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game played indoors or outdoors by two players (singles) or four players (doubles) on a level court.

Rules and Equipment

Lawn tennis was originally played on grass courts, but most major events are now played on courts of hard, composite materials; exceptions include Wimbledon, played on grass, and the French Open, played on clay. In singles play the court measures 78 ft by 27 ft (23.8 m by 8.2 m). The court is divided in half by a net 3 ft (91 cm) high in the middle and 3.5 ft (1.1 m) high at the end posts. On either side of the net lie the forecourts, each of which contains two adjacent service courts measuring 21 ft by 13.5 ft (6.4 m by 4.1 m) each. A backcourt 18 ft (5.5 m) long adjoins each forecourt. A base line that runs parallel to the net terminates the playing court. In doubles play, 4 1-2-foot-wide (1.4-m) alleys flanking either side of the court perpendicular to the net are also in play.

Play is directed toward hitting the inflated rubber, felt-covered, unstitched ball (slightly smaller than a baseball) with a racket—oval headed, originally 27 in. (68.58 cm) long but now usually longer, the hitting surface strung with resilient fiber—into the opponent's court so that it may not be returned. One player serves an entire game and is given two service tries each time the ball is put in play. The ball is served diagonally from behind the base line so that it bounces beyond the net, in the opposite service court. A let ball (one that caroms off the top of the net into the proper service court) does not count as a fault (bad serve). Service alternates after points, between the right- and left-hand courts. After the first game and all odd-numbered games, the players change ends of the court.

Once the serve puts the ball in play, players may hit it into any part of the opponent's court until a point is scored. Rallies won by either player score points. Scoring progresses from love (zero) to 15 (first point), to 30, then 40. The point scored after 40 wins the game, but when the game goes to deuce (tied at 40–40) a player must go two points ahead to win it. The first player to win six games takes the set, provided the opposing player has won no more than four games. Traditionally, after the players were tied at five games all, the first to go two games ahead won the set. In 1970, however, the United States Lawn Tennis Association (founded 1881 and now simply the United States Tennis Association), the sport's national governing body, initiated an abbreviated method, called the tie-breaker, for deciding sets that reach six games all. In a tie-breaker, the first player to win seven points wins the set, provided the opponent trails by at least two points. Only in the deciding set of the Australian and French open matches is the original two-game margin of victory retained (although at Wimbledon the deciding set tie-breaker occurs after a set reaches 12 games all). The best two out of three sets wins most professional matches; the best three out of five sets wins a late-round match in men's play in major championships. An umpire calls play, and in important matches a net judge, foot-fault judges, and linesmen often assist.



Unlike most other sports, lawn tennis has precise origins. An Englishman, Major Walter C. Wingfield, invented lawn tennis (1873) and first played it at a garden party in Wales. Called "Sphairistiké" [Gr.,=ball playing] by its inventor, the early game was played on an hourglass-shaped court, widest at the baselines and narrowest at the net. In creating the new sport, Wingfield borrowed heavily from the older games of court tenniscourt tennis,
indoor racket and net game of ancient origin. It is believed to have originated (about the 14th cent.) in medieval France and is the forerunner of most modern racket games.
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 and squash racquetssquash racquets
or squash,
game played on a four-walled court, 16 ft (4.88 m) high by 18 1-2 ft (5.64 m) wide by 32 ft (9.75 m) long. The back wall, shorter than the front wall, usually measures 9 ft (2.74 m). A horizontal service line 6 1-2 ft (1.
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 and probably even from the Indian game of badmintonbadminton
, game played by volleying a shuttlecock (called a "bird")—a small, cork hemisphere to which feathers are attached—over a net. Light, gut-strung rackets are used. Badminton, which is generally similar to tennis, is played by two or four persons.
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Court tennis is also known as royal tennis. It originated in France during the Middle Ages and became a favorite of British royalty, including Henry VIII. The progression from court tennis, which used an unresilient sheepskin ball filled with sawdust, sand, or wool, to lawn tennis depended upon invention of a ball that would bounce.

Lawn tennis caught on quickly in Great Britain, and soon the All England Croquet Club at Wimbledon held the first world tennis championship (1877). Restricted to male players, that event became the famous Wimbledon Tournament for the British National Championship, still the most prestigious event in tennis. In 1884 Wimbledon inaugurated a women's championship. Soon the game became popular in many parts of the British Empire, especially in Australia.

Tennis spread to the United States by way of Bermuda. While vacationing there, Mary Ewing Outerbridge of New York was introduced (1874) to the game by a friend of Wingfield. She returned to the United States with a net, balls, and rackets, and with the help of her brother, set up a tennis court in Staten Island, N.Y. The first National Championship, for men only, was held (1881) at Newport, R.I. A women's championship was begun six years later, and in 1915 the National Championship moved to Forest Hills, N.Y. Since 1978 what is now the United States Tennis Association Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in Flushing, N.Y., has hosted the event (known as the U.S. Open). The Tennis Hall of Fame is in Newport, R.I.

The Professionalization of Tournament Tennis

In 1900 the international team competition known as the Davis Cup tournament began. Along with the Wightman Cup (begun 1923), an annual tournament between British and American women's teams, the Davis Cup helped to focus international attention on tennis. In 1963, a women's Davis Cup equivalent, the Federation Cup, usurped the prestige of the Wightman Cup. In the first decades of the 1900s tennis was primarily a sport of the country club set. The widespread construction of courts on school and community playgrounds in the 1930s (many built by the federal government's New Deal agencies) helped to make tennis more accessible to the public.

When the professional game showed itself to be profitable in the late 1920s, a number of amateur players joined the tour. One of the first to do so was William TildenTilden, William Tatem, 2d
(Bill Tilden), 1893–1953, American tennis player, b. Philadelphia. He developed into a brilliant, versatile tennis player, and from 1913 he won several doubles titles in the United States.
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, perhaps the greatest player in the history of tennis. Before Tilden turned pro (1931), he won a total of seven United States singles championships and three Wimbledon championships.

The continued defection of amateur players into the professional ranks was one of the factors that led amateur tennis's world governing body, the International Lawn Tennis Federation (ILTF, founded 1913), to open its tournaments to both professionals and amateurs in 1968. For many years the major ILTF-sponsored tournaments, including Wimbledon and the U.S. National Championship, had been restricted to amateurs. With the advent of open tennis, however, the great professionals were allowed to compete for the major titles. Eventually, the Davis Cup also allowed professionals.

The four major annual tournaments in international tennis are Wimbledon, the Australian Open, the French Open, and the U.S. Open. Winning all four in the same year is called a grand slam. Only Don Budge (1938), Rod Laver (1962, 1969), Maureen Connolly (1953), Margaret Court (1970), and Steffi Graf (1988) have won grand slams. In 1971, the establishment of a women-only professional tour gave female pros financial parity with their male counterparts. In the same year Billie Jean KingKing, Billie Jean,
1943–, American tennis player, b. Long Beach, Calif., as Billie Jean Moffitt. King won 67 tournament titles and 20 Wimbledon titles, including singles in 1966–68, 1972–73, and 1975. She was the U.S.
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 became the first woman athlete in any sport to earn more than $100,000 in one year. In the 1970s a team league, World Team Tennis, operated for several years, but was unsuccessful. The professional tour remains the most visible focus for the sport, its major tournaments surpassing in prestige even competition in the Olympics, which added tennis in 1988.


See W. T. Gallwey, The Inner Game of Tennis (1974); R. Schikel, The World of Tennis (1975); V. Braden and B. Bruns, Vic Braden's Tennis for the Future (1977); E. Wilson, Love Game: A History of Tennis, from Victorian Pastime to Global Phenomenon (2014); D. F. Wallace, String Theory (2016).




(both: tĭn`ĭs), medieval city of Egypt, on an island in Lake Manzala, southwest of modern Port Said. Tennis, founded when TanisTanis
, ancient city of Egypt, in the eastern delta of the Nile. It is identified with the Hyksos capital, Avaris (XII dynasty), and is called Zoan in the Bible. It was a significant city in the XIX dynasty and was capital of the XXI (Tanite) dynasty.
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 was abandoned, was a port and center of commerce of some importance. It was particularly notable for its fine textiles (much prized throughout the Muslim world).
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia™ Copyright © 2013, Columbia University Press. Licensed from Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.
The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.



(also lawn tennis), a game in which the players use rackets to hit a ball across a net on a special court.

Court tennis, the prototype of tennis, was popular in the 13th and 14th centuries in Italy, France, and England; it was played by hitting a ball across a net with the palm of the hand. Rackets were first used in the early 16th century. Modern tennis came about in Great Britain in the late 19th century. The first rules were developed in 1874 by W. Wingfield, an Englishman. The name “lawn tennis” was adopted in 1875, which is considered the year of origin of modern tennis.

Tennis courts may have surfaces of clay and sand mixtures, synthetic materials, grass, cement, or wood. With alleys, they measure anywhere from 40 × 20 m to 36 × 18 m. The court is divided by a net woven of sturdy thin cord forming holes not exceeding 3 × 3 cm. The height of the net at the center is 91 cm. The upper part of the net is borderd by a white strip 5 cm in width.

Tennis rackets, made of wood, lightweight metal, or plastic, have natural or synthetic strings stretched across the frame. Children’s rackets weigh 255–340 g (9–12 oz), and adults’ rackets, 340–400 g (12–14 oz) and more. The ball is made of rubber covered with a fleecy white fabric. It usually weighs 56.7 g, and its diameter varies from 6.35 to 6.67 cm.

The object of the game is to hit the ball across the net so that the opposition cannot return it within the bounds of the other half of the court. A player may hit the ball before it strikes the court or after the ball’s first bounce. If he allows it to bounce twice he loses a point. The scoring of each point begins when one player serves the ball, which must land in the opposite service court. In case of a fault on the part of the server, the ball may be served a second time. The server’s score is the first of the two listed. The first point is called “15,” the second “30,” the third, “40,” and the fourth, “game.” Players alternate serving and receiving after each game. To win a set, a player must win at least six games and lead by at least two games. To win a match, a player must win two out of three sets or three out of five. The categories used in competitions are singles (men’s and women’s) and doubles (men’s, women’s, and mixed).

The International Lawn Tennis Federation (ILTF) was established in 1912 in Paris. In 1974 it had approximately 100 million members from 100 countries. From the 1950’s through the 1970’s, tennis ranked first among all sports with regard to rate of development and number of international competitions. Between 1896 and 1924 tennis competitions were held in eight Olympic games.

Official world championships are not organized by the ILTF. The annual world champion of men’s teams is the winner of the Davis Cup, which was established in 1900 by an American, D. Davis, one of the best tennis players of his time. Individual world championships include the Wimbledon Championship, held in London since 1877, on grass courts, and the French Open, held in Paris since 1891, on clay courts. They have seven categories, including juniors’ singles. Since 1970 a new type of unofficial world championship has been held, consisting of 12 preliminary tournaments in various countries with 96 participants and a final tournament for the eight players with the best scores. These competitions admit both amateurs and professionals; the ILTF includes players of both categories. The European Championship has been held since 1968 exclusively for amateurs.

Outside the USSR tennis is most popular in the USA, Australia, France, Great Britain, Italy, the Federal Republic of Germany, Sweden, the Czechoslovak Socialist Republic, the Socialist Republic of Rumania, the Hungarian People’s Republic, the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, India, Spain, and Mexico.

Between 1900 and 1974, winners of the Davis Cup included players from the USA (26 times), Australia (23 times), Great Britain (nine times), and France (eight times). The best men players in the first half of the 20th century included W. Tilden, E. Vines, and D. Budge of the USA, A. Wilding of New Zealand, N. Brookes of Australia, H. Cochet, J. Borotra, and R. Lacoste of France, and F. Perry of Great Britain. The best women players of the same period included H. Wills and H. Jacobs of the USA and S. Lenglen of France. Between 1950 and 1970 the best men players were L. Hoad, K. Rosewall, R. Laver, J. Newcombe, and R. Emerson of Australia, S. Smith, A. Ashe, and J. Connors of the USA, M. Santana of Spain, I. Nastase from the Socialist Republic of Rumania, J. Kodes of the Czechoslovak Socialist Republic, and A. I. Metreveli from the USSR. The best women players of the same period were M. Connolly, A. Gibson, B. J. King, and C. Evert of the USA, M. Bueno of Brazil, M. Smith Court and E. Goolagong of Australia, and O. V. Morozova of the USSR.

Tennis was first played in Russia in the late 1870’s, and the first tennis clubs were organized in the late 1880’s. Championships were first held in 1907. The All-Russian Union of Lawn Tennis Clubs, established in 1908, joined the ILTF in 1912. Beginning in 1903, Russian tennis players took part in international competitions. In 1914 there were 48 tennis clubs in Russia.

The first USSR tennis championship was held in 1924. In 1928 tennis was on the program of the first All-Union Spartakiad in Moscow. The All-Union Tennis Section was created in 1923; in 1956 it was reorganized as the Tennis Federation of the USSR and joined the ILTF. Tennis competitions are now held as part of the Spartakiads of the Peoples of the USSR. In 1974 tennis was played, taught, and coached in 1,300 physical-culture organizations by approximately 37,000 persons, including more than 11,000 persons with sports ratings, approximately 200 masters of sport, 16 honored masters of sport, more than 500 coaches, 2,100 instructors, and 2,700 referees. Soviet players have played for the Davis Cup since 1962, at Wimbledon since 1958, in the French Open since 1961, and in the European Championship since 1969. Significant victories include third place for the Davis Cup in 1974 and 1976, first place in team scores and first place in most categories of singles and doubles competitions at the European Championship from 1969 to 1976, an absolute victory at the 1973 World Student Games, second place in various categories four times at Wimbleton between 1969 and 1974, and third place in the men’s category in the 1972 French Open.

The development of the Soviet school of tennis is associated with such physical-culture and sports figures as I. A. Kulev, V. V. Kollegorksii, S. P. Belits-Geiman, A. V. Pravdin, S. S. Lomakin, D. A. Gosudarev, Iu. K. Rebane, V. V. Kandelaki, N. S. Teplia-kova, A. Khangulian, E. Ia. Kree, V. M. Bal’va, and E. V. Kor-but. Tennis players who won several championships of the USSR include E. A. Kudriavtsev, E. E. Negrebetskii, B. I. Novikov, N. N. Ozerov, S. S. Andreev, S. A. Likhachev, A. I. Metreveli, O. V. Morozova, A. V. Dmitrieva, G. P. Baksheeva, and M. V. Kroshina.


Belits-Geiman, S. P. Tekhnika tennisa. Moscow, 1966.
Belits-Geiman, S. P. Iskusstvo tennisa. Moscow, 1971.
Korbut, E. V. Tennis (10 urokov tekhniki i taktiki. Moscow, 1969.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.


a. a racket game played between two players or pairs of players who hit a ball to and fro over a net on a rectangular court of grass, asphalt, clay, etc.
b. (as modifier): tennis court
Collins Discovery Encyclopedia, 1st edition © HarperCollins Publishers 2005
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