Spotlight on Tennis: Fun Facts for Sports Fans

Tennis is a sport involving strength, speed and stamina.  At the professional level it has created some of the wealthiest and most recognisable celebrities on the planet.  Superstars like Roger Federer and Serena Williams have made hundreds of millions of dollars in prize money and sponsorship deals.

These sporting icons are not only entertainers, role models and business people, they’re philanthropists who donate huge sums of money to good causes.  Federer, for one, has foundations all over the world, including in Zambia where he recently donated $5.8 million towards educating local kids!
With this level of popularity and far-reaching influence, tennis is here to stay… but where did the sport originate and how has it evolved?  Let’s take a look at a few noteworthy facts about tennis, the equipment and the players.

Fact #1 - Egyptian carvings dating back to around 1450 BC depict a game that’s believed to be the precursor of tennis.  One obvious exception to the modern game is the players’ use of their hands, rather than racquets, to propel a ball the size of a football over a rope.
Fact #2 - Experts believe the sport was named after the Medieval Egyptian port of Tennis.  Once located southwest of current day Port Said, at the confluence of the Nile, Lake Tinnis and the Mediterranean Sea, Tennis was an important sea port specialising in transporting textiles from Egypt across the Middle East.  The settlement was eventually abandoned in 1192 but its spirit lives on in the popular, multi-set sport.
Fact #3 - In support of the game’s Middle Eastern origins, the term racquet is said to come from the Arabic word ‘Rahat’ which translates to ‘palm of the hand’.

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Fact #4 - Today’s lightweight carbon fibre racquets were preceded by the hand palm, elongated wooden paddles that looked similar to oars and conventional wooden racquets used by the likes of Billie Jean King, John McEnroe and Ken Rosewall.
Fact #5 - The most expensive tennis racquet sold at auction was Billie Jean King’s autographed Wilson Woodhead.  It was the racquet she used to beat Bobby Riggs in the ‘Battle of the Sexes’ exhibition match in 1973 and sold for $125,000.
Fact #6 - The most valuable ‘racquet’ is a pure gold trophy designed in the shape of a tennis racquet for the now defunct Diamond Games, a WTA tournament held in Antwerp until 2015.  Weighing in at four kilograms and studded with 1700 diamonds, the trophy is valued at $1,3 million.  Who was the lucky recipient of the million-dollar windfall?  Three-time winner Amelie Mauresmo!

Amelie Mauresmo with diamond-studded racket
Fact #7 - Collectively, the four major championships have more than $186 million in prize money up for grabs in 2019.  With a prize pool of $55 million, the US Open is the big buck’s generator followed by the French Open ($48m), The Australian Open ($42,85m) and Wimbledon ($40,79m).
Fact #8 - The first of the four Grand Slams, the Australian Open has introduced two heat-related changes at this year’s event.  During periods of extreme heat men’s singles players are allowed a 10-minute break between the third and fourth sets and for the first time ever in Melbourne, a 10-point tie break is the decider in the final set.
 Australian Open

Fact #9 - More than eight million TV viewers turned in to watch the Wimbledon men’s and ladies’ finals in 2018, the highest of all the Grand Slams.
Fact #10 - Roger Federer is regarded as the greatest tennis player of all-time.  He’s also the richest, boasting an estimated net worth of $450 million in 2018.

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Published: 01/18/2019