10 Things You Always Wanted to Know About Tennis But Were Afraid to Ask

19/07/2013 10:37 BST | Updated 19/07/2013 10:37 BST

From grunts to scoring systems, tennis is a sport that's full of unusual quirks and strange traditions. Read on as we answer ten unusual questions about the history, the rules, and the culture of tennis.

1. Why do tennis players grunt?

You've heard them: high-pitched screeches every time a tennis player strikes the ball. Grunting in tennis is half exertion - players exhausted from hitting the ball so hard - and half distraction. A good grunt lets out air at a rapid speed, as well as potentially psyching out the other player.

2. Where did tennis originate?

Historians believe that tennis originated in 12th century France, where players hit a ball back and forth using the palm of their hand. The modern game of tennis that we are familiar with, however, originated in 19th century England, where two members of the Leamington Spa in Birmingham introduced racquets and a Basque pelota ball.

3. What's the fastest tennis serve?

Australian tennis player Samuel Groth holds the world record for fastest serve, achieved during the 2012 Busan Open Challenger Tennis Tournament. It measured a staggering 163.4 miles per hour. The fastest women's serve record is held by Venus Williams, who served a tennis ball at 129 miles per hour at the 2008 Zurich Open.

4. Why do tennis players check the ball?

Have you ever noticed that tennis players might pick up several balls during a match and check them? They're not doing it to view the logo - instead, they're looking for a ball that isn't scuffed or damage. Due to the speed that professional tennis players hit the ball, tennis balls can easily become damaged during competitive play.

5. How long was the longest tennis game?

The longest tennis game in history was recorded during Wimbledon 2010. John Isner and Nicolas Mahut competed against each other for a record 11 hours and five minutes over the course of three days. Isner emerged victorious from the marathon game, which is the longest recorded competitive game in history.

6. Why is tennis scored the way it is?

Tennis is scored using an unusual system that counts from 15 to 30 and then to 40, before a player finally wins their set. The system is said to be based on a clock, which counts up in fifteen-minute increments. Once 'deuce' added to the score, the scoring system switched to ten-minute intervals from 30 onwards for a simple 60-minute score.

7. How long does the tennis ball spend in play?

Did you know that less than 20 percent of most tennis games involves the ball being in play? The average 150-minute competitive tennis game has about 25 minutes of action, with the rest of the match being taken up by preparation, rest breaks, and a lot of ball collecting.

8. Why is 'love' the score for zero?

There are several theories for 'love' being used as a score in tennis. The first relates to the shape of the number zero, which is said to resemble an egg. Players may have used the French word for egg, which sounds similar to 'love,' for a zero score. Some tennis historians believe the word relates to the players' love for each other.

9. Why is 'deuce' used in scoring?

'Deuce' refers to a point in tennis where one player must score two points in order to win the game. Deuce refers to the French word 'deux,' which means two. As the player needs to score two points to win the game, 'deuce' is a simple way to keep track of how many points the player needs to come out victorious.

10. Who is the richest tennis player?

When it comes to tennis and financial success, the United States comes first. The two wealthiest tennis players are believed to be Andre Agassi and Pete Sampras. In modern tennis, the most financially successful players are believed to be the Swiss Roger Federer and Russian Maria Sharapova.

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For more articles by Lauren Razavi on a broad range of different topics, visit her blog Take on the Road.