Sunday, June 26, 2011

Playing tennis in the USA - British and American differences

I’ve started playing tennis in the USA recently.  Back in the UK, I played a lot of badminton.  Badminton is a great game for northern Europe as it is an indoor game, meaning that you avoid the cold and rain in the Winter months, unlike with rugby and football where you get very muddy and freeze your balls off, at least in my experience.  It took me a while to get my badminton game back together after many years of not playing seriously, but I got better and for a time I was captain of the Headingley C Team, which sounds almost grand, but in practice means doing an awful lot of phone texting to remind team members where the next match is and what time they should show up.  Now that I am over here, however, I have packed in badminton and I am playing tennis in Florida.  With Wimbledon underway back in the UK, I thought it might be fun to compare British and American differences when it comes to tennis.

Playing tennis in Florida is obviously a much hotter experience than anything you get in the UK.  I’ve bought a baseball cap to protect my eyes and head from the sun and have considered getting sweatbands.  Basically, you have to play tennis either in the evening or the morning here, unless you want to sweat to death.  The chances of play getting rained off are lower, however.

There is more high fiving and fist bumping in American culture and less hand shaking.  In England things are more formal and reserved in this respect and the only physical contact is usually a bit of hand shaking and maybe a gentle pat on the back.  I don’t really mind the American way, as I can get fed up with the stiffness and formality of British culture sometimes, but I am still adapting and trying to work out what is appropriate here!

Badminton takes a heavy toll on the knees, as you are moving fast and constantly changing direction.  Tennis means less stress on the knees and legs generally, but more strain on the elbow and shoulder of your racket arm.

I still find some of the pronunciations amusing.  “Deuce” virtually rhymes with “juice” in England but the vowell sound is more like “moose” in the US.  I am going to stick to my English pronunciations, however, having resolved before I began living in the USA to follow the maxim of my hero, Quentin Crisp and to: “On no account learn the language, the more English you sound, the more likely you are to be believed.”  This is somewhat undermined, however, by many Americans mistaking me for an Australian!  (Some people don’t get the Northern English accent, apparently!)

(Another American expression that has caused me confusion is "I'm good".  In the UK "I'm good" usually means "I'm ready" or "I'm up for it", whereas in the US, it more often means the opposite: "I'm done" or "I've had enough".)

I would like to play some matches for the local club, but I need to get a lot better and I am still trying to remember how to play some of the shots.  My service still needs lots of work, for instance.  I am getting there, however.

As well as playing with a local club once a week, I also play with my wife once or twice a week.  We go to a local court, which hasn’t been properly maintained, but is within walking distance.  It is cracked and overgrown, but it has a net and you can just about work out the markings, so it is okay for a knockabout.  (Sometimes we follow up with a dip in the pool, which is rather nice!)

As far as the professional game goes, there are numerous British and American differences that I could name, but the main one, as Rob at The Inconsequential Opinion pointed out, is that unlike with the Americans, the Brits never win at Wimbledon!  Well at least, we haven’t had a winner since Virginia Wade back in 1977, an event that I only vaguely remember from my childhood!


  1. I always love reading the differences you come up with. Who knew about "I'm Good"! Interesting. Glad you are having fun playing tennis here. And we are in the same boat in Texas. Have to play in the morning or late evening or you will die from drowning in your own sweat :)

  2. Very interesting. I must admit, I can't tell the difference between a British and Australian accent (even after living down under for over 2 years), and with my American accent deuce, juice, and moose all rhyme- so I'm totally confused about how you Brits would pronounce them!

  3. Now I've been accused of sounding like a Kiwi (New Zealander) and a South African..but haven't as yet been told that our accent is similar to the Brits...although we do get lots of looks here...some can't quite work it out...they know it's not American but they still can't always place local woman here in the village exclaimed, upon meeting me, that I sounded 'quite normal'!! Keep up the good work on the tennis court, Paul...but remember...'hydrate'! Robx

  4. @TexaGerma - I knew it was very hot in Texas but I thought it was a little less humid, at least?

    @Jenny - British and Aussie accents are totally different! hehe! Though I must admit that I have been unsure on the Aussie/Kiwi, and American/Canadian is the past! hehe!

    @Robyn - I think people's interpretation of accents is probably familiarity at the end of the day. I've not heard many Aussie accents on US TV, but British accents aren't all that uncommon, they feature in some of the adverts, for instance (I've not worked out why certain products might do better when presented by a Brit!). I remember reading a survey that found Americans are most familiar with the cockney and the BBC accent, and least familiar with the English regional accents. I've played my wife some Newcastle, Cornish, and Lancashire accents on Youtube just for fun!

  5. However if Andy Murray wins the English will claim him as British and the Scots will claim him as one of their own!! :)

  6. @Belfast D - I watched Andy Murray play yesterday. He's a good player, it's just when he gets down to the top 4 players where he can struggle. In some ways, he is unfortunate to be alive at this time, when there are a number of great players around. In other time periods, he might have had an easier time! :-)

  7. Interesting what you observe about the phrase "I'm good". You're right. It means opposite things in US/UK. I hadn't thought of it like that.

  8. Well I learnt a few new facts here today, I had no idea about the different use of 'I'm good' it doesn't work really does it!