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Tennis trivia

Be a tennis know-it-all with these facts.

1. The etymology of the term ‘tennis’ comes from the French ‘tenez’, which means “take heed” – or in order words, “heads up, I’m about to smash a ball made from sheep stomach at you with a wooden instrument stringed with cat gut.”

2. Lawn tennis was first patented in 1874 under the name Sphairistike, by a Pommy career soldier called Walter Clopton Wingfield. Aside from being woefully bad Greek, no-one knows why such a catchy name never caught on.

3. Venus Williams is the holder of the fastest serve in women’s tennis, with a bullet clocking 205 km/h. Meanwhile, the record-holding bloke is Aussie Samuel Groth, with a serve of 263 km/h.

4. Every year, over 24,000kg of strawberries are consumed at Wimbledon, and yet not once has a mass fruit fight ever broken out. Surely it’s about time?

5. Goran Ivanisevic is the only tennis player whose name alternates consonants and vowels, a fact first observed by someone with way too much time on their hands.

6. Sleep-deprived wives, take note: sewing a tennis ball into the back of your husband’s pyjamas may curb his awful snoring.

7. In its earliest origins, tennis had no racquet and was played with your hands – it was a called jeu de paume or “game of the palm.”

8. Tennis can be fatal if you’re a king. In 1316, Louis X caught a bad chill after playing and didn’t last the night, Charles VIII of France carked it in 1498 after hitting his head on the court’s door, and Scotland’s James I was slain by assassins in 1437 after he tried to escape through a sewer drain in the corner of his tennis court – the same drain he had ironically ordered to be blocked up the day prior as it annoyingly kept capturing all his errant tennis balls.

9. Bored yet? There’s a reason – during an average two-and-a-half-hour tennis match, the ball is only in play for about 20 minutes.

10. The first book about tennis was called Trattato del Giuoco della Palla, written in 1555 by Italian priest Antonio Scaino da Salo.

11. In 1998, a Mark Philippoussis match was interrupted when a mouse ran onto the court. (Just think – if it’d been a John McEnroe game, he might’ve asked if the mouse was blind, and a nursery rhyme could have come to life!).

12. Speaking of mice, in order to help the endangered Eurasian harvest mouse, all used tennis balls at Wimbeldon are now recycled to make homes for them.

13. To ward off those pesky rodents of the air, pigeons, Wimbledon employs their own beady-eyed, sharp-taloned hawk called Hamish, who patrols the skies over the grounds. The pigeons pretty much take the hint.

14. In a 2009 tournament, Maria Sharapova emitted the loudest-ever grunt at 105 decibels – that’s the equivalent of standing three feet from a revving motorbike.

15. Cool uses for old tennis balls include covering them in vasoline and hanging them on verandahs to deter bugs, applying them the feet of furniture to stop scuff marks, drying laundry faster in a dryer, collecting cobwebs, reducing slime build-up in swimming pools and placing them under windscreen wipers to preserve the rubber.

16. Henry VIII was playing a tennis game with gusto while he had his wifey Anne Boleyn executed.

17. England’s Henry “Bunny” Austin was the first player to ever bust out shorts at a professional tennis tournament in 1932. It’s uncertain if manscaping was big back then, so it’s likely his legs were quite hairy.

Know a fun fact we’ve missed? Tell us using #GenBetter

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