© Ella Ling

Venus Williams - Miami 2012 - 5

The new tennis dictionary


Venus Williams spoke the other day of being a ‘chegan’, a word she had just invented: “I started eating raw, and I started eating vegan. And I also cheat. So I’m a chegan.” It remains to be seen whether chegan will be heard of again, but here are some of the more unusual words and phrases that you might have heard in tennis.

Taken to the woodshed – to suffer a heavy defeat.
Brad Gilbert gave tennis the idea of ‘winning ugly’, but his most recent addition to the tennis lexicon is a colourful phrase to use about someone who been easily beaten. To really sound like Gilbert, use a nickname for the player. And combine with ‘beatdown’. Example sentence: “I smell a beatdown. Dr Ivo [Karlovic] is going to be taken to the woodshed.”

A hot-dog – when a player hits a shot through their legs.
Also known as a ‘tweener’. Roger Federer has become associated with ‘tweeners’ or ‘hot-dogs’. Those shots have been played when he had his back to the court and to his opponent. There was some debate last summer whether the shots that Andy Murray played on the grass – at Queen’s and at Wimbledon – deserved a different name. Murray’s trick shots, the wafting of the racket behind his back and through his legs from back to front, came when he was facing the direction of the court.

Fearhand – a forehand struck with enough power to terrify your opponent.
Fernando Gonzalez, who retired  this week, had a fearhand. Brad Gilbert talks about players having a fearhand.

Hail Mary – a high lob, used when scrambling around in defence.

Breadstick – a 6-1 set.
While the bagel – a 6-0 set – has passed into common usage, and those outside the sport would understand the term, breadstick has yet to make that crossover. Breadsticks are not much more pleasant to chew on than bagels.

Bagelstick – a 6-0, 6-1 victory.

Stickbagel – the opposite of the above, 6-1, 6-0.

Sticks/bats – Rackets.

Drill – to hit an opponent with your shot, most likely deliberately.
For example, Nicolas Almagro was said to have ‘drilled’ a shot at Tomas Berdych during this year’s Australian Open (Berdych refused Almagro’s handshake at the end of the match).

Tube – to go straight at the opponent with a shot.

Kicker – a serve loaded with heavy topspin.

Slider – a slice serve out wide on the forehand or up the T on the backhand side (for a right-hander)


  • sunny nine

    How about “AD” and “deuce” court?  What do they mean and how did they come about?