10 Things Tennis Players Have to Explain to Non-Tennis Players

Your friends who don’t play tennis just don’t get it. Here’s a way to explain the quirks of the game to them.

1. Why you refer to yourself as a 3.5

No, we’re not talking about GPA or physical attractiveness. We’re talking tennis-playing ability and it’s very important to know where you stand. You definitely don’t want to be stuck playing doubles with Linda if she’s a 2.0 and you’re basically a 3.0 — gasp! And no, you can’t “just hit around” with Mike — he’s like a 5.0 and he’ll run you off the court. Just kidding; we all get along and play together. Sort of.


2. Why grand slams are basically our equivalent to Fashion Week

We all really, really care about what EleVen dress Venus Williams is rocking at Roland Garros and what atrocity H&M will design next for Tomas Berdych. Sports Illustrated is looking at the pros’ fashion hits and misses more thoroughly than it’s recording their percentage of missed first serves. It’s not superficial — tennis players just know how to dress better than any other athlete.


3. Why we can’t play with anyone else’s racket

String tension, racket head, grip size, weight: all that matters when it comes to choosing your perfect tennis racket. We each have an affinity for a particular brand and we’d never switch our loyalty from Wilson to Babolat. If you borrow someone else’s racket and end up having a bad day on the tennis court it’s definitely because you had to play with a Pro Staff instead of a Juice (and everyone else will see that as a legitimate excuse, too.)


4. Why our racket bags must be roughly three-quarters of our body size

As mentioned previously, we’re really obsessed with our rackets and must own at least three. Hey, strings break all the time! Plus, you never know what you’re going to need for a match when there’s the potential that you could go to three set-tiebreakers, so you’ve got to have a lot of space in your bag. It’s better to be safe than sorry, so we’ll just pack the entire contents of our home in one backpack — we need at least one bottle of sunscreen, two towels, three pairs of socks, four Gatorades, five granola bars … we may as well bring a hot plate and cook a meal between sets while we’re at it.

raquet bag

5. Why we have so many ways of calling a ball “out”

We can say, “no,” “long,” “wide,” or just stick our pointer finger in the air like we’re E.T. phoning home. Unlike other sports, most of the time we don’t have refs on the court, so that kind of allows us to do whatever we want. And if your opponent misses the court by a mile we know it’s definitely more polite to say nothing at all.

phone home

6. Who A-Rod is

Sorry for you folks who think this nickname belongs to a Yankees baseball player, but every tennis player will assume you’re talking about Andy Roddick. If you want to have an argument about who’s more deserving of the sobriquet, please consult this article. Tennis wins.


7. What the U.S. Open is

Another one that you non-tennis people frequently get wrong. This is not an event that Tiger Woods has won three times, it’s one that Roger Federer has won five times. I know it’s confusing because they appeared in that “cringe-worthy” Gillette ad together, but acting careers aside, Roger trumps Tiger. Tennis wins again.

fed number1

8. Why we go to so many different “tennis things”

On Monday you have your clinic, on Wednesday it’s your private lesson, Thursday is when you practice with your team, and then Saturday you have league play. They’re all very different and you have to go to them all. “So that’s why I can’t do dinner with you this week. Maybe in the off-season*?”

* We don’t have one.

no no

9. Why we take warm-up so seriously

Warming up before a match, lesson, hit — anything really —  is no joke. We see you basketball players lazily shooting layups and baseball players casually tossing pop fly’s, but that’s not how we do it. If you have a match in the morning, you get to the venue at daybreak to get a solid 45 minutes of hitting in before the courts get too crowded and there’s none to claim. Mini-tennis is absolutely crucial, followed by some groundstrokes, a few volleys, several serves (first and second), and probably some point play. If you’re not sweating after a warm-up, are you actually warm?


10. Why we love tennis so much

Your friends who don’t play tennis will never understand why you love the sport as much as you do, and maybe that’s okay. If you’re still hoping to convince them to join you on the court, I know a nationwide tennis lessons service that can get them started. Help them fall in love with the game of a lifetime and you’ll never have to explain yourself again.



I grew up in a tennis family with three younger sisters as doubles partners. If you enjoyed a blog post of mine or want to know more, feel free to email me at avery@mytennislessons.com. Thanks for reading and staying connected with MyTennisLessons!
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