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Mag By Craig Gabriel

GET TENNIS TERMS RIGHT
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GET TENNIS TERMS RIGHT

Let’s get things straight, can we please get tennis terminology correct? Things have been butchered by so many at the Australian Open and leading up to the Australian Open. It is not so hard to get it right. The sport needs to get back on track with this before it gets stuffed up even more. You know what I mean?

It is terrible when professional players don’t get it right, they should know better. When they say something, people believe they are right. It is like a celebrity endorsing a consumer product. People think just because the so-called celeb has put their name to the item that the item is good. Similarly, when a big-name tennis player or former tennis player, who could have become a commentator refers to the Australian Open as a “grand slam” do not take that as being gospel or correct.

A couple of weeks ago I had an extended exchange on Twitter with a recently retired player who is trying his hand at TV commentary and it came across that the player did not seem to be aware of the distinction. That really took me by surprise. They kept saying “grand slam” instead of “major” while referring to the Australian Open. 

The person did not want to be convinced that he was incorrect and said, “well the slogan for the tournament is ‘grand slam of Asia/Pacific’”. True it does say that, but the person didn’t seem to want to understand that was just a marketing term created years ago to attract more investment and visitors from the region.

The words “grand slam” as a term for each of the four biggest tournaments in the world – Australian Open, French Open, Wimbledon and US Open – is wrong. It is a lazy way to refer to them. It has become a colloquial way to refer to them and the sport needs to get out of that habit. 

This is not a dig at the Americans but saying grand slam generated much more from the Americans connected to the sport and those who have a peripheral view of the sport; media there who don’t cover the sport on a regular basis and tend to use words and terms they are comfortable with.

So here is a quick guide to some of the common misused terms in tennis and what is correct:

MAJOR – the Australian Open, French Open, Wimbledon, US Open; individually they are majors. Majors is also used in golf. During my ball-by-ball commentary on Australian Open Radio, one person on Twitter had a go at me and said it was not a term in tennis and that I had no idea. I may not have an idea on a lot of things, but this is not one of them. That person had no clue what they were talking about and should have checked their facts.

GRAND SLAM – this is winning the Australian Open, French Open, Wimbledon, US Open in one calendar year. That is the only correct way to use the term Grand Slam. The term originally came from the card game bridge. It is fine to say “a career grand slam” for someone who has won all four at different times but it’s superfluous to say “Smith won a calendar year grand slam” because, as mentioned, that’s what the, or a, grand slam is.

GAME – a game is what is played in a set, the 1, 2, 3, 4 etc. It is not a game if you are talking about people playing one another across three sets or whatever. 

MATCH – this is the overall contest between players. Many colloquially call this a game, it is not a game, it is a match. For me, calling it a game is like hearing car tyres screeching on a road, it is cringeworthy and crass.

OPEN – At a presentation ceremony during one of the lead-up tournaments to the Australian Open, I heard a player’s record referred to as “… winner of four Australian Opens”. Totally wrong. The player being referred to had won all the titles before 1968. That was not in the Open-era. The Open-era started in 1968 at a tournament in Bournemouth, England and the first major in the Open-era was Roland Garros in 1968. The first Australian Open was in 1969. Anything before that was, as an example, the Australian Championships. This is important to know. By going Open an event was then accessible to the professional players who, up to then, were banned.

So, there you have it. Very simple, tennis 101. It’s up to the individual to pick up the correct terminology. I can try and teach but if someone doesn’t want to learn, then there is nothing I can do.