Tennis: Olympics, Gear, and Tips
At the Summer Olympics, Tennis will take place between Saturday, July 24, 2021 till Sunday, August 1. Tennis was added back to the Olympics in 1988, and the United States and Great Britain have won the most metals.
This year, due to Covid, the Tokyo Olympic Tennis event is likely to be a hotly contested event with many of the dominant top professionals opting not to participate -- the tour famously had issues with the stringent quarantine at the Australian open.
Get out and play Tennis though! Tennis is a game for all ages. Personally, I started playing when I was 10. After years playing in parks during our city's free summer tennis lessons, I enjoyed doubles with an eighty-year old former state champ in my parent's work tennis league. Tennis is truly a sport for a lifetime. Once you master the basic skills, the U.S. Tennis Association (the USTA) is a great way to get out and play with others.
The College Game
Across the United States, there are 264 Division 1 Tennis Teams and yes, the USTA even offers scholarships for tennis. If you would like to explore recruitment, a good website to follow is The Tennis Recruiting Network which closely follows junior tennis. Also keep your eye on Intercollegiate Tennis Association, it is the governing body for college tennis.
Rules: It All Starts With Love
It takes four points to win a game, though the scoring goes 15, 30, 40 and game. A score of 30-love indicates the server has won two points and the receiver none. And if players tie at 40, the game goes to deuce. Play continues until one player wins two consecutive points.
The first player to win six games by a two-game margin wins the set. If the players tie at 6-6, a tiebreaker is played. The first to reach seven by a two-point margin wins the set. Matches typically played in a best of three sets or best of five sets format.
Flexibility, agility, and a combination of strength, speed, and endurance are the athletic building blocks of a tennis athlete. When you play tennis, you can burn over 200 calories in 30 minutes. And doing most of the work are your leg muscles, including your glutes, quadriceps, hamstrings and calves.
Start with a short court drill. Use the service boxes, designate one player as the cross-court player and the other as the down-the-line player. Cross-court player starts and hits diagonally into the down-the-line player's box. The down-the-line player hits it, wait for it, down the line and play continues.
If you have multiple players, even an odd number, play King and Queen of the Court where two players rally, and the winner stays.
Play short tennis: at the services boxes, start with an underarm serve, bounce the ball and then hit it into play. The service boxes define in and out.
A good way to age someone is ask if they played with a wooden racket. Wood rackets were very difficult to play with, often because the head -- the string area on a racket -- was much smaller than today's rackets.
Because a racket vibrates after hitting tennis balls, minimizing vibrations defines racket materials -- Graphite, Aluminum, or even Kevlar is used -- and is the usual difference in price.
You will see competitive tennis players carry large bags of multiple rackets because after a period of use, tennis strings alter tension, affecting your play. If you are a weekend player, the main consideration for rackets, after you purchase one, is string tension.
Choose loose to start: If you see John McEnroe play, he uses a loose tension and is famously deft with his net volleys. Wilson, the tennis racquet company, recommends 44-45 pounds for beginners and slightly more, 48-49 pounds, for advanced players. Professional tennis players like Rafael Nadal or Andy Murray use 55+ pounds.
For the detailed tennis racket shopper, a tennis racket's balance and stiffness is important: The stiffness of a racket directly affects the power of the frame. Stiffer rackets return more of the impact energy to the ball, resulting in more power, while flexible rackets return less energy, resulting in less power. Stiff rackets tend to be harder on the body. Tennis elbow and other arm problems are often worsened by very stiff rackets.
Head light versus head heavy rackets: Most professional players use head light rackets. They are generally more maneuverable by a player despite having high static weight.
Head heavy rackets provide additional power because most of the weight in the racket is in the hitting zone. Few professionals use head heavy rackets, but this type of racket can help smaller or weaker recreational players generate easy power.
When I first started, I really enjoyed a head heavy Wilson racket -- I was 10, so generating power was a big issue. As I played in high school and college, power was less of a concern, accuracy and the mental game become more important.
Tennis play puts a lot of wear on tennis shoes because of the repeated stop and start, and the change of direction. Tennis shoes are adapted with a wide and low rubber sole for those rapid lateral movements and changes of direction.
Tennis players also have a tendency to wear out the toe of their shoe, so the toes of many tennis shoes are reinforced with extra rubber or other material.
Important: Check your soles. Scuffing tennis courts with black marks damages the courts, so tennis shoe soles are non-scuffing.
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