The Smashing Lexicon of Tennis

Let’s look at some tennis words, which won’t help your stroke but will boost your vocabulary. For the full article, check out: Tennis, Anyone?

Activities for this list:

definitions & notes only words
  1. ace
    a serve that the receiver is unable to reach
    "I think my game today was much better, especially my serve," said Pliskova, who pounded 13 aces past her opponent.Reuters (Aug 10, 2017)
    The primary sense of ace is a playing card that has two meanings or functions: it takes the place of one, but it’s also the most valuable card in the deck. In tennis, an ace is also valuable: it refers to serving with such power and speed that your opponent can’t hit the ball back. Serena Williams is great at acing opponents. If you get 100, you can say you aced a test. Among other meanings, ace can be an adjective for someone really talented at what they do, like an ace pilot.
  2. match
    a formal contest in which people or teams compete
    Muguruza broke her again to open the second set and faced only two break points during the entire match.New York Times (Aug 20, 2017)
    This is a word that applies to many situations that involve one plus one. If your shirt and pants go together, they match. If you meet the person you want to marry, you met your perfect match. In sports, a one-on-one contest is called a match. Tennis commentators talk about match play (singles matches) as opposed to doubles (teams of two playing each other).
  3. smash
    hit (a tennis ball) in a powerful overhead stroke
    Frustration boiled over for the Swiss in the second set after he misfired with an overhead smash.Reuters (Aug 10, 2017)
    To smash something is to destroy it utterly. It’s no accident that destructive antihero the Hulk’s catchphrase is “Hulk smash!” In tennis, smash has a meaning with similar power: a smash is an overhead hit, often right at the net, resulting in a point, since the opponent has no chance of hitting it back. A powerful serve could also be called a smash.
  4. volley
    a tennis return made by hitting the ball before it bounces
    Williams saved a break point for 5-4, paying no heed to the applause that greeted her double fault and a butchered drive volley.The Guardian (Jul 13, 2017)
    The original meaning of volley is fairly horrifying: since the 1500s, a volley was a discharge of multiple guns or other firearms. In tennis, a volley is far more peaceful and entertaining: a player volleys when they return the ball before it hits the ground. This term is obviously also important to another sport with a net, volleyball.
  5. fault
    an imperfection in an object or machine
    Williams saved a break point for 5-4, paying no heed to the applause that greeted her double fault and a butchered drive volley.The Guardian (Jul 13, 2017)
    A fault is some kind of defect or mistake. If you spilled a drink, and then someone slipped on it, that was your fault. Also, everyone has faults in the sense of traits that aren’t the best. In tennis, the meaning of fault is more specific: an error made while serving. If your serve hits the net, even a little bit, that’s a fault, and you need to serve again. If you hit the net again, that’s a double fault, which results in a point for the other player.
  6. stroke
    a single complete movement
    Both finalists rely on uncomplicated games of big serving and ground strokes.The Guardian (Jul 14, 2017)
  7. clay
    water-soaked soil; soft, wet earth
    Unlike the other grand slams that are played on cement or clay, Wimbledon's courts are alive.Reuters (Jun 30, 2017)
  8. break
    a score consisting of winning a game on an opponent's serve
    Federer was sloppy from the start on center court, sending routine forehands wide and providing Ferrer with early break opportunities.New York Times (Aug 11, 2017)
    Breaking refers to many sorts of destruction, but in tennis you’ve broken your opponent if you win the game when they’re serving.
  9. love
    a score of zero in tennis or squash
    Nadal was down love - forty (0 - 40) in the second game of the set, but held on and didn't give up the break.
  10. deuce
    tie requiring winning two successive points to win the game
    After fighting through deuce, he struck a forehand long to hand Nadal his fifth break of the match at 1-4 in the third.The Guardian (Jun 11, 2017)
  11. backhand
    a return made with the back of the hand facing the stroke
    Federer’s right-handed second serve is hit with topspin, kicking up high into the body on the backhand side of the returner.New York Times (Aug 24, 2017)
  12. lob
    an easy return of a tennis ball in a high arc
    Murray used plenty of drop shots and lobs, often to great effect.New York Times (Jun 9, 2017)

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