Roland-Garros 2023: tennis vocabulary to follow the fortnight

By A Jul 1, 2023
Roland-Garros 2023: tennis vocabulary to follow the fortnightRoland-Garros 2023: tennis vocabulary to follow the fortnight

Tennis Vocabulary: Strokes

First of all, you must know what the blows given with the racket are called. Here is the first good news: there are three that you absolutely must know.

Service: it is the shot that starts the game, the one that launches the point. When the serve brings a direct point without the opponent touching the ball, it is called an ace . The return , on the other hand, is the blow with which the opponent tries to return the ball after the service.

Forehand and backhand  : the difference between the forehand and backhand is defined by the dominant hand, that is to say the hand with which the racket is held. If you hold the racket in your right hand, the forehand is the shot you make when the ball is to your right; conversely, when you hit the ball to your left, it’s your backhand. The backhand (but also the forehand, in very rare cases) can be hit with one or two hands. In the first case, we speak of a one-handed backhand, in the second, of a two-handed backhand.

In addition to these three basic moves, there are other moves that are useful to know:

  • The volley is the shot played in the air, that is to say before the ball rebounds on the ground;
  • The half volley , i.e. a half volley, is a very rare shot and is often played close to the net. This shot is played a split second after the rebound and is very difficult to control, so you will see it done a few times per game, no more;
  • The smash , a kind of tennis version dunk, is a strong and powerful blow that is done above the head and with the arm extended.
  • The lob is a shot that consists of sending the ball very high so that it passes over the head of the opposite player.
  • The dropshot , or amortization , is, as the French version suggests, a shot that ideally lands near the net, thus surprising the opponent who is at the back of the court.

Bonus  : a point essentially ends in two ways, either with a winning shot , i.e. a shot that the opponent fails to catch up, or with a foul , i.e. when the opponent hits the ball but it goes out of bounds.

Tennis vocabulary: how does the point system work and what does “bicycle wheel” mean?

There is no doubt that scoring in tennis is beyond comprehension. Tennis vocabulary is already quite complicated, but understanding how points are awarded is perhaps the least intuitive part. For example: the person who wins the most points is not necessarily the one who will win the game.

To win a match at Roland-Garros, you have to win three sets . To win a set, you must win 6  games (or 7, if both players reach six games each, in which case a tie-break is played, and whoever reaches 7 points first wins the set). To win a game, you must land at least four points, with a two point lead over your opponent. Players play the service in turn, one game at a time, which means one player serves until the end of a game. Once the game is over, the service passes to the opponent.

Points are therefore the minimum scoring unit in tennis and are called in a singular way, the origin of which is ancient and mysterious: the first point is “15”, the second is “30”, the third is “40 “. If one player has won three points and the other one, then the score will be 40 to 15. When a player wins the fourth point, he wins the game. If, however, both opponents have won three points each (= tied at 40 all), play continues until one or the other wins by two points. In this case, it is called a tie (or deuce ) when the players are tied and an advantage when one of them is one point ahead. Simple, right?

Bonus: Among the staples of tennis vocabulary you’ll hear most often is the term break , which has nothing to do with a break (although it’s common to hear talk of a toilet break or toilet break , when a player asks to go to the toilet). The station wagonis performed by the non-server, when he wins the game. This is a very important term, because in professional tennis it is difficult to win a game in break. Indeed, the service is usually a very powerful blow that puts the server in a largely advantageous position. In general, whoever serves is more likely to win the game. If you are able to win the game when you don’t have the serve, then you greatly increase your chances of winning the set.

Unusual: in English , the zero score is called “  love  ”. Exactly, “love”. In tennis terminology, the history of this word is the most confusing. According to this theory, the zero was originally called ” ouef  “, ”  egg  ” in French, because of the circular shape of the number. The English, tired of using a word in French, would have decided to translate the term in their own way and would have then chosen the word “  love  ”. There is also another interesting word, taken from English tennis terms: bagel (or bicycle wheel, in French). When a set ends with a score of 6-0, the player is said to have offered his opponent a bagel, or a bicycle wheel (in French). And the reason is quite obvious, if you look at the shape of these two objects.

Falcons, lines and cyclops

OK, now that we understand what moves are called and how points are awarded, let’s see how the game itself works. In tennis vocabulary, a crucial difference to keep in mind is that between a cross shot and a long line shot. To tell the truth, the distinction is quite simple to make: when the ball is to my right and I address it to the right of my opponent, I perform a cross shot, that is to say, diagonally from the short ; conversely, if I address the ball to the left of my opponent, I execute a stroke along the line. For biomechanical reasons, it is easier to execute a cross shot than to play a long line shot. But that’s not the only reason: the tennis net is slightly higher at the sides. For this reason, the long line shot is generally more risky than the cross shot. At the same time, if executed well, it can become a winning move or turn the tide of a rally.

The shot, to be good, must end in a certain part of the field. If this is not the case, the linesman (i.e. the referees who are behind the players and who are solely responsible for checking whether or not a ball is out of bounds) will declare the ball out. , thus ending the point. But what if the judge is wrong? Two scenarios can arise: the chair judge , the one sitting on that high chair in the middle of the court, can overrule the decision (the technical term is overrule ) and reassign (or replay) the point. Or, the player who disagrees can issue a challenge, asking for a “dispute”. In the most important (and richest) tournaments in the world, a camera system is used which recreates the trajectory of the disputed ball and indicates whether the shot was good or not. The most used technology is called ”  Hawk-eye  “,   which is why you will sometimes hear that a tennis player has ”  called the hawk   , i.e. he asked the tech to check whether the judge’s decision was correct or not.

Bonus: In the 1980s another type of technology was used, now defunct, called Cyclops , which only saw whether a service was good or not.

Tennis Vocabulary: Rankings, Seeds and Lucky Losers

We won’t go into the details of how the leaderboard works , who gets to play a tournament and who doesn’t, etc. Simply, know that for men and women, there are four major tournaments, each lasting two weeks. These are the Grand Slam tournaments  : Roland Garros (or French Open), which therefore traditionally takes place at the end of May, but also the Australian Open, which takes place in January in Melbourne, Wimbledon, which takes place in July in London, and finally the US Open, which is played in September in New York. These are the most prestigious tournaments, the richest and those that bring in the most points. Winning one of these four tournaments, even once in his career, is the most ambitious goal for a professional tennis player.

Apart from the Grand Slam, there are other prestigious tournaments, but none of them come close. One of them is the year-end tournament, where the top eight players of the season qualify. The women’s finals (WTA Finals) are currently taking place in Shenzhen, China, while the men’s finals (ATP Finals) will be held in Turin from this year.

With the exception of these two tournaments, which have a particular formula, tennis has a very simple rule: if you win, you go to the next stage, if you lose, it’s elimination. The table is therefore always knockout and the way the players are drawn follows certain rules based on the ranking of the participating tennis players. In this context, the term to remember is ”  top seed “. Basically, the strongest players are the top seeds and benefit from an advantageous draw. Thus, the best players, at least according to the official ranking, can only compete in the final stages of the tournament. Have you noticed that when the score of a match appears, there is a number in parentheses next to the names of certain players? This number is the seed number , and the lower it is, the stronger the player .), you may see a Q next to a player’s name, or the words “LL”. What do these terms mean? In tennis, a qualifier is a player who had to go through a qualifying tournament because he was not allowed to participate in this tournament because of his ranking. LL is the abbreviation for “  lucky loser  ”. This is a special type of qualification: the tennis player or tenniswoman who lost in the qualification tournament but was selected because an opponent in the main draw withdrew at the last minute .

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