Tennis from A to Z


This article is part of FT Globetrotter’s new series on the pleasure of tennis


Alcaraz The future of men’s tennis, with a forehand like a Switchblade missile. Carlos Alcaraz is 19, ranked in the top 10, and has beaten Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic on consecutive days in May. Born in Murcia, in the south of Spain, he is the least nervous teenager you will ever meet at Eton. According to the official rules of the ATP Tour, each newspaper is only entitled to one “Escape from Alcaraz” title per Grand Slam.



Boris Becker No matter how many titles you win as a teenager, you can still find yourself in the wrong kind of court, especially if you hide £2.5m in bankruptcy proceedings. ‘I accept you were in chaos,’ the judge told Becker, now 54, in April, but ‘you showed no remorse [or] humility”. The three-time Wimbledon champion was sentenced to two and a half years in prison, half of which he is likely to serve. A shame for those who enjoyed watching him on BBC coverage.


framing After Wimbledon, the men’s circuit will be on trial allowing coaching during matches. But if the pros really want to know all about the sidelines telling them not to hit the ball wide, they can go to any tennis club any day of the week. Be careful what you wish for.


Cushioning The one shot that will make you look like a genius or an idiot. There is no middle ground. For amateurs, see also forehand smash.


Equality Prize money is equal in major tournaments. At Wimbledon, men and women both receive £50,000 for making the first round and £2 million for winning the title. But the playing field is still far from level. Sponsorship is spotty, and at some events this year women’s matches were scheduled outside of prime time and therefore played in nearly empty stadiums. And yes, women don’t play five sets, which is part of why their matches have more upsets.


Federer The face that inspired a thousand male authors to write quasi-erotic essays. Roger Federer has taken a long break with a knee injury since Wimbledon last year. He will be 41 in August. He has two sets of twins. And even! The Swiss player is aiming for a comeback, possibly at the Laver Cup in September. If the service works, if the movement is there. . . Watching it will again be, for some, a “religious experience” (copyright David Foster Wallace).


Grass The perfect surface for tennis, if you don’t mind not playing it most of the year and watching it wear out faster than Primark underwear. No, really, it’s good.


Hips Until recently considered essential for high level tennis. Now maybe not, given that Andy Murray has pulled off a great comeback after hip resurfacing surgery.


Iga Świątek She’s the future of women’s tennis, with more hot streaks than grilled bacon. The relentlessly athletic Pole – who relaxes by building Lego – achieves Serena-esque dominance. The 21-year-old would have had an intriguing rivalry with Ash Barty, had the Australian not retired in March.


Junk balls Those terrible looping punches your opponent hits that you think you should hit to win? They are “junk balls”, and missing them is perhaps the most annoying thing in tennis (except when people cheer for double faults). The secret, according to tennis coach Karue Sell, is not trying to hit a winner. Your opponent will be back in position anyway. Be patient.


knock-up Why is it so much easier to hit good shots in a knock-up (the warm-up session) than in a real game?


Line calls Tip for amateur tennis players: The fastest way to improve your game is to simply call more shots from your opponent. Unfortunately, it’s also the fastest way to lose your opponents.


Match point A player may think it’s all over, but it’s not. Novak Djokovic has won at least seven titles after facing match points at one point in the tournament. It helps if a spectator is shouting just as your opponent serves (like they did in the 2019 Wimbledon final).


Nadal Half machine, half medical miracle, Rafael Nadal has been fighting pain for years. Is it finally over? Will the sport again see someone choose their wedge shorts with such a style?


to cancel When a referee overrules a linesman’s decision, that is how referees prove they are awake.


Passing shots Beauty things that more or less killed serve and volley tactics.


Waiting line Yes, you could get a posh corporate ticket to Wimbledon. But the real way to experience the world’s biggest tennis tournament is to wake up insultingly, join the queue of surprisingly happy people outside and get a ground pass for £27.


Retirement You can do it when you’re 25 and ranked number one in the world (Ash Barty). You can refuse to do this when you are 40 and no longer world number one (Roger Federer). Each player will assess the physical and mental record, money and opportunities outside the game. Maybe it’s the strict tour schedule that gets to them. As John McEnroe wrote of Björn Borg, who retired at 26, “for the five years he won Wimbledon, he stayed in the same hotel, trained at the same time and in the same place. – all day. Every day, he ate the same meals, had a massage at the same time.


Serena The greatest female player of all time is preparing, at 40, for life after sport, including joining an unsuccessful bid to buy Chelsea FC and trying to expand access to (sigh) Bitcoin. But she’s back and no one will relish facing her, even though she’s world number 1204.


Temper We’re obviously all supposed to disapprove when players lose their rag on the pitch. Secretly, there’s a joy in watching wealthy pros yell at the clouds, especially since the introduction of Hawk-Eye means they can barely complain about phone calls. This joy evaporates when it gets really serious (see: Zverev).


Ukraine Should Wimbledon really have banned Russian and Belarusian players, like Daniil Medvedev and Victória Azárenka? The move, in a sport where players typically compete as individuals, hasn’t had too many supporters. Australian player John Millman fumed that Wimbledon would have had more impact by donating all his profits to aid instead. But there’s no doubt how affected Ukrainian players, like Elina Svitolina, have been by Russian players’ refusal to condemn the war. Sergiy Stakhovsky, a retired professional who once knocked Federer out of Wimbledon, is among those who have taken up arms for their country.


Vaccination Pretty much the only thing standing between Novak Djokovic and this year’s Australian Open title. Oops.


Wind In club tennis, usually to blame for everything, even when it’s not blowing.


It turns out that nothing in tennis starts with a X.


Youth Not necessarily a disadvantage. Ask Emma Raducanu.


Zverev The most difficult player to love on the professional circuit? Alexander Zverev has been accused of domestic violence by a former girlfriend (he denies this and has sued a journalist and publisher in Germany who reported the allegations). At this year’s Mexican Open, he hit the referee’s chair with his racket and shouted a few F-words. The ATP still allowed him to play the next tournament, so he will surely have retained Lesson.

Any entries to add to our tennis lexicon? Tell us in the comments

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