If you are a tennis fan–or maybe even if you aren’t–you may be following “Wimbledon,” the grand slam in England played on grass. The other “grand slams” are the Australian Open (played on hard court), the French Open (played on clay), and the U.S. Open (played on hard court).
The unusual scoring of 15-30-40-game for tennis was adapted for the first Wimbledon Championships in 1877 and became the standard. Why such strange scoring no one seems to know for sure, but there are a couple possible explanations. One is that there was a clock face at the end of the court and a hand was moved a quarter move after each point, with the score being called as 15, 30, or 45. When the hand was moved to 60, the game was over. Another possibility is that the scoring may have been taken from the game “Sphairistike,” played by British officers in India in the 19th century. That game’s scoring system was based on the different gun calibres of the British naval ships. When firing a salute, the ships first fired their 15-pound guns on the main deck, followed by the 30-pound guns of the middle deck, and finally by the 40-pound lower gun deck.
Tennis is an exciting, popular sport, a great way to get physical exercise, and a sport you can play, without a lot of expense, much of your life (They even have wheel-chair matches!). But, if you plan to win the match, you don’t want “love,” for in the strange scoring system, “love” is nothing! So, you always try to give the “love” to your opponent!
The sport originated in France in the 11th century where French Monks started playing a game by stringing a rope across a courtyard and hitting a crude ball over the rope. The game progressed and became popular with royalty before catching on in England in the 13th century. When returning a ball over the net, the French players shouted, “tenez,” which roughly translated means, “Take that!” (Kind of like the grunts or screeches you hear from some of the professional players today!). The English players used the term too, but it became “tennis.” The “racquet” (racket) probably came from the French “rachasser” meaning “to strike the ball back.” Felt fuzz was added to the hollow core rubber ball to make it softer, less bouncy, to give it more wind resistance and to give a player more racket control.
The term “deuce” (when the score is tied at 40-40) is derived from the French deux, indicating an advantage of two points having to be gained to win. But what about the term “love,” meaning nothing? It may have come from the French word l’oeuf meaning “egg,” which looks like a zero. Well, in tennis, love may mean “nothing,” but in life it means everything. In fact, there is a love that is everything–God’s love. The Bible even says that “the one who does not love does not know God, for God is love” (I Jn. 4:8). The Greek word translated “love” in that verse is agape and refers to “unconditional, no-strings-attached love,” and its only source is God. The Apostle Paul tells us: “…the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us” (Ro. 5:5). God demonstrated that love through Christ’s death on our behalf (Ro. 5:8; Jn. 3:16). When we trust Christ as our Savior, God sends the Holy Spirit to indwell us, and through the Spirit, Christ also lives in us, and we thus have that love “poured out within our heart.” Thus, as a believer, we have the potential, as we allow the Holy Spirit of God to control us, to love with agape love–and what a difference that makes in relationships!
So, when you accept God’s great gift of salvation through His Son, Jesus Christ, you won’t ever be a “loser,” but the recipient of the greatest love ever known or shown–and you will have “…everything pertaining to life and godliness” (II Pet. 1:3). “By this the love of God was manifested in us, that God has sent His only begotten Son into the world so that we might live through Him. In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation (satisfaction) for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.” Love, anyone?
By the way, it’s to your advantage to play tennis, for no matter how you slice it, it is a deuce of a game! You’ll love it. Sometimes the overhead is pretty high but you can still be a smashing hit. Players come in all sizes and shapes for there are different strokes for different folks. In fact, if you want to serve, tennis is the place for you. The net results may astonish you. But beware, if you let tennis become a racket for you, you may end up in court through no fault of your own. Just keep in mind, it is better to have lobbed and lost than never to have lobbed at all! So set aside some time to get out on the courts. It’s an experience hard to match!