulance siren and only five decibels quieter than a lion’s roar. [4]

But wait…Maria Sharapova is not even the loudest tennis player! That honor goes to Michelle Larcher de Brito, whose grunt has been recorded at 109 decibels. Wow! How do their opponents deal with all that noise?

5. Tennis Dates back to 12th Century France

Tennis evolved from a game called “Palme,” played in the 12th century in France. The game involved hitting a ball back and forth by hand. Over time, players used a black leather glove to catch the ball and then added a handle, forming the first racquet.

The game later spread throughout Europe and beyond, becoming more adapted and exciting over time. [5]

6. Original Tennis Balls Were Crafted From Wood

The tennis ball has gone through many changes to get to the design and material it is today. French aristocracy began playing tennis with a ball made of cloth in the 1300s. The earliest tennis balls were made of wood before transitioning to leather stuffed with sawdust and then wool. Later, strings were wrapped around the inside of the ball to give it extra bounce. [6]

7. In Wimbledon 1986, Officials decided that Yellow Balls Should Be Used Instead of White

The yellow tennis ball, introduced for better visibility on color TVs, was the idea of David Attenborough when he was controller of BBC2.

It’s hard to imagine tennis without yellow balls, but tennis fans born after a certain date might not know that the sport used white balls at some points in its history. [7]

8. During a Tennis Match, a Player Runs on Average 3 Miles

When most people hear the phrase “logging miles,” they think of athletes training for long-distance races. But tennis players tend to log a lot of ground on the court, too. Players move a lot during a match and are required to run long distances between shots.

While soccer and field hockey cover more ground than tennis, averaging 7 miles and 5.6 miles, respectively, tennis still comes at third with 3 miles. So, playing tennis is like running a mini-marathon in terms of the number of steps players take throughout a match. [8]

9. Venus and Serena Williams Were the First Ever Set of Sisters to Win Olympic Gold Medals in Tennis

Since they started playing professionally in the late 1990s, tennis-champ sisters Serena and Venus Williams have become household names. Serena and Venus Williams have won a combined 30 Grand Slam titles and three Olympic gold medals (Serena with 23, Venus with seven). They’ve won 14 Grand Slam titles playing doubles together. [9]

10. Venus Williams recorded the fastest serve in women’s tennis history. Her serve was clocked at 207.6 km/h!

Venus Williams is similar to her younger sister Serena when it comes to crushing first serves. At 6 feet and 1 inch, Venus is very tall for a female tennis player. Venus, however, tends to rely on her first serve, as her second service game is flawed—with many double faults occurring at inopportune times.

Venus has hit the speed limit twice in her career, first when she clocked 129 mph against Kira Nagy in the first round of the 2007 US Open and again when she hit against Serena in the 2008 Wimbledon final. [10]

11. In 1932, Henry “Bunny” Austin wore shorts at Wimbledon, becoming the first tennis player to do so

When Austin started playing tennis, men typically wore long, heavy white flannel trousers regardless of the temperature. He went to New York for the tennis tournament at Forest Hills and bought a pair of shorts to wear at the event. Even though he was criticized by everyone around him, the shorts did help him play better tennis. 

The following year, Wright brought them to Wimbledon, but no one made fun of him because no one had seen their effectiveness before. This led other players at Wimbledon to try the shorts that summer. And slowly, they started to become accepted as good tennis apparel. [11]

12. Each Year, Wimbledon orders 24 tons of Kent Strawberries

The strawberry has been the traditional accompaniment to tennis at Wimbledon since the tournament was first played here in 1877. During Wimbledon’s first years, the well-to-do filled their bellies with strawberries as they watched matches at the All England Club’s Worple Road grounds. And the strawberries remain a Wimbledon tradition, so much so that 28,000 kg of them are eaten at the tennis tournament each year. [12]

13. The Wimbledon Championships is the only major tennis tournament still played on Grass

Real tennis—the precursor to lawn tennis—grew into a game played outside on a grass surface. It flourished in the late 19th century. The Wimbledon Tennis Championships, which still use grass courts, take place at the All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club in southwest London. [13]

14. The Australian tennis player, Margaret Smith Court, is the all-time record holder for the most singles grand slam titles with 24

Margaret Smith Court wrote her name so many times inside the record books that it took a second read to be sure that none of the names were typos. Court won 24 major singles titles from 1960 to 1975, a record for men or women. Meanwhile, she won another 21 major titles in mixed doubles, then 19 more in doubles, earning a total of 64 major championships.

In a career spanning amateur and professional eras, Court piled up a 1,180-107 record – more than any other player in history – for an eye-popping 92 percent win total. [14]

15. The first women to play tennis at the Wimbledon tournament wore long dresses

In 1919, a 20-year-old Frenchwoman named Suzanne Lenglen made her Wimbledon debut, looking like a ballet dancer from the French countryside. She wore a low-neck dress with short sleeves and a calf-length pleated skirt, silk stockings rolled down to just above her knees, and a floppy hat covering her cropped hair.

One reporter called her outfit “indecent.” Yet Suzanne went on to become the Wimbledon and French Open tennis champion. She also won three Olympic medals. [15]

16. Modern Tennis Comes From Great Britain

Tennis was popularized in England in the 1870s. Now watched by millions, it evolved from a game that came from France called jeu de paume. In the 17th and early 18th centuries, tennis became exceedingly popular across Europe, except in England and France. At the time, the English Puritans disapproved of such sporting activities, while the French nobility was being pressured by the discontent of commoners. [16]

In the 18th century, England slowly moved away from real tennis, which involved playing on a court filled with grass, and more toward lawn tennis, which eventually became what we know as modern tennis. [17]

17. Althea Gibson beat the odds when she became the first African American player to win the US Open

On September 8, 1957, Althea Gibson won the US Open. She became the first African American to win the US Open by beating Louise Brough 6-3, 6-2. In 1956, she won her first Grand Slam singles championship at the French Open, beating Angela Mortimer. [18]

18. The Longest Tennis Match Took 11 Hours And 5 Minutes to Complete

The longest tennis match ever recorded lasted for 11 hours and 5 minutes and took place between John Isner and Nicolas Mahut at the 2010 Wimbledon Championships. After playing for this much time over the span of 3 days, John Isner defeated Nicolas Mahut 6-4, 3-6, 6-7, 7-6, 70-68.

The match between John Isner and Nicolas Mahut was so epic that the scoreboard stopped working after the fifth set, as it had not been programmed to keep scores beyond that point. The players kept playing anyway, serving over 100 aces each and holding serve for an incredible 168 consecutive games through the match. [19]

19. Roger Federer Leads All Men’s Tennis Players in Terms of the Highest Amount of Career Prize Money

Roger Federer has won $130 million in prize money during his career, but that’s a drop in the bucket compared to what he’s made from sponsorships and endorsements. His biggest prize is a ten-year, $300 million deal with Japanese apparel brand Uniqlo, which he signed in 2018. The deal made Federer the highest-paid athlete in the world for the first time in 2020. [20]

20. The Game of Tennis Also Became an Indirect Reason for the Death of King James I of Scotland

King James, I was the great-grandson of Robert the Bruce. After 18 years in English captivity, the King became ruthless. He indulged himself in Je de la Paume or tennis. He hit so many balls down the old drain leading from the abbey, so he ordered to block the passage with stones. Who knew that the King’s rage over losing his balls would become the reason for his demise?

On February 20, 1437, in their nightclothes and furry slippers, James I and his wife, Queen Joan, were playing chess when three assassins arrived. The insider traitor Sir Robert Graham led this group of assassins, who supported the Albany Stewarts over the King.

The King tried in vain to smash the leaded windows so they could escape, but they were too strong to break. He grabbed iron tongs from the fireplace and flipped up a floorboard to hide. However, he could not survive in the passage for long, for the tennis balls had recently gathered there, and the passage was blocked up.

Wielding nothing but a nightgown and a pair of shears, the King fought two men as they tried to assassinate him. He was riddled with a total of 16 wounds only on his chest, and there were many more on his other body parts.

Conclusion

We hope you find this list of facts about tennis as interesting as we have. Not only is the game itself inherently fascinating, but it has impacted and shaped our culture in ways we don’t often recognize. Tennis continues to amaze us in its universal appeal and ability to cross boundaries—whether they be generational, geographic, or simply those lines that separate us from the likes of Venus Williams.

References

  1. https://www.hrp.org.uk/hampton-court-palace/whats-on/royal-tennis-at-hampton-court/
  2. https://www.sportscrunch.in/wimbledon-when-a-13-year-old-played-at-wimbledon/
  3. https://www.britannica.com/sports/tennis
  4. https://www.sportskeeda.com/slideshow/10-tennis-facts-that-will-astonish-you 
  5. https://lhpyc.com/7-interesting-facts-about-the-history-of-tennis 
  6. https://www.merchantoftennis.com/blogs/tennis-balls/the-evolution-of-the-tennis-ball 
  7. https://www.tennis365.com/tennis-features/how-tennis-changed-from-white-to-yellow-tennis-balls-thanks-to-david-attenborough/
  8. https://livehealthy.chron.com/average-running-distance-tennis-player-5441.html
  9. https://www.cbssports.com/tennis/news/serena-williams-vs-venus-williams-a-look-back-at-the-williams-sisters-historic-rivalry/ 
  10. https://www.sportskeeda.com/tennis/5-fastest-serves-ever-recorded-women-s-tennis 
  11. https://www.nytimes.com/2000/08/28/sports/bunny-austin-94-a-pioneer-in-tennis-shorts.html
  12. https://edition.cnn.com/2015/06/17/tennis/wimbledon-strawberries-tennis/index.html 
  13. https://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/wimbledon-tournament-begins 
  14. https://www.tennisfame.com/hall-of-famers/inductees/margaret-smith-court/ 
  15. https://www.theatlantic.com/entertainment/archive/2019/07/suzanne-leglen-wimbledon-fashion-scandal-tennis/593443/
  16. https://olympics.com/ioc/news/a-brief-history-of-tennis
  17. http://www.sportlegacy.net/tennis/history-of-tennis/ 
  18. https://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/althea-gibson-first-african-american-us-open-tennis
  19. https://olympics.com/en/featured-news/longest-tennis-match-history-grand-slam-record
  20. https://www.forbes.com/profile/roger-federer/?sh=1eb3927314ba 
  21. https://www.scotsman.com/whats-on/arts-and-entertainment/how-kings-love-tennis-sealed-his-murder-604218