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Plug In The Ring
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Source: Outdoor Sports and Games

How to make and mark a tennis court--Clay and sod courts--The proper
grip of the racket--Golf--The strokes and equipment

The steady growth in popularity of lawn tennis as well as the splendid
exercise that results from playing this game has given it a sure place
in the field of athletic sports. It is a game that requires a great
deal of skill, and as no one realizes this fact more than those who
are experts, a beginner should not be deterred from playing tennis
simply because he may fear the criticism of the more experienced. The
only way to learn the various strokes and to be able to play a good
game is to practise at every opportunity. It is better to play against
some one who is more skilful than ourselves and who will keep us on
our mettle to make a good showing.

The eye and the muscles must work automatically and with precision. No
amount of written instructions can give us this skill. The personal
outfit for playing tennis is of course very simple. Every player
should own his racket and become accustomed to it. They cost almost
any price up to eight dollars, which will buy the very best rackets
made. The weight and size of the racket will depend on our strength.
The average weight for a man is about fourteen ounces and for a boy an
ounce or two lighter. A skilful player becomes so accustomed to the
feeling and weight of his own racket that often he will play an
indifferent game if he is forced to use any other.

The game of lawn tennis was first played on a lawn or grass court, and
many players still prefer this kind of a court, but the difficulty of
obtaining a good sod, and after having obtained it the greater
difficulty of keeping it in good condition, have increased the
popularity of a skinned or clay court, which is always in fair
condition except immediately after a heavy rain. The expense of
maintaining a tennis court is more than most boys or most families
would care to undertake.

As a rule, tennis courts fall in the same general class with golf
links in that they lend themselves readily to the joint ownership of a
club or school, where the expense falls on a number rather than on an
individual. In a great many places the boys of a town or village have
clubbed together and have obtained permission from some one owning a
piece of vacant ground that is not likely to be sold or improved
within a few years and have built a tennis court on it. This
arrangement helps the appearance of the land, that should be secured
at a very low rental, or none at all if the owner is public spirited
and prefers to see the boys of his town grow up as healthy, athletic
men rather than weaklings who have no place for recreation but in the
village streets, where passing trucks and automobiles will endanger
their lives, or at least cause them to be a nuisance to the public.

[Illustration: The dimensions of a tennis court]

To build a tennis court properly means a lot of work and it should
only be attempted under the direction of some one who understands it.
The things most important are good drainage, good light, and
sufficient room. A double court is 36 feet wide by 72 feet long, but
in tournament games or on courts where experts play it is customary to
have an open space about 60 feet wide by 110 to 120 feet long, to give
the players plenty of room to run back and otherwise to play a fast
game. A court should always be laid out north and south or as near
these points of the compass as possible. In courts running east and
west the sun is sure to be in the eyes of one of the players nearly
all day; this is of course a very serious objection. While it is very
pleasant to play tennis in the shade of a tree or building, a court
should never be located under these conditions if it is possible to
avoid it. A properly placed court should be fully exposed to the sun
all day.

First of all it will be necessary to decide whether a grass or "dirt"
court is to be built. If the grass is fine and the place where the
court is to be happens to be level, there is little to do but to cut
the sod very short with a lawn-mower and to mark out the court. If, on
the contrary, there is much grading or levelling to be done, a dirt
court will be much cheaper and better in the end, as constant playing
on turf soon wears bare spots. The upkeep of a grass court will be
expensive unless it is feasible to move its position from time to

Whatever the court is to be, the first question to consider is proper
drainage. If the subsoil is sandy the chances are that the natural
soakage will take care of the surplus water, but on the contrary, if
the court is at the bottom of a hill or in a low place where clay
predominates, it is necessary to provide some means of getting rid of
the surplus water from rainfalls or our court may be a sea of mud just
when it would be most useful to us. To level a court properly we shall
need the services of some one expert with a levelling instrument of
some kind. It is not safe to depend on what seems to be level to our
eye, as our judgment is often influenced by leaning trees, the
horizon, and other natural objects. With a few stakes driven into the
ground, the tops of which are level, we are enabled to stretch lines
which will give us our levels accurately.

A court should have a slope of a few inches from one end to the other
to carry off water. After the level is determined, all there is to
making a court is to fill in or cut away soil and earth until the
proper level space is obtained. As a rule it is better to dig away for
a court rather than to fill in, as we thus obtain a better bottom and
one that will require but little rolling. In the case of a slope, it
is well so to locate the court that the amount of earth excavated
from one end will be just about sufficient to fill in the other.

The final surfacing of a court is done by means of clay and sand in
the proportion of about four or five to one, the clay of course being
in excess. To mix clay and sand thoroughly, the former should first be
pulverized thoroughly when dry and the mixture sifted over the court
carefully and evenly. The next step is rolling and wetting, and more
rolling and wetting until finally the whole is allowed to dry and is
ready for play. The slight irregularities and roller ridges that often
appear in a court will soon be worn off by the players' feet, but
playing of course will not change the grade. A new court will be
greatly improved by use, but no one should be allowed on a court
except with rubber-soled shoes. Heeled shoes will soon ruin a court,
and it is bad practice even to allow any one to walk over a court
unless with proper footwear.

The preliminary levelling of a court can be accomplished with a rake
and a straight-edged board, but after the clay has become packed and
hard it will be necessary to use considerable force in scraping off
the inequalities. A metal cutting edge, such as a hoe or scraper, will
be found useful. A court should be swept with a coarse broom to
distribute the fine material evenly. Another very good sweeper can be
made from a piece of wood about six or eight feet long to which
several thicknesses of bagging have been tacked or fastened. The final
step in making a court consists in marking it out. Most courts are
marked so that they will be suitable either for singles or doubles or
so that either two or four people can play at a time. Where tape
markers are to be used, the proper distances will appear on the tape
without measuring, but if lime is used for marking a careful plotting
will be necessary to secure the proper distances, after which the
corners should be indicated by angle irons, so that the court may be
re-marked at any time without re-measuring.

[Illustration: A game of doubles in lawn tennis]

Considerable difficulty is often experienced by beginners in marking
out a court, and, in fact, it is not a simple matter. The first thing
of importance is to determine generally one corner of the court and to
get a base line and a side line at a true right angle of ninety
degrees. The same principle may be employed that is used by builders
and surveyors in "squaring a building," as it is called. You will need
a ten-foot pole with marks for the feet indicated on it in lead
pencil, and in addition to this a few 20-penny spikes and a ball of
stout twine. Drive a nail into the ground where you want one corner of
the court and fasten the line to it; then stretch the line to another
nail to mark either a side line or back line. You will then have one
side and the corner fixed, and the problem is to get another line at
right angles to it. Boys who have studied geometry know that "in a
right-angle triangle the square of the hypotenuse is equal to the sum
of the squares of the other two sides." It isn't necessary to
understand this, but it is the principle employed in "squaring." You
next stretch another line and have some one hold it. On the fixed side
line you measure eight feet from the corner nail and mark it with a
piece of twine tied around the line. You also make a six-foot mark on
the line to be at right angles to it, the exact direction of which is
yet to be determined. Both of these measurements must be accurate.
The boy on the end of the loose line moves it until the distance
between the two pieces of twine is exactly the length of your ten-foot
pole. The angle thus formed is exactly ninety degrees, or a right
angle. Having obtained one side and one end, to finish marking is
simply a matter of making the necessary measurements of a court as
shown on the diagram and marking each intersecting point with a nail
driven into the ground.

[Illustration: How to mark out a tennis court]

Another way to lay out a court is to drive two stakes or nails into
the ground 27 feet apart. (The line of these stakes should be the
position of the net.) Then take two pieces of twine, one 47 feet 5
inches long, and the other 39 feet. Fasten one line to each of the
spikes that you have placed 27 feet apart. Where the two lines meet
as they are pulled taut are the true corners of the court, as there
are only four points where they can meet. The various measurements can
then be marked as above by referring to the diagram. It is customary
to mark a double court and to indicate the lines for singles

The game of tennis may be played either by two or four persons, or
sometimes an expert player will stand two beginners. The ball used is
rubber filled with air and covered with white felt and is 2-1/2 inches
in diameter. It is necessary to play with two balls, and to save time
in chasing those that go wild it is customary to play with three or

One of the players begins by serving. The selection of the court is
usually chosen by lot or by tossing up a racket in a way similar to
tossing a cent. The side of the racket where the woven gut appears is
called "rough," and the other side "smooth." This practice is not to
be recommended, as it injures the racket. It is better to toss a coin.
The game of tennis consists in knocking the ball over the net and into
the court of your opponent, keeping up this volley until one side or
player fails to make the return properly or at all, which scores his
opponent a point. While a game in tennis consists of four points, the
simple numbers from one to four are not used. The points run 15,30,
40, game, when one side makes them all. Or it may be "15-30," "15
all," and so on, the score of the server being mentioned first. Where
one side has nothing their score is called "love." When one side has
scored four points the game is won--with this exception: When both
sides are tied at 40, or "deuce," as it is called, the winners must
make two points more than their opponents to win. In this way the game
may be continued for a long time as the points are won first by one
side and then by the other. The score at deuce, or "40 all," will be
denoted as "vantage in" or "vantage out," depending upon whether the
server's side or the other wins one of the two points necessary to win
from "deuce." If first one side, then the other, obtains one of these
points the score will be "vantage in" or "out," as the case may be,
and then "deuce" again, until finally when two points clear are made
it is "game." A set of tennis consists in winning six games, but in
this case also there is a peculiar condition. Where each side wins
five games it is necessary in order to win the set to obtain a lead of
two games. The score in games is then denoted just as in a single
game, "deuce" and "vantage" games being played until a majority of two
is won.

[Illustration: Photographs of Tennis Strokes Taken in Actual Play]

[Illustration: (a) the right and (b) the wrong way to hold a tennis

To learn the game of tennis, first obtain a proper grip of the racket.
It should always be held firmly and as near the end as possible, the
leather butt being inside the hand. A loose grip will absolutely
prevent a player from becoming expert, as the accuracy and quickness
that are a part of tennis can never be obtained unless we have the
racket under perfect control. The various backhand, high and low
strokes will only come from constant practice. The most important
stroke to master as well as the most difficult is a swift, accurate
service. A player who is otherwise a fair player can easily lose game
after game by not having mastered his service stroke, and thus he
beats himself without any effort on the part of his opponent. The
various "twist" services have almost passed out of use. Even the best
players employ a straight, swift overhand ball. To fail to serve the
ball over the net and in the proper place is called a "fault." The
player has two chances and to fail in both is called "a double fault."
A common mistake is to attempt a swift smash on the first ball, which
may fail half the time, and then to make sure of the second ball by an
easy stroke which a skilful opponent can return almost at will and
thus either extend us to the utmost to return it or else make us fail
altogether. It is better to make sure of the first serve than to
attempt a more difficult serve than our skill will permit.

Next: GOLF


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