- Historical Dictionary of Tennis
Olympic historian and North American Society for Sport History member, John Grasso, has shifted his scholarly interest from basketball and boxing to tennis in compiling this historical dictionary of the sport. Unlike most modern sports, tennis cannot be attributed to a single creator. Instead, it evolved from a game played by monks during the twelfth century to a fast-paced sport played by occasional, casual players, as well as serious amateur and professional athletes, who have the potential of propelling a 2.7-inch diameter ball weighing about two ounces across a net at speeds as great as 150 miles per hour.
The task of compiling this specialized dictionary required prodigious effort. Grasso concentrated his research on the most recent 135 years of the sport’s history. It was during this stretch of time that tennis gradually moved from the margins of sporting activities to become one of the most popular participatory and audience centered sports in the world.
Grasso’s dictionary includes entries on a broad range of subjects from the terms used to describe scoring to a thumbnail sketch of the most important tennis tournaments to the male and female athletes who have excelled and became in the sport. The choice of items selected for definition inevitably has its strengths and weaknesses. The book’s strength is the recitation of the terms used to guide the game, and the game-changing players, prestigious tennis tournaments, and winners of those tournaments. The dictionary’s major weakness is the lack of information about the role of materials and technology in altering and shaping the game. There is a veritable absence of information about the materials used in [End Page 348] making tennis balls and tennis nets. The discussion of tennis rackets mentions that laminated wood, steel, aluminum, and graphite have been used in manufacturing tennis rackets but states almost nothing about the strings used on the hitting surface of tennis rackets or about the consequences of the materials used in making tennis balls and tennis rackets on tennis players and the speed, bounce, and spin of the tennis ball. For example, the T-2000 steel head racket increased elbow injuries and the aluminum racket increased racket vibration to the point that vibration dampers were introduced. Likewise, tennis equipment and court surface coverings measurably changed game performance.
Despite these minor shortcomings, John Grasso has written a “must have” reference book for the students of tennis and its history.