Why tennis is the ‘language of life’

The 2017 film Boris vs McEnroe is considered one of the best tennis films ever made about the 1980 Wimbledon final between world tennis greats Werner Boris and John McEnroe. The film opens with a quote from Andre Agassi. “Tennis speaks the language of life. Advantage, service, fault, break, love. So every tennis match is a microcosm of our lives.”

Tennis is a game where someone has the advantage, someone serves the ball, someone faults, someone makes a mistake, someone breaks, and in the end, someone loves. I believe that the language of life has blossomed most spectacularly in sports, and there is nothing like tennis. Tennis is a sport of humanism and romance, with a language that is centred on people, respecting and caring for each other.

The sport’s humanistic origins are evident in its very name. According to the English dictionary, tennis comes from the French word tenez, which means “to take”. “Tenez” was shouted before serving. The birthplace of tennis is believed to be medieval France. French aristocratic families played a ball game called Jeu de Paume, which is believed to be the origin of tennis. The word literally means “palm game”. You hit the ball with the palm of your hand and send it to your opponent. It’s a kind of handball and is thought to have been played by the clergy in church or monastery courtyards. (See This Corner episode 901, “Why do we say ‘tennis’?”)

It was in England that sodpom developed into modern tennis. The game was brought to England during the Hundred Years’ War (1337-1453) with France. In 1873, Walter Wingfield, a major in the British army, adapted the sport and developed an outdoor game called sphairstirke, which is Greek for “playing ball”. The rules that were laid down form the basis of modern tennis rules. The game became so popular among the British middle class that the first Wimbledon tennis tournament was held at Wimbledon grounds in 1877. Tennis was able to establish itself as a luxury sport alongside golf because it spoke a language that reflected universal human values, fulfilling a primal human desire for the countryside.토토사이트

At the end of the 19th century in Britain and the United States, industrialisation was an unstoppable force. The lives of people at that time can be seen through the paintings of famous artists. Impressionist painter Édouard Manet’s iconic painting, Meal in the Grass, depicts a group of young people enjoying a casual moment on an outdoor lawn. Manet and other Impressionists travelled by train from the city to the countryside and diligently painted the countryside. They captured the desire to live in the countryside on canvas. As industrialisation rapidly increased and more people flocked to cities, some people with money dreamed of living in the countryside, away from the hustle and bustle of the city.

The British Eric Hobsbawm, one of the greatest historians of the 20th century, introduced a cross-section of the emerging middle classes in Britain and the United States in his famous trilogy The Age of Empire. Around 1900, local landowners in the US city of Boston were said to have told their sons. “Boston is nothing but heavy taxes and political turmoil. When you get married, choose a suburb, buy a house, join a country club, and make the club, your home, and your children the centre of your life.” Gradually, as suburban homes and gardens became the new way of life, middle-class people created gathering places called country clubs. (See “Why the word ‘country’ in ‘country club’” in this Corner, No. 28).

The original name for tennis was “lawn tennis”. In the UK, tennis is still officially referred to as ‘lawn tennis’. According to the Britannica dictionary, an important milestone in the history of modern tennis was when the All England Croquet Club in London set aside a grass court to play at Wimbledon in 1877. This was the beginning of Wimbledon. After the success of the tournament, the club changed its name to the All England Croquet and Lawn Tennis Club.
In the past, all the major tournaments were played on grass, except for the French Open. The US Open, first held in 1881, was played on grass until the 1974 edition. It was first played on clay courts in 1975 and then switched to hard courts in 1978. The Australian Open was played on grass from the tournament’s inception in 1905 until 1988, when it switched to hard courts. (See ‘Why is Wimbledon played on grass’ in this column, episode 911).

In his classic work Distinction, French sociologist P.F. Bourdieu criticised Europe’s cultural aristocracy for trying to monopolise cultural orthodoxy by distinguishing between those who played golf, tennis and other sports of the aristocracy and those who played sports of the common people. Since the 1970s and 80s, Korean society, which has succeeded in industrialisation with high economic growth, has also produced a large number of middle-class people who prefer tennis and golf, leading to stratification in sports culture.

As we look at the etymology and origins of tennis terms for the 100th time, we can’t help but notice how much influence words have on human society. Words are created by humans, but the power of words is that they structure human thought.

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