Wimbledon is here! This is one of the world’s biggest tennis tournaments and the most prestigious of the Majors, so we could not let this opportunity pass without exploring some tennis vocabulary. These few weeks of Grand Slam tennis offer a great chance to prepare a sporty EFL lesson with a traditional UK flavour. The event runs from 25th June until 16th July 2017, so grab your racket and let’s explore the traditions of Wimbledon and learn some useful tennis vocabulary!
Tennis in the UK
Tennis is traditionally a summer sport and is a fun game whether you are a budding star or a novice player. Everyone can enjoy a game of tennis and with the weather so glorious at the moment in the UK, tennis courts across the country are getting busier.
Wimbledon is one of the most important and exciting events in the UK sporting calendar. The popularity of the tournament means we will be seeing lots of tennis on television. There will also be plenty of tennis news in the media for the next couple of weeks.
Wimbledon is one of the tennis Grand Slams or Majors. The Grand Slams are the four biggest tennis tournaments in the world. The other most important tournaments are US Open, the Australian Open and the French Open.
Wimbledon has its own special atmosphere and sense of prestige associated with it, making it many tennis players’ favourite Major. this is why Wimbledon is a great springboard for exploring tennis vocabulary.
Wimbledon is the oldest tennis tournament in the world tennis circuit, first playing in 1877. This is also the only Grand Slam to be played on grass – the original tennis surface. This is called ‘lawn tennis’. Wimbledon is played at the same location since its beginning – the All England Club in London.
To preserve the integrity of the tournament, Wimbledon does not feature any advertisements around the courts. This approach sets it apart from most other televised sporting events.
Centre Court at Wimbledon is the most prestigious court. This court is reserved for the biggest and most important matches of the day. This court has a retractable roof so rain cannot interfere with play.
The Wimbledon All-White Rule
This rule is seen as old-fashioned by many and players are regularly reprimanded for contravening the all-white rule! In 2013, Roger Federer wore Nike trainers with orange soles, which caused the organisers to complain.
Strawberries and Cream at Wimbledon
Traditionally, the spectators at Wimbledon eat strawberries and cream. This tradition is said to date back to the start of the competition in 1877 when everyone was served strawberries and cream in the spectator stands. No Wimbledon tennis vocabulary list would be complete without this tasty fruit dessert!
Strawberries and cream are associated with the beginning of summer, as well as the beginning of Wimbledon. Each year, it is said that the spectators eat 28,000 kg of strawberries and 7,000 litres of cream!
Ball Boys and Ball Girls
The ball boys and ball girls (known as BBGs) are an important part of any tennis match. 250 operate at Wimbledon each year. They work in teams of six with two at the net and four at the corners of the court.
The teams of ball boys and ball girls work for one hour, followed by one hour’s break on rotation. This pattern is repeated throughout the day. Ball boys and ball girls work at all important tennis matches so this is certainly useful for a tennis vocabulary list.
Umpires and Names
The umpires at Wimbledon refer to female players as ‘Miss’ followed by their surname and male players as just their surname. So Serena Williams is called ‘Miss Williams’, while Roger Federer is called simply ‘Federer’.
In 2009 the scoreboards were changed to no longer use ‘Miss’ or ‘Mr’ before names. They now use only the first name – a move into the modern world by the organisation! However, the umpires will still use the courtesy titles in their announcements.
The Day of Rest
Another note-worthy Wimbledon tradition is the famous ‘day of rest’ in the middle of the tournament. This rest day is always the middle Sunday of Wimbledon fortnight. No matches take place on this day.
The Royals Family at Wimbledon
The Royal Family are associated with Wimbledon and the Queen often visits the players during the tournament. Members of the Royal Family watch the tournament from the Royal Box, which is a prestigious spectator box giving a great view of the court.
If the Queen and/or Prince Phillip are present at the match, the players are expected to bow or curtsy to the Royal Box as they walk past.
Tennis has its own special scoring system where players win ‘points’, ‘games’ and ‘sets’. This tennis scoring system is a vital part of a tennis vocabulary list because these words are used all the time during a tennis match.
This is how tennis scoring works:
If a player wins four points they win the game. If a players wins 6 games they win the set. If a players wins 3 sets (for women) or 5 sets (for men) they win the match.
Scoring in a game of tennis follows this pattern: 15, 30, 40, game. So the score for a player winning in straight points would be: 15-0, 30-0, 40-0 then game.
If a players has no points it is called ‘love’. This means a score of 40-0 is called ‘forty love’. The umpire always calls out the score of the serving player first.
Using the word ‘love’ to mean zero is thought to come from the French word ‘oeuf’, which means egg – an oval shape that looks like a zero or 0!
Deuce and Advantage
If both players win three points each (40-40) it called deuce. If this happens, the winner of the game is the first player to win 2 points in a row.
The player to win a point after deuce wins advantage and if they win the next point they win the game. If their opponent wins the next point, the score goes back to deuce.
Sets and Tie-Breaks
Usually the first player to win 6 game wins the set. But if the result is 5-games-all, one player must be ahead by 2 games to win the set (e.g. they must win 5-7 or 8-6).
Once the score reaches 6-games-all, a tie break is played. In a tie-break, the first player to reach 7 points wins the set. However, if it is the final set, the players do not play a tie-break and instead continue until one player is 2 games ahead.
Like all sports, tennis has its own special vocabulary. There are many phrases and words used to describe a tennis match. Read on to discover the most important tennis vocabulary so you can have your own Wimbledon EFL lesson:
Wimbledon fortnight – the two weeks of the Wimbledon tournament
Tennis match – the individual tennis competition between two players (or four players if it is a doubles match)
Lawn tennis – tennis played on grass (‘lawn’ is an area of well-kept grass)
Grand Slams / Majors – the four biggest and most important tennis tournaments that take place annually (Wimbledon, US Open, French Open, Australian Open)
Point – tennis scoring works in points with 4 points to a game
Game – the first player to win 4 points wins a game
Set – the first player to win six games wins a ‘set’
Tie-break – played if the score reaches 6-games-all to decide who wins the set
Match – the individual tennis contest
Deuce – a score of 40-40
Advantage – the players who wins the next point after deuce wins ‘advantage’
Love – zero points in a game of tennis
Match point – the point that will win the tennis match
Winner – the winning player
Court – the area where the tennis match is played, which can be grass, clay or hard court
Net – the long woven netting that players hit the ball over in a game of tennis
Baseline – the back line where players stand at the start of a game. This line marks the back of the court.
Sidelines – the lines at the sides of the court
Racket – the bat with a round head that is used to hit the tennis ball
Ball – the spherical object hit during a tennis match (traditionally this is yellow)
Bounce – when the ball hits the ground and rebounds. The ball is allowed to bounce once before hitting it during a tennis match (or twice in wheelchair tennis)
Ball change – when the balls are changed during a match (they are changed after 7 games in a Grand Slam and again after another 9 games)
Stroke /Shot – a strike of the ball (there are 5 main strokes in tennis: forehand, backhand, serve, volley and overhead)
Volley – hitting the ball before it has bounced
Serve – the first hit of the ball to begin the game
‘Serve and volley’ – a style of play where the player serves and comes straight to the net to volley the return
Fault – a server has 2 attempts at the serve. If the ball is ‘out’ it is called a fault
Double fault – two faults and the server loses their serve
Ace – a point won directly from the serve
Forehand – a stroke where the palm of the hand faces forward
Backhand – a stoke where the palm of the hand faces backward with the arm across the body
Spin – a special technique where the player puts swerve on the ball to make it bounce differently (e.g. top spin, back spin, side spin)
Trophy – the decorative object awarded as the prize for winning the tournament. At Wimbledon, the men’s champion wins a silver gilt cup and the women’s champion wins a silver salver
Singles – a tennis match with two players
Doubles – a tennis match with four players (two on each side)
Final – the last match in a tournament, which will decide the overall winner
Ball boy/girl – the helpers who retrieve the balls that have gone out of play during the match
Royal Box – a special box on Centre Court where members of the Royal Family and other distinguished guests sit to watch the match.
Players – the competitors
Umpire – the head judge of a tennis match. The umpire sits in a tall chair at the site of the net
Line judges – the judges who watch along the side and base lines and help the umpire (you also find umpires in cricket)
Out! – this is what the line judge or umpire calls if a ball lands beyond the markings of the tennis court (‘out of bounds’). If the ball touches the line, it is classed as ‘in’.
Wimbledon Gap Fill Exercise
EFL Teachers can use the theme of Wimbledon in the classroom to create a fun comprehension exercise using tennis vocabulary.
After discussing Wimbledon and presenting the useful tennis vocabulary in the section above, students can complete a fun gap fill sheet as a comprehension test.
Ask students to choose the right words to fill in the gaps in the following text using all the tennis vocabulary they have learnt, along with their new knowledge of Wimbledon traditions:
Gap Fill Exercise for Wimbledon
Wimbledon first played in 1877, making it the (…1…) of the Grand Slams. The other Grand Slams are the US Open, The Australian Open and the (…2…) Open. The Grand Slams are also sometimes called the (..3…)
Wimbledon is the only Grand Slam to be (…4…) on a (…5…) court. This is why it is called ‘lawn tennis’. Unlike many other (…6…) sporting events, Wimbledon does not allow (…7…) around the sides of the court
This tournament is known for its traditions. Since 1963, all players at Wimbledon have been required to (…8…) (…9…) clothing. No other (…10…) are allowed to feature prominently.
Another tradition is the ‘day of rest’, which takes place on the middle (…11…) of Wimbledon fortnight. No (…12…) are played on this day.
Wimbledon is famous for its (…13…) and (…14…), a fruity dessert that has been served to spectators in the stands since 1877. (…15…) are associated with the start of (…16…) and many people like to (…17…) them while watching the tennis on television at home.
The Royal Family have always been associated with Wimbledon and (…18…) sometimes visits the players during Wimbledon fortnight. The Royal Family watch the action on Centre Court from the (…19…)
During the matches, (…20…) and (…21…) collect the (…22…) that have gone out of play. At Wimbledon they tend to work in teams of (..23….) working on rotation – one hour on, one hour off.
In tennis scoring, there are some interesting and strange words. The word (..24….) means zero points and if both players have 40 points, the score is called (…25…)
The (…26…) sits in a high chair at the side of the net and judges the match. There are also (…27… …28…) who watch the side lines and base lines. If the (…29…) lands outside of the markings on the (…30…) they will call ‘Out!’
A game played by one player on each side is called (…31…) and a game with two players on each side is called (…32…)
To start a game of tennis, the player serves the ball into the opposite corner of the court to be returned by their opponent. This is called their (…33…) Players always have two (…34…) which gives them two chances of getting an (…35…)
To play the game, the players hit the (…36…) over the (…37…) using their (…38…). The ball is allowed to (…39…) once before their opponent hits it back. In wheelchair tennis, the ball is allowed to (…40…) (…41…). If a player hits the ball without it bouncing first, it is called a (…42…)
The last (…43…) in a tournament is called the Final. The (…44…) of this match will win the decorative prize, which is called a (…45…)
- advertising / advertisements
- the Queen
- Royal Box
- ball boys/girls
- ball boys/girls
What do you think about tennis vocabulary and Wimbledon traditions?
What is your favourite Wimbledon tradition?
Have you ever been to Wimbledon? What was it like?
Do you find the scoring system for tennis confusing?
What other tennis vocabulary can you think of?
Let us know your thoughts on tennis vocabulary and Wimbledon in the comments!