If one were to look back to the inception of tennis as a sport, one would find the concept of “real tennis.” This form of the game is still played, though mainly in the buildings of more elite establishments in the United Kingdom. “Real tennis” is to be found in the boarding schools, stately homes, and Royal properties, but always indoors.
“Lawn tennis” was established in the late 19th century and the rules formalized by the foremost cricket club of the time, the MCC. That was when the game really began to earn its reputation as an outdoor sport. Lawn tennis was designed to be played outdoors. Preferably in the hot, lazy summer days on the land of the gentry. As the sport has expanded it has found new homes, new surfaces, and new people. Tennis can now be described as a truly worldwide sport, with tremendous popularity and uptake across almost every country around the globe.
Indoor Tennis Provides A Greater Reach
Now it would appear that the sport is going full circle. The adoption of roofed courts at the Grand Slam venues symbolizes that tennis can be as much an indoor sport as outdoor. The preference of the likes of Wimbledon and Flushing Meadows is to play the matches outdoors as much as possible, but the indoor option is always there. Indeed, some of the modern great matches were held indoors.
For instance, think of those great Wimbledon encounters between Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal from 2018, or Andy Murray against Stan Wawrinka in 2009, and the shock of seeing Lukas Rosol defeat Nadal in the fifth set under the roof in 2012.
Modern technology–such as air conditioning, smart seating, and even strobe lighting and other visual effects–has made indoor tennis not only possible, but for some players and spectators, preferable. The ATP and WTA World Tour finals are both held indoors and the quality of the tennis displayed certainly vindicates the decision to hold it that way.
The benefits of a year-round tennis calendar
Some players have tremendous indoor records in comparison to outdoor. The consistency of the conditions plays a key role in this. Those players that possess huge swings or quite a risky game tend to profit from the controlled environment indoors. It can also suit players who relish an atmosphere as this seems to be a bit easier to generate at some indoor venues.
Roger Federer, perhaps unsurprisingly, excels indoors. There was even speculation that his 2018 Australian Open win under the roof was somehow influenced by the great Swiss. Andy Murray also has an excellent indoor record, as demonstrated by his most recent title win in Antwerp. Some players a little lower down the success scale sometimes show a big improvement for the transition indoors. Jo-Wilfried Tsonga won the majority of his ATP titles indoors, David Nalbandian, Robin Soderling and Andy Roddick all achieved much higher win percentages indoors in comparison to their overall figures.
All of this leads to the fact that tennis is no longer a preserve of the summer. There are seasons in Australia, Asia, Europe, and the Americas as each area has the ideal time for outdoor tennis. But indoor events have popped up on both tours throughout the year in all sorts of venues. The season-ending Asian swing, for example, is almost entirely indoors.
The proliferation of indoor tennis on the professional circuit has been matched in many countries by the provision of indoor courts for club and amateur players. This has meant that anyone who wants to pick up a racket at any time of the year can find a place to play. It also has been beneficial to the live betting markets. That tennis can take place under stable conditions at any time, any place in the world has meant that that sphere of gambling is constantly open for business.
Tennis As A Winter Sport
Whilst it would be foolish to expect tennis to turn up as a sport in the Winter Olympics it would be fair to say that it has somewhat shed the shackles of summer. Millions of people around the world now play tennis in the winter. It is seen alongside the likes of football, badminton and squash in sports facilities across the globe.
It remains important that tennis does have some sort of off-season in the calendar. Tradition dictates that this takes place in November and December, but it feels as though it really is “only” tradition that makes this so. Tennis could have a break, or a series of breaks, at any point of the year given the facilities now available.
Tennis is still a sun-chasing outdoor sport at heart and will never be officially classed as a winter sport. However, the game is now surely at least a year-round activity for players of all levels.
Main Photo from Getty.